Working from home comes with its perks. However, it can also present significant challenges. Over time, isolation and repetitiveness can lead to feelings of stress and overwhelm. How you handle these feelings will dictate your level of success as a remote worker.

How to Reduce Stress and Discover Greater Satisfaction

Most people have an idea of how they think working from home will go. Unfortunately, their reality is often starkly different. If you’re expecting to sleep in, work in your pajamas, take a two-hour lunch, and watch Netflix movies in the background whilst doing a little work here and there, you’re going to be a little disappointed.

While there’s certainly more flexibility, working from home requires a mindset shift and proactive approach. Otherwise, you’ll end up frustrated, stressed out, and feeling apathetic toward your career and your life.

No two people are the same, but the following tips make it easier to reduce stress and enjoy a higher degree of job satisfaction when working from home for prolonged periods:

  • Create More Structure

The lack of built-in structure is usually what throws people off when they first begin working from home. If you want to be more focused and feel less stressed about work, create your own careful structure. This may include a specific start time, break time, lunchtime, and stop time. You might also consider doing different types of work in different rooms – like making phone calls in your office but doing virtual meetings in your kitchen. (This mimics the traditional office setup where you’d go from your office to the boardroom.)

  • Set Boundaries

Be proactive with boundaries. Your children, significant other, and/or neighbors should understand that while you’re at home you’re not technically “there.”  Set boundaries and make it clear what behavior is acceptable.

  • Try Vagus Nerve Stimulation

Structure and boundaries are all about controlling your environment so that you can relax. But sometimes you need something a little more practical – something that can zap stress in the moment. Vagus nerve stimulation, or VNS, is one of the healthiest options.

VNS is a safe and scientifically proven technique that stimulates the body’s vagus nerve to generate feelings of relaxation and focus. It can be performed with nothing more than a pair of headphones and some calming tracks. Best of all, you can do it while you’re sitting at your desk performing work. VNS isn’t something that everyone knows about, but many of the world’s most productive people swear by it.

  • Treat Your Body Well

The vagus nerve is the perfect example of the connection between mind and body. If you want the ability to focus, treating your body well is a necessity. In addition to things like VNS, you have to get the basics down. This includes:

  • Eating a fresh, clean, and balanced diet that’s high in natural foods and low in processed foods, refined sugars, and harsh additives.
  • Staying hydrated by drinking at least 64 ounces of water every day (and limiting your intake of caffeine and alcohol).
  • Getting at least 30 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity every day – preferably outdoors.
  • Setting a consistent sleep schedule and aiming to get a minimum of seven hours of sleep each night.
  • Getting some fresh air – even if that just means sitting outside while you make some phone calls during the day.

If you do these four things, you’ll feel better and perform better almost instantly. (This is true regardless of whether you’re working from home or in the office.)

  • Get Social

It’s easy to feel isolated when you’re working from home. And if you’re an outgoing and extroverted person who draws energy from being around others, this can lead you to feel anxious and apathetic. 

Make it a point to connect with at least one person each day who lives outside of your house. This should occur during the workday (and preferably in the middle of the day when you need a pick-me-up). It could be something as simple as picking a child up from work and talking with parents in the carpool line, walking around the block with a neighbor, or scheduling a Zoom “lunch date” with a friend.

Discover Your Work ‘Flow’

“Flow” is a state of mind that psychologists use to describe the feeling you get when you become fully connected to whatever activity it is that you’re doing. It’s a state of total immersion. Time stops, distractions dissipate, and 100 percent of your focus is channeled into the task at hand. You feel good, the work comes naturally, and there’s a sense of meaning and purpose attached to it.

You can achieve a flow state by doing any number of things. Whether it’s strumming your guitar, playing a tennis match, reading a book, writing a blog post, or doing something as simple as building an Excel report for your boss.

Though it may seem difficult at first, you can regularly achieve a state of flow while working from home – you simply need a plan. And though it’s impossible to coax yourself into the flow, you can optimize your circumstances and physical surroundings so that it becomes more likely. 

In doing so, the stress lifts away and is replaced by feelings of meaning and purpose.