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Last Updated on January 12, 2021

How to Deal with Stress at Work in Times of Corona

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How to Deal with Stress at Work in Times of Corona

One problem that pretty much every human on earth is facing is knowing how to deal with stress at work.

Things were already challenging but with the corona pandemic, the dynamics of the work environment have completely changed. On top of the increases work pressure and stress, the entire structure and system have changed too.

Some people have to work from home for the first time in their life. Others have to observe extreme caution inside their offices. All this while there is a constant risk of health, too.

Everybody is a victim of this crisis. So, read on to find out how you can deal with stress at work in a time like this.

Cause of the Increasing Stress

Work stress has always been a thing. But why has it become so much worse now?

Let’s first understand the causes so it’s easier for you to implement the resolving tips.

Firstly, there’s a panic of the unknown. All of this is new for everyone. Nobody knows what’s exactly going, how long it will go on, and what to expect. This alone is taking a toll on everyone’s mental health.

Since the mind is already preoccupied with this issue, it’s hard to focus on work. Moreover, the chances of being at risk of infection are also causing a distraction.

The biggest worry for everyone around the world is to stay safe and protect their loved ones. Work tasks are not even among the highest concerns.

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Although you’re not thinking about it, the stress is building up in the back of your mind. If not today, you’ll have to tackle all the work tomorrow. Work is piling up while focus and motivation are dropping low.

It’s worse for people who have to work from home. The change in environment, additional distractions, and the general aura of bad vibes are affecting productivity.

All of this sounds scary and unmanageable. However, a few efforts in the right direction can fix your productivity, attention, and motivation. Once you tackle these factors, you can reduce the stress that is connected to work.

How to Reduce Stress Naturally Amid the Crisis

There are some easy to implement tactics that minimize stress, in general. Moreover, on top of that, using the following tips will get the person back on track during this pandemic.

These tips will help you get into the workflow to encourage productivity. You’ll feel at ease once your mind starts focusing on the ‘normal’ things.

This will naturally encourage a sense of serenity that relaxes your body and hence, fewer stress hormones are released.

Voila! That’s all it takes to get rid of your built-up work stress!

1. Prioritize

We’ve all gone through weeks of lockdown. Work was put off in most cases. Work hours were cut down. The overall shift to get used to the new work culture caused a slump.

Therefore, the work has piled up now more than ever before. With the stressful news coming your way constantly, it’s really hard to keep up.

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So, to keep things in control, you have to prioritize. A well-organized to-do list should keep you on track. Use this list to pre-plan your day, week, and even month.

Other than organizing your work, prioritize positive things over negative ones. Turn off the news for a while. Do not expose yourself to things that will make you feel sad or stressed. Prioritize your work and other tasks that you did before the corona days to feel as normal as possible.

2. Get Clear Instructions

As previously mentioned, everybody’s mind is jumbled up during this crisis. So, it’s natural if you don’t understand your work tasks as proactively as you did before.

There’s nothing to worry about here. Keep asking questions unless all your queries are answered. If you find it hard to retain information, ask your superiors to send you a written instructional document. Do whatever makes you feel most comfortable.

With clear instructions, you’ll have a clear route to follow. That will keep you from feeling lost, which helps deal with stress at work.

3. Challenge Yourself but Don’t Overdo It

In this time, you shouldn’t let yourself slack. Do not give up challenging or hard tasks just because you think you’ve got an excuse to let them go. Keep learning and growing in this time so that you come out of this pandemic more valuable and useful.

Simultaneously, if you’re afraid that doing too much will make you more stressed or affect your mental peace, let it go. Basically, say no. But also, say yes. Maintain a healthy balance.

4. Balanced Nutrition and Sleep Cycle

Not only is sleep and nutrition needed for your mind to do well in your work tasks, but it also boosts your immune system.[1]

During this time, you need to feel healthy. A stronger immune system will keep you strong against the virus so you don’t have to worry about getting infected and can focus on your work more.

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How to Boost Productivity When Working From Home

A huge challenge is to create a work-like environment in your home physically and mentally. If you can reciprocate a similar vibe, you won’t feel as much of a difference and that will put your mind to ease.

Here are a few simple things you can do to naturally encourage a work mindset even when you’re at home.

1. Distinguish Your Workspace

Previously, you physically entered a different space to work. The commute and then the change in the natural environment caused the gears in your mind to shift too. This automatically let your productive side take over the lazy side.

You should distinguish your workspace in your home too so that a similar mindset is encouraged. Sit in a corner where you don’t sleep, lounge, or eat. Even if you live in a one-room apartment, grab a chair, and put it in a new spot.

2. Dress Up

Just like your brain prepared itself when you entered a different physical space, your mind also got ready to work when you dressed up for work. The little amount of time you spent getting ready was the time when your mind woke up and got set for work.

Continue to follow the same regime as you did when you went to the office. You don’t necessarily have to wear a 3-piece suit. However, change out of your pajamas. Take a shower. Put on some makeup if that’s what you did before.

You don’t have to follow a strict regime. Just do enough that gives your mind the idea that it’s time to go to work.

3. Take Enough Breaks

In a brick-and-mortar office, you’re usually not in control of breaks. However, at home, you have this luxury. Considering the higher stress levels, you should incorporate enough breaks throughout the day.

Not doing so will take a toll on your mind because you’re exhausting yourself.

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Don’t overdo it. Just take a 5-minute break from your screen after every hour. After a couple of hours, take a snack break. Do whatever suits you but make sure to maintain a balance.

4. Stay Connected

The corona pandemic has affected social relations in the worst possible way. One great thing about an office is that you get to connect with colleagues. Now that physical connections aren’t possible, take out time for online socializing.

Whether it is an online meeting or a casual online catchup session, continue to make an effort to stay connected. This will keep your stress at bay.[2]

5. Minimize Distractions

If you live with your family and have kids at home, working from home can be a nightmare. But you have to be strict. Do not let anyone enter your workspace while you’re working.

Have all your work essentials in your home office so you don’t have to leave during work. Keep your work device, internet, and charger within reach. Have water and snacks nearby too.

Put your phone away if it’s not needed for work. Otherwise, just log out of your social media accounts on your mobile and laptop so that notifications don’t distract you.

Sit away from a window if you’re likely to get distracted by the outdoors or sit near a window if you like to get some sunlight. Reduce the noise around you, sit in a comfortable chair, and do whatever needs to be done to keep you attentive.

The Takeaway

Everyone in the world is going through a hard time these days. You shouldn’t feel bad or alone at this time. Understandably, work stress has built up and gotten worse.

The unforeseen circumstances have forced everyone to find unusual solutions to deal with stress at work. You should do the same.

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Most importantly, do not worry yourself. Like everything else, humans will adapt to this too. All you have to do it stay strong, stay safe and give this situation some time to settle.

More Tips on How to Deal With Stress at Work

Featured photo credit: Rainier Ridao via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Psych Central: Beating Stress Through Nutrition
[2] NHS: 10 Stress Busters

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Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Published on October 15, 2021

Does Anxiety Make You Tired And Why?

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Does Anxiety Make You Tired And Why?

When you think of anxiety, several scenarios may come to mind: the endless tossing and turning of a restless night, dread over potential future events, pandemic-related overwhelm, or full-blown panic attacks. Even if you’re not diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, you’ve likely experienced anxiety symptoms at some point in your life. In these situations, you might feel a queasiness in your stomach, racing heartbeat, excessive sweating, chest tightness, some tension in your jaw/neck/shoulders, or worrisome thoughts as you prepare for the worst possible scenario. But does anxiety also make you tired?

After experiencing these symptoms, you may indeed feel fatigued. The sensation could fall anywhere on the exhaustion spectrum, from feeling like you just ran a marathon and need to sleep for two days, to just a little worn down and wanting a quick nap to recover.

Below are 7 ways anxiety zaps your energy and how to restore it.

1. Stress Hormone Overload

Anxiety can make you tired via overloading your body with stress hormones. The “fight or flight” response is a key connection between anxiety and fatigue. In fact, this process is made up of three stages: Alarm, Resistance, and Exhaustion. Anxiety triggers our body systems to go into high alert. This is a natural, involuntary reaction that developed in the human brain for survival.

When humans lived with the real, imminent threat of being attacked by a predator, it made sense for our bodies to spring into action without much preparatory thought. Such dangers are rare in modern times, but our brains continue to respond in the same way they did thousands of years ago.

The hormones and chemicals that flood our bodies to prepare us for safety can both affect and be affected by several body systems, and this interaction itself contributes to exhaustion. Adrenaline and cortisol are the two most notable hormones to address here. First, adrenaline is sent out, tensing the muscles and increasing heart rate and blood pressure in preparation to run. Later in the stress response, cortisol is released, enhancing the brain’s use of glucose. This is one of our main fuel sources, so it’s no wonder this contributes to fatigue (see #2).

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You can regulate baseline levels of these stress hormones by regularly practicing yoga, breathwork, meditation, and/or engaging in aerobic exercise.[1] It’s easier to lean into these routines for relief during stress when you’ve already mastered using them during times when you feel calm.

2. Elevated Blood Sugar Levels

Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms of hyperglycemia (high blood sugar), which is shown to be associated with anxiety in diabetic patients.[2] Many people who experience hyperglycemia report feeling tired all the time regardless of their quantity or quality of sleep, nutrition, or exercise.

Although this connection has shown more prevalent and prolonged effects in diabetics, it also occurs with nondiabetics exposed to psychiatric stress.[3] In fact, for all people, the natural stress response elevates blood pressure and heart rate as well as cortisol levels, all of which increase blood sugar levels.[4] This means that anxiety causes a double-hit of exhaustion related to blood sugar fluctuations.

Instead of reaching for comfort foods like chocolate during times of stress, take a calming walk around the block. Gentle movement alone is a great stress reliever that incidentally also helps to regulate blood sugars.[5]

3. Negative Mindset

Anxiety can also make you tired because of repetitive negative thinking (RNT), which is a common symptom of anxiety. RNT involves continuous thoughts via rumination (dwelling on sad or dark thoughts focused on the past) and worry (angst regarding the future). Some researchers argue that having a longtime habit of RNT can harm the brain’s capacity to think, reason, and form memories.[6] While the brain is busy using its energy stores to fuel negative thought patterns, the energy available for these other more productive endeavors is thereby reduced.

Negative thoughts can also disrupt or prevent healthy sleep patterns, keeping our minds racing at night and effectively wreaking havoc on daytime energy. (See #7)

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Reduce these patterns by reframing your feelings over anxious thoughts. Instead of staying stuck on “what if,” focus on what you can do in the here and now. What activity can you engage in for five minutes (or more) that brings you joy? What are you grateful for, no matter what’s going on around you?

4. Digestive Issues

It’s common for people to experience both intestinal and mental issues simultaneously. This suggests a strong connection between the central nervous system and the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, which is known as the gut-brain axis.[7] Simply put, what happens in our digestive tract (and as a result of what we eat) affects the brain and vice versa.

The gut microbiota is a complex population of GI tract microorganisms. When its balance is altered, the body can develop conditions that affect the gut-brain-endocrine relationship. The endocrine system produces and manages adrenaline, for starters. And the gut bacteria’s production of feel-good hormones (serotonin and dopamine—see #5) ties into this relationship as well.

GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) receptors are also found in gut bacteria. GABA is a natural brain relaxant that makes us feel good by helping the body to unwind after a stress-induced neurotransmitter release (e.g., cortisol and adrenaline). When GABA activity is low, it leads to anxiety, depression, insomnia, and mood disorders. These are just a few of the manifestations that demonstrate how gut bacteria influences behavior. All of these contribute to feeling both physically and mentally tired.

You can minimize the symptoms of depression and anxiety by keeping your gut microbiota balanced with probiotic-rich fermented foods. Yogurt with live cultures, sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir, kimchi, miso soup, and tempeh are great foods to include in your diet.[8]

5. Depression

Anxiety and depression often go hand in hand. Research continues to indicate a complex relationship between depression and decreased serotonin—a key neurotransmitter for regulating mood and feelings of wellbeing and happiness. Anxiety is also a direct symptom of serotonin deficiency. Serotonin helps with healthy sleep, mood, and digestion.

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Serotonin is produced in the gut, almost exclusively, at an estimated 90 percent. However, a small quantity is also produced in the hypothalamus, an area of the brain that is pivotal for transmitting energy balance signals. This small cone-shaped structure receives and relays signals transmitted via the vagus nerve from the gastrointestinal tract. It has a central role in mediating stress responses, regulating sleep, and establishing circadian rhythms. It senses and responds to a myriad of circulating hormones and nutrients, directly affecting our mood and energy.[9]

Dopamine is another mood-boosting neurochemical that is depleted in depression. It creates feelings of alertness and wakefulness and, when the body is operating normally, is released in higher amounts in the morning (allowing for daytime energy) and lower at night (preparing for healthy sleep). Stress is one factor that can deplete dopamine, thereby leading to depression, sleep disorders, and fatigue.

Studies show that dopamine levels in the brain can be elevated by increasing dietary intake of tyrosine and phenylalanine.[10] Both of these amino acids are naturally found in protein-rich foods like turkey, beef, eggs, dairy, soy, peas, lentils, and beans.

6. Breathing Problems

Breathlessness and anxiety are closely linked, and this is one of the ways anxiety can make you feel tired. Anxiety can lead to shallow breathing, which can cause shortness of breath while feeling breathless can exacerbate anxiety.[11] It’s a vicious cycle that often leads people to take rapid and shallow breaths, breathing into their upper chest and shoulders.

This type of breathing minimizes oxygen intake and usability. Despite comprising only two percent of the body, our brains consume 20 percent of the body’s oxygen supply. Oxygen is fuel for both mental and physical tasks. When breathing patterns compromise healthy oxygen levels, this can cause considerable fatigue.[12]

End the anxiety-fatigue cycle with focused breathing exercises. It’s important to practice this regularly while you’re not experiencing anxiety or stress, as this will help you to be prepared should a moment of breathless anxiety hit unexpectedly.

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There are several different styles of breathing exercises. There’s an easy one to try, called “Resonant Breathing.” Simply breathe in slowly through your nose as you count to five, then exhale for a count of five. Repeat this for a few minutes. It’s helpful to bring your awareness to any tension, deliberately relaxing your neck, shoulders, and jaw in particular.

7. Sleep Issues

Most of the elements we’ve already discussed inherently tie into sleep issues, which is often the reason why anxiety can make you feel tired. But it’s important to note that this is not always a directly linear cause-and-effect process. Much of it is cyclic. If we don’t get enough quality sleep, we increase our risk of excessive cortisol production, elevated blood pressure and blood sugar levels, depressed mood and mindset disorders, and dysregulation of appetite/craving hormones that affect our digestive health.

Sleep is obviously the number one antidote to feeling tired as a result of anxiety. But at the same time, many of these elements—including anxiety itself—lead to less-than-restorative sleep. We can improve our energy levels by addressing each element discussed here, as well as taking a proactive approach to our sleep health.

One simple habit to help recalibrate your circadian rhythm for healthy sleep patterns is to get outside in the morning. Sunlight exposure in the early hours of the day regulates melatonin production, helping us to feel sleepy at night.

You Don’t Have to Live Your Life Anxious and Exhausted

Times of extreme stress, like driving in heavy traffic or nerve-wracking situations like public speaking, can easily induce an anxiety response. Even “normal” everyday stressors, like feeling overwhelmed with work and home responsibilities, can build up to anxious feelings over time.

Our bodies’ response to stress and anxiety affects many of its functions in complex ways. When we unravel the interconnections of these processes, we can see how each part plays an intrinsic role in contributing to fatigue. By addressing each element individually, we can make simple lifestyle changes that resolve anxiety and diminish the ways it makes us tired as a result.

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More Tips on Coping With Anxiety

Featured photo credit: Joice Kelly via unsplash.com

Reference

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