Stress at work can be difficult to avoid, even (or sometimes especially) when you are working at home. Blurred boundaries between work and home life, family demands, misinterpreting the tone of endless emails, frozen Zoom calls, unstable internet – the list could go on.
Sometimes, when working from home, people can feel more stressed and anxious because of the increase in social isolation, lack of face-to-face teamwork, overreliance on email as a form of communication, inability to read body language, and the feeling of being unable to “switch off”.
According to a 2017 United Nations report1, 41% of remote workers reported higher stress levels, compared to 25% of office workers.
Stress is the body’s way of protecting you from danger or a threat, and if managed properly moderate stress can even help people achieve goals. However, if left to build-up, stress can trigger mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety.
Priory expert Steve Clarke, a psychotherapist and hospital director at the Priory’s Roehampton Hospital, Surrey, explains some steps that people can take to try to manage their own stress at home:
- Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) – Repetitive finger tapping can sometimes help to release negative emotions such as anxiety. It has been called a psychological version of acupuncture in that it involves making contact with a number of acupuncture points. The specific points to tap are the end-points of the major meridians (meridians are believed to be channels of subtle energy which flow through our body). So, whilst focusing on your negative emotion you tap on a ‘meridian’ point (the eyebrow, side of the eye, under eye, under nose, chin, collarbone, under the arm and top of the head) three to seven times, repeating your negative thought in your head. After each emotion, take a deep breath and exhale. Continue this until you feel calmer and relieved. When you feel more relieved, repeat the technique whilst you tap through a “positive round”, repeating more uplifting phrases.
- Guided meditation apps – Many apps such as Headspace or Calm offer different types of meditation for different concerns, or simply basic meditation. These typically offer meditation as short as 3 minutes and up to 20-minute sessions. The Priory also has a highly-rated App – My Possible Self– to help people look after their mental health and manage an over-reliance on, or addiction to, substances like alcohol.
- Progressive Muscle Relaxation – This can also be done at any time during the day. PMR involves tensing and releasing muscles in certain intervals. There are guided versions available online for free on YouTube.
- Deep breathing – Take a long deep breath while counting for 5-8 seconds, then hold it for 5-8 seconds. Repeat several times to relieve anxious/stressed feelings. This can help re-centre you during a busy work day.
- Eat healthily – Avoid comfort eating and instead choose food that increases your energy and gives you sustainable nutrients to get you through the day.
- Preparation is key to stress prevention – Even without the rhythm and routine of the daily commute and the familiarities of office life, plan out your week or day ahead and create a checklist of things that need to be completed by priority. Give yourself enough time to complete each task and schedule regular breaks to avoid burnout. Reward yourself for completing tasks, even if it’s as simple as crossing it off the checklist.
- Changing a difficult situation isn’t always possible. So, accept what you cannot change and focus on the things you do have control over – such as regularly connecting with colleagues on the phone. If you are struggling, consider online video therapywhich may be accessible via your health insurance or through your company.
- Put on headphones to listen to music can have many benefits, such as helping you relax and focus on something away from work and the ‘outside world’. Try to turn off rolling news and social media platforms such as Twitter. It can be tempting to tune in to endless updates whilst working alone, away from colleagues – particularly in the ever-changing news environment – but this can be very distracting, filling your positive head space with negative and distressing news. Take regular exercise.
Priory psychotherapist Pamela Roberts, of the Priory’s Hospital in Woking, Surrey, says even when working remotely, there should be ‘connection’ and a sense of belonging to a team or organisation. “These feelings are hardwired into us as humans. Group work in the office enables people to find ways to solve problems in the presence of each other. Having disagreements, and making mistakes, will all happen within complex teams and environments, but that is how we learn to solve problems and grow as individuals and professionals. Remote working or segregation can, on the other hand, create more differences and separation, and less instinct to navigate, take risks, negotiate or cooperate.”
But she says: It’s very important to remember that there are some very toxic office environments too – dealing with bullies and being drawn into organisational politics has a massive impact of mental and physical health. In this instance, it’s really important to look at where you work and if your office environment is right for you, or whether you can find another employer or a flexible or hybrid working model – or one that keeps you working from home all the time, which many might prefer. All working needs to be Covid-safe and employers need to take these responsibilities extremely seriously if they want staff to be happy and productive.”
About Priory Group
The Priory Group is the leading provider of behavioural care in the UK, caring for around 30,000 people a year for conditions including depression, anxiety, drug and alcohol addiction, eating disorders and self-harming. The Group is organised into two divisions – healthcare and adult care.