We have more flexibility than ever when it comes to when, where, and how we work. Thanks to the internet, we can work from bed, a beach, or even some airplanes if we need to. Although the option to take work outside the office offers a lot of freedom and perks, there are some downsides to being constantly connected.
Whether you work for a company remotely, you own a home-based business, work a nursing night shift, or you just work non-traditional hours, our 24/7 work culture can be extremely stressful and harmful to your health and well-being. If you feel anxious and you’re working all the time, you’re definitely not alone–66% of surveyed full-time professionals express that they suffer from poor work-life balance.
Finding a good work-life balance and reducing your stress is key to preventing burnout. If you work non-traditional hours or in a non-traditional setting and you’re struggling with anxiety, here are 5 tips to help you feel more relaxed, productive, and happy.
1. Define Your Pain Points
Do you know just how much valuable real estate you’re taking up in your brain with anxiety and worrying? Anxious thoughts reduce the processing abilities of your brain and can make you less productive. Writing these stressors down is a great way to free up some space in your brain and will help you define your pain points.
It’s important to identify what situations trigger your anxious thoughts so that you can prepare and prevent those episodes. Writing down and examining the causes of your anxiety can help you recognize and respond to them in the future and make them less debilitating.
According to Suzanne Rohan Jones, a career counselor and associate instructor with Maryville University’s online psychology program, the concept of work-life balance is different for each employee, along with what schedule or activities may cause negative stress and burnout.
“Therefore, setting realistic expectations for the amount of time needed to successfully accomplish work activities when also juggling personal commitments will set the stage for more acceptance and less anxiety,” says Jones.
2. It’s Okay to Take a Beat Once in a While
We all need to pause in this nonstop world from time to time. We’re not machines and we can’t be expected to work every minute of every day. Stop and take a breath. Remember that what you’re doing probably isn’t life and death and can wait a day.
If you overdo it at work, then you’ll probably make your anxiety worse, not better. It’s okay to take a mental health day once in a while. You’ll be more productive, happier, and less anxious.
3. Give Your Mind a Rest
When you work non-traditional hours, especially if you work outside of a traditional office, then it can be difficult to fully unplug from your responsibilities. However, it’s one of the key ways you can manage and reduce your anxiety.
Not only does taking a break from the screen give your eyes a break, but it also gives your mind a rest. Take a walk, read a book—do anything but look at more screens. Setting boundaries with yourself is important for your mental health and will help prevent burnout.
4. Take Care of Your Body to Take Care of Your Mind
Now that so many people work on computers all day long, most Americans aren’t taking care of their bodies properly. If you’ve picked up habits like eating takeout or snacking all day long and you’re not getting enough exercise or drinking enough water, then you may be unintentionally contributing your anxiety.
In order to take care of your mind, you have to take care of your body. Get enough sleep, make an effort to eat healthy foods, and move your body regularly. Keep a water bottle on your desk and keep refilling it throughout the day.
These little actions can make a big difference in your anxiety levels. Even taking a shower can make you feel better when you’re feeling anxious!
5. You Don’t Have to Do It All
Most of us want to be superheroes. We want to say yes to new projects and requests from colleagues. We want to get new clients and we want to wow the people we work with. Unfortunately, wowing people is impossible if you’re not willing to say “no” sometimes.
According to Jones, often individuals who do not work a schedule that is standard or fixed believe they can take on additional family or community responsibilities during typical work hours. However, having a clear grasp of what work needs to be done and on what time frame should be applied to realistic expectations of agreeing to extracurricular commitments.
“For example, it is encouraged to say ‘no’ to volunteering at an elementary school book fair during the school day in exchange for completing a work assignment on time and focusing on family in the evening. Just because an individual is working odd hours does not mean that he/she has more than 24 hours in a day,” says Jones.
It’s crucial to realize that you can’t do it all. You’re only one person and there’s only so much time and energy you can give. Know your limits and say no to anything above that threshold. Doing so will help you feel more in control and less anxious. Plus, it will be easier to make decisions, further reducing your anxiety.
Realize That Anxiety Doesn’t Have to Control You
In a world where 30% of college grads have reported feelings of overwhelming stress before they even land their first job, it’s more important than ever to learn how to care for yourself. The American work culture can be brutal and grueling and you need to be willing to set reasonable boundaries for yourself for the sake of your mental health.
To excel in your career, you don’t need to log 12 hours a day and say yes to every request. That will just make your anxiety worse and your work will suffer. To flourish and work at your peak performance level, take a step back so you can manage your anxiety—you might be surprised to find that your productivity lifts when you’re working less and caring for yourself more.