A psychology lecturer’s top tips for preventing working from home nightmares (Picture: Getty)
Working from home is becoming a nightmare for some people.
Having become the norm all the way back in March 2020 (was that really almost a year ago now?), working from home has turned rooms that were previously sanctuaries like kitchens and bedrooms into makeshift office spaces.
While the loss of the super-early morning wake up and commute could be seen as a positive thing, for some the bad is definitely starting to outweigh the good. Unfortunately, working in our pyjamas is no longer quite such a novelty.
According to the NHS, losing that clear divide between work and home coupled with the lack of co-worker camaraderie, teamwork and support is causing a lot of people to feel stressed, bored and anxious.
Not to mention the fact that many are having to cope with very real concerns about reductions in hours and pay as well as uncertainty around whether they’ll be able to keep hold of their jobs.
But remote working is a nightmare in more ways than one. According to a recent survey of 1,000 people, carried out by online printing specialists instantprint, workplace dreams have been on the rise during the pandemic. Needless to say, they really haven’t been all that sweet.
In fact, it was found that a massive 75% of those surveyed said work-based dreams have been nightmares recently. And, with more than half (52%) of people dreaming about work more than ever, its causing distress.
Some of the most common dream themes cropping up for remote workers have included being unprepared for an important task, getting lost on the way to work, and even being trapped at work.
Some, however, have simply been having dreams about a regular day at work. While admittedly less stressful, it still goes to show just how inescapable work has become for a lot of people.
The corrosion of that all-important boundary between home life and office life has quite clearly had an impact on everything from our ability to switch off when the working day is done to the quality of our rest.
Not only that, though, it’s also causing real damage to our relationships with our jobs. As reported in the survey, a total of one in five respondents admitted wanting to quit their jobs in the aftermath of bad work dreams.
But while dreams may seem untouchable, there are ways of managing the ones we have about work.
According to Dr Sarah Jane Daly, a psychology lecturer from the University of Huddersfield: ‘Dreaming provides us with the space and time to process and play out our subconscious fears, to problem-solve and work through our subconscious issues.’
So, in order to prevent workplace anxieties from causing us distress at night, we have to deal with the problems we face during the working day.
Prevent working from home nightmares with these top tips
• Set boundaries: ‘Constructing realistic, workable, weekly timetables with regular ‘clocking-in’ and ‘out’ times can help us to make clear delineations between work and non-work.’
• Practice self-care: ‘We lead busy lives so it is essential that when work is finished for the day, we do something for ourselves.’
• Limit technology: ‘Setting a cut-off point after which we do not look at or respond to emails or messages is likely to result in better sleep quality.’
• Decide what to dream: ‘Spending some time thinking about a particular pleasant memory or event is more likely to result in desired dreams.’
Dr Daly’s advice is four-fold, and it starts with setting boundaries for yourself. This will help you to more easily make the switch from work-mode to relaxation mode.
Better managing your time is one of the best ways to do this. If, for example, you set and stick to clear times for starting and ending your working day (and schedule in a proper lunch hour, too), you will find yourself far more capable of separating your psyche from the working day once it’s over.
She also recommends limiting your time with technology when you’ve finished working. The vast majority of our nine-to-five days are spent staring at laptop screens. And, when you’re working from home, you don’t even get the break that a quick chat at the tea station would afford you.
So turn off your laptop and put your phone down for a while when you’re done for the day, and definitely don’t respond to emails once you’ve clocked out.
This is particularly important in the hours immediately before bed, explains Dr Daly.
If you struggle with workplace nightmares, it’s probably a sign that you aren’t taking enough time for yourself. So Dr Daly suggests scheduling in some self-care time.
She says that ‘it’s important to shift our attention away from work by doing other things.’ This can include exercising, catching up with friends and family, or doing a relaxing activity such as reading or taking a bath.
If this practical advice isn’t enough to prevent unpleasant work dreams from plaguing you at night-time, you can also try prompting your own dreams.
What this means is that, by actively thinking about something besides work, you can shift your subconscious away from the stress it brings and shape the contents of your dreams.
Dr Daly explains that you can do this by going over a happy memory or visualising a pleasant image in your mind.
Looking at photographs and reading books are other ways you can pull your mind away from your working from home anxieties and prevent the bad dreams they bring in the process.
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