Dream Jobs are Stressful Too
For those working in a traditional work environment with traditional hours, the idea of working from the comforts of home, using a varied schedule, and maybe working in your pajamas or other non-office attire could seem like a dream come true. Many people who “live that dream” nonetheless do experience stress and even distress when working from home.
Stress is your response when you are challenged and excited about something. This type of stress makes you more productive. Distress, however, happens when you are overwhelmed and your productivity decreases. Working from home has both wonderful stressors and powerful distressing factors. When stress turns to distress, how you do manage it?
Identify the stressor:
- You feel it, you know it’s there. Ask yourself what, specifically, do you find threatening in this situation? For example, you may have a number of deadlines to meet. You feel pressured. You take the time to sit and consider what about this situation you find threatening. Perhaps you will see it as a failure if you don’t meet the deadlines. Perhaps you believe you “should” be able to do this and if not, you may be seen as incompetent.
- Counteract the negative beliefs with positive coping statements. When you identify your stressor and your reaction, use self-talk to manage through a situation. Use realistic language instead of extreme language such as “never” or “always”.
Do something physical:
- Ensure you take your breaks. No matter where you are working, taking breaks is essential to maintaining energy and productivity.
- Vary your activities. If you have spent a lot of time on the computer, switch your task to returning phone calls.
- Move away from your office area to a different part of the house. Changing your environment gives you different visual cues and helps you mentally take the break you need. For example, take a break by moving to the kitchen, perhaps making a cup of tea.
- Stand up and power pose for two minutes every 30 to 45 minutes. Amy Cuddy (Ted Talks) has shown how raising your arms in a victory pose can change your chemistry; lowering cortisol which is the hormone associated with stress.
- Take a physical break. Take a walk, stretch, breathe deeply or be active in another task that is not work related. I like to take a break by washing dishes, dusting or sweeping the floor. These are activities I can start and stop. I have removed myself mentally from work, I like the activity and I feel accomplished because I have completed a task.
- Smile while you are working. You don’t have to feel like smiling to reap its benefits. Smiling for at least two minutes will have a positive impact on your brain chemistry. Working at home is conducive to smiling; there will be no one around wondering why you are sitting there with a smile that appears as if it is painted on your face! You will feel better, create a lighter mood and counteract tension.
- Acknowledge that you are at a job. Your geography may have changed but the pressures remain. Downplaying, or worse, ignoring stress reactions can quickly turn a challenge into a situation that drains your energy.
- Recognize your unique stress response. Some people may get a headache when stress starts while others may experience headaches only when distressed. If you know your reactions you will be less likely to miss the signals that indicate you are shifting from stress to distress.
- Know your personality style. We get energy from working in a way that is congruent with our personality preferences. For example, I had an office at work that was separate from others. Then my office space changed. The change involved having people walk through a corner area of my office, and I loved it. I liked the energy of people coming and going, but others might not. When we create positive energy, it strengthens us and allows us to see situations as more manageable. Consider the following:
- Do you prefer a quiet environment when you work? Or do you prefer some external stimuli to keep you motivated? For example, some people find music distracting while others are more relaxed in an environment with music in the background. A quite environment would be energy draining for such people.
- Do you prefer to work within a structured schedule, setting goals and timelines? Do you prefer to do one thing, do it well and move on? Or do you prefer the flexibility of focusing on more than one task and setting timelines that focus on the end result?
- Do you tend to procrastinate? If so, breaking large tasks into smaller ones will create a sense of accomplishment and increase your satisfaction. Remember anticipation is worse than the event.
Create Positive Emotions:
- Recognize your effort, your accomplishments and your perseverance to successfully work from home. Creating positive emotions by focusing on what you are doing well is an important way to counteract stress responses.
Working from home can be both rewarding and challenging. Managing our stress allows us to enjoy the rewards and create resilience to meet the challenges.
Ted Talks. (n.d.). Amy Cuddy: Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are. Retrieved 09 04, 2016, from Ted Talks: https://www.ted.com/talks/amy_cuddy_your_body_language_shapes_who_you_are?language=en