5 ways to manage stress when you’re ‘always-on’
February 2021   HEALTHCARE

5 ways to manage stress when you’re ‘always-on’

According to the Cigna Covid-19 Impact Study, 79% of respondents feel they’re now in an always-on work environment.
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With the home office set to play a key role in the new working normal, how can we avoid the stress and burnout that can result from never switching off? Here’s five ways to help improve your well-being.

1. Flex the working day

Despite the ‘always-on’ nature of recent times, the Cigna study also found that people valued working from home. It deletes commuting time from the day, it allows you to spend more time with your family, and lunch is far cheaper! But trying to rigidly stick to the ‘9-5’ isn’t going to work. Most employees are accepting that you can’t be at your desk all the time because it’s impossible to avoid all the distractions that come from home working – children aren’t ‘colleagues’ that understand boundaries, there’s no mailroom to collect parcels from and your ‘desk’ may double as the kitchen table. Accept the working norm is no longer, and map out your day accordingly. Some work may be better completed in the peace and quiet post-bedtime or even early morning, when you’d normally be on the commute. Allowing yourself to work at alternative times (or even days), gives you the room to loosen up the 9-5 and be flexible enough to plan for the distractions that inevitably come with working from home.

2. Start a new exercise ritual

Exercise makes you feel good. We all know it. It might not feel like it when in the midst of the 20th burpee, but once you’ve finished, the release of the chemicals that make you feel good, balanced with the suppression of those that bring on stress, will set you up for the rest of the day. It’s the boost in the morning to set you up, the kickstart mid-way through or even just the blessed release at the end of the day. Exercise shouldn’t be monotonous though, try balancing exercise with picking up a new hobby, nearly every sport now has a virtual class – from football and rugby fitness to cardio tennis and squash – all of them balance skills for the sport with fitness, so you’re learning something new and feeling good.

3. Stay connected

Loneliness is another issue that leads to stress and has also been prevalent during the pandemic. Not spending time with work colleagues in real life has left a huge gap for many, but that makes it more important to ensure we stay connected with friends and family, especially those that live on their own or are vulnerable in other ways. With loved ones, we should always find time to video call – it’s good to see a real face – to find out how they’re doing, or perhaps arrange a family or friendship group social get together via a video platform. You could even start doing online fitness sessions together – that way you’re working on your physical and mental well-being at the same time.

4. Get organised

Diary apps, paper journals for ‘to do’ lists, post-it notes with the tasks for the day – there are plenty of ways to plan what needs to be achieved during the working day, it’s a case of trying them all to see what works for you. The key is to be realistic with your goals, especially if you confine yourself to the 9-5 (see point 1). Even in the real office, goals can be missed by factors such as meetings over running, but in the home office there’s so much more potential for delay. Setting yourself a long list of tasks for a single day is unachievable, so focus in on the top three tasks that MUST be completed that day. If you get those done, then you can look at the next in line, but at least you’ll get the feeling of progression. 

5. Start the day properly

Breakfast, shower, get dressed – in whatever order you like (except the shower, get dressed bit) and then start work. Keeping these routines in place, however unnecessary they may seem – work in pyjamas can be very comfortable – ensures that you start the day in the right mindset. You’ve got the energy that comes from a proper, healthy breakfast, and you’ve washed away the day before, setting you up afresh for the challenges ahead. If you need to get a social media/internet fix before you get the day going then now’s the time to do it. To get yourself off to a distraction-free start, try using an app such as Flipd that blocks out the apps on your phone to help you avoid the desire to get caught up in the social scrolling loop or get lost in a WhatsApp group chat.

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