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Health and Wellbeing

Coping with stress when working from home

Feb 3 2021

Unsurprisingly, studies have shown a dramatic increase in stress levels during the current lockdown.

Parents who are juggling working from home with childcare and home schooling report the highest increase in stress. Closely followed by younger adults.

While some people may be struggling to cope with additional demands on their time, others may feel an increase in stress due to a lack of activity.

Socialising with friends and family, exercising and taking holidays are all ways to relieve stress that are currently subject to restrictions. Combined with home working, this can cause feelings of isolation and make it more difficult to cope with stress.

What is stress?

Stress is the body’s reaction to feeling threatened or under pressure. A singular stressful situation causes hormones to be released, which produce changes such as an increased heart rate, faster breathing and muscle tension.

Usually, these changes subside once the stressful event is over. However, regular exposure to stressful events or persistent feelings of pressure can cause long-term issues such as high blood pressure, artery disease, and mental health problems like anxiety, depression and addictive behaviours.

How can we reduce stress when working from home?

If we are unable to identify or remove the cause of stress, instead we must learn to manage it. The most effective ways to do this are:

  • Identifying triggers and planning your day
  • Physical exercise
  • Breathing exercises
  • Communication
  • Music

Identifying triggers and planning your day

If you are cool as a cucumber in the morning but start to feel jittery or short-tempered by mid-afternoon, structure your day in an attempt to minimise these changes.

This could mean taking a walk at lunch while calling a friend, having your last coffee a couple of hours earlier or making sure you get more sleep during the weekdays.

If you feel stressed before an important call or deadline, try putting on some relaxing music beforehand and practicing breathing exercises.

You could also try writing a to-do list, getting up at the same time every day, having a ‘fake commute’ where you walk before and after work, making a healthy breakfast and lunch and, if possible, try not to stay in the same room all day.

Getting in some exercise

Exercise in general has an incredibly positive physiological effect on the body and is known to reduce stress.

The physical activity guideline in the UK for adults is a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of high intensity activity per week. This could be achieved by a 30-minute walk each morning or a 15-minute HIIT class during lunch.

As well as cardiovascular exercises (e.g., walking, running, cycling etc.) strengthening exercises are just as important. They can improve aches and pains by improving the strength and endurance of your muscles.

Finally, stretching and mobility exercises can reduce tension and keep our body healthy. These are particularly important for those of you who work at a desk.

Practicing breathing exercises

When we are stressed, we tend to take shallow breaths using mainly our upper chest.

Breathing exercises are an effective and well-researched intervention to help prevent and reduce stress.

Diaphragmatic breathing (or ‘belly breathing’) is done as follows:

  • Sit, stand or lie down with your hands on your belly or your ribs.
  • With your mouth shut, breathe in through your nose for a count of 5 and try to expand through your belly/ribs.
  • Breathe out through your mouth for a count of 5, letting your belly/ribcage relax.
  • Repeat for 1-5 minutes.

Communication

When working from home we miss out on a huge amount of socialisation with colleagues throughout the day. If you feel most of your communication is centered around work, set up a daily or weekly call with a colleague where you can catch up and vent about any issues that are bothering you.

Again, setting up a regular call with a friend or, even better, meeting up outside to exercise, can help you process your feelings and come away feeling happier and more relaxed.

Finally, if you feel overwhelmed by stress or unable to discuss your feelings with colleagues or friends/family, speak to a professional. Therapy often has a negative stigma attached to it, and many people think of it as a last port of call. In fact, talking therapies can be used as a preventative tactic – a therapist can help you organise your thoughts and teach you to deal with stressors in a more structured way.

Listening to music

Research has shown that listening to music has a physiological effect on the body. Listening to a song around 60bpm causes alpha brainwaves to synchronise with the beat. Try to use different types of music throughout the day:

  • Faster music in the morning may make you more alert and help you to concentrate.
  • Upbeat music throughout the day can improve your mood.
  • Slower tempo music later in the day will promote relaxation and help to prepare for sleep.

We’re here for you.

We have been living through some very difficult times over the last few months. There’s no doubt that this will have caused us all to feel an increased amount of stress at some point. We hope that this blog provides you with some comfort, and tips that you can takeaway and put into practice to make your day to day that bit easier.

Take care of yourselves, and if there’s anything else we can do to support you in the meantime, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.