Coping with unprecedented challenges of working from home
Authored by Dr Pallavi A Joshi, Consultant - Psychiatrist, Columbia Asia Hospital Whitefield
Many of us have leaves or work from home, bringing family members closer than ever before but where is the happiness? Does it really feel like we are on a leave? Not really, because leaves are what we take voluntarily. However, this situation is a compulsion and has a lot of uncertainty attached to it. We don’t know the course of this pandemic, a lot of us are not able to deal with financial uncertainties and some of us are staying away from the family and are dealing with increasing levels of boredom, fear and restlessness. During this exceptional situation that has never been faced across generations before us, these are the possible challenges and some possible ways to reduce the impact of stress
1. Follow a daily routine
Create a sense of order by following a routine. Include daily activities such as work, exercise, cooking or learning even in isolation.
2. Don’t consume news from unreliable sources
Limit the sources from where you get your news. Avoid media coverage that spreads panic or causes hysteria. Get accurate news from official health organizations of your area.
3. Stay connected virtually
Technology has enabled staying connected with everyone even when you’re confined. Use your phone, email and social media to connect with friends. You can video call family members to check on their health.
4. Educate yourself
Ask questions and clear any doubts that you may have with a medical health practitioner. The best way to end fear is to learn more about the disease and any real risks you may have.
5. Stay healthy
Avoid consuming alcohol or drugs to cope with the anxiety of isolation. You may feel good for some time but in the long run, you will end up feeling more depressed. Instead, follow a healthy diet and exercise or meditate for a calmer mind and fitter body. You will feel overall wellness.
Important habits to sail through the new work-life balance during work-from home
● First accept your home as your workplace and communicate the same to your family
● Maintain regular office timings as much as possible. Ensure to get off work on time and spend time with your family. Often there is an inclination to work long hours from home because of frequent breaks.
● Keep in touch with your colleagues. Consider taking virtual coffee breaks or even lunch to avoid feeling lonely or to fight boredom.
● Eat, drink and exercise. Take a short break after every hour, stretch, make sure you remain hydrated. Try to maintain a healthy diet.
● Timesheets are very useful for making to-do lists and to prioritize work as it can get difficult to focus while working from home.
● Make your home environment includes physical space conducive for work. Avoid working from spots that are intended for relaxation like your bedroom. It is much easier to focus when physical spaces for work and relaxation can be differentiated.
● Reduce distractions at home while you’re working. Avoid watching TV or logging onto social media. When you’re taking a break, engage with your kids, chat with your roommate or play with your pet.
Differentiate between ‘Burden’ and ‘Decision’
Replace burden with choice, meaning when you feel I don't want to but I have to, you face two negative thought lines, the moment you say I decide to do this because it's good for my life, half of the problem is solved as you treat the restriction as your decision and not a compulsion.
Converting challenges and limitations into opportunities-
1. Family bonding
Cleaning your home- cleaning cupboards, fridge, old papers- all are therapeutic. As the funda goes- “cleaner the house, quieter the mind”. When you remove unwanted stuff, imagine your unwanted thoughts and beliefs are also getting removed with that. it also helps in removing the pent up or dead energy
2. New learning and unlearning too
We are living in a world where the internet gives you the option of possibly learning any hobby that you want to - we can use this opportunity well, and we may never get this much free time again in future. Unlearning of old patterns, habits which serve no longer functional purpose to us is also one task we can do during this period, one can formulate strategy and ask family members to support the same
3. Reconnecting with others and yourself too
Call your friends who are staying in other parts of the world, 90% of the time the communication is very rewarding and relaxing, and often gives you a new perspective.
4. Reconnect with yourself
During busy routines sometimes we really forget what our inner self actually wants! You can have much needed “me” time now. Meditation helps you connect to your higher self. Writing your thoughts, goals – are some of the effective ways to find your purpose in life
5. Creativity forms a base for happiness and channelling out your anxiety
It is said - any happy person you see will be in the process of creation and it's absolutely true! Be it making new dishes, to drawing simple rangoli every day, making paintings, teaching new things to your child all channel out anxiety and give immense satisfaction
6. Attempt to create a positive atmosphere around you
Prayers, chanting, watching inspirational, humorous movies with your family, reading good books, using positive affirmations loudly.
When to take professional help
If you or anybody you know is experiencing the following, it may be beneficial to seek professional help
● Persistent lethargy and easy fatigability
● Lack of focus
● Overwhelming anxiety and preoccupation with imaginary worries
● Lack of sleep, appetite disturbance
● Impulsive indulgence in alcohol, smoking or other drugs
● Recurrent thoughts of helplessness, hopelessness, worthlessness – all these for minimum 2 weeks
● Suicidal ideas (warrant immediate attention)
● If you are a known case of psychiatry illness