Defusing work irritations when working from home

While it was once possible to leave stress and irritation behind us in the office, working from home can make it harder to switch off and move on. Yet, it’s important to learn how to do so. Here, we ask Gael Lindenfield, a psychotherapist and self-esteem expert, to share her advice

The problem:
“My colleague has done something that’s annoyed me and I’m fuming. It’s making it hard to concentrate on my work and I can feel that my whole body is tense. I need to move on so I can get back to what I was doing and not let this spoil the rest of my day. Help!”
– An irritated remote worker

The solution:
It is very easy to let minor irritations build up when you have major problems to contend with, as many of us currently have both in the workplace and at home. Even if you’re normally good at responding assertively to people when they are annoying you, when you are stressed, you often can’t be bothered to ‘fight’ these minor battles.

To combat this build-up, try following the three simple steps below. You must put them into action as soon as you notice that you are beginning to feel impatient or annoyed. The longer you leave even mild anger to fester, the harder it is to deal with later.

1. Defuse
Use simple physical actions such as deep breathing or clenching and unclenching your fists to send a message to your brain to switch off the anger response which has, among other auto-responses, caused your heart to start beating faster and your muscles to begin tensing up. Doing this will avoid a build-up of repressed feelings.

2. Review
Now that you are physically calm, you can engage your rational brain more easily to decide whether this is an issue that you need to deal with or not.

3. Confront or divert
Confront by assertively saying something like: “I found myself getting irritated when you…” (Note – you are just communicating your feeling, not making an accusation). Then make a request: “In future, would you please…”

Or, if you have chosen the divert option, find something engrossing to do that will help you forget the incident. Grab a snack, take a walk, go and pet your cat.

If you’re home alone, try this (slightly ridiculous) quick fix and ask yourself to dance. Not only is dancing a wonderful way to let go of pent-up feelings and tension, but it has benefits for the brain as well. A 21-year study of senior citizens aged 75 and older, at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, found that dancing reduced the risk of dementia by an impressive 76%.

Of course, one of the great advantages of secret solo dancing at home is that you can dance as wildly (and as badly!) as you like.

Gael Lindenfield is a psychotherapist, self-esteem expert and author of How to Feel Good In Difficult Times: Simple strategies to help you survive and thrive, published by Trigger

Looking for more pointers on improving the way to work? Why not have a look at our magazine?

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