Causes and Solutions for Remote Work Anxiety: Why You're So Stressed Working at Home

Aspyn Coaching
Causes and Solutions for Remote Work Anxiety: Why You're So Stressed Working at Home

The massive move to remote work has inspired a whole new wave of lifestyle and workflow changes. Millions are now building home offices and completely redesigning their lives around living and working at home. Needless to say, this has set a few routines on their heads and inside-out. Many people have everything they need to thrive working at home but find a static tension building. You may be anxious, worried, or so tense that you find yourself pacing.

If you're having trouble focusing, we've been there. We might be there right now, facing the same problems you are. That's exactly why we've put together a handy guide for both causes and solutions to remote work anxiety:

1. Anxiety Disorder
Often, stress and an inability to focus are rooted in an anxiety disorder. Millions of people suffer from unnecessarily high stress without the need for a triggering cause. It's common for people with anxiety disorders to simply be called "worriers", but it's more than a personality trait. Anxiety can come from a malfunction in your brain in the way your neurotransmitters fire or interact with each other. 

Untreated, anxiety disorders can become acute to the point of distracting so that you can't focus on anything except a constant feeling of anxiety. If this sounds familiar, the solution might be as simple as teaching yourself to mediate, lower your pulse, and tackle any tangible sources of your stress.

Solution: Mindful Meditation
Anxiety often spotlights on worrying over things you can't control. The best way to fight anxiety is with deep breaths and mindful awareness. Start by lowering your pulse and breathing with slow, intentional breaths. Become aware of your heartbeat and think about slowing it down with your breath. Become aware of the room slowly, then acutely to every little sound and breeze. Now ask yourself: what can you control? What actions can you take? As a person with two hands and a smartphone, the answer is quite a lot. Focus on this and your entire day will clarify.

2. Not Enough or Bad Sleep
Sleep deprivation is no joke, especially in terms of mental effects. Sleep can take a serious hit on your focus - if you're not getting enough of it. Good sleep means completing a full REM cycle uninterrupted, and ideally five to ten full REM cycles each night. If you're not sleeping enough or if the quality of your sleep is poor, then you're going to be distracted the next day. If you consistently get bad sleep, you'll consistently have poor focus, too.

To regain your focus, you'll need to improve the quality, depth, and perhaps the length of your sleep each night. A good sleep routine is essential.

Solution: Reinvent Your Sleep Routine
The best way to fight bad sleep or not-enough sleep is to tackle your bedtime routine. If you don't have one, build a sleep-enhancing bedtime routine. Catch a shower or hot bath before bed, then turn down the thermostat. Put on some white noise in the bedroom and close, turn off, or cover all lights. Most importantly, go to bed at the same time every day (and wake up at the same time) with the same bedtime routine. You can train your brain to be ready to sleep on schedule.

3. Disorganized Office, Disorganized Mind
You might be amazed how much a cluttered space affects your mind. When you see disorganization, it can actually scramble your focus. A sharp mind is best maintained with clean surfaces and right-angle corners. From a messy house to a messy desk, any amount of mess around your office can make it hard to stay focused. Of course, we also know that every house and office has its elements of messiness, so what about your brain?

Solution: Right Angles and Cloth Organizers
The best way to keep your office clean is with organizers. These are shallow trays, cubes, and stackable storage that can really tidy up the home office. Instead of trying to tidy the clutter, organize it instead. A few 'organizer' items can make a real difference in achieving surface space and right angles. You can define, claim, and streamline your space with just a few squared-off little compartments.

4. Dehydration - Not Enough Water
Another major affector on your brain focus is water. The brain is a squishy organ that needs constant hydration. If you don't drink enough water, your wittiness and ability to focus will both fade over time. Unfortunately, dehydration is a natural state for modern professionals because it's all-too-easy to drink a few sodas instead of your prescribed half-dozen glasses of water per day.

Solution: Drink Water All Day
Make drinking hydrating beverages a part of your routine. Keep a cup on your desk (that isn't soda) and sip from it regularly. Clean, filtered water is the best source of daily hydration and you can install a water filter right in your office for quick refills. If you have regular breaks from work, always drink at least a half-glass of water. Alternate hydrating beverages include milk, sports drinks, lemonade, and fruit juice. Set a timer to hydrate so that you don't accidentally go hours without sipping water.

5. Busy Family Around the Home
The number-one cause for lack of focus in 2020 was family at home. If your work or school has been moved to at-home status, it's likely your loved ones are in the same boat. Whether you're locked in with your partner, roommate, entire nuclear family, or just your attention-loving pet, it can be pretty hard to focus with all your favorite (and sometimes least favorite) people around you. Their routines and their own need for human connection can really pull your attention away from the deadlines (or high score) you're trying to meet.

Fortunately, you don't have to get unfriendly to reclaim your focus. Just claim your space.

Solution: Claim Your Space
The best way to deal with a distracting household is to distinguish your home office. Otherwise, you can build a temporary office space that provides some visual and audio isolation from the rest of the house. Put up folding dividers or hang curtains. Even if you share the dining room table, a simple line of tape can help remind your family that you are in your 'work space' and to help you focus.

Soundproofing is the best, and if you're in an open room, visual interruptors can really help. You can even use book cases to invent a separtate room for your home office.

6. Changes in the Weather
Watch out for moody weather. When the clouds roll in, or the temperature suddenly changes, your brain can respond. Clouds and rain change the barometric pressure which can actually make you feel sleepy or light-headed. Changes in temperature take time to adapt to, so a sudden cold snap or heat wave can leave you feeling dazed. Be aware of the weather and prepared to keep your indoor mood in a focused and cheerful place.

Solution: Warm Up Indoors and In-Body
The solution is to take charge of the indoors if outdoor weather is harming your focus. In the winter, for example, make sure the home is comfortably warm and turn all the lights on in the house. Bright lights and a warm, cozy environment can help to ward off the unfocused blues of weather changes in your region. Bring up your light levels, even if that means new lamps or light fixtures in your office space.

7. Brain-Burn and Boredom
Lastly, watch out for burnout. Burnout is when you do the same thing every day and have grown too sick of it to care anymore. Boredom is the leading cause of burnout and also the leading symptom. Watch out if your focus is flagging because you are bored and burning out, as the longer you 'burn', the more relaxation you'll need to recover.

Solution: Do New Things in New Ways
Burnout comes from boredom, so instead of burning out, get interested. Change your routine and the way you do things. If you can, switch up your tasks so you're not doing the same thing all day, every day. Start a new hobby, try a new workflow, or just rearrange the furniture and see how you feel.

Struggling with poor focus? You're not alone. There are millions of people remote working and many are under a lot of stress. Whether you're working from home or dealing with the complexities of a hybrid workplace, 

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