The first time I had to work remotely was a total and utter mess. I started my morning as usual. I took a shower, got dressed, found a place to sit comfortably, and started to work just as if I had been in an office setting. But then, I saw a spot on the table, which I (of course) had to clean. Then, the dust. And the laundry. And lunch. The list kept growing until I realized I had not been productive at all but had devoted myself to house chores. It’s funny because I don’t even like doing it, but procrastination had taken over and I ended up staying up late finishing what I should’ve done during the day.
There are endless guides and handbooks nowadays that help remote workers organize themselves in a better, structured way. But what about mental health? What are some common issues that end up stressing people while working remotely? How can we overcome them to live a more relaxed life?
Yes, you can practice deep muscle relaxation or meditation every day and feel like you are at peace for like 20 to 30 minutes. But if you’re on a treadmill the rest of the day, you are likely to accumulate — and remain under — stress, which can lead to chronic anxiety or panic attacks, and ultimately burnout.
Edmund J. Bourne, Ph.D., has specialized in the treatment of anxiety disorders and related problems for two decades. His book, ‘The Anxiety & Phobia workbook’ is a practical step-by-step guide to relaxation, exercise, nutrition, and many other effective tips. Based on his work, here are some points you need to know and consider to avoid stress and anxiety, whether you are working remotely or not.
Downtime is exactly what it sounds like: time out from work for other responsibilities to get yourself an opportunity to rest and replenish your energy. Without periods of downtime, any stress you experience while dealing with work or other responsibilities tends to become cumulative. It’s a snowball effect. Sleep at night doesn’t really count as downtime. It needs to be scheduled during the day, apart from sleep.
There are three kinds of downtime:
- 🛀🏽 Rest time is the time when you set aside all activities and just allow yourself to be. It might involve lying on the couch and doing nothing, quietly meditating, listening to peaceful music, soaking in the tub, taking a nap in the middle of the day, and so on. You need to take your time and do whatever pleases you to relax and disconnect. DO NOT feel guilty about it.
- 🚴🏽♀️ Recreation time lightens and uplifts your spirits. It is doing anything that you experience as fun or play. Such time can be spent either alone or with someone else. Think about sports, playing video games, board games, socializing, hobbies, etc. Do not postpone your fun to work. Remember to WORK and PLAY in a balanced manner.
- 🤱🏽 Relationship time is to honor your relationship with your partner, children, extended family members, friends, pets, and so on.
How can you allow more downtime (all three kinds) in your life?
First, it’s important to get past workaholism. Workaholism is an addictive disorder in which work is the only thing that gives you a sense of inner fulfillment and self-worth. It’s an unbalanced way of life that often leads first to chronic stress, then to burnout, and ultimately to serious illness.
Once you are aware that life does not spin around work, you need to develop smart time management skills to organize your day (and life) in a better way.
⏰ Time management
Time management describes the way in which you organize or restructure your daily activities over time. Ineffective time management can lead to stress, anxiety, burnout, and eventually illness. Developing good time management skills may necessitate giving up some cherished habits.
The skills described below can help you work with, rather than against, time.
1. Prioritization 📌
You may find it useful to divide your daily tasks and responsibilities into three categories: essential, important, and less important or trivial. When you first get up in the morning try to categorize the tasks facing you as essential, important, or less important. I would advise postponing all the tasks in the less important column in favor of giving yourself more downtime.
2. Delegation 🤜🏽🤛🏽
This means being willing to let someone else take care of a task or activity that has lower priority or is an important task that you don’t have to do personally.
Often delegation means paying someone else to do what you might do yourself if you had unlimited time, for example, house cleaning, car washing, cooking, childcare, basic repairs, and so on. Think about distributing tasks equitably among family members. The key to delegation is the willingness to trust and rely on others’ capabilities. Give up the idea that only you can do an adequate job and be willing to entrust responsibility for a task to someone else.
3. Allowing extra time ⏱
A common problem is underestimating the amount of time required to complete a task. As a general rule, it helps to allow a little more time than you would expect for each activity during the day. Allowing extra time has tremendous rewards in terms of letting you proceed through your day at a more relaxed and easy pace.
4. Letting go of perfectionism 🔎
Perfectionism can keep you on the treadmill of overwork or over-dedication, to the point that you don’t allow time out for your own needs. It also involves learning to laugh on occasion rather than despair at the limitations inherent to human existence.
5. Overcoming procrastination 🛌
Procrastination is always self-defeating when you leave yourself too little time. Putting off the inevitable leaves you harried and stressed in the end. One of the reasons for procrastinating can be that you really don’t want to do whatever it is that needs to be done in the first place. The solution lies either in delegating on in prioritizing. If you can delegate, do so. If you can’t, get the undesirable task done first.
Another reason for procrastinating is perfectionism. Sometimes we postpone getting started because we fear that we can’t do it just right. The solution here is to jump in and get started. An important principle to remember is that motivation often follows behavior. Just getting started on the task will often generate the motivation to follow through and complete it.
6. Saying no 🚫
You may have difficulties setting limits, even when their demands or needs become more than you can handle. If your work is who you are, then it would be hard for you to say no to work demands in order to make time for your personal needs.
✅ Remember: taking care of yourself isn’t selfish. Can you really offer your best to others — or your work — if you are tired, stressed, or burned out?
Don’t wait for illness to become a catalyst that makes you slow down. Pay attention and learn how to live in a simpler, more balanced fashion.
Who hasn't experienced it... that desire to do things perfectly freezes us, and we end up kicking them and procrastinating with other less relevant tasks, and we see how they accumulate and anxiety arrives... and then stress, which can lead to burnout.
To avoid burnout at work we must dedicate more leisure time to our lives. Keep in mind that WORK IS NOT EVERYTHING and that it is just a means to enjoy with the ones you love the most, starting with yourself.
Good time management at work will allow you to have more leisure time to dedicate to yourself and your loved ones, which will help you to perform better and better in your work. It is very important to develop good communication with your work team, learn to delegate tasks, ask for help and notify in a timely manner when you find yourself in a bottleneck that does not allow you to move forward. How can you begin to generate this constructive cycle? You can start by completing the tasks you have pending (and that you have probably been kicking around for quite some time), no matter if they are perfect...just do them, and you will see how your anxiety levels will go down, you will feel fulfilled and much more at peace.
Do you have more tips to avoid burnout? Do you want to share your experiences?
👉🏽 We invite you to leave us your comments on our Discord, #general channel (Spanish is the main language of our server, but English is always welcomed).