How to deal with stress at work in times of corona

How to deal with stress at work in times of corona

Whether you are going into work or working from home, the COVID-19 pandemic has probably changed the way you work. Fear and anxiety about this new disease and other strong emotions can be overwhelming, and workplace stress can lead to burnout external icon . How you cope with these emotions and stress can affect your well-being, the well-being of the people you care about, your workplace, and your community. During this pandemic, it is critical that you recognize what stress looks like, take steps to build your resilience and manage job stress, and know where to go if you need help.

  • Feeling irritation, anger, or in denial
  • Feeling uncertain, nervous, or anxious
  • Lacking motivation
  • Feeling tired, overwhelmed, or burned out
  • Feeling sad or depressed
  • Having trouble sleeping
  • Having trouble concentrating

Know the common work-related factors that can add to stress during a pandemic:

  • Concern about the risk of being exposed to the virus at work
  • Taking care of personal and family needs while working
  • Managing a different workload
  • Lack of access to the tools and equipment needed to perform your job
  • Feelings that you are not contributing enough to work or guilt about not being on the frontline
  • Uncertainty about the future of your workplace and/or employment
  • Learning new communication tools and dealing with technical difficulties
  • Adapting to a different workspace and/or work schedule
  • Communicate with your coworkers, supervisors, and employees about job stress while maintaining social distancing (at least 6 feet).
    • Identify things that cause stress and work together to identify solutions.
    • Talk openly with employers, employees, and unions about how the pandemic is affecting work. Expectations should be communicated clearly by everyone.
    • Ask about how to access mental health resources in your workplace.
  • Identify those things which you do not have control over and do the best you can with the resources available to you.
  • Increase your sense of control by developing a consistent daily routine when possible — ideally one that is similar to your schedule before the pandemic.
    • Keep a regular sleep schedule external icon .
    • Take breaks from work to stretch, exercise, or check in with your supportive colleagues, coworkers, family, and friends.
    • Spend time outdoors, either being physically active or relaxing.
    • If you work from home, set a regular time to end your work for the day, if possible.
    • Practice mindfulness techniques external icon .
    • Do things you enjoy during non-work hours.
  • Know the facts about COVID-19. Be informed about how to protect yourself and others. Understanding the risk and sharing accurate information with people you care about can reduce stress and help you make a connection with others.
  • Remind yourself that each of us has a crucial role in fighting this pandemic.
  • Remind yourself that everyone is in an unusual situation with limited resources.
  • Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including social media. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting and mentally exhausting
  • Connect with others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns, how you are feeling, or how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting you.
    • Connect with others through phone calls, email, text messages, mailing letters or cards, video chat, and social media.
    • Check on others. Helping others improves your sense of control, belonging, and self-esteem. Look for safe ways to offer social support to others, especially if they are showing signs of stress, such as depression and anxiety.
  • If you feel you may be misusing alcohol or other drugs (including prescription drugs) as a means of coping, reach out for help.
  • If you are being treated for a mental health condition, continue with your treatment and be aware of any new or worsening symptoms.

If you feel you or someone in your household may harm themselves or someone else:

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline external icon
    • Toll-free number 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255)
    • The Online Lifeline Crisis Chat external icon is free and confidential. You’ll be connected to a skilled, trained counselor in your area.
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline external icon
    • Call 1-800-799-7233 and TTY 1-800-787-3224

If you are feeling overwhelmed with emotions like sadness, depression, or anxiety:

  • Disaster Distress Helpline external icon
    • Call or text 1-800-985-5990
  • Check with your employer for information about possible employee assistance program resources.

If you need to find treatment or mental health providers in your area:

Some practical, evidence-based advice for managers.

THE BASICS

  • What Is Stress?
  • Find a therapist to overcome stress

We are now in the midst of a pandemic, and the impact of the coronavirus is increasingly being felt across the United States. As someone interested in organizational behavior, I’ve been thinking about how these unfolding events affect employees.

These thoughts were most pronounced last week when I was forced to cancel my family’s spring break plans and spend several hours interacting, over the phone and via email, with frontline employees working for various service providers. It was clear that these workers were under tremendous stress.

During one call with a ticket provider, I asked the agent how things were going, and he said that events were being canceled by the minute across the country, which was generating a torrent of calls from disappointed, frustrated, and angry customers. I spoke to an agent at a transportation company who was stressed and irritated by the rules at her company that did not allow her to waive cancellation fees because I had already canceled my travel plans using their website. I exchanged emails with a customer service manager at a theater who thanked me when I expressed gratitude for the excellent service that she and her team had provided.

Since then, I have also been in touch with many faculty members, at my university and others, who are scrambling to convert their face-to-face classes to an online format and to learn how to use distance-learning platforms. Sadly, I have also heard from two former students who have already lost their jobs because of the economic distress facing their companies.

In short, this is a calamitous time, and employees are under tremendous stress, both personally and professionally. For many, this stress is undoubtedly exacerbated by the need to engage in social distancing, which can make people feel even more isolated. What, then, can managers do to help workers navigate this difficult time?

First, it is well known that ambiguity contributes to employee stress and anxiety, and this pandemic is creating tremendous uncertainty; indeed, it is still unclear how long this pandemic will last and how devastating it will ultimately be. Prior research indicates that companies can help reduce uncertainty by communicating openly and honestly with employees.

By being more transparent and discussing worst-case scenarios, managers cannot only reduce stress but also other dysfunctional outcomes, like increased gossip and decreased commitment, which often occurs when employees are faced with ambiguous situations. Furthermore, information sharing is often seen as an indicator of trust, so managers who are more open are also likely to be seen as more credible and trustworthy.

Second, a significant line of research indicates that stress is greater when employees are working in contexts with high demands and low control. In other words, jobs are especially stressful when they are characterized by heavy workloads, time pressure, and intense concentration combined with low levels of autonomy and decision-making input. In fact, a recent study found that jobs with low control and high demands are not just more stressful, but also may also shorten employees’ life expectancy.

Unfortunately, this harmful combination is evident in the experiences currently facing workers in a variety of industries—from health care to customer service. Although managers may be less able to reduce job demands during this pandemic, they should be able to empower their workers by giving them greater autonomy and decision-making authority, and doing so can make a meaningful difference. Indeed, in that same study, when employees were given greater control, researchers found that high job demands were actually associated with greater life expectancy.

A third perspective suggests that reactions to job stressors are often a matter of perception. In particular, when employees view stressful situations as a challenge, they tend to exhibit greater motivation and performance; however, when those stress factors are seen as a hindrance or obstacle to achieving their goals, employees’ motivation and performance tend to suffer. Employees are especially likely to feel hindered by things like unclear objectives, conflicting requests, red tape, organizational politics, and other hassles.

The idea of challenge-versus-hindrance appraisals suggests that managers should help their employees see this difficult time as an opportunity for them to grow, develop, and help others. At the same time, managers should do their best to eliminate bureaucratic headaches that make it more difficult for employees to carry out their duties. For instance, some organizations have rules that make it difficult for employees to work from home or to do so without feeling like they are under constant surveillance. Such policies only increase employee stress.

The coronavirus is here, and it is disrupting our way of life. Those who are fortunate enough to keep their jobs will need to find new ways of working. During this difficult time, managers need to be especially mindful of the stress and anxiety of their workers. By providing more open and honest communication, empowering their employees, and removing roadblocks, managers can help make this stressful time less overwhelming.

Beyond these actions, managers should be virtually, if not physically, available and present for their employees. Indeed, we know that social support can help people cope with stress, so social distancing needs to be more about physical separation than social or psychological isolation as we deal with this pandemic.

How to deal with stress at work in times of corona

As the events surrounding the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak unfold, it’s understandable that you might begin to feel increasing stress.

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Information is rapidly changing and can be confusing, overwhelming and even scary. You may experience fear and spikes in anxiety. But even if you’re managing your anxiety levels well, there’s still so much more to deal with.

Whether it’s dealing with at-risk family members or patients, a roller coaster economy, trying to juggle work, keeping kids occupied or homeschooling while schools are closed, or simply adjusting to a new, unfamiliar situation, stress can easily pile up and negatively impact you — both physically and mentally.

Clinical psychologist Amy Sullivan, PsyD, ABPP, stresses the importance of planning coping activities. “America is the engine of ingenuity,” she says. “Let’s be innovative. This is a time where we can really be creative and come up positive coping skills.”

5 steps for managing your stress

Exercise regularly. While gyms are closed and social distancing guidelines are in place, it’s still possible to get in aerobic exercise, like walking, running, hiking or playing with your kids/pets, all can help release endorphins (natural substances that help you feel better and maintain a positive attitude). And there are other exercises you can do in the comfort of your own home. Dr. Sullivan recommends yoga and stretching as one way to both exercise your body and calm your mind and it’s easy to do by yourself.

Maintain a healthy diet. Stress can adversely affect both your eating habits and your metabolism. The best way to combat stress or emotional eating is to be mindful of what triggers stress eating and to be ready to fight the urge. “If you are someone who is prone to emotional eating, know your triggers, know what stresses you out and be prepared,” Dr. Sullivan says. Keeping healthy snacks on hand will help nourish your body, arming yourself nutritionally to better deal with your stress. “Helping to regulate your blood sugar throughout the day is going to keep your body stable and your emotions on a much better playing field,” Dr. Sullivan says.

Take a break. “As humans we want control over our lives and in this situation, so we have to learn to manage lack of control,” says Dr. Sullivan. While it’s important to stay informed of the latest news and developments, the evolving nature of the news can get overwhelming. Find a balance of exposure to news that works for you. This is particularly important for our children. We need to limit their exposure to the media and provide age-appropriate information to them. Whenever reasonably possible, disconnect physically and mentally. Play with puzzles, a board game, do a treasure hunt, tackle a project, reorganize something, or start a new book that is unrelated to coronavirus coverage.

Connect with others. “I can’t stress enough how important connection is during times of uncertainty and fear,” Dr. Sullivan says. “Fear and isolation can lead to depression and anxiety. We need to make a point to connect with others regularly.” Reach out to family members, friends and colleagues regularly via phone, text, FaceTime or other virtual platforms. Make sure that you are checking on those that are alone. Check in regularly with your parents, grandparents and your children.

Get sleep and rest. The ever-changing news environment can create a lot of stress, stress that gets amplified when you don’t get enough sleep. It’s especially important now to get the recommended amount of sleep to help you stay focused on work and on managing the stress the current outbreak can bring. Dr. Sullivan recommends avoiding stimulants like alcohol, caffeine and nicotine before bed. If you still find yourself too stressed to sleep, consider developing a new pre-bedtime routine, including a long bath or a cup of caffeine-free herbal tea. And planning for tomorrow earlier in your day can help alleviate stress related to what’s to come.

Following these steps to manage stress and add a sense of normalcy can go a long way to help you cope with the ever-changing environment and help keep those around you, especially children, calm and focused. If you are not able to manage your anxiety or depression on your own, reach out to a behavioral medicine provider for an in-person or virtual visit. “Take care of yourself and others around you,” says Dr. Sullivan.

How to deal with stress at work in times of corona

How to deal with stress at work in times of corona

Woman working from home is suffering from stress wondering what can help her handle it better.

This morning, Laura called inquiring about career counseling services and wanting to look for a new job. She started out talking about how stressful her work was right now and that her husband was going through surgery today, and she needed to take time off to help him. An event planner, Laura felt so much anxiety over all the work problems compounded by the coronavirus and the need to keep her husband safe. He’s over 60, and she is 57. A large part of her job is planning special events, and these events needed to be canceled and rescheduled months from now. Contacting the venues and the speakers plus handling all of the tasks required had her anxiety so high that she thought for sure she was going to have a panic attack. She admitted that the stress level was the highest that it’s ever been. Many people at her work were freaking out, and that wasn’t helping at all. She felt the answer was looking for a less stressful job.

Dr. Richard Citrin is an organizational psychologist who also holds an MBA and is the author of The Resilience Advantage: Stop Managing Stress and Find Your Resilience. “To manage your stress is impossible to do. It’s your body reacting to your environment. You need to recognize the stress, then work with it and learn how to deal with it,” says Citrin. “I’m not a fan of social distancing. We need physical distancing, but not social distancing. We should socialize and reach out and make connections. Right now, you may need to use FaceTime or Skype to see people you care about. We need to be more socially connected now and not more isolated.

Citrin offers some advice on dealing with stress in these tough times.

You are resilient. The stress in the workplace right now can feel overwhelming, so ask yourself, what do I need to do to get a handle on it? How can I problem solve and make things better? Resilience is hardwired into us. You need to tap into this trait to get some control over your life. Navigate through life in real-time, and tell yourself I’ll bounce-back or better still, bounce forward.

Learn to work remotely. If you are a manager of employees who are new to remote work, reach out and check in with them a couple of times a day. They don’t have a routine down yet and may feel guilty or like they’re cheating if they take a break. Managers need to set expectations and suggest a routine to do the work. Discuss the need to take time to have lunch or to go outside for a little walk. Offer ideas that will help your employees to better manage this whole new routine of working from home. As a worker, you need to create an environment of control for yourself so that you’re able to handle that you may be working from home for a while.

Let employees know you care. You want to have an open-door policy right now, and that translates to telling your employees, “let’s talk.” A manager can help the employee feel like you are there for them. Be transparent with what you know. You will increase loyalty and retention as a byproduct because of your concern. People want something to hold onto right now. The company is a great thing to anchor to. Talk to your employees about what they can do to reach out to customers. It’s customers that you’re going to want to keep or get back once the economic climate changes. So help your employees. Coach them, mentor them.

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Self-care is key. Do whatever you can to take good care of yourself. Get a good night’s sleep. Exercise is important. The gym’s closed? Try doing a YouTube video for Pilates, yoga, or Tai Chi. Go outside and go for a walk. Listen to upbeat music. Eat as healthy as you can. Connect to your friends and family. It would help if you had social connection right now. You’ll have more time on your hands, so consider learning a new hobby. All those home projects you’ve been putting on hold, get them off your to-do list.

Erik Gabrielson, a consultant and co-author of the new book, Our Fear Never Sleeps, says, “Fear is predominant in just nearly everyone right now. We need to give our employees the skillset to manage stress and to be able to navigate all the uncertainty. We need to individually and collectively take aligned action in the face of the coronavirus fear,” he noted.

Gabrielson offers several things you and your company can do to try to handle stress better during this challenging time.

Acknowledge that our biology, the amygdala, is in overdrive to keep us safe. You can’t control what is happening around you, but you can control how you respond to it. Get to a place of acceptance. This does not mean agreement, but you must accept reality as it is happening. Company leaders and managers need to offer support and tell employees you have their back. Right now, employees are scared that they might get sick, their family might get sick, and ultimately they are worried their work hours will be cut, or they will lose their jobs. Your role as a leader is to help support them and reassure them that everything is going to be okay. Stress that the company has this under control in terms of taking care of its employees. It understands if you have to balance working from home and childcare. In Laura’s case, her employer needs to realize that she has to balance the needs of a sick husband and her workload.

Share something you are grateful for. Focus on the positive it keeps you away from all the negative reports that can put you and employees in a place of fear. For example, a manager can start a conference call or online meeting with each person saying, “Tell us one thing there grateful for you.” Offer an example, such as “I’m grateful that my family is healthy.” Or “I’m grateful for friends who are supporting me now.” The best way to manifest the idea of gratitude is to acknowledge people around you. Ask friends and neighbors if they need any help. One example was a person who posted on Facebook and said, “Hey, I’m healthy. I can go to the grocery store. I can go pick up prescriptions at the pharmacy. I can even cook you dinner if you need it.” By focusing on the positive things that you can do to help others that will help you.

Act compassionately towards others. Many baby boomers are managers out there, and they need to take over the role and inquire about how each member of their team is really doing. Don’t try to plow through the work. Touch base with the person and get them to talk about what they’re thinking and worried about. Showing compassion and empathy during this time is critical. Now is the time to be a champion inside your organization so that the employees feel like they’re not alone, and the company does care about them.

“Eventually,” Citrin reassures, “we will get through this, and it will get better.”

How to deal with stress at work in times of corona

Whether you are going into work or working from home, the COVID-19 pandemic has probably changed the way you work. Fear and anxiety about this new disease and other strong emotions can be overwhelming, and workplace stress can lead to burnout external icon . How you cope with these emotions and stress can affect your well-being, the well-being of the people you care about, your workplace, and your community. During this pandemic, it is critical that you recognize what stress looks like, take steps to build your resilience and manage job stress, and know where to go if you need help.

  • Feeling irritation, anger, or in denial
  • Feeling uncertain, nervous, or anxious
  • Lacking motivation
  • Feeling tired, overwhelmed, or burned out
  • Feeling sad or depressed
  • Having trouble sleeping
  • Having trouble concentrating

Know the common work-related factors that can add to stress during a pandemic:

  • Concern about the risk of being exposed to the virus at work
  • Taking care of personal and family needs while working
  • Managing a different workload
  • Lack of access to the tools and equipment needed to perform your job
  • Feelings that you are not contributing enough to work or guilt about not being on the frontline
  • Uncertainty about the future of your workplace and/or employment
  • Learning new communication tools and dealing with technical difficulties
  • Adapting to a different workspace and/or work schedule
  • Communicate with your coworkers, supervisors, and employees about job stress while maintaining social distancing (at least 6 feet).
    • Identify things that cause stress and work together to identify solutions.
    • Talk openly with employers, employees, and unions about how the pandemic is affecting work. Expectations should be communicated clearly by everyone.
    • Ask about how to access mental health resources in your workplace.
  • Identify those things which you do not have control over and do the best you can with the resources available to you.
  • Increase your sense of control by developing a consistent daily routine when possible — ideally one that is similar to your schedule before the pandemic.
    • Keep a regular sleep schedule external icon .
    • Take breaks from work to stretch, exercise, or check in with your supportive colleagues, coworkers, family, and friends.
    • Spend time outdoors, either being physically active or relaxing.
    • If you work from home, set a regular time to end your work for the day, if possible.
    • Practice mindfulness techniques external icon .
    • Do things you enjoy during non-work hours.
  • Know the facts about COVID-19. Be informed about how to protect yourself and others. Understanding the risk and sharing accurate information with people you care about can reduce stress and help you make a connection with others.
  • Remind yourself that each of us has a crucial role in fighting this pandemic.
  • Remind yourself that everyone is in an unusual situation with limited resources.
  • Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including social media. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting and mentally exhausting
  • Connect with others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns, how you are feeling, or how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting you.
    • Connect with others through phone calls, email, text messages, mailing letters or cards, video chat, and social media.
    • Check on others. Helping others improves your sense of control, belonging, and self-esteem. Look for safe ways to offer social support to others, especially if they are showing signs of stress, such as depression and anxiety.
  • If you feel you may be misusing alcohol or other drugs (including prescription drugs) as a means of coping, reach out for help.
  • If you are being treated for a mental health condition, continue with your treatment and be aware of any new or worsening symptoms.

If you feel you or someone in your household may harm themselves or someone else:

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline external icon
    • Toll-free number 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255)
    • The Online Lifeline Crisis Chat external icon is free and confidential. You’ll be connected to a skilled, trained counselor in your area.
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline external icon
    • Call 1-800-799-7233 and TTY 1-800-787-3224

If you are feeling overwhelmed with emotions like sadness, depression, or anxiety:

  • Disaster Distress Helpline external icon
    • Call or text 1-800-985-5990
  • Check with your employer for information about possible employee assistance program resources.

If you need to find treatment or mental health providers in your area:

How to deal with stress at work in times of corona

Trees are still blooming in Portland.

The news these days feels constant, overwhelming and frankly, scary. If you already suffer from anxiety and depression, the stress of the stock market and coronavirus are probably increasing those feelings, and if you don’t generally deal with those stress responses, you may find yourself exhausted, less upbeat than usual and deeply anxious.

We asked a professor of psychiatry and a minister to give us some tools to help us deal with global pandemic-induced anxiety. Here’s what they said.

1. Practice self-awareness

According to Sydney Ey, a professor of psychiatry at Oregon Health & Science University, the first step to dealing with stress and the anxiety it causes is to be aware of how you are dealing with it.

When Ey works with people suffering from anxiety, she said, “I have them identify what’s a sign when they are feeling stressed, where do they feel it in their body.”

We all have habits that we engage in when we’re feeling stressed, she said. Maybe it’s hitting the fast-food drive-thru or disappearing into our phones. Be aware of your signs, Ey said. Notice when you fall back on them. Notice when you feel your body tensing. That is when you take action.

2. Focus on your body

Once you recognize that you are anxious, try to calm your body.

“If you can calm your body down, and release some of the stress hormones,” Ey said, “then your mind will follow.”

Her number one recommendation? Exercise.

“I really encourage people on a daily basis to find some way of moving,” Ey said, even if it’s just going for a walk.

Another way to help your body relax, Ey said, is by practicing it. “Maybe a couple times during the day,” she said, “take a couple moments to relax.”

She suggested taking 10 deep breaths or focusing on tense muscles and softening them. She said apps like Headspace and Calm can help people who need a little guidance.

3. Don’t forget to eat, sleep and drink water

It’s also incredibly important to not neglect your body’s basic needs, Ey said.

“It’s really important to continue prioritizing sleep,” she said. “Still eat and hydrate. If you’re not feeling well stay home and take a break.”

4. Stay connected

“The most important thing is for people to remain connected,” Rev. Bill Sinkford, the Senior Minister at Portland’s First Unitarian Church, told us. “The great danger here is isolation.”

Even though his church has opted to cancel Sunday services, they are looking for more ways to help people engage with one another. Social distancing may mean not meeting up in person, but he recommends email, Facebook groups and even the old fashion phone tree.

“The longer this crisis lasts, the more intense that sense of isolation is likely to be,” he said. “Connecting emotionally or spiritually is what we need to focus on most.”

5. Set meaningful, positive goals

Whether you are at work or at home, Ey suggests trying to do some meaningful, positive, productive things.

Moving towards goals, she said, is one way to stay present in the face of anxiety and unrest.

“Find ways to be effective,” Ey said. “Do things that are meaningful.”

6. Be informed, take precautions, but limit your exposure to the news

Neither Ey nor Sinkford recommends ignoring the news or pretending we aren’t in the middle of a crisis.

“Be informed,” Ey said, “but limit how much time you’re spending reading about this if it’s really causing you a lot of stress.”

“Anxiety is justified,” Sinkford said. “There is a real risk and real danger.”

But, he added, “There’s a whole series of things each of us can do to minimize the risks to ourselves and our families.”

Don’t forget those basic practices, he said, like washing hands and covering coughs. And employ bigger changes too, like no more handshakes and practice social distancing.

7. Find uplifting moments

“Pay attention to what is positive and uplifting,” Ey said. Flowers are blooming, babies are blissfully unaware of what’s happening, you are connected to your body and your community. Even in these chaotic moments, those beautiful things are still happening. Notice them.

8. Remember your strength

Almost every one of us has been through adversity before. Ey suggests remembering that, and focusing on the strengths you’ve used before.

“I often ask people to think about another difficult time in their life when they dealt with uncertainty,” she said. “What were the strengths they drew on? How can they learn from that and apply it now?”

9. Play it out

Another exercise Ey suggests is actually diving into your anxiety and playing out the worst-case scenario in your mind. What does that look like, and how would you overcome it? Remember that strength from number seven? How would you use it if the absolute worst thing were to happen? How would you survive?

Now turn it around. Ask yourself, what’s the best thing that could come out of this?

Working hard should not be confused with overworking at the expense of relationships and physical health.

  • Stress
  • Healthy Workplaces

How to deal with stress at work in times of corona

Everyone who has ever held a job has, at some point, felt the pressure of work-related stress. Any job can have stressful elements, even if you love what you do. In the short-term, you may experience pressure to meet a deadline or to fulfill a challenging obligation. But when work stress becomes chronic, it can be overwhelming—and harmful to both physical and emotional health.

Unfortunately, such long-term stress is all too common. In fact, APA’s annual Stress in America survey has consistently found that work is cited as a significant source of stress by a majority of Americans. You can’t always avoid the tensions that occur on the job. Yet you can take steps to manage work-related stress.

Common sources of work stress

Certain factors tend to go hand-in-hand with work-related stress. Some common workplace stressors are:

  • Low salaries
  • Excessive workloads
  • Few opportunities for growth or advancement
  • Work that isn’t engaging or challenging
  • Lack of social support
  • Not having enough control over job-related decisions
  • Conflicting demands or unclear performance expectations

Effects of uncontrolled stress

Work-related stress doesn’t just disappear when you head home for the day. When stress persists, it can take a toll on your health and well-being.

A stressful work environment can contribute to problems such as headache, stomachache, sleep disturbances, short temper, and difficulty concentrating. Chronic stress can result in anxiety, insomnia, high blood pressure, and a weakened immune system. It can also contribute to health conditions such as depression, obesity, and heart disease. Compounding the problem, people who experience excessive stress often deal with it in unhealthy ways, such as overeating, eating unhealthy foods, smoking cigarettes, or abusing drugs and alcohol.

Taking steps to manage stress

  • Track your stressors. Keep a journal for a week or two to identify which situations create the most stress and how you respond to them. Record your thoughts, feelings, and information about the environment, including the people and circumstances involved, the physical setting, and how you reacted. Did you raise your voice? Get a snack from the vending machine? Go for a walk? Taking notes can help you find patterns among your stressors and your reactions to them.
  • Develop healthy responses. Instead of attempting to fight stress with fast food or alcohol, do your best to make healthy choices when you feel the tension rise. Exercise is a great stress-buster. Yoga can be an excellent choice, but any form of physical activity is beneficial. Also make time for hobbies and favorite activities. Whether it’s reading a novel, going to concerts, or playing games with your family, make sure to set aside time for the things that bring you pleasure. Getting enough good-quality sleep is also important for effective stress management. Build healthy sleep habits by limiting your caffeine intake late in the day and minimizing stimulating activities, such as computer and television use, at night.
  • Establish boundaries. In today’s digital world, it’s easy to feel pressure to be available 24 hours a day. Establish some work-life boundaries for yourself. That might mean making a rule not to check email from home in the evening, or not answering the phone during dinner. Although people have different preferences when it comes to how much they blend their work and home life, creating some clear boundaries between these realms can reduce the potential for work-life conflict and the stress that goes with it.
  • Take time to recharge. To avoid the negative effects of chronic stress and burnout, we need time to replenish and return to our pre-stress level of functioning. This recovery process requires “switching off” from work by having periods of time when you are neither engaging in work-related activities, nor thinking about work. That’s why it’s critical that you disconnect from time to time, in a way that fits your needs and preferences. Don’t let your vacation days go to waste. When possible, take time off to relax and unwind, so you come back to work feeling reinvigorated and ready to perform at your best. When you’re not able to take time off, get a quick boost by turning off your smartphone and focusing your attention on nonwork activities for a while.
  • Learn how to relax. Techniques such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, and mindfulness (a state in which you actively observe present experiences and thoughts without judging them) can help melt away stress. Start by taking a few minutes each day to focus on a simple activity like breathing, walking, or enjoying a meal. The skill of being able to focus purposefully on a single activity without distraction will get stronger with practice and you’ll find that you can apply it to many different aspects of your life.
  • Talk to your supervisor. Employee health has been linked to productivity at work, so your boss has an incentive to create a work environment that promotes employee well-being. Start by having an open conversation with your supervisor. The purpose of this isn’t to lay out a list of complaints, but rather to come up with an effective plan for managing the stressors you’ve identified, so you can perform at your best on the job. While some parts of the plan may be designed to help you improve your skills in areas such as time management, other elements might include identifying employer-sponsored wellness resources you can tap into, clarifying what’s expected of you, getting necessary resources or support from colleagues, enriching your job to include more challenging or meaningful tasks, or making changes to your physical workspace to make it more comfortable and reduce strain.
  • Get some support. Accepting help from trusted friends and family members can improve your ability to manage stress. Your employer may also have stress management resources available through an employee assistance program, including online information, available counseling, and referral to mental health professionals, if needed. If you continue to feel overwhelmed by work stress, you may want to talk to a psychologist, who can help you better manage stress and change unhealthy behavior.

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People who stayed physically active while sheltering were less depressed and more mentally resilient than those whose activity levels declined.

How to deal with stress at work in times of corona

How to deal with stress at work in times of corona

Can we help ease the stress of the coronavirus pandemic by moving more?

A new study of exercise and mental health during the early stages of the nationwide lockdown suggests that the answer is yes. It finds that people who managed to remain physically active during those early weeks of sheltering at home were less depressed and more mentally resilient than other people whose activity levels declined.

The study is preliminary and not yet peer-reviewed, but its results indicate that, during difficult, testing times, the benefits of exercise extend beyond the physical and perhaps bolster our psyches.

Few people living through this pandemic will be surprised to learn that quarantines and similar measures put in place to combat plagues are associated with poor mental health. A review study published in February found that past quarantines resulted in lingering stress, confusion and mounting anger.

Exercise, meanwhile, is known to improve moods, a phenomenon I have written about often. But stay-at-home orders tend to reduce physical activity, since people stay at home and, for the most part, exercise less there. Recent data from the makers of activity trackers show that most people’s daily step counts declined after the lockdowns began worldwide in March.

But whether being less active during the pandemic might also affect how well people deal psychologically with the situation has not been clear. So, for the new study, which was published this month at the pre-print site Cambridge Open Engage, which allows new research to be uploaded and disseminated before it is peer-reviewed and published in an established journal, researchers from Iowa State University, Trinity College Dublin and other institutions decided to ask people how they were feeling these days and whether they were exercising much.

To accomplish this, they sent emails in early April to people affiliated with Iowa State, as well as their far-flung friends, families and acquaintances. Eventually, about 3,000 healthy, nonsmoking men and women aged between 18 and their mid-80s agreed to answer probing questions about their current lives.

The volunteers wound up completing multiple questionnaires about how often they exercised during an average day before the pandemic began, as well as how many hours they spent sitting.

Latest Updates

  • New coronavirus tests should still be able to detect variants, but health officials are vigilant.
  • Republicans remain more hesitant about getting a vaccine than Democrats.
  • As India logs 200,000 daily infections, a new exodus from cities has begun.

The researchers next asked for comparable estimates of how much — or little — exercise people managed now, during the early April shelter-in-place mandates, and how often they sat. They inquired, too, about the extent of each person’s pandemic isolation. Were they fully self-quarantining inside, or were they getting outside while social distancing?

Finally, they asked people to complete additional questionnaires focused on their current mental health, including any symptoms of depression, anxiety, stress, loneliness or if they generally were happy

After collating people’s replies, the researchers divided everyone into groups based on whether they previously had or had not met the standard exercise guidelines of 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise and whether they continued to meet those guidelines now, during lockdown. Then they compared exercise routines and moods.

And they found a consistent pattern of more exercise correlating to better cheer and vice versa. In particular, people who once had been active but rarely exercised now were significantly more likely to feel depressed, anxious, lonely and otherwise worried and dour than people who had continued to work out for at least 150 minutes a week.

The effects were most striking among the people in full quarantine, few of whom had maintained their prior exercise routines and most of whom reported feeling sad, depressed and solitary now.

This study involved only 3,000 people, however, most of them white and well-educated, and relied on their memories of exercise habits, which can be unreliable. Also, because it covered separate, momentary snapshots of their lives before and during the pandemic, it cannot tell us whether being more or less active caused people’s feeling to change, only that their exercise and moods were linked.

But, however limited, the findings are provocative and hopeful. “These are particularly stressful times,” says Cillian McDowell, a postdoctoral researcher at Trinity College Dublin and one of the study’s lead authors. “This study suggests that maintaining and ideally increasing our current levels of activity” — while adhering to local public health restrictions, of course — “is an effective way to manage this stress.”

Or as Jacob Meyer, an assistant professor of kinesiology at Iowa State and the study’s other lead author points out, “In the same stressful situation, people who maintained their normal physical activity experienced less symptoms of depression and anxiety, across the board” than people whose levels of activity slipped.

Of course, “exercise is hardly going to fix everything” that is frightening and disorienting about the pandemic, Dr. Meyer adds. “But it can be one thing we have control over. We can get up and move.”

People who stayed physically active while sheltering were less depressed and more mentally resilient than those whose activity levels declined.

How to deal with stress at work in times of corona

How to deal with stress at work in times of corona

Can we help ease the stress of the coronavirus pandemic by moving more?

A new study of exercise and mental health during the early stages of the nationwide lockdown suggests that the answer is yes. It finds that people who managed to remain physically active during those early weeks of sheltering at home were less depressed and more mentally resilient than other people whose activity levels declined.

The study is preliminary and not yet peer-reviewed, but its results indicate that, during difficult, testing times, the benefits of exercise extend beyond the physical and perhaps bolster our psyches.

Few people living through this pandemic will be surprised to learn that quarantines and similar measures put in place to combat plagues are associated with poor mental health. A review study published in February found that past quarantines resulted in lingering stress, confusion and mounting anger.

Exercise, meanwhile, is known to improve moods, a phenomenon I have written about often. But stay-at-home orders tend to reduce physical activity, since people stay at home and, for the most part, exercise less there. Recent data from the makers of activity trackers show that most people’s daily step counts declined after the lockdowns began worldwide in March.

But whether being less active during the pandemic might also affect how well people deal psychologically with the situation has not been clear. So, for the new study, which was published this month at the pre-print site Cambridge Open Engage, which allows new research to be uploaded and disseminated before it is peer-reviewed and published in an established journal, researchers from Iowa State University, Trinity College Dublin and other institutions decided to ask people how they were feeling these days and whether they were exercising much.

To accomplish this, they sent emails in early April to people affiliated with Iowa State, as well as their far-flung friends, families and acquaintances. Eventually, about 3,000 healthy, nonsmoking men and women aged between 18 and their mid-80s agreed to answer probing questions about their current lives.

The volunteers wound up completing multiple questionnaires about how often they exercised during an average day before the pandemic began, as well as how many hours they spent sitting.

Latest Updates

  • New coronavirus tests should still be able to detect variants, but health officials are vigilant.
  • Republicans remain more hesitant about getting a vaccine than Democrats.
  • As India logs 200,000 daily infections, a new exodus from cities has begun.

The researchers next asked for comparable estimates of how much — or little — exercise people managed now, during the early April shelter-in-place mandates, and how often they sat. They inquired, too, about the extent of each person’s pandemic isolation. Were they fully self-quarantining inside, or were they getting outside while social distancing?

Finally, they asked people to complete additional questionnaires focused on their current mental health, including any symptoms of depression, anxiety, stress, loneliness or if they generally were happy

After collating people’s replies, the researchers divided everyone into groups based on whether they previously had or had not met the standard exercise guidelines of 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise and whether they continued to meet those guidelines now, during lockdown. Then they compared exercise routines and moods.

And they found a consistent pattern of more exercise correlating to better cheer and vice versa. In particular, people who once had been active but rarely exercised now were significantly more likely to feel depressed, anxious, lonely and otherwise worried and dour than people who had continued to work out for at least 150 minutes a week.

The effects were most striking among the people in full quarantine, few of whom had maintained their prior exercise routines and most of whom reported feeling sad, depressed and solitary now.

This study involved only 3,000 people, however, most of them white and well-educated, and relied on their memories of exercise habits, which can be unreliable. Also, because it covered separate, momentary snapshots of their lives before and during the pandemic, it cannot tell us whether being more or less active caused people’s feeling to change, only that their exercise and moods were linked.

But, however limited, the findings are provocative and hopeful. “These are particularly stressful times,” says Cillian McDowell, a postdoctoral researcher at Trinity College Dublin and one of the study’s lead authors. “This study suggests that maintaining and ideally increasing our current levels of activity” — while adhering to local public health restrictions, of course — “is an effective way to manage this stress.”

Or as Jacob Meyer, an assistant professor of kinesiology at Iowa State and the study’s other lead author points out, “In the same stressful situation, people who maintained their normal physical activity experienced less symptoms of depression and anxiety, across the board” than people whose levels of activity slipped.

Of course, “exercise is hardly going to fix everything” that is frightening and disorienting about the pandemic, Dr. Meyer adds. “But it can be one thing we have control over. We can get up and move.”