We all have stress, at work and at home. Sometimes we can feel especially stressed because of a bad interaction with someone, too much work or responsibility, or even everyday hassles like getting stuck in traffic. Working from home (otherwise known as WFH) often gets a reputation of being glamorous and stress free, while in reality, WFH stress is absolutely real.
When it comes to work, there are two kinds of stress – the good kind and the bad kind. Certain stress can be productive up to a point, and then it results in reduced productivity, followed by reduced ability to cope with stress over time. Negative stress can keep you from feeling and performing your best — mentally, physically and emotionally. Things like isolation and procrastination can weigh heavily on your ability to concentrate, and stress surrounding lack of productivity builds over time.
Fear not! While controlling the sources of stress in your workflow and your life can seem like an impossible challenge, it is manageable. Here are some simple tips anyone can add to their day that will help combat WFH stress. And if you’re not feeling stressed, these behaviors are still a great idea to maintain balance and productivity.
Schedule 2-3 short breaks into your day.
Most of us are guilty of pushing ourselves too hard on occasion. We work throughout the day and are lucky if we make time for a 20-minute lunch break. Breaks are important because they are refreshing, and give you something to look forward to.
One break in the morning and one in the afternoon is a good place to start, for anywhere from 10-20 minutes. You can use this break time to grab some water, call a family member or a friend, read a book, just walk around, or anything else you want.
The key is doing something that you can easily stop after 15-20 minutes and that you enjoy. It should be something that you look forward to and leaves you refreshed and ready to get back to work afterwards.
Go for a walk or run.
Being cooped up inside all day isn’t good for anyone. But when you start working from home, this becomes the new norm. It’s easy to get to the end of the workday and realize that you haven’t stepped outside or walked more than a few steps the entire day. Whether it’s a 10-minute walk in the morning before you start working or a break at lunch, this makes a huge difference in your focus and mental state.
If you start to lose focus or feel overwhelmed, taking a few minutes to get outside often saves time in the long run. For example, if you’ve been struggling to solve the same problem for an hour, take a break and return to it after a walk. The solution often comes more easily.
Find a WFH buddy.
When you work in an office, it’s likely that you have at least one or more casual acquaintances that you would chat with, vent, or share advice and ideas with. Unfortunately, when you start working at home, it’s easy to feel lonely when you don’t have a built-in work support system.
Make specific plans to chat or video chat with a buddy 1-2 times a day. It can be really refreshing to chat with others that understand your specific situation. If you truly don’t feel you have a perfect work partner to talk with, you can always search for Facebook groups designed specifically for WFH employees.
Try to ‘single task’ as much as you can.
Multitasking is common in today’s world. We jump from thing to thing - from email to tasks to Instagram, and back to email – often before we even notice it. We’ve lost our ability to focus and do one thing at a time.
Most of us want to make a difference in the world, whether it’s providing the customer service that will brighten a bad day, working for a cause that we believe in, or being a manager that encourages the people working for us. Whatever it is, it probably requires some level of focus and concentration. By doing one thing at a time (aka: single tasking) so much more can get done. It can help you be more efficient with your time, and more importantly, makes you feel less frazzled.
Don’t over-consume caffeine.
It can be easy to reach for the coffee pot or to grab a soda from the fridge when you WFH. It’s important to set limitations. Watch your caffeinated beverages first thing in the morning. Reach for water instead! Then try to drink more water than caffeinated beverages throughout the day. The same rules apply to overly-sugary food and drinks. Squashing this habit will keep you from being thrown off-balance by the caffeine jitters, and eliminate the dreaded caffeine crash in the afternoon.
One of the most basic functions - breathing - can drastically help combat stress. It’s easy to forget to fill our lungs and breathe to our full potential when stress takes over, but it only takes a moment to catch up and clear our heads.
When stress-filled thoughts collect in our brains, at times, we simply don’t get as much oxygen as we need. The 4-7-8 breathing method helps quickly de-stress:
1. Breathe in through your nose quietly for a count of 4
2. Hold your breath while counting to 7
3. Exhale air deeply through your mouth while counting to 8
4. Repeat the process several times
Keep your workspace clean and comfy.
Avoid excessive clutter and keep a clean workspace. Clutter-induced stress is easy to combat once you recognize this issue. If collecting a mess becomes a noticeable habit that’s difficult to break, consider keeping a trash can near your computer or establishing a ‘no eating while working’ rule.
Find a comfortable chair with back support that is perfect for your size. (Don’t sit on the couch- that’s too comfy!) Keep your wrists supported with a keyboard wrist pad. And if you’re sick of sitting all the time, stand while you work.
Finally, if you have the space for it, add some plants to your workspace. This can aid in mental health, as well as continuously provide cleaner air to breathe.
Take care of yourself.
Balancing taking care of kids, running errands, taking care of additional responsibilities, and working from home can sometimes be difficult. In times like these, it’s important to make self-care and wellbeing a priority.
Remember to reward yourself with your favorite things, and spend some free time doing them! Play your guitar. Text your friend. Pet your dog. Make a 3-course lunch and enjoy it slowly. When you put yourself first, you are better able to take care of others, resolve issues at work, and meet deadlines. Why? Because your own internal needs are being met first.