Mental Health

Coping with Stress and Anxiety at Your Organization

The following is adapted from Dr. Walter Reichman’s recent webinar, Mental Health: Reducing Stress in the Workplace. Please visit our conference page to view a recording of the webinar as well as other sessions from our virtual conference.

If the current crisis is causing you some mix of fear, stress, and anxiety, you are far from alone. These are unprecedented times, and fears of getting sick, the stress of taking care of loved ones who fall ill, and the anxiety of making sure you have enough supplies – all the while adjusting to working remotely, or managing children who are home from school while also working – is more than most people typically deal with. However, there are some ways that will help you cope with these stressors:

Shift Your Mindset

Yes, we are absolutely in difficult times. But dwelling on negative thoughts will increase your stress without actually removing any of the stressors. Rather than ignore these feelings, it is better to recognize them consciously and label them. Sit with these thoughts rather than pushing them away. Consider what is causing the stress and determine which elements of the stressful stimuli can be managed. Can you find some positive element in the situation? For example, you may have additional family time now, or a chance to use your extra time to take up a hobby. If finding the positive isn’t possible or if it only partially works, segregate yourself from the stress-provoking events. Tell yourself, “I’ll put it aside and dwell on it for no longer than 15 minutes at a later time. In the meantime, I have other things to do.” In our current situation avoid feeling shame or placing blame and especially not on yourself.

Stay Connected

While we are currently isolated in our homes, we are connected more than ever virtually, and reaching out digitally is a major way of reducing and even preventing stress. One wonderful outcome of the global quarantine has been to see so much connection taking place over online platforms like Zoom, whether it’s work meetings, happy hours, birthday parties, or more. Staying connected is just as important in the workplace as it is in your individual life. Reach out to your manager or HR department to discuss your communication options if you don’t know them already. All employees should set aside time each day to check in with a colleague, even if it’s just a quick status report. Make a list of people to connect with throughout the week, including your manager, peers, direct reports if applicable, and clients is applicable.

Focus on Your Team

If you are managing others, you have a responsibility to help them through this time. Reach out and ask them what specific challenges they are facing, and ask them directly how you can help. Be empathic to their needs. Apply your policies consistently and fairly to all and not discriminate among employees. Don’t initiate new policies and procedures that will demand engaging in unfamiliar activities. It’s also important to consider changing your productivity expectations and allow them to work with what is familiar and usual. Remember, you may not know what people are dealing with privately.

Separate “Work” and Home

Your desk may be in your bedroom, or maybe you’re doing double duty as your child’s teacher. As much as possible, carve out working and non-working hours for yourself. Setting aside a period of time each day to devote to your work, as well as a quiet place to work, will help maintain some feeling of normalcy. Recognize any limitations under which you are working and don’t try to control the uncontrollable. If you can share or delegate tasks, do so. Balance your schedule with social time, putting aside time for yourself and your family. Try to remember that most people are going to be understanding about any challenges you are facing and be open with your manager about what you are dealing with.

Make Time for Self-Care

The three most popular ways to reduce stress are exercise, meditation, and deep breathing. According to the Mayo Clinic, any form of exercise from aerobics to yoga can act as a stress reliever by pumping up your endorphins. Lots of companies are offering free access to their online programs to help people through this crisis.

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