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How to Reduce Stress as You Return to the Office

How to Reduce Stress as You Return to the Office

When COVID-19 became a threat in March of 2020, several measures were put in place to help curb the spread of the virus. In addition to mandatory mask-wearing and stay-at-home orders, many companies began implementing remote work policies which saw employees working from home instead of commuting to the office. Fast forward to the summer of 2021 and we’ve seen many strides in overcoming the pandemic. With many people now vaccinated and as quarantine restrictions become looser, companies around the world are requiring employees to return to the office as we try to usher in a post-COVID lifestyle.

Depending on your personal circumstances, you may be quite happy to return to the office, or you may be dreading it. Many people have come to enjoy the freedom and flexibility of working from home and the benefits it provides, such as reducing transportation and clothing expenses and the ability to take care of children and pets while working. Others miss their pre-COVID routines of commuting to an office because it allowed for better separation of personal and professional life. Others are simply more productive in an office setting or enjoy being able to interact with their coworkers. Regardless of your feelings towards returning to the office, it will certainly be a big transition for all of us after a year and a half of getting accustomed to remote work.

Evaluate Your Concerns

There are many understandable concerns that you may have about returning to the office. Maybe you’re concerned about the virus itself and whether a return to work may cause you to get sick. To help ease this anxiety, consider the methods you can use to keep safe. If you and your coworkers are vaccinated, there is a significantly smaller chance of contracting or spreading the virus. Regardless, it’s still a good idea to continue practicing social distancing, frequent sanitizing of your hands and wearing your mask. By using these safety measures, you can feel a bit more confident in your ability to stay healthy, which can help to ease your anxiety.

Maybe your concerns are about a lack of flexibility that may come with returning to the office. If you have come to enjoy working remotely and want to continue doing so, you may wish to consider all your options. Is there any room for negotiating with your employer? It may be possible to come to an agreement about a hybrid system where you come in office some days and work from home on other days. Otherwise, you may want to consider transitioning out of your current job by searching for one that allows for remote work. For many people, the pandemic was the catalyst they needed to make positive changes towards a more rewarding career.

Focus on the Positives

We all know the many benefits of positive thinking. Positive thinkers are better able to cope with challenging or distressing situations and tend to have better mental and physical health. By taking an optimistic view of a situation, it can become a lot more manageable, but by focusing on the negatives, the experience is likely to be a drag.

Even if you are reluctant to return to the office, see if you can find something to look forward to about heading back. One benefit of working in an office is the ability to better separate your personal and professional life. For many people who work from home, work never seems to stop because there is no real line of demarcation between the office and the home. Coming home to your comfort zone after a day of work is often a satisfying feeling because you’re able to leave work at the office, which is a lot more difficult when you work at home.

Another potential positive about returning to the office is an increase in productivity. For many workers, the home office is a place of many distractions such as family members, pets or the doorbell. A lot of people are able to perform more efficiently in an office setting, leading to a better quality of work and higher satisfaction on the job.

For many people, lockdown was a lonely time and a return to the office brings a welcome opportunity to interact and socialize with colleagues. Teamwork can be a lot easier and more fun when teammates are working together in person. Though Zoom is convenient, there’s nothing quite like collaborating and brainstorming in person.

Setting Boundaries at the Office

Working in an office makes it easier to leave work at work. You’re better able to set boundaries with your time and manage people’s expectations of you. Now is the time to evaluate the boundaries that you wish to set with your coworkers and superiors. Maybe you will not answer work-related calls or emails after 5:00 and on the weekends. This kind of boundary might have been more difficult to set when working from home, because there may be an expectation that you are always on the clock.

In a post-COVID world, we also need to consider setting boundaries with our physical space. Whether or not you are vaccinated, it’s still a good idea to continue practicing social distancing as much as possible. You may have to prepare yourself to set boundaries regarding handshakes, hugs and other physical contact, depending on your own comfort level. If these kinds of conversations are difficult for you, try practicing them ahead of time so you will know exactly what to say to coworkers if the need arises.

Make Self-Care a Priority

As with any major life transition, it’s important to practice self-care to ensure that your physical and emotional needs are being met. You may need to create a new self-care routine that is compatible with your life at the office. For example, you may wish to develop a new morning routine to ensure a peaceful and enjoyable start to your days. Ensure you are keeping a healthy sleep schedule by going to bed at an early enough time and at about the same time every night. Starting your day with sufficient rest, a healthy breakfast and even a spiritual practice can lead to a better day at the office.

Here at Flourish Psychology, we understand that work contributes to your overall happiness and sense of purpose in life. Counseling with a therapist can help you to identify and work towards a more satisfying and fulfilling career, while reducing work-related stress or anxiety. To schedule your first session, contact us today.

4 Simple Ways To Maintain Balance While Working From Home

4 Simple Ways To Maintain Balance While Working From Home

Before the pandemic, many of us prioritized having work/life balance and perhaps took active steps to achieve it. In a pre-COVID world, this was as easy as leaving your work laptop at the office and heading off to a life outside of work. You may have been heading home to your family or a favourite TV show. Perhaps it was after-work drinks with friends before heading home.

For those of us who commuted to an office, there was a physical demarcation between life at work and life outside of work. By leaving the building, many of us were able to mentally unburden and leave work at the office. With the pandemic forcing us indoors, many of us are working from home for the first time. This is a huge transition and presents challenges as it relates to achieving work/life balance.

Work/Life Balance is Important for Your Mental Health

Rest and leisure are essential aspects of self-care. We are unable to perform our best work when we are burnt out, stressed or anxious. When we neglect one aspect of our lives, we tend to see the effects in other areas, too. We are unable to be whole and healthy human beings without balance.

Being able to separate work from the other aspects of life can be especially challenging when working from home. Here are some tips to help you achieve work/life balance as we continue to spend more time indoors.

1. Set physical boundaries for work/life balance

When working from home, it is important to have a designated location for working. This area should be separate from your resting or leisure areas. Even if you are in a compact space, you can achieve this by dedicating a small corner to work. It can be as simple as using a foldable desk, which can be stowed away with the rest of your work items.

It’s important to have a physical separation between “work” and “not work” within your home. This physical separation will also help to tell your brain when you are working and when you are not working.

Another physical barrier can be the clothing you wear. Though working from home allows for dressing however you like, you may benefit from designating specific work outfits. Be sure to dress comfortably, but still in a way that makes you feel confident and motivated to work.

2. Set time-based boundaries

Working from home does not mean that you are always on the clock. Set working hours for yourself and be sure to give yourself ample breaks throughout the day. Let’s say you have chosen 8:00am to 4:30pm as your working hours. When it’s 4:30, stop working! Close out all work-related windows, turn off the computer, and physically move away from the working area. There may be some days where you have to work additional hours to meet a deadline or complete a project. In general, make a habit of having defined working hours, just as you would in a traditional office setting.

3. Set mental and emotional boundaries

A key element of achieving work/life balance is setting mental and emotional boundaries. This simply means being able to mentally and emotionally “shut off” work at appropriate times. Remind yourself that there is a time for everything and that your work will be waiting for you when it’s work time.

Mindfulness is learning how to be present, without worrying about the future or past. When we are worrying about work during leisure time, it is helpful to practice mindfulness. This can be as simple as closing your eyes and focusing on your breathing to remind you to stay in the present moment. Take the time to notice the things around you and appreciate things just as they are.

Developing hobbies and interests is another way to set mental and emotional boundaries. When we take the time to enjoy our interests, it is a reminder that there is a life outside of work. When we are focusing on a passion project, we become so engrossed that we are able to unplug from work completely.

4. Set interpersonal boundaries for work/life balance

Finally, it is important to communicate our expectations to the people we work with. We can politely inform colleagues and clients of our working hours to manage expectations about response times. We can directly or indirectly make it clear that we are only able to answer phone calls or emails during certain hours.

When working from home, others may expect that you are “always on” or are able to handle requests at any time. It is important to be able to politely communicate these boundaries so we can maintain healthy working relationships.

It’s normal to face difficulty in achieving balance. The work we do is a fundamental part of who we are. Work-related stresses may affect your relationships, your home life, and your general mental health. The therapists at Flourish Psychology understand the impact of a fulfilling career on your overall wellbeing. We want to help you to do your best work so you can live your best life. Schedule a free consult today.

Coping with Loneliness During the Holidays

Coping with Loneliness During the Holidays

Holidays are traditionally a time for friends and family to gather and celebrate. For some, it’s the only time of year when they get to see their family and many look forward to it all through the year. The holiday season looks different this year and a lot of us are experiencing increased loneliness. It may be difficult or impossible for you to visit loved ones due to COVID-19 travel restrictions. Maybe you’ve decided to be alone this year to help reduce the spread of the virus.

For some, this may be our first holiday season alone. Others may have experienced this before, but it doesn’t make it any less difficult this time around. Some people may be apart from their family for reasons that have nothing to do with the pandemic. This could include situations of estrangement, where you have taken the deliberate decision to reduce or remove all contact with family members.

The holiday season is a common trigger for loneliness. People who may have been completely content being alone throughout the year may begin feeling sad, isolated and lonely as the year comes to a close. Here are a few things to consider as you try to manage these feelings.

Take care of Yourself

It’s important to take care of yourself when you are feeling lonely. Consider the ways that you can be a friend to yourself during this time. Self-care is especially important when dealing with loneliness. This is because we may have a tendency to neglect our own needs when we are feeling alone. Take the time to ensure you are having sufficient and healthy meals and getting enough sleep. It may sound simple, but ensure that you are drinking enough water, too. Take the time to keep your environment clean and comfortable. These basic acts of self-care are examples of showing up for yourself and reaffirming your relationship with yourself.

BE EXTRA KIND AND GENTLE

Loneliness can trigger thoughts of self-pity or worthlessness. Practicing acts of kindness towards yourself can help to counteract these feelings. Taking the time to tell yourself reassuring words can be very effective during difficult times. Maybe you have a favorite phrase or saying that you can repeat to yourself when these feelings arise. Consider creating a playlist of songs that make you happy. You can have the playlist ready to go for when the feelings of loneliness arise. Maybe you can create a list of favorite movies to watch when you feel alone. What other ways can you show kindness to yourself? Think of something that you would want a friend or loved one to do for you and do it for yourself. Doing things to make yourself happy helps to remind you that you are self-sufficient.

reach out when you can

Sometimes, we double down on our loneliness by withdrawing from loved ones. We may feel lonely, but still find ourselves sabotaging relationships. This turns into a cycle as our actions confirm our feelings of loneliness. This may manifest in many ways such as not returning calls or texts from friends and family, even though we crave connection. Try to push through these feelings of isolation and reach out to loved ones to maintain contact. A quick phone call can do so much and only takes a bit of effort and time. Remember that the best way to have a friend is to be a friend. Consider that your loved ones may be feeling lonely too. Who can you reach out to today?

rEMEMBER tO bE gRATEFUL

There are many benefits to practicing gratitude. A great way to counteract loneliness is to feel appreciation for all the good in your life. This is because loneliness is a feeling of lack, while gratitude is a feeling of abundance. Take the time to step outside of your loneliness and examine the positive things in your life. Though you may be lonely in the moment, you still have people in your life that you appreciate. You still have things in your life that you appreciate. What fills you with joy? Is it your work, hobbies, a passion project or a pet? Can you recall a happy day from your past that you feel grateful for? Being grateful for the past and present reminds us that there are good things to come in the future.

mANAGE hOLIDAY eXPECTATIONS

As a society, we have come to have great expectations of the holiday season. Holiday movies show us grand gestures and extravagant gifts. Social media may cause us to compare our holiday to someone else’s. You may feel like your holiday is inadequate if it doesn’t match up to expectations you have created for yourself. This year, it’s more important than ever to manage holiday expectations. The pandemic has created challenges for everyone and it may simply not be possible to have the holiday that you want. Consider how you can learn to be content with your current circumstances by accepting that this holiday season won’t be “perfect” – and that’s okay. How can you make the best of what you have and perhaps create new traditions on your own?

Speaking with a therapist can help you to manage feelings of isolation and loneliness this holiday season and as the pandemic continues. Schedule a free consultation to get matched with a therapist who meets your needs.

Substance Abuse During Stressful Times

Substance Abuse During Stressful Times

The year 2020 has been a stressful time for billions of people across the world. The pandemic, in addition to its health implications, has caused unemployment, economic upheaval and isolation, as well as sudden and dramatic changes to life as we knew it. As we mourn the loss of our plans and dreams for 2020, many of us have noticed an increase in our consumption of alcohol, marijuana and other mind-altering substances. How can we prevent substance abuse and find healthier ways to cope during stressful times?

Stress is the body’s natural response to external events or changes, whether it’s a single event or a recurring issue. These events can be either positive or negative. You may feel stressed on the first day of a new job, even though you are happy and excited. Research shows there are three types of stress: routine stress from daily life, stress as a result of sudden negative change and stress as a result of a traumatic event. The pandemic has brought about all three types of stress in many people. Our daily lives are more stressful as we navigate the challenges of social distancing, homeschooling and working from home. We have experienced sudden negative change as the entire world adapts to the pandemic and its various implications. We experience trauma as we witness the deaths of loved ones and others around us. 

Find Healthy Coping Mechanisms

Everyone copes with stress in different ways. A common method of managing stress is the use of drugs and alcohol. Research by the National Institute on Drug Abuse shows there is a direct correlation between stressful events and substance use. With many spending increased time in isolation, there’s an increased risk of drug abuse due to boredom and depression. While drugs may provide temporary relief from stress, long term use of these substances can lead to several physical and mental health issues.

Most of the time, we cannot predict or prevent stressful events due to several factors outside of our control. Within our control is how we respond to stress and the mechanisms we use to cope with difficult situations. It’s very important to find healthy methods of dealing with stress so that we are less likely to rely on substances. Healthy coping mechanisms include exercise, reading, creating art, practicing a hobby or caring for a pet. Determine some activities that you can turn to when you are feeling stressed. 

Know the risk factors for substance abuse

Risk factors are the situations that are likely to cause us to turn to drugs or alcohol. If there is a history of substance abuse in your family, you may be more likely to abuse substances, too. Perhaps you notice that your use of alcohol or drugs increases when you are stressed about finances or your relationship. Maybe you tend to drink more after watching the news about the pandemic, racial injustice, or police brutality. Assess your habits and patterns to determine when you are more likely to use substances. This way, you can predict stressful situations and put measures in place to utilize one of your healthy coping mechanisms. 

Find Balance

People often begin using or increasing their use of drugs and alcohol when they are unhappy about something in their life or they are unsatisfied with the direction their life is heading. Maybe you love your job, but you are unhappy with your relationships. Maybe you are spending too much time at work and not dedicating enough time to self-care and your passions. It’s important to feel fulfilled in all areas of your life to create a feeling of balance and contentment

SEEK HELP FOR MENTAL ILLNESS AND SUBSTANCE ABUSE

Mental illness and substance abuse often go hand-in-hand. Those suffering from mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder may turn to substances to cope with the pain and difficult emotions brought about by their mental illnesses. It’s important to know that relief is possible by seeking help from a licensed mental health professional. Therapists and psychologists are trained in treating mental illnesses and are able to help you to manage difficult emotions in a healthy way. 

As we continue to cope with the daily and long-term effects of COVID-19, our mental and emotional health must be safeguarded. Flourish Psychology’s expert therapists in Brooklyn Heights, NY will help you overcome your challenges, change the way you think, and cultivate a resilient sense of well-being. Please contact us for a free consult to get matched with a therapist who best meets your needs. 

How to Have The “Perfect” Workout

How to Have The “Perfect” Workout

Self-care related to working out has drastically changed in quarantine. Thus, many at home workout programs are trending. We’ve all seen online workout programs that promise results in 7 days, weight loss, or a changed body. These fake promises can really scare us into paying money for “quick change” that society deems necessary. They also lead us to question whether or not their workouts work for us. So, before jumping into a workout, we first have to ask ourselves a few questions, such as “what is a perfect workout, and how can I achieve it?

The Perfect Workout Is One Where You Have Fun

Are you having fun when working out, or do you dread having to pull out your yoga mat, or weights to prepare for exercise? This is an important question to ask yourself before starting a workout. Workouts are supposed to be fun. You should always leave a workout feeling good. A workout should make you want to do it again. If you find yourself being anxious about working out, then it may not be the best workout for you. Workouts should be done willingly and freely, not out of fear or panic.

One way to combat boring, or lackluster workouts is to find a workout that aligns with one of your hobbies. If you like to dance try Zumba, hip hop workouts, or ballet-focused workouts. if you like to sing find workouts that are set to your favorite songs. If you are a big fan of celebrities try learning the choreography to one of their songs. if high-impact workouts are too draining, switch to low-impact or ” no jumping” workouts. This keeps things exciting, new, and fresh. They also make for a fun workout that you will want to do again.

MAKE SURE YOU FEEL CONFIDENT

A perfect workout helps you feel strong and confident. Workouts that help you love the body you’re in while working towards the body you want are the best for you. Workouts should focus on helping you feel great, and take the focus off of obsessing over weight or burning calories. Workout instructors that do not shame you or put you down when working out help you feel more confident. Workouts that nurture you and are patient with you in the learning process build up your confidence. This also allows you to feel powerful, and sure of your own abilities.

When tuning into a workout video, pay attention to how the instructor speaks to your or the audience. Is the voice nurturing, caring, motivating, and kind? is the voice demeaning, harsh, or unkind? If the voice of the instructor or the mood of your workout feels like the latter, then it is time to find another workout. Make sure to find a workout that  helps you feel motivated, praised, and comfortable. Once you find a workout that does that, you find that it’s worth the search.

A PERFECT WORKOUT ALLOWS YOU TO DE-STRESS

Workouts that help you de-stress and relax are great. This is because they can serve as an outlet, and create a space that allows you to feel calm. Workouts that add to your stress only increase anxiety. and this is not ideal. This connects to the point of workouts being fun. A workout should not feel like an obligation, or a job. The combination of fun, feeling confident and strong, and less focus on weight and calorie burning leads to a workout that is void of stress. Workouts that are aimed at decreasing stress and tension include yoga, pilates, tai-chi, or cardio. Focus on finding workouts that take away some of your stress, avoid workouts that add to it.

Overall, the perfect workout is the one that feels good. They should be fun and allow you to feel strong and confident. They should not control you or make you feel like you need to change. If a workout feels negative, it’s not you that needs to change, it’s the workout! Seek workouts that you can customize to your level, needs, and body! For example, The Down Dog app has workouts that you can customize fully from the length of the workout to the area of the body you are working. An added plus is you can customize the instructor’s voice and music too! 

Your workout is for you! So, the “perfect workout” is one that decreases stress and makes you feel positive about every part of you.

ARE YOU STRUGGLING WITH YOUR BODY IMAGE OR DISORDERED EATING?

If you are struggling with your body image, or if you are worried you may have an eating disorder, contact us to schedule a free consultation. Our psychologists specialize in body image and eating disorders and will help you regain a positive self-esteem while decreasing disordered eating issues. 

Calming Anxiety and Stress During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Calming Anxiety and Stress During the Coronavirus Pandemic

In the past few months, COVID-19 has taken the world by storm. The virus has not only affected the physical health of many individuals, but it has also taken a toll on the mental health of many. As a result, it is important to take steps to calm the heightened anxiety, and stress that has come as a result of COVID-19. Continue reading to learn how to calm anxiety and stress during the Coronavirus pandemic.

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