As many employees are now being called back into the office a few days a week after months of working from home, and hybrid working becomes the new norm for many, personal situations and home dynamics are changing again. And as we know, change (even positive change) always brings an element of stress with it, and everyone deals with change differently. So if you’re working from home some of the time and heading into the office for the rest of the week, let’s look at some ways to adjust your routines and help you lower stress while hybrid working.
Why is reducing stress important?
First thing first, why is it important we find ways to manage and lower stress? Because while we’re busy coping with change (big and small) and feeling stressed, our energies can get depleted very quickly. It’s common to feel exhausted and burnt out, to lose focus and productivity, and even notice an impact on our cognitive faculties, like the ability to make decisions or remember things.
Studies show that stress (and especially prolonged stress) can affect the nervous system and “cause structural changes in different parts of the brain” which can “bring about differences in the response to stress, cognition, and memory.” And no one wants that! Especially not when we’re already being pulled in all sorts of different directions with responsibilities both at home and work.
If we let it, stress will pinch on our time, energy, and headspace. So it’s important that we, as individuals, try and identify the challenges we’re facing and understand how changes to our working patterns might impact our existing routines. This allows us to then start to come up with smart and effective solutions to lower the pressure and the impact of stress on both our bodies and minds.
Managing stress in conjunction with hybrid working is becoming a priority for employers too, especially in light of the predicted increased attrition rate brought on by the return to the office after an extended period of home working. Hopefully, we’ll start to see more and more employers helping their staff by introducing initiatives that offer meaningful, realistic, and practical support to help us adapt to the new way of working.
The 3 pillars of wellbeing
The way I suggest companies and individuals take pressure off themselves to reduce stress during times of change is by focusing on what I call the 3 pillars of wellbeing. These are:
- Moving every day.
- Fuelling ourselves well (i.e. eating well).
- Protecting our sleep.
Let’s get into some more details for each of the 3 pillars.
Pillar #1 – Moving every day
Movement is key to our mental and physical wellbeing. I like to talk in terms of ‘movement’ rather than exercise as I feel that thinking about working out can increase the pressure when we’re already being pulled in so many directions and coping with different kinds of responsibilities in the various areas of our lives.
So when I talk about movement, this is any type of physical activity – no movement is too small!
For optimal wellbeing, I recommend:
- 30 minutes of movement a day. If you don’t have time to go for a half-an-hour walk or workout, that’s not a problem. You can break your 30 minutes down into 3x 10-minute walks, for example.
- At least 30 minutes a day outdoors. And it’s perfectly fine to combine your 30 minutes of movement (see point above) with being outdoors.
- Increasing your ‘incidental activity’. This is any movement that’s part of your day, like going up the stairs, walking to the sink to fill up your water cup, etc.
Ways to increase your incidental activity
When you think about it, you can move wherever you are – even in the office! Moving your body throughout the day in different ways helps you keep away aches and pains but also burn calories.
And the easiest way to increase your incidental activity is by incorporating it into your working day.
So, for example, you could:
- Park further away from the office.
- Consider jogging, cycling, or scooting part of the way to work.
- Whether at home or in the office, make a point of using the loo on another floor.
- Go for a walking meeting outdoors with a colleague instead of booking a meeting room.
- Even just keeping a small cup of water by your desk (instead of a big flask or bottle) would mean additional trips to the water cooler, which would help you increase the number of times you move throughout the day.
Can you think of other creative ways to move more?
Pillar #2 – Food
The second pillar is all to do with food. Because what we eat can also help us lower stress and increase energy levels. I like to think about food as fuel. Choose the right fuel, and you’ll start to notice how you feel better and more able to cope with the pressures, responsibilities, and changes to your routine.
So for optimal wellbeing, opt for quick and simple meals and nourishing foods, including:
- Foods that stabilise your blood-sugar levels. I.e. vegetables, wholemeal grains over white bread, nuts, legumes, etc.
- Foods that de-stress, including b-vitamins and magnesium. Pumpkin seeds are your ‘super-hero’ food in this department!
- And follow an 80/20 balance. I find it’s helpful to aim for good food choices about 80% of the time. Because eating well shouldn’t become a source of stress in itself!
And the best way to fuel your body is by following what I call the Optimal Fuel Formula.
The Optimal Fuel Formula
The Optimal Fuel Formula allows to you choose food for sustained energy, which can, in turn, help you lower stress, and is made up of:
- Protein. Think chicken, fish, pulses, eggs, and dairy.
- Healthy fats, including olive oil, nuts and seeds, oily fish, avocado, etc.
- And complex carbohydrates. These include vegetables, beans, whole grains (unrefined/unprocessed).
For more information on how to create or choose balanced meals and practical ideas on what to make for breakfast, lunch, dinner, head over to my post What to eat to reduce stress and increase energy.
Pillar #3 – Sleep
The third pillar to optimal wellbeing is all about getting enough sleep. Did you know that adults need 7-9 hours of sleep every night and not the 5-6 hours a lot of us believe they need to be able to function the next day?
In light of that, it’s important we start to recognise any potential challenges that might stop us from getting our beauty sleep. And once we’re aware of those challenges, we need to take steps to protect that time and adapt our current routine accordingly, much like we do when we build bedtime routines for our children and stick to them for dear life!
Ideas to protect your sleep
So what can we do to make sure we’re having a good night’s sleep?
- Create a bedtime routine that’s conducive to sleep and stick to it! If you have a bath, make sure the water isn’t too hot. If you read a book, go for a physical book rather than an e-book, and make it fiction – something that doesn’t wire up your brain.
- Cut down stimulants at least one hour before bed. This includes chocolate and caffeine, screens (and that means your phone, too), and even work!
- Choose gentle movement and stretches over high-intensity workouts, where you’d need time to cool down and wind down afterwards. If you want to move before bedtime, opt for some light stretching or relaxing yoga.
- Keep a notebook and pen on your bedside table for pre-sleep unwinding and those middle-of-the-night panics. The last thing you want is to wake up in the middle of the night thinking about that form you need to fill in the next day for your child’s school trip or that piece of data you need to add to your presentation and be unable to go back to sleep because you don’t want to forget in the morning!
Adapting your sleep routine
I also suggest you adapt your routine to make sure you have your 7-9 hours of sleep per night. So if you know you need to wake up at 6 am to be at your desk by 8 am, take away 7 to 9 hours from 6 am. Let’s say you need at least a good 8 hours to feel like a well-functioning human the next day, your bedtime should be 6 am minus 8 hours = 10 pm. The key is to not be caught unprepared – always recalculate lights out to ensure you get your sleep. It’s important!
If you’re hybrid working, you’re likely to have an earlier wake-up time on the days you’re in the office. But my recommendation is to stick to the earlier wake-up time every day. So if you normally wake up at 6 am when you go to the office, make sure you’re up at the same time when you’re working from home.
Why? Because consistency in your sleeping routine works better. But you also gain extra time in your day! By getting up early, you can then go for a walk outdoors or move your body, prep your food for the day (or days) ahead, or use that time for planning ahead and feeling more prepared and in control. That in itself can do wonders for your stress levels!
Here’s an example of how your schedule might work on the days you work from home vs when you’re in the office.
Interested in more tips to lower stress while hybrid working?
I hope you enjoyed these simple tips to help lower stress when hybrid working. If you’re a manager working for a corporate and are looking for practical ways to help your staff during these times of change, get in touch for a free call. And if you’re an individual looking for more tips on how to move more or eat well, I invite you to connect with me on Instagram or subscribe to my YouTube channel – Workout with B.