Are You Working Through Stress and Uncertainty? Start Here:

Are you struggling to focus on your work with everything going on in the world right now? If this is the case you're not alone. There's a lot of people who know how you feel right now.

Working through uncertain and stressful times isn’t easy. In fact, it can feel almost impossible when your mind is so taken up by fear and anxiety. Maslow created the Hierarchy of Needs as a pyramid.

When physiological and safety aspects are impacted, you cannot do the things that self-actualisation brings. It's harder to tap into your innate creativity and your morality may waiver.

All of this comes from your basic needs, such as breathing,and safety being undermined.  If you’re struggling right now, there are some tips you can follow which may help relieve your pressure. Here, we’ll look at some of the most effective ways to work through stress and uncertainty.

Expressing gratitude

Did you know that practising gratitude can make a big difference in how you feel? Studies have shown that writing a list of the things you are grateful for, can drastically improve your mood. The way we incorporate this into our daily life is by expressing it at the dinner table. Over our meal, we each express 3 things we're grateful for that day.

By focusing on the things you’re grateful for, it trains the brain to look for the positive areas in each situation. In other words, you'll think and feel more positive. You’ll switch your focus from the bad things going on right now, to the good. For example, working from home may be challenging, but at least you’re safe and have a home to work from.

Try to establish a routine

Now that you’ve found yourself working at home, it can feel really weird. You don’t know how to navigate your working day when you’re not in the office and calls can be distracting if you've just got in the “zone”. By creating a routine, it’s going to help to ease some of the uncertainty and distraction.

One extreme case from the survival world shows the benefits of structure when we are suddenly faced with time to fill. In 1915, when Sir Ernest Shackleton’s ship Endurance became trapped in the Antarctic ice, he imposed strict routines on his crew. He was well aware of a previous expedition ship, the RV Belgica, which had become trapped over winter in the Antarctic ice in 1898. The captain did not establish any routine and as a result the crew suffered from low morale, especially after the death of the ship’s cat, Nansen.

More on the importance of structure here

Have a set time that you wake up and start work. It helps to dress for work. Pyjama days are fun, but they can roll into pyjama weeks if you're not careful. Make sure you schedule in breaks throughout the day and have a set finish time too. Just implementing a routine right now can ease the pressure of the uncertainty you feel.

If you're a parent, remember back when your children were babies? And everyone encouraged you to get the baby into a routine? That routine was just as much for you as it was for the baby. The routine helps you recover from giving birth and the sleepless nights. The routine gives you focus when focus is hard to achieve.

Utilise the support that’s available

One of the good things about this uncertain time is that it is impacting everyone. This means there is a lot of support available to you.

Check your local government websites and see what's available. As someone who cannot get any assistance, I know it can be frustrating. The secret is to focus on the goal. Keep checking and lobbying the people who can make a change. Lobbying them can be as simple as signing a petition, or tweeting your member of parliament / congress / senate.

It could be you need to spend more time connecting with friends and family over Zoom or another platform. Or, you may find it useful to share your concerns with others in online support forums. Talking will ease things, and writing is also therapeutic.

Writing will help order your thoughts, and if you've never journaled before now might be the time. You can set up a free website and update it with your thoughts daily. You don't have to set the site to public if you won't want to. The blogging challenge may be useful to you, and it's free to join.

You can also find more practical support too. If you’re struggling with your finances or worried about how the current situation will play out, don’t hesitate to seek emotional support from a trained therapist. Please note the phrase there – trained therapist. Certain types of coach don't acknowledge the hierarchy of needs in their work, and will traumatise someone further. If you need support get a trained therapist. Someone who understands movement may not come if the lower end of your triangle is unbalanced.

In the mid-1990s, France was one of the first countries in the world to adopt a revolutionary approach for the aftermath of terrorist attacks and disasters. In addition to a medical field hospital or triage post, the French crisis response includes setting up a psychological field unit, a Cellule d’Urgence Médico-Psychologique or CUMPS.

In that second triage post, victims and witnesses who were not physically harmed receive psychological help and are checked for signs of needing further post-traumatic treatment. In those situations, the World Health Organization recommends protocols like R-TEP (Recent Traumatic Episode Protocol) and G-TEP (Group Traumatic Episode Protocol).

Since France led the way more than 20 years ago, international playbooks for disaster response increasingly call for this two-tent approach: one for the wounded and one to treat the invisible, psychological wounds of trauma.

Read more here

Focus on self-care

I loathe the phrase self-care more than I hate Negan in the Walking Dead. Looking after yourself may feel alien right now especially as you have so much on your mind. Exercising regularly is a great way to deal with stress. I found walking very beneficial when I was grieving the loss of my beloved grandmother. I also do dancing with my youngest daughter on a daily basis. My daughters and husband all train in Ju-Jitsu on a daily basis. A little bit of activity releases good endorphins, and I'm guessing that you need as many of these as you can produce right now.

You should also focus on doing things that relax you each day, such as reading or listening to music. If you can practice simple breathing exercises you will help strengthen your lungs. A simple breathe in for the count of 4, breathe out for the count of 4 repeated for 5 minutes will help you feel calm and relaxed. You can do this to help you get to sleep at night or as an activity with your family. Varying the count of breathing in and out can be very relaxing and even make you feel very sleepy.

Getting lost in a good book will help shift your focus from your current reality. I find Harry Potter a good book to start with. Every time I pick it up another layer is revealed and I notice something that didn't resonate the last time I read it.

Bake. If you don't normally bake you'll find mixing the ingredients and completing the simple actions good for the soul. Plus you get to eat your mistakes. My middle daughter bakes simple butter cookies every day. Making the cookie dough relieves some of her tension and she feels she's doing something nice for the family.

Listening to music in the background as you read or bake removes the silence. With not so many cars on the road you may not noticed just how quiet the world has become. We love music in this house and we often have classical music playing in the background. With our daughters home we've included their music tastes and now listen to a much wider range of songs. Music also hides the sound of the neighbours in their gardens, the dog barking and the children bickering. Music not only brings you peace but helps keep the peace.

Overall, it’s hard not to stress and fear what might happen during a pandemic. However, the tips above can really help you to manage these perfectly normal feelings.

Remember to be kind to yourself and don’t expect too much from yourself, particularly when you first transition to working from home. It's absolutely okay not to fill every waking moment with an activity or distraction. Remember your pyramid of needs isn't stable right now, but it won't be this way forever. You will soon adapt to the situation and adjust to your new normal.

I don't know for certain, but when you look back at this time in the future you will remember how strong and resilient you truly are. You'll remember it as the time you became your truest self and got through a very tough situation.

Sarah Arrow

About the author

Sarah Arrow created the popular 30-day blogging challenge back in 2007. Since then 750,000+ business owners have learned to blog and grow their business through her content, her challenge and her blogging books.

  • Love this. As much as I try to carry on as normal I struggle to stay focused. I manage to stay level headed but I can’t avoid picking up on the general vibe of fear for the future, shock and, sometimes, full blown hysteria.

    Now more than ever it’s important to take care of your psychological well being by making good choices in the kitchen first and everywhere else after. Self medicating isn’t the smartest choice right now, but a little bit of indulgence is and it will help you come out of this a little less frazzled and ready to face the aftermath of this crisis. 🙂

  • I agree Sarah – gratitude is an important grounding practice. It brings one right here – and as Cristina says it is sometimes hard not to get swept up in the fear that is swirling all around us. We only need a moment to see or think of something that we’re grateful for – it doesn’t have to be a big deal – my tulips are blooming!

    I also encourage people to “soften” their ideas of self-care. You have a nice list of gentle self-care. Often people think of self-care as something that someone does for them: massage, manicure, getting the hair done. Even a regular activity like a shower can become an act of self-care with some special soap, or new shampoo, or essential oils on a washcloth. Just a little more care and attention.

    Pausing, smiling, breathing deeply are also simple self-care acts. Being kind to ourselves is also a huge type of self-care (especially if we are hard workers with high standards!)

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