Lots of folks are under mega-stress right now. We’re worried about the coronavirus and how it’s going to impact us, the people we love, and the country. And I’ll admit there’s a side that really wants to stay glued all day to the television or internet news to get the latest information. But there’s another side that wants to curl up and ignore it all and pretend that nothing is happening.
That side really wants to read trashy novels and eat chocolate.
Yet neither approach is helpful.
So since neither alternative is a good option, I’m personally choosing to pay attention…within reason (which means NOT spending all day glued to the TV) and instead of giving in to the urge to live in denial (which means a lot of napping) I’m working to remain productive even though I am experiencing a pretty good case of stress right now
we’re all experiencing a lot of stress
Like a lot of you, I am a member of the sandwich generation. I’ve got an elderly father with health conditions, and a 92-year old mother-in-law who also has health issues and who lives some distance from us. I’ve also got a 96 year-old great-aunt in a nearby nursing home. We’re concerned and anxious about all three of them.
We’ve also got young adult children who are like lots of kids their age. They’re totally dependent on their jobs remaining stable (and them being able to stay at work so they can get paid) and we’re extremely anxious about them as well. We know that they’re young so the health concerns are less, but their economic survival is serious.
We feel pretty much like a “stress sandwich” right about now.
we have to figure out how to cope
But life has to go on and things must be done. Those of us who work at home must find a way to remain productive and do our jobs even though we’re under stress. We’re not alone though, I bet the rest of the country (and probably the world) is feeling the same right about now.
So how do we keep our heads on straight and focus on work when life is crazy?
I don’t normally share this, but I learned early in life that there are times when you really do have to divorce yourself from your emotions, go into rational mode, and do what has to be done.
You see, my dad was a funeral director and ran the ambulance service where we live. And yes, I’ve heard every joke there is about conflict of interest, etc. I have heard it all. (which is probably why I don’t generally share the information…go figure).
But from a very young age my brother and I were taught how to answer the phone and take information about an emergency or a death. We were taught that we had to not freak out and that we had to remain calm so that we could get the necessary information (lives sometimes depended on it).
We also witnessed lots of stressful experiences and how the adults around us handled them. You see, stress either brings out the best…or the worst…in people. The people we saw who handled stress and were able to put it aside and do their jobs were all able to do the following things.
ways to Stay Productive When You’re Stressed
Tip #1: Put your emotions in a box and set them aside. Give yourself permission to feel them later
I know that this is easier said than done. But freaking out over situations is never helpful. It causes us to react irrationally and behavior rooted in panic does no one any good.
So to be productive when you’re stressed you must learn to divorce yourself from your emotions…at least for a time.
That means that for a period of time, at least, we go to work (or to our home office or computer) and tell ourselves that nothing else exists other than the task that is immediately in front of us. And then we focus like crazy and block all other thoughts from our head while we work on one task.
Doing this does not mean that you’re callous, uncaring, or unsympathetic. It means that you make a conscious choice to remain in control so that you can deal rationally with a situation.
It’s the same thing that anyone who works in emergency situations has to learn to be able to do – otherwise they couldn’t do their jobs and we’d all be in trouble.
You’ll still feel whatever feelings you have…you’re just deciding to feel them later.
Tip #2: Focus on only one task!
And when I say that we work on ONE task, I mean that literally.
When we’re under stress we are even less likely to be able to multi-task (not that we’re really good at it at any time). The key to working when stressed it literally to do ONE thing and one thing only.
Right now, I’m focusing on the keyboard and the words I want to write. I’m purposely not letting myself jump into doing any keyword research or graphics creation or anything else that goes in to the content creation process.
I’m just writing.
And I’m doing that because I hope that I can share something that will make your situation a little easier. But I can’t do it at all if I try to multi-task while not at my absolute best.
Tip #3: Take frequent breaks – your mental health needs it
When you’re under stress you may not be able to focus on tasks for as long as you normally would. This is normal. It’s not only okay to take frequent breaks, it’s necessary.
The truth is that when we’re in a stressful situation – whether because of worldwide events, or because you’re caring for a sick loved one, or anything else – it’s crucial that we take steps to take care of ourselves as well.
That may mean that you don’t get a “full” days work in. Or it might be that you end up re-arranging your working hours or days so that you can operate at a higher efficiency when you are less stressed.
But here’s the thing…taking the breaks you need is an act of self-care when things are topsy-turvy. It’s a gift you can give yourself, and it will help you be at your best for the people around you.
You can stay productive and in control
Yes, times are stressful. But we’ll deal with them and things will improve. In the meantime, we’ll all feel better to take steps to feel in control of our situations and to live life as normally as possible.
Related Post: 26 Time Management Strategies