5 Ways to Tame Your Stress in a Pandemic Era (and Beyond!)

Working from home has its perks. It also presents its own unique set of challenges. Both pros and cons, of course, come in addition to your standard list of career-related benefits and stressors. Now, add pandemic related worries, family commitments, and all that other good stuff you’re juggling on top of the work-related highs and lows. No matter how much you love your life, you’ve got stress to deal with.

If you’re lucky, you had a system for managing your stress in your “BC” (Before-COVID) life. Maybe you had a weekly fitness class you found solace in. You planned and took fantastic family vacations. You signed-up for “just because it’s fun” classes and workshops. You met friends for dinner and drinks. You had managed to manage your stress by finding the release valve. If social distancing and other pandemic related measures put a crimp in your stress-relief protocols, while simultaneously upping your stress, take heart. There’s plenty you can do chip way at the tension and regroup in this season too.

Walk It Off

Short walks. Long walks. Walks on a treadmill. Walks in the neighborhood or at the park or on the beach. It doesn’t matter what shape your stroll takes, just get out there and do it. Exercise releases endorphins, which in turn gives you a boost in energy and mood. Walk alone for a time of self-reflection or walk with a partner for a good conversation. Walk while you listen to an audiobook or podcast. Walk while you chat on the phone with an old friend. Walk for a mile or 5 miles. Just get up and move. You’ll be grateful you did.

Get Organized

Clutter isn’t good for your stress levels. Yes, for some, organization comes naturally and others of us have to work a little at it. Regardless, getting your work space, your goals, your schedule, and your to-do list in some sense of order that works for you can help reduce your stress. Sure, for some, the process of cleaning and organization can be a source of tension in and of itself; however, losing track of important documents, rushing on to a nearly forgotten conference call and losing track of your lucky pen can increase your stress, too. Regain some control by organizing your work and personal life in a way that makes sense to you and you’ll find a sense of peace over it.

Don’t Burn the Midnight Oil

You’ve got a lot on your plate. Working at home can exacerbate a tendency to blur the lines between work and personal time. If you’re checking emails one more time after dinner, stop. If you’re sitting on the couch at night finishing up a few reports just to get ahead of things, don’t. And let’s be honest, the pandemic has awakened a passion for binge-watching anything and everything for many of us. You may be looking at the clock thinking “I can fit in one more episode,” but really, you can’t. Don’t sacrifice sleep to long work days topped off with long hours of catching up on “me time.” Keep your boundaries and go to bed at a reasonable time. Poor sleep habits can negatively affect your mood and increase your stress.

You’re Not Perfect and That’s Okay

You don’t want to settle. You want to succeed. You want to stretch and improve. You set the bar high and that’s good. Just don’t set it impossibly high. If perfect is your standard, it’s time to lower the bar. Aim for doing your best. Embrace “great work” and “good enough work.” Let go of “perfection.” It’s an impossible standard to keep and the stress of trying to obtain it isn’t worth taking on. Celebrate your achievements. Take time to recognize your growth. Most importantly, be realistic with your goals and show yourself some compassion.

Get Right-Brained

Before we dive into this one, let’s remember the ground rule mentioned above – let go of perfection. You may not be Pablo Picasso but you can doodle. You may not be winning any Grammy awards or taking home a “Dancing with the Stars” mirrorball trophy, but you can close the home-office door and cut the rug to let the stress ooze out your tapping toes. Take a 5-minute break to let your creative juices flow – no judgement on what you produce. This is about turning off the burner and letting the joy creep in. Make music. Draw. Paint. Write a haiku. Snap some photos. Just embrace it and let your brain shift gears. Not only will you leave some stress behind, you may also those creative pursuits put you on track to an out-of-the-box solution to the problem you were working on before your break.