If COVID-19 has caused you to transition to working from home, you’ve likely had to modify your traditional workday in many ways. When responsibilities from work and home collide, it can cause great amounts of stress, not to mention the pandemic itself! We’ve collected some advice on reducing stress, staying productive, and managing your mental and emotional well-being while working from home.
The main stress hormone in our brain and body, cortisol, increases due to stress. Even if you are not actively sick, your cortisol levels are most likely higher since you’ve begun blending your work and home life. Fatigue, weight gain, sleep disturbances, and a negative mood are all consequences of chronic exposure to higher cortisol levels. Several coping strategies should be used to combat heightened cortisol levels in our brain and body.
Master your Daily Schedule
Keeping a consistent daily schedule is important to reduce stress, increase energy, and prevent depression. Each morning, try to create a plan for your day and think about what tasks you want to accomplish. By having an outline of your responsibilities, you can better guide your day and end it with a sense of accomplishment. If you are working at home with a family member, consider creating a more formal schedule to minimize interruptions from the other’s video meetings or phone calls.
Be aware of what is causing you to be less productive or self-sabotage your work day, especially since vices are now more accessible. When we’re home, it’s easier to nap, procrastinate, sleep-in, or overeat. Be accountable to yourself and try to keep the same levels of discipline as you would if you were in the office. Wear comfortable clothes, but at a minimum change out of your pajamas each morning.
Replicate a Normal Workday
Our brains and bodies love routine. From eating to sleeping and everything in between, we are programmed to have daily cycles. When these cycles are disrupted, our brain shifts and imbalances occur. These imbalances can lead to stress, anxiety, poor cognitive performance, lethargy, and depression. Attempt to keep regular wake/sleep cycles, regular meal times, and exercise. Whenever possible, try to use video chats instead of phone calls. When we are isolated at home, face-to-face interaction can be beneficial to our mental health.
Separate Work and Home Life
Boundaries between our work and home life are more important than ever. These psychological barriers create a separation between activities that are work-related and those that are not. Have a designated work space that you can “leave” at the end of the day. If possible, try to keep this area free from distractions and reminders of household responsibilities. This separation can boost your productivity. Having an area that you can turn off and leave at the end of the day is vital.
It is also important to manage your expectations during this time. It is normal to be less productive when working from home. Create a list of work tasks each day and try to focus on what is most important first and then work down your list. If you are unable to complete the list, be kind to yourself.
Balance Productivity and Downtime
It is possible to be motivated and productive, but to also leave time for breaks and relaxation. Set boundaries for your downtime. Breaks help us to be more productive when we are focusing, but if you get into the habit of relaxing too much, it will slow down your mind and energy. Consistent exercise and activity throughout the day can help you take breaks and maintain productivity. Take a brisk walk around the block or take some time to stretch between meetings to stay focused.
Hold yourself accountable by limiting distractions and excuses for not getting work done. THis might mean not working from your bedroom, or in front of the TV. It is still important to complete your daily obligations.
If you find yourself feeling exhausted from “Zoom fatigue”, try to schedule a meeting as a phone call or decide that you won’t use the video option for certain meetings throughout the day.
Working from home for an extended period can be challenging for many. You can increase your chances of success, limit stress, and improve your mental well-being by practicing some of these coping strategies.