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How to Cope With Work-From-Home Anxiety

10 October 2020

Everyone has mental health. This is what the Mental Health Foundation said on their website. In that light, the COVID-19 outbreak will have an impact on how we relate with others and how we see the world. Preserving our mental wellness will help us to enjoy a healthier and richer life.

One of the things that changed dramatically in the last couple of months is the work setup. If you are used to going to the office every day, being cooped up at home all of a sudden can take a toll on your mental health. The responsibilities can be tougher if you also have to take care of children or parents while juggling your career.

Anxious about the future

Even if you are working from home, you might start to feel uncomfortable about the future. After all, so many things are out of your hands. You might be missing people or your old way of life. Questions like “What is going to be the “new normal”? “Can I cope with it?” might be running on your mind as of late.

Normally, the uncertainty of the future will trigger worry or anxiety. Kevin Antshel, a clinical psychologist and director of the clinical psychology program at Syracuse University, told CNBC Make It that the fear of the unknown is the “fundamental fear of human beings.”

“When things don’t make sense, or they run counter to what it typically is, then we experience these high levels of negative feelings,” Antshel shared.

He further discussed that fear and anxiety interplay with one another: The more things are uncertain, the more there’s room for fear. More fear means more anxiety. Antshel also mentioned that when anxiety is prolonged, it can turn into depression, which is “characterized by a loss of interest in things, hopelessness, and helplessness.”

Tips to help relieve your anxiety

Your feelings are valid -- the fear, anxiety, and worry. These emotions are cues to help you cope with your situation. But if dwelling on these things too much might do you more harm than good. Taking care of your mental health - or at least being aware of what goes on in your mind - is important now more than ever.

Here are some tips that you can refer to when you want to engage in a more positive state of mind:

  1. Reframe things internally -- Antshel said that reframing the thoughts from negative to positive can have a great impact on your anxiety levels. Instead of thinking “I’m going crazy with remote work”, you can capture that thought and give it a more pleasant twist. You can take a deep breath and say to yourself “I am grateful for my job and being safe at home.” You can do that now if you like! When you see things from a half-full glass, things can be a little more cheerful.
  2. Be goal-oriented in the present time -- Planning for the future might not be in your list now but that does not mean that you have to stop achieving goals. Antshel that you can try to do things that are goal-oriented but are not “necessarily goal-directed for the future”. Some activities that you can take up are baking bread or finishing a puzzle. Try to find a hobby that helps you to feel productive.
  3. Prioritize self-care routine -- Do not compromise your basic needs, because if you do, you might get burned out. This Business Insider article said that by not taking care of yourself and neglecting sleep, regular meals, or taking a break can hamper productivity levels. It’s easy to get trapped in a full work mode 24 hours if you work from home but that is not a healthy way to work. Part of taking care of yourself is having boundaries between work and home.
  4. Stay connected --  Remote work can be isolating. Even if you are an introvert who enjoys working from home, you might still have to go out of your way to interact with people. You might have to reach out to your colleagues for a chat, just the way you used to do over office coffee breaks. If you want a party, you can go ahead and plan a full Zoom party.
  5. Stick with a routine -- This might be the oldest trick in the book. But establishing a daily routine helps in maintaining mental health. For example, you can be strict with your office hours and home life. If you want more of a working environment, you can set up your home workstation with a height-adjustable desk so you can sit and stand without making a fuss. Switching standing and sitting will help you to stay healthy and be free from body pains. Pair it with an anti-fatigue mat so you can work comfortably in a standing position.

Look after yourself

Listen to your body and mind. Be attuned to their needs. This is part of taking care of your mental health and your body. If you need more support, ask help from your manager to refer you to a mental health professional.