My 3 Tips To Manage Anxiety While Working From Home
If you are reeling from work anxiety, especially during this pandemic, you’re not alone. The excessive worrying about work issues not only affects productivity, but our mental and physical wellbeing, too. According to the American Psychological Association, anxiety is an emotion characterised by feelings of tension, worried thoughts, and physical changes, such as increased blood pressure.
It’s been more than a year since I started working from home (WFH), as Malaysia is still battling the rising cases of Covid-19. At first, the idea of WFH got me excited. Before the pandemic, most of my time was spent commuting back and forth to the office from home, which I believe many Malaysians could relate to. Hence, the thought of not having to wake up early to escape traffic sounded like a blessing.
However, the excitement eventually wore off and I realised that WFH is not as fun as it seems. I consider myself a mildly anxious person, which I think most of us are (to a certain extent). Dealing with the increase of virtual meetings, unstable Internet connection, and also the endless distractions at home have heightened my anxiety level.
It’s true that WFH has its perks. But when you’re feeling anxious, coupled with the ongoing uncertainties all around us, it can be difficult to concentrate and stay productive. Over the past year, I’ve learnt to manage my WFH anxiety. Here’s how I cope:
1) Learn to disconnect
I struggled with this the most. My previous role in the Media department has “trained” me to respond instantly to all incoming emails and WhatsApp messages. I remember feeling nervous whenever I see notification pop-ups or hear the familiar ringtone - more so during campaign executions. Unfortunately, this “instant reply” behavior stayed on even after I switched department to Operations.
To carve out some downtime, I started small by disconnecting myself from work notifications for a short period of time. We use Slack to communicate at work. When I need to focus on a particular task, I pause my notifications for an hour or two. Alternatively, I’ll set my status to “away” or “busy”, so that my teammates are aware that I don’t want to be interrupted (unless it’s urgent). Of course, prior communication with my colleagues about my timeout is crucial to prevent misunderstandings.
Gradually, I moved towards setting a time limit where I don’t have to be online. For instance, setting my devices aside during my lunch break. Not only do my eyes get a respite from prolonged exposure to digital screens, I’m giving myself a proper break.
2) Understand what is causing the anxiety
I realise that I get anxious whenever I’m working on new tasks that are unfamiliar to me. It reaches a point where my anxiety affects my mood the whole day. I coped by avoiding the task, and by focusing on other things instead. Clearly, the art of avoidance wouldn’t get the job done.
The first thing I do now when I face roadblocks is to turn to Google. As cliché as it may sound, Googling for solutions makes me realise I’m not the only one facing difficulties on certain things. Another great method that works for me is to reach out for help. This is when I leave my ego out the door. Luckily for me, I have a great support system at work. My colleagues are more than willing to assist me whenever I encounter any issues.
I find that having different perspectives often leads to fruitful discussions. Sometimes, others may come up with ideas and solutions that I have not thought of in the beginning. Besides being able to complete the task at hand, it feels rewarding knowing that it’s a collaborative effort. In a nutshell, identifying the cause behind my anxiety helps me in overcoming the fear that comes with it.
3) Do something else and come back to it later
We all feel anxious every now and then. However, unchecked anxiety can make our brains go into overdrive. When that happens, it’s easy to start overthinking and losing focus. The simplest, most straightforward task will appear daunting. You may even find yourself doing something that’s completely opposite of what you are supposed to do. My solution? Step away from the said task for a while and return to it later.
Exercising helps to relax my mind and body. Even if it’s just a quick 20-minute workout, I feel more energised and have a clearer mind to tackle the task I’ve been avoiding. Don’t feel like exercising? Do some light stretches instead - trust me, your shoulders and back will thank you! Another way to refresh yourself is to take a cold shower. Yup, who knew something so simple can be so effective in waking you up?
I hope these tips help in calming your work anxiety. Keep an open mind, and try out various methods to discover which one works best for you. Granted, you may not be able to eliminate anxiety completely, but it shouldn’t take over your day-to-day life.