I can’t take it anymore.
I’ve been working from home for months now. Lots of pressure to be accountable and meet deadlines but knowing what to expect beyond next week is anybody’s guess.
This just keeps going and going. I don’t see any end in sight.
What can I do to make this bearable?
Worn Out and Stressed to the Max
Dear Worn Out:
If it’s any consolation, you have a lot of company. Millions of executives are working virtually from home and they are also finding it challenging.
We are all facing an unprecedented amount of disruption. I listened to a webinar a few weeks ago and the presenter said that we as a country have experienced 26 major events (meaning crises including mass shootings, Covid, BLM, and more) in the last 36 months. That alone would take its toll.
Add in unemployment, economic uncertainty, kids at home and no reasonable expectation on the horizon of returning to what used to be our old normal. It’s no wonder you and so many others are feeling the toll.
Some stress is not bad in and of itself. It can be energizing, motivating, demand we focus and help us meet deadlines.
It’s when it is too much and/or when it persists for too long. Think of holding a glass of water in an outstretched hand – for an hour!
Resilience is usually thought of as the:
- Ability to persevere, to adapt in the face of adversity
- Capacity to respond in a healthy and productive way to adversity or trauma
Most of us spend a lot of energy fighting and resisting the circumstances that are stressful, necessitating the call for resilience.
The reality is that stress inducing events – whether it be about the disruption of change or concern about possible negative outcomes – are going to happen.
My suggestion is to surrender to it. Accept that this is going to happen. That acceptance does not equal approval. It’s not so much what happens to us as it is how we respond to what happens.
This is not giving up but instead recognizing that there are circumstances we have no control over.
Our lives are complicated and multi-dimensional. If the immediate or near future of work is uncertain, it might help to spend some time with family, a hobby or volunteer activities. I find that it can be stabilizing to bring more attention to the things I can control.
To stay resilient in these times is a significant advantage to managing to better outcomes.
My wife likes to remind me of something I said many years ago before we were married: You can’t complain about it if you’re not willing to do something about it.
To stay positive, I’ve listed some suggestions below. I’m sure you could add your own ideas.
Stay healthy. The basics of adequate sleep, exercise and good food provide a foundation. Some “green therapy” being outdoors, especially in nature, is restorative.
Think big. Our perspective makes a huge difference. If I am focused on a big, shared goal and know how my efforts contribute to that, the day to day bumps in the road seem smaller.
Think forward. If there is an upset, or I make a mistake, I pause for some objectivity and think: will this matter in two years? Realizing that there will come a point where my concern will be forgotten and not matter helps take the charge out of the moment.
Think forward (2). This too shall pass. Believing that my distress will end – at some point – has been a very useful tool. It has provided comfort and made even challenging circumstances more bearable.
Reach out. Isolating and keeping it all inside can spiral into catastrophizing. The very act of sharing what’s going on and feeling heard makes us feel better.
Ask for help. For a variety of reasons, it can be hard to reach out. It might feel embarrassing. I don’t want to be vulnerable. It might even be the perverse allure of being a martyr.
Pause. Take three deep breaths. That alone is restorative.
Sit still. Meditation calms my mind and helps me focus. It can be a simple as closing my eyes and focusing on my breath for 10 to 15 minutes.
Manage expectations. This caution is especially apt in the face of today’s uncertainty.
Dig deep. Find your grit. It can be tough – and very rewarding.
Carve out time for yourself. Many people are finding that working from home with family present is a minefield of distractions.
Manage your energy. Identify the part of the day that your energy is best and protect it.
Nurture gratitude. Times may be tough AND we can all find reasons to be thankful.