Some of us may be appreciative of the advantages of this arrangement, such as more flexible working hours and the freedom to dress comfortably most of the time. Still, the fact remains that many of us are not used to working from home, and along with this arrangement has come a set of challenges that we are dealing with to this day. Even as we transition to the new normal, we still face a fair amount of uncertainty: whether one can return to the workplace soon is a question that largely depends on circumstances and each company’s policies, and many could still be working from home for a significant amount of time to come.
Emotions that Arise from COVID-19 and Working from Home
Until we return to our workplaces, we continue to navigate the challenges of working from home. Attempting to handle the daily challenges of work whilst trying to cope with the stress induced by the pandemic can pose difficulties, not only logistically but emotionally. Some of the emotions that may arise from the outbreak of COVID-19 as well as working from home include fear and anxiety, frustration, depression, and grief.
Fear and anxiety. When you consider the situation we are in, one of the most immediate and natural responses might be to feel fearful and anxious. Apart from fearing that one will contract COVID-19 or spread it to others, one may also feel anxious due to the changes in one’s lifestyle that have been brought about by the circuit breaker measures. This is compounded by the fact that we have been separated from extended family and friends. Just a few months ago, being in the company of others was a simple pleasure of life, readily available whenever we felt like socialising. In contrast, we may now miss the comfort offered by the physical presence of our loved ones, especially in moments of fear and anxiety.
Frustration. We may feel vexation and restlessness from being cooped up at home. In addition, we may feel frustrated at those who do not comply with advisories and do not abide by circuit breaker measures, or perhaps at the government for putting these measures in place. Working at home also means that the boundaries separating different parts of our lives, such as family, work, and fitness, are less clear. Having to share our space with family members may result in a sense of intrusion, in comparison to the clearly demarcated workspaces many of us typically have.
Depression. Increased isolation and interrupted activities can lead to feelings of depression and lethargy. A bout of depressive feelings may also be exacerbated by underlying feelings of guilt for being less productive than we used to be. The absence of the environmental cues associated with our workplaces may have a negative influence on our productivity. Coupled with background noise, the constant presence of our family members, and the emotional burden of the virus, it is almost impossible to be as productive as before. For instance, reading a news update about the virus can easily affect one’s mood and in turn, one’s level of focus at work.
Grief. Feelings of grief may stem from changes in familiar patterns of behaviour. It is likely that the loss of pleasurable and social activities, as well as familiar and self-soothing routines, is accompanied by grief. Moreover, many of us have had to give up what was previously our personal space as we now have to interact with colleagues, bosses, instructors, and therapists in those spaces. It is both important and necessary to allow yourself to grieve the routines and activities you have had to give up.
How to Manage These Emotions
Don’t be afraid to acknowledge the emotions you are experiencing in this time – this doesn’t give them more power over you. Rather, it is the first step to managing them. We suggest tackling these negative emotions in three steps: seeking to understand them, engaging in deeper reflection, and finally, taking action to overcome them.
Firstly, taking some time to listen to your inner experiences will help you to figure out what you are feeling. Understanding our own feelings may not always be easy or straightforward. You may be most aware of feelings of anger, but perhaps an underlying fear is the more dominant emotion. Labelling or naming the emotions you are experiencing may be a challenge as well.
When paying attention to your inner experiences, it is important to, first, name and validate the thoughts and feelings that arise. Next, when reflecting on these emotions, ask yourself these questions:
What is this feeling trying to tell me?
What does this feeling need?
It may be tempting to try to avoid or ignore negative feelings. However, these feelings often serve a function – perhaps alerting us to an unmet need, or may even help inform some decisions we make. When we reflect on these feelings, and learn to sit with them, we are choosing to prioritise our emotional needs and well-being.
Understanding and reflecting on your emotions and what they need can help you to overcome them. These are some actions you can take to manage the emotions you are experiencing during the COVID-19 outbreak:
Stay present and self-compassionate.
Speak to a trusted friend
Engage in self-soothing/grounding exercises.
Finally, you should seek help from a psychologist or counsellor if needed. It's really okay to not be okay. It is a common misconception that only problems of a certain severity warrant a visit to a professional. If you feel that the support of a psychologist or counsellor would help you to cope, you may want to consider making an appointment us. Every individual’s experience is unique, and your mental health is important.
American Psychological Association. (n.d.). Keeping Your Distance to Stay Safe. Retrieved April 8, 2020, from https://www.apa.org/practice/programs/dmhi/research-information/social-distancing
American Psychological Association. (n.d.-a). How to Concentrate When You’re Working at Home. Retrieved April 8, 2020, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/in-practice/202003/how-concentrate-when-youre-working-home
Portland State University. (n.d.). Considerations for COVID-19 Trauma-Informed Response. Retrieved April 16, 2020, from https://traumainformedoregon.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Considerations-for-COVID-19-Trauma-Informed-Response.pdf