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Good Therapy San Francisco | Anxiety Therapy Specialists

Coping with COVID-19: Managing Workplace Stress


How To Manage Workplace Covid-19 Related Stress.

Recently I was a guest on the podcast HR{preneur} to discuss managing workplace stress as a result of COVID-19. If you have a chance, give the full interview a listen. Some excerpts from our conversation are below, coping with COVID-19.

Does the news contribute to our anxiety?

Jim: So, let’s talk about why a lot of people are feeling anxious. A large part of the issue is how often we’re reminded of this situation across various forms of media and discussion among friends and family. How might this contribute to stress and anxiety?

Dr. Tom: Our brains are best set up to cope with stress in acute, short bursts. When we’re faced with constant triggers, it’s much more difficult to cope. The best way to alleviate the stress from news is to not engage with it. Turn off your phone or TV is a great way for coping with COVID-19 .

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How do we make less stressful decisions?

Jim: We’re now making everyday decisions in a new context. A mundane task a few weeks ago could be a life-changing event today. For example, going for a walk or making a quick trip to the grocery store are stressors we’re not well adapted to. How can we reassess our thinking to help us make rational, less stressful decisions?

Dr. Tom: When we’re anxious, we do typically broach these scenarios in the form of a question, such as, “Should I go to the grocery store?” or “Is it safe to go for a walk?” But, the anxiety center of our brain hears these questions as: “Don’t go to the grocery store” and “It’s not safe to go for a walk.” This ends up making our anxiety worse.

What can be useful is to re-frame the self talk from a question into a more helpful, realistic statement. Try “Yes, there is some risk going to the grocery store, however, I am taking necessary precautions, and after all I do need food.”

Sleep is also one of the important things we can do to manage anxiety. Good sleep routines start about an hour before bed. Disconnect by turning off laptops, phones, and not watching the news. Find a routine that works best for you, but often reading, deep breathing, or meditation can help reduce stress. Don’t do these activities in your bedroom. Also, be sure to wake up at the same time every morning, including weekends. Sleep is very routine based

Jim: Is there a reason you would not recommend reading or meditation in the bedroom?

Dr. Tom: Yes – behavioral conditioning. If you associate being awake or alert in bed / in the bedroom, it makes it more difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep, If you normally do not have sleeping problems, and are reading in bed before going to sleep, then that is fine. But if you have sleep issues (as typically happens with an increase in stress) it’s best to do this activities in another room, and only go to the bedroom when you are ready for sleep.

How do I adjust to working from home?

Jim: Now, what about employees who are working from home? For those of us who might not be used to this arrangement—like me—it’s likely some of us may feel uncomfortable, get distracted or be less productive in their new work environment. What can folks like me do?

Dr. Tom: I’ve seen people wanting to take this time to be overly productive both professionally and personally, which only adds to the stress they’re already experiencing related to the situation. There’s always going to be the feeling that there’s something else to do. But now is the time to focus on yourself and regulating your emotions. Get routine sleep, exercise and engage in life outside of work.

If you feel like you can’t turn your anxious thoughts off, try setting aside a scheduled time daily to only focus on your concerns for 20 minutes. Believe it or not, this has been found to help reduce anxious thoughts, and coping with COVID-19.

A Final Word

Jim: Very helpful. What else – any other advice for our listeners?

Dr. Tom: I would add if you are doing your best to control your stress, but despite your best efforts it feels too much, I’d encourage you to reach out to a mental health professional. Often short-term work is highly effective for these situations.