While working from home, you won’t have to deal with traffic jams during your morning commute, gossip around the water cooler, or colleagues interrupting you with small talk and poorly considered questions throughout the day – but you’re still going to have an abundance of stress.
In a traditional office, you might be able to destress by heading to the break room or commiserating with coworkers. But what if you’re working from home?
It’s important to be aware of your stress levels and reduce stress proactively when possible. If you ignore your stress and keep pushing yourself through the workday, your stress is only going to build and do more damage. Ideally, you’ll be able to take breaks throughout the day to self-evaluate, walk away from the computer, and release the pent-up pressure that naturally builds when you’re working on something challenging or under a deadline.
Eliminating Sources of Stress
One of your first lines of defense will be identifying the major sources of stress in your life. What is it, exactly, that makes you feel extra stressed? Is it your heavier-than-usual workload? An email thread that never seems to end? A specific type of project or a responsibility that you never wanted to begin with?
In many cases, you can eliminate or mitigate this source directly. For example, can you cut back your hours? Could you delegate some of these responsibilities to other people? Could you limit email to certain times of the day, turning off notifications when you’re outside of that window?
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Make time throughout the day to take breaks. Walking away from work temporarily will give your mind a chance to relax – and give you the time you need to conduct some of the other exercises on this list. Schedule at least a couple of long breaks, 30 minutes or longer, and a number of shorter breaks, of 5 minutes or less, every day. You’ll thank yourself.
In the moment, one of the best strategies for stress management is deep and conscious breathing. Calming breathing exercises are designed to help you slow down, focus on your breathing, and kind of “reset” your mind. If done properly, your lungs will be flooded with oxygen, you’ll feel more relaxed, your blood pressure will drop, and you’ll be able to return to work with a fresh perspective and new energy.
Similarly, you can practice meditation without any special equipment or training. The basic idea is to focus on the present moment, filtering out everything else that might be distracting or stressing you. Depending on the specific meditation practice you choose, you might focus on your breathing, focus on a spoken mantra, or even focus on an object in the room, like a flickering candle. As a note, meditation does require practice and not everyone will experience the same benefits.
The research makes it clear that physical exercise remains one of the best ways to reduce stress. Ideally, you’ll have a chance to hit the gym and enjoy a full workout – either before or after work. If you don’t have time for that, you’ll likely have time to take a brisk walk around the neighborhood on your lunch break, or at least do some pushups or jumping jacks in your office.
If you find yourself getting stressed on a regular basis, it could be a result of an uncomfortable or unpleasant environment. With a handful of simple changes, you can instantly make your remote work environment more accommodating.
- The view. Consider changing up the view. Sometimes, being able to gaze out the window and look at a couple of trees is all it takes for your stress to melt away. You can also hang some inspirational art in your home office.
- The music. Most of us work more productively and feel less stress when there’s a bit of noise or music in the background. Keep it instrumental and at a moderate volume for the best effects here.
- The aromas. Did you know that certain scents, like peppermint and lavender, can make you feel more relaxed?
- Interruptions and distractions can amplify the stress you feel from your job. Use doors, curtains, and firm boundaries to keep other people in the house from interfering with your work.
- It’s important to stay comfortable if you want to reduce stress as well; make an investment in a good desk and a good office chair, at a minimum.
- Even if you love your home office, it can get old if you’re there all the time. Consider working at a café or co-working space at least occasionally.
When your stress is in check, your productivity will skyrocket – and you’ll subjectively feel better as well. There’s no way to eliminate stress entirely from your life (and you wouldn’t want to, since stress does serve a valuable purpose), but you can certainly reduce it with the right approach. And if you’re working from home in a challenging position, you’ll almost certainly need to reduce it.