How to Manage Anxiety When Working From Home Share:
- Kelsey Cole, Contributor
- Monday, August 17, 2020
Tags: #anxiety #WorkingFromHome
This is a guest article from contributor Kelsey Cole.
As you may have noticed, we are living through some pretty tense times (or "unprecedented" ones, as every ad on television puts it). The coronavirus outbreak continues to impact our day-to-day lives, and in many cases that means we are still working from home, avoiding social contact, and hoarding toilet paper and antibacterial wipes. Welcome to 2020.
Unfortunately, though, beyond the obvious daily strangeness of it all, 2020 is also proving to be an unusually anxious time. It's not exactly surprising that being more or less trapped at home for months on end would bring about a great deal of stress and worry. But we also have to deal with it for our own mental well-being. For those working from home, the stress can be even more difficult to manage.
On the one hand, having a job that allows you to work remotely is a privilege of sorts, or at least something to be grateful for. However, that doesn't change the fact that remote work can ironically induce anxiety. You may find yourself working longer hours, allowing your professional life to bleed into your personal life, and even feel symptoms of burnout, fatigue, or general anxiety. None of this is very much fun, but it's also rather normal under the circumstances. Fortunately, some of it can be addressed practically.
Here are tips to help you manage work anxiety while working from home.
Embrace (or Accept) Broader Anxiety
As was noted in the eRep article, Anxiety and the Coronavirus, we share commonalities in how we feel about the coronavirus and everything else that's happened in 2020. Much of that commonality revolves around a level of anxiety.
This isn't exactly great news, but it is not as bad as it seems. With everything that's happened this year, it would be unusual not to feel a little stressed or anxious. Recognizing this doesn't fix the problem or cure the anxiety, but it is a crucial first step. Once you accept or even embrace broader anxiety — both of your own and on a societal level — you're likely to address it in a healthier and more proactive manner. You can let yourself off the hook for feeling anxious about working from home, and you can start thinking about how to ease your mind.
Work on Resilience
This idea goes hand-in-hand with that of embracing anxiety. Once you recognize that your worries are perfectly normal, and that stress with a work-from-home scenario is likely related to the broader issues we're facing, you can start working on how to be resilient. Contrary to impulse, this doesn't mean fighting the anxiety. It means seeking out time for moments of positivity.
Let yourself off the hook for feeling anxious about working from home.
Marcus by Goldman Sachs™ wrote about building resilience in this context and had some helpful, specific tips. One was to be kind to yourself; just as you wouldn't criticize a friend going through a tough time, the piece argued, you should go easy on yourself. Other ideas were as simple as finding time to go outside, or connect with others (something I'll discuss more below). These are fairly straightforward ideas that can make a world of difference in helping you to be resilient in the face of work (and life) anxiety.
Focus on Time Management
Focusing on time management doesn't exactly sound fun. In fact, it might sound anxiety-inducing in and of itself because it immediately gets you thinking about what you might be late for, or what you don't have time for. Nevertheless, working from home without managing your time well can be a recipe for stress and disappointment.
In a Business Insider look at dealing with stress while working from home, a Google "in-house productivity expert" (apparently Google has these) spoke to this idea. What I like is that the expert explicitly recommended against a "rigid" schedule, which can be easily disrupted (likely leading to more anxiety) in a work-from-home scenario. Rather, she pitched the idea of organizing a flexible routine meant to maximize the most productive times of day. It's easier said than done, but roughly the idea of establishing a schedule unique to your work-from-home conditions is an appealing one.
Manage Structure and Distractions
Managing your structure and distractions is part of figuring out a schedule and addressing time management. But to put the idea in clearer terms, I'll just say this: If your bedroom doubles as your office, or if you have children or pets running through your workspace, you're not going to be productive. By extension, you're going to feel that you're falling behind, and that work-from-home anxiety is going to build up.
You can't necessarily eliminate all distractions. But setting up some sort of structure while working from home — not just related to time management, but to where you work and how you separate work from your personal life — can definitely help. You'll be better able to focus and get things done, which can give you a sense of success. It may even help you feel some semblance of a return to normal, if your structure makes work feel more like productive work.
Find Time to Be Social
Earlier, I mentioned connecting with others when discussing resilience, and I will reiterate it here. Finding some social time while you're stuck working from home can be invaluable.
The trouble here is that when working from home, you can become lonely before you realize it. This is something that was stated in Verywell Mind's exploration of work-from-home stress, and it's an important point. When you're working at home, you might not really think about the fact that you're missing out on the social activity that takes place at work. You may also be without those lunches or post-work drinks you might attend. These things add up, and the lack of social contact can add to our anxiety. Even if you can't see friends in person, it's important to find a few ways to socialize. My tip: Don't rely solely on Zoom. Try a good old-fashioned phone call, or set up chairs for a safe, distant outdoor hangout.
None of these tips will "fix" work-from-home anxiety altogether. The idea, however, is to chip away at it one step at a time, and figure out a more mentally healthy way to endure our strange new conditions.
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Kelsey Cole is a freelance writer committed to talking about mental health. Having gone through periods of financial strain herself, she understands the pressures of modern life. She hopes that her articles help those who are looking for advice. When she isn’t writing she practices mediation and yoga.