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Last Updated on January 12, 2021

How to Deal with Stress at Work in Times of Corona

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.

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

More by this author

Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Last Updated on February 17, 2021

15 Meditation Benefits That Will Make You Successful

15 Meditation Benefits That Will Make You Successful

What could be better than reaching your big goals? Well, it turns out that meditation—something you could be doing daily, at no cost and with little effort—offers benefits that success can’t bring. Meditation benefits can seep into every area of your life and improve your overall wellbeing in the long-term.

Meditation as Mindfulness

The studies on meditation generally focus on a broad type of meditation that could be called mindfulness. Mindfulness simply means keeping one’s thoughts focused on awareness of a single thing or moment. It could be your breath (a typical point of focus in meditation), or it could be a single image, word, or emotion.

It sounds simple, but when you try it, you realize how much your mind wants to jump around. That’s okay: “When a ‘stray’ thought arises, the practitioner must be quick to recognize it, and then turn back to the focus of their attention,” says George Dvorsky, writing about meditation[1]. “And it doesn’t just have to be the breath; any single thought, like a mantra, will do.”

Here are 15 ways meditation benefits can improve your life, whether or not you ever reach those big goals.

1. Handle Stress Better

According to one source, “When you meditate, you clear away the information overload that builds up every day and contributes to your stress.”[2]

Much of our stress comes from too much input and a lack of time or tools in handling the input. We take in information and build emotions, and we get overloaded. Our brains don’t know what to handle first, so they just keep cycling through all the information.

Meditation helps your brain to let things slide away by simply giving it time to rest and meander through the information, bit by bit, letting go of what is unimportant.

2. Improve How Your Brain Functions

A 2012 study showed a brain process called gyrification happening more in people who meditate[3].

Gyrification is “the ‘folding’ of the cerebral cortex as a result of growth, which in turn may allow the brain to process information faster. Though the research did not prove this directly, scientists suspect that gyrification is responsible for making the brain better at processing information, making decisions, forming memories, and improving attention.”

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If that’s not enough, there is also evidence from MRI scans that meditation can reinforce connections between brain cells. One study showed that meditation “may be associated with structural changes in areas of the brain that are important for sensory, cognitive and emotional processing. The data further suggest that meditation may impact age related declines in cortical structure.”[4]

In other words, meditation may not only make your brain work better, but it might also slow down the aging process within the brain.

3. Get in Touch With Yourself

The busyness of modern life, along with the perpetual onslaught of media that tells us how we ought to look, feel, and behave, can leave us feeling detached from ourselves. It can be difficult to connect with our own values and emotions. We see standards put into place, and we want to meet those standards, so we pretend to be a certain way even when, perhaps, we are not.

Meditation benefits can help us with that. According to researcher Erika Carlson,[5]

“Mindfulness helps us to see our authentic selves in two ways: nonjudgmental observation, and attention. Nonjudgmental observation enables people to really get to know themselves without feeling any negative feelings.”

4. Improve Your Grades

Whether you’re a part-time student, a full-time student, or someone who just likes to take tests for fun, meditation can help you learn and retain what you learn.

One study[6] showed that mindfulness training resulted in “improved accuracy on the GRE and higher working memory capacity.” The researchers concluded that “the improvement could be explained, at least in part, by reduced mind wandering during the task.”

The researchers estimated that mindfulness training resulted in the equivalent of a 16 percentile-point boost on the GRE, on average.

5. Increase Productivity in High-Performance Situations

A study done in 2012 set participants up in a real-world multitasking situation. They had to do several activities that required various forms of input in a typical office setting, and they had to complete them all within 20 minutes.

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Some of the participants received mindfulness training, and some didn’t. Then, they tested them all again. “The only participants to show improvement,” reported the researchers, “were those who had received the mindfulness training.”[7]

Another study showed that “daily meditation-like thought could shift frontal brain activity toward a pattern that is associated with what cognitive scientists call positive, approach-oriented emotional states — states that make us more likely to engage the world rather than to withdraw from it.”

Handling high-stress, high-performance situations like a pro could certainly be a handy skill to have, and it’s one that meditation benefits can help you cultivate. If you need more motivation to increase productivity, check out Lifehack’s free guide: Ultimate Worksheet for Instant Motivation Boost.

6. Appreciate Music More

Do you love but find yourself drifting off and missing out in the middle of a concert or show? Meditation can help you to stay tuned in and aware, one study showed[8].

The majority of the people in the “mindfulness groups” in the study said that the mindfulness task had “modified their listening experience by increasing their ability to focus on the music without distraction.”

7. Positive Effects Even When Not Meditating

Researchers have found that the way meditation helps your brain to work better is consistent, staying with you not just when you’re sitting on a cushion with your eyes closed, but all the time. According to the research, “the effects of meditation training on emotional processing might transfer to non-meditative states.”[9]

The researchers point out that this may mean that the benefits of meditation are not specific to a task or certain stimulus (such as that cushion or a mantra) but are process-specific, meaning that they “may result in enduring changes in mental function.”

8. Reduce Isolation and Feel Connected

It’s strange that in the age of constant connectivity, isolation and loneliness can feel even more poignant. But it happens, and when that sense of isolation descends, it can be overwhelming.

However, meditation was shown to reduce feelings of loneliness in a study on older adults[10], and those who have been practicing transcendental meditation, even for a very short time, say that the practice of meditation provides a feeling of being connected and whole, a “fundamental level of unity”[11].

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9. Reduce Symptoms of Anxiety and Depression

Meditation can help you feel connected and handle stress, but what about an ongoing anxiety disorder? What about overwhelming negative feelings or that debilitating sense of depression?

Well, a study done on high school students showed that a mindfulness and meditation benefits could help a lot with both: students who stuck with a mindfulness program “exhibited decreased symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression both immediately after and six months after the program”[12].

10. Fight Disease and Stay Healthier

Meditation benefits can be useful for both the brain and body. Being able to handle stress better can reduce its impact on your body, which can decrease symptoms and physical aggravation of various health issues, including chronic pain.

A researcher at one of Harvard Medical School’s teaching hospitals[13] notes that “The kinds of things that happen when you meditate do have effects throughout the body, not just in the brain.” Health benefits abound when you devote yourself to meditation.

11. Sleep Better

Let’s do a quick review: meditation can help you cope with stress better, help you know (and like) yourself more, and help you lessen anxiety and depression.

With those meditation benefits alone, it seems pretty likely that you’d be able to get a better night’s sleep. After all, if you can stop your brain from racing and your emotions from raging, you’ll be much more likely to drift off into sweet dreams. Research concurs[14]:

“Meditation practices influence brain functions, induce various intrinsic neural plasticity events, modulate autonomic, metabolic, endocrine, and immune functions and thus mediate global regulatory changes in various behavioral states including sleep.”

Guided meditations, especially, can help lull you into sleep, so give it a try today.

12. Help With Weight Loss

When a group of psychologists were asked to recommend a few strategies for reaching weight-loss goals, 7 out of 10 said meditation, or mindfulness training, would be beneficial[15].

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The popular meditation app, Headspace, notes that meditation can help you focus on mindful eating, which encourages you to eat when you’re hungry, not when you are stressed or upset[16]. When you develop this skill, it can help you lose weight the natural way, which is one of the most useful meditation benefits for many.

13. Make You a Better Friend

It makes sense that being able to know and accept yourself better might help you to know and accept others, as well. Other studies have also shown that meditation increases the “mental expertise to cultivate positive emotion”[17].

In other words, people who meditate tend to respond with more positive emotions rather than negative ones. They have a stronger sense of empathy and compassion for others, making them an overall better friend to others.

14. Increase Your Attention Span

Studies show that mindfulness training helps the brain to connect better. What that means for you is that your brain, after meditating, finds it easier to access and process information. Along with that, mindfulness trains your brain to release the information that’s not important, and quickly[18].

Therefore, meditation benefits help you get better at collecting information, processing it quickly, and discarding the stuff you don’t need. Doing that well is what allows you to keep your attention focused on the information and tasks in front of you.

15. Generate More Ideas

If you wish you could access the creative, idea-making part of your brain more easily, it’s time to quit stalling and start meditating. The “catch-and-release” nature of mindfulness, that ability to let a thought in and let it go, turns out to be very helpful for what one study calls “divergent thinking”[19].

The meditative practice helps your brain to be less judgmental and more accepting, while exercising less “top-down control and local competition.” Your brain opens up to new ideas and inputs, which, say the researchers, “facilitates jumping from one thought to another – as required in divergent thinking.”

The Bottom Line

Meditation benefits are wide-ranging and can have a positive impact on many areas of your life. Whether you’re looking to increase your focus, develop more compassion, or get healthier, meditation can help with it all, especially if you become a long-term meditator. To get started with meditation, find a local or online meditation program, check out this simple 5-minute guide.

More on Meditation Benefits

Featured photo credit: Darius Bashar via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Gizmodo: The science behind meditation, and why it makes you feel better
[2] Mayo Clinic: Meditation: A simple, fast way to reduce stress
[3] Science Daily: Evidence builds that meditation strengthens the brain
[4] Neuroreport.: Meditation experience is associated with increased cortical thickness
[5] HuffPost: Mindfulness Helps Us Understand Our True Personalities, Study Says
[6] APS: Brief Mindfulness Training May Boost Test Scores, Working Memory
[7] The New York Times: The Power of Concentration
[8] Psychology of Music: Mindfulness, attention, and flow during music listening: An empirical investigation
[9] Frontiers in Human Neuroscience: Effects of mindful-attention and compassion meditation training on amygdala response to emotional stimuli in an ordinary, non-meditative state
[10] Brain, Behavior, and Immunity: Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction training reduces loneliness and pro-inflammatory gene expression in older adults: A small randomized controlled trial
[11] Medical News Today: Does meditation have benefits for mind and body?
[12] HuffPost: Mindfulness Programs In Schools Reduce Symptoms Of Depression Among Adolescents: Study
[13] Bloomberg: Harvard Yoga Scientists Find Proof of Meditation Benefit
[14] Frontiers in Neurology: Meditation and its regulatory role on sleep
[15] Consumer Reports: Lose weight your way
[16] Headspace: Meditation for weight loss
[17] PLOS One: Regulation of the Neural Circuitry of Emotion by Compassion Meditation: Effects of Meditative Expertise
[18] The New York Times: Study Suggests Meditation Can Help Train Attention
[19] Frontiers in Psychology: Meditate to create: the impact of focused-attention and open-monitoring training on convergent and divergent thinking

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