Triumph Over Tension: Stress Management Tips For Today’s Housebound Workers

Rose Addison, Parchment Product Marketing Manager

I’ve been procrastinating writing this post for a while, primarily because of my own stress levels. If we’re being honest, it took me a while to recognize, let alone admit, that I’ve been feeling frustrated, anxious, and sometimes overwhelmed about this global pandemic situation and, like many of you, the mandate to work from home. While this self quarantine may be good news for those agoraphobics out there, the rest of us are trying hard to avoid going stir crazy. 

We Parchies are a pretty geographically dispersed group. Many of us work in the Scottsdale or Deerfield offices and occasionally work from home. We also plan frequent in-person meetings at either office to be sure we’ve got time to collaborate, innovate, and bond, something that’s been especially important since the merger of Credentials and Parchment earlier this year. So with all of us confined to our home offices (or the dining room table), it’s been a bit tough. 

We Can Do This

Knowing I have no choice but to work from home is just hard. Even as an Introvert, I really do like to have the option (as I’m sure you do too). So many stressors are becoming commonplace – school closures and remote learning, stay-at-home orders in what feels like cramped quarters, and my child’s ever-present cough – it can be hard to recognize when to take a step back.   

And then there are (petty) things like my husband typing too loud then telling me to keep my voice down on Zoom. Or my 7-year-old’s need to frequently touch base and (and touch me – she’s never been so attached at the hip), regardless of what I’m doing. (Mom’s in a meeting right now.)

It’s all been taking a toll. For me, it often feels like a steady stream of exhaustion after a day’s (and sometimes night’s) work, while losing momentum and ambition toward my goals. It’s not that I’m just tired and lacking energy, it’s that my drive to tackle whatever’s thrown at me with my typical gusto is fading. 

I’m sure many of you can relate to the difficulty of staying on track during this new (hopefully temporary) normal. So, let’s be proactive and do something about our stress! I’m using this assignment to hold myself accountable – after all, how relevant that I’m writing a post on stress reduction since I obviously need it.

Here are some coping techniques, suggestions, and resources for you. Hope you find them helpful. 

Give Yourself Credit

Do you place too much value on what you’ve completed on a given day? Are you beating yourself up over what you didn’t do? Yeah – me too. 

Calm that critical voice from within (Is it your mother?). Negative self-talk is destructive and intensifies stress levels. If you wouldn’t talk to a friend the way your inner voice speaks to you, it’s time for you to reprogram your inner critic. Be compassionate, gentle, and kind with yourself if you’re doing the best you can. Talk to yourself with encouraging words and remind yourself your to-do list doesn’t define you.

Minimize Interruptions

Consider how many times you’re interrupted in a day. It happens so frequently, we hardly even notice it anymore. With technology constantly calling for our attention, it can be hard to keep a steady stream of thought. Although we can’t control how often we’re bugged, we can schedule time to respond to things like emails, texts, voicemails, etc. Do what you can to control your environment and set priorities on what needs your undivided attention. If the email doesn’t need an immediate answer, let it wait, and keep on task. 

Same goes for those you share your space with. Consider having specific office hours, with no interruptions allowed except for an emergency. (The house is on fire, the dishwasher is leaking water all over the kitchen, or your child’s third breakfast). I know this can be hard with kids at home, so figure out ways to incentify time to focus. Perhaps set a schedule defining time for focus and recurring break times you and your family can look forward to enjoying together.  

Take Time to Unplug

Schedule regular time periods to go off the grid. We all need to be accessible, but most of us can spare time here and there to be unavailable. If you’re like me and fill up your calendar with appointments and to-do lists, be sure to schedule “you time.” The simple fact of not having to answer to anyone or anything, even just for a short period of time, can lift some of that weight off your shoulders. Consider setting boundaries for yourself, such as no work after 8 p.m. or a dedicated break during the workday for a few. Then hold yourself to it! 

Take Care of Yourself

Even when every day is casual Friday, get out of those pajamas, take a shower, comb your hair, shave or put on makeup (or both), and get dressed (yes, including underwear). Upgrade your dress code ante. Put on clothes that make you feel good. It really helps.

There’s a lot to be said for getting your endorphins going, eating healthy foods, and getting some good shuteye. Find ways to enjoy workouts and healthier food options. Rejoice that there’s no ban on Corona beer! 

Start small so you don’t feel overwhelmed. Even a few minutes of aerobic exercise can decrease tension, elevate your mood, and improve your sleep. (Tiktok dance, anyone?) Take the physical steps your body needs to set yourself up for success.

Have an Objective View

We often assume we know others’ motives but in reality, if we don’t ask, we don’t know! Even when we think we’re unbiased, we bring our ideals, past experiences, and our current mental climate into situations unknowingly. The potential for misunderstandings multiplies for us all during times of high stress. 

Although it’s a vulnerable thing to do, consider asking what someone meant by a particular comment or look. You might be pleasantly surprised to learn you’re wrong! When in doubt, give others the benefit of the doubt.

Delegate Responsibilities

Even when you are working from home, you can instantly eliminate some stress by asking for help. (Help!) For some of us, it can be difficult to let others know we need a hand. For some reason, we tend to think we can do it all, but this line of thinking only perpetuates stress. Who wants to be responsible for it all anyway?! Teach people how to fish, rather than providing their dinner, and your own plate will become less full. 

Breathe (and Even Sing)

Take a few minutes to breathe deeply. Before you begin, rate your current stress level on a scale from one to ten. Unplug from your responsibilities for a few minutes and set a timer for three minutes. Put both feet on the floor, sit up straight in your desk chair, and close your eyes. Breathe in and out, focusing on your breath. When the timer goes off, rate your stress using the same scale. I’ll bet you the number is lower! 

Taking a few minutes to sing along to a favorite song can help, too. If you have kids, they already know this is so true. While we’re told to sing the Happy Birthday song twice while washing our hands, choose another fun song that makes you – and them – smile. (This one always gets us dancing!) 

Let It Go 

(Insert Frozen reference here.) Adopt the practice of letting things go. Try not to overthink things or focus on what’s not working. There’s a lot to be said for a less pessimistic point of view. Focus on solutions rather than problems then ask yourself if the work “crisis” will exist next week, next month, or next year. If the answer is no, the problem probably doesn’t matter as much as you think it does (especially now). Think of your glass as half full rather than half empty. Be grateful for what you CAN do. 

Don’t Worry. Be Happy.

Try to relax and enjoy life. This is easier said than done – especially if relaxation has not been a priority. If it hasn’t, ask yourself what relaxes you. What do you enjoy? What do you find yourself wishing you had more time for? When your non-work life is enjoyable, you’ll be a calmer more relaxed person while on the job. Sometimes you need to prioritize fun! 

TURN OFF THE NEWS. It will all be there tomorrow. Enjoy a movie marathon or binge-watch a TV show – with lots of popcorn (and yes, wine). Cook, bake, play a board game, choreograph a fun dance with your kids (then share with their grandparents), or start a new fitness program (lots of good videos out there). Give back to your community by sewing face masks, donating to your local food bank, or picking up groceries for your elderly neighbor.

Think Small

Even the smallest thing can lift your spirits. Go outside and wave at your neighbor, UPS person, or mail carrier. Stand on the front porch to celebrate your trash pick up or meter reading. If you have a yard, pull some weeds. Go for a short walk, even if you don’t have a dog. Does your cat enjoy being on a leash? (A colleague mentioned she once saw a lady pulling a wagon with caged love birds riding along.) In short, be creative!

Laughter is the Best Medicine

And one last suggestion: laugh. Humor is infectious so try to have a good laugh every day! Avoid hysteria by keeping your sense of humor. Today, social media is full of funny stories and even funnier videos of what we are all experiencing during this trying time. So, don’t be embarrassed if you find yourself watching those cute puppy, kitty, and baby videos (awwww). Any port in a storm.

Conclusion

Finding the balance can be challenging. While stress can’t be eliminated, it can certainly be decreased. Too much stress can really take its toll on your health, happiness, and relationships. What works for me may not work for you. If your stress is unmanageable, seek outside help from an expert so that you can find a support system that works for you. And remember: We are all in this together. Really.

How Are You Coping?

We want to know about YOU. Let us know what you are doing to stay productive, adapting your job to the new normal while remaining positive. Care to share some resources that are helping you? What are you doing for fun? We’d love to profile some of you in a blog post or newsletter article.

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