How to prevent stress and burnout while working from home

How to prevent stress and burnout while working from home

Mental health matters

Text: Eunice Sng

Image: Unsplash | Luis Villasmil

Here's the scene: you're stuck in your room from dawn till dusk, alternating between back to back Zoom calls and email notifications. On your table, your smartphone vibrates every few minutes while that surge of hunger pang rises up — yet again. Oh, it's 2pm already. As you get up from your seat, your back rebels, with an aching throb that you've persistently ignored. An unfortunate picture, so it seems. But this is a #WFH reality.

Despite the extra time and flexibility we've gained from working at home, it's somehow easier to burn out — simply because the lines are blurred. To help you regain focus (because God knows we need it), Annabelle Psychology, from WhiteCoat's mental wellness programme, shares some steps you can take.

Talk to family members and friends

Sharing your troubles with someone you trust always helps. It may be tempting to keep everything in, but that will only make things worse as these feelings will build up overtime and you'll eventually implode. Accepting help from loved ones is one of the best ways to manage stress. Research has shown that for women in particular, spending time with friends and family releases oxytocin, a natural stress-reliever. So don't bottle up your stress.

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Set clear boundaries

It may be beneficial to establish a separation between your home and professional obligations. For instance, not being contactable during the weekends or working strictly within office hours. It certainly is difficult to get off work on time, especially since the physical boundaries between office and home are now blurred. Although making sure that you have a proper work-life balance will require effort, and perhaps offending some co-workers, the results will pay off in the end.

Take regular breaks

Life isn't just all about work. We're all humans after all, not machines, so we need to have breaks from hectic work schedules. Taking some time off for power naps or doing things that you love restores your mind to a healthier place, enabling you to return to your tasks with renewed gusto.

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Consider aromatherapy

Lighting a scented candle or using essential oils is a great way to improve your mood. Fragrances can soothe and rejuvenate, doing wonders for your mental health. Some of the most calming scents include lavender, rose, bergamot and sandalwood.

Reframe negativity

It's easy to develop a narrow mind when you're stressed out. From overgeneralisations (e.g. "everyone is always bad"), magnifying problems (e.g. "I couldn't do this and therefore I'm useless"), to trivialising (e.g "My boss praised me but I'm sure he doesn't mean it"), these thinking patterns only lead to more unpleasant emotions like depression and anxiety.

But whenever these thoughts start flowing in, pause for a moment and make conscious efforts to consider them from a more optimistic perspective. Don't fret so much about not being able to do something — instead, think of it as a chance to learn something new. This will reduce your stress significantly.

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Have an honest conversation with your employer

There are many ways to cope with stress, but sometimes you have to nip the problem in the bud rather than try to deal with the after-effects. If you feel that your employer is being unreasonable, perhaps you might want to have an open discussion with them about the problems that you are encountering. After all, unhealthy levels of stress hinders productivity, so your supervisor has an incentive to make sure that you're comfortable and doing alright.