handling anxiety when working from home

2021, mental health

Hello!

There are so many stereotypes about anxiety but like any other mental illness, everyone experiences symptoms differently. Not everyone’s anxiety is a racing heart and shaking hands. Not everybody’s anxiety is feeling stuck in bed and not getting dressed. It can be completely zoning out in a conversation, looking at a document on a screen and feeling like you can’t see the words or even looking at your calendar and feeling like you have absolutely no time do to anything you need to, thinking you’re a complete failure and wondering why you were ever hired in the first place…

But that’s not true, despite what your brain tells you.

I’ve only been working from home for a month, but starting a new job in lockdown is daunting and scary in completely different ways and even on my team I know I’m not the only one feeling overwhelmed by everything that’s going on. So I thought I’d collate a few of the things I’ve tried out in the last few weeks to help ease my anxiety when I’m working from home and need to get stuff done.

  • take a 5 minute break

I have a mode on my phone called ‘Focus Mode’ which disables select apps and notifications during work hours. So if I want to go on Instagram, it asks me if I want to take a 5 minute break and I think this is a great way to have a moment to step back. I let myself switch off for a little bit, I know that I won’t get distracted for hours and the app will automatically close and lock itself again unless you tell it otherwise.

Even just 5 minutes of scrolling mindlessly I find calms me down enough to feel ready to tackle whatever it was that was overwhelming me. It’s not a lot, but just that moment to step away can be enough to re-centre and feel more in control.

  • organised your workload

Whether it’s writing everything out on post-it notes, using highlighters or just making a new to do list, sometimes re-organising your workload can make things seem more achievable and less anxiety inducing.

If you’ve got a really big task or project, write down a step by step guide to define what you need to do to get it done. Put a deadline on each task if you know that will help you feel more comfortable with doing it or if your department needs things by certain times. Put them all on separate post it notes and pile them on top of each other so you only see one task at a time if you think that would work for you.

There are so many organisation tips and ideas online, even spending 5 minutes looking for new ways to organise your workload can make it feel less intimidating.

Maybe organisation doesn’t help everyone’s anxiety, but it definitely helps me to feel more in control when I know exactly what I need to do and when.

  • don’t work out of work hours

This isn’t particularly helpful when you’re in the midst of feeling anxious, but I’ve found being very rigid about not looking at my emails after 5pm and not working on anything over the weekend has made it easier to relax in my off time.

This is much easier in some professions than others – I work in marketing so it’s relatively easy to keep work time as work time and my personal time as time for me, but in other industries or other companies that might be much harder; whether you’re working with people that continue to exist outside of work hours or whether your boss is much more demanding and less respectful of your personal time.

For my anxiety, I know not letting myself work on anything whilst I’m not being paid for it makes it easier to look after myself in my personal time. The fact I spend most of my personal time pushing myself to ‘achieve more’ with blogging and my bookstagram account and constant to do lists is beyond the point…

  • treat yourself to a nice drink or snack

Now we’ve all been subjected to the ‘new year, healthy eating’, ‘the diet starts on Monday’ mentality and whilst we’ve been at home, not snacking all the time is a real challenge.

But enforcing this self-set ‘rules’ on yourself when you’re already mentally struggling isn’t going to make anything easier. And if you’re anything like me it just means you think about it more.

Whether it’s a nice homemade hot chocolate, a packet of biscuits or a late afternoon packet of crisps, just letting yourself snack on what you want when you’re anxious can sometimes make the craving go away and make it easier to concentrate.

  • have an anxiety combatting activity to hand

When I had a really bad day a few weeks ago, I ended up sitting with a work conference on in the background and colouring. I was still paying attention to the conference and what was being said, but I was borderline anxiety-attack and I had to prioritise myself for a moment.

I keep feeling guilty about not working 100% in my working hours but 1) 100% is exhausting and 2) if I weren’t working from home, there’d be natural breaks in the day – chats after meetings, tea breaks, day to day desk chatter – this is what I don’t get working from home, so taking a few minutes for myself to sit back and not work for a second is fine.

If I felt anxious in the office, I’m sure my manager would be okay with me taking 10 minutes to calm myself down and feel okay again.

So sometimes, when I feel really on edge, I’ll take a few minutes to do some colouring. It helps clear my mind and focus on one, inconsequential thing for a little while and it can make all the difference.

Anxiety is hard enough to navigate in the ‘normal’ world, but during a pandemic? That’s been going on for nearly a year? Everyone’s feeling the strain but your feelings don’t need to be valued against someone else’s – you are allowed to feel however you feel and handle that however you want to. Give yourself a break – you’re doing okay!

Thank you for reading,

Sophie xx

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