How to Manage Your Career Stress During Covid-19

business career cv Mar 23, 2020




These are words that are part of the Careers Landscape. Organisations have an onus to look after your wellbeing and to help you be resilient and deal with stress.

But how seriously they take it is a matter of conjecture when so many people are taking time off due to stress and anxiety.

Right now, this is a particular issue with some people working very different patterns to normal and some being laid off completely as their industry shuts down.

I’ve set up The Career Café to provide up-to-date advice and support for your career as we move through this event and to make sure you’re in the best position to thrive beyond it.

There are three things in this world:

  1. Things we can do something about
  2. Things we can influence
  3. Things we have no control over

A global Pandemic such as we are experiencing now definitely falls into category 3:

You may have some influence over how you work, but very little influence on the virus or it’s spread.  

Likewise, you most likely can’t control what your company does or doesn’t do in response, so that also falls into categories 2 and 3.

Most of us are already seriously affected in some way or another by things that are in those last two categories.

What we need is some category 1 stuff to help us to feel we have some control over our lives. Luckily we have that. We absolutely do have 100% control over how we respond:

What we choose to feel and do next.

There are many uncertainties in this situation and the outlook may look bleak for the short term. But remember, as we come out the other side of this pandemic, industries will re-start – I can’t imagine people not wanting to go on holiday, for example.

There may be differences.

In fact it might be nice if there are differences:

Perhaps a greater emphasis on collaborative working and systemic win rather than the greed based economy we currently have.

But I digress.

What I want to share with you here are some strategies that will help you keep calm and positive in the current situation.

This in turn will help you to position yourself best to thrive as we move forward and create a good future for yourself.

These strategies have worked for me personally and for many of my clients.

Have a play with them and see which work best for you.

By-the-way, these will be useful to you for ever, not just right now.

Strategy One: In The Moment

This is really powerful. I suggest that you take at least a minute for this, but it’s something that you can do in 10 seconds to change your state.

The purpose is to get right into the present moment, especially to get your mind into this moment.

  • Stop what you’re doing and sit still. It helps to be somewhere quiet when you first practice.
  • First, notice what you can see. Not just the objects, but the shapes and shades, the way the light falls on things. Notice what’s actually there that you can see. If your mind drifts off onto something else, just gently bring it back to the here and now.
  • Now switch and notice what you can hear. Don’t judge or interpret, just notice. Distant sounds. Sounds in the room. The sound of your own breath.
  • Now notice what you can feel. Your feet in your shoes. Your back against the chair. A slight breeze on your skin maybe.

When you really get in the moment you may well find yourself just smiling. Everything in that moment is perfect.

You can play with this one.

  • Try to notice all three sensations at once, for example.
  • Or notice what you can taste and smell.
  • Try taking 5 minutes every day just to be in the moment. Notice how it changes your experience of the rest of the day and how calm you feel generally.

Strategy Two: Deep Breathing

In this calming strategy, you focus on your breath as a way of slowing your physiology down, which in turn reduces the mental chatter that makes you anxious and stressed. 

Again, when you’re starting, it’s useful to find somewhere quiet. Once you’re practiced though, you can use this or any of the other strategies even in the middle of a busy office or on a crowded train.

This particular one is one that many of my clients find useful to create a state of calm whilst they are waiting to be called into an interview.

  • Take a deep breath in. Do it slowly. Notice the feeling of the air entering your body
  • Hold your breath for a few seconds
  • Now gently let it out - notice the feeling of the air leaving your body
  • Repeat

This is a gentle exercise. Some people find it useful to count, perhaps to 8 as they breathe in, hold for a count of 4 or 5, and then count 8 again for the out-breath.

Doing this, even for a minute can really calm you down. If you’re going to do this for a longer period, start with three deep breaths as described above, then let your breathing return to its natural rhythm and depth and just focus on the feeling of the air entering and leaving your body.

Strategy Three: A Different Perspective

When you’re in the middle of feeling stressed or overwhelmed, its sometimes difficult to imagine that there’s a way out.

Taking a different perspective really helps for a lot of people. Here are four ways to do that:

Imagine you’re 80 or 90 years old and sitting in your rocking chair on the veranda.

Life is good. Looking back at this time now, what advice would you give to your younger self? What would you say to help them feel calmer and put things into perspective?

  • You might also ask yourself, “in 6 months" time as I look back at today, how important is this thing in the big scheme of things?”
  • Many people find the phrase “this will pass” really useful to remind themselves that there are good times ahead and whatever the current situation, it will soon be in their past and times will be better.
  • Another way of getting perspective is to imagine yourself floating up above everything, higher and higher until you’re floating high up in the sky above the world. Looking down from that distance really does put things into perspective. If you want to take this one further, check out for Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot video on YouTube. 

Strategy 4: Choose a different mindset

Sometimes it can really be as easy as this. After all, you are in charge of your mind and what you think.

Ask yourself, how else could I look at this situation? How could I make it fun, or relaxing, or enjoyable, or rewarding? Could I just choose not to feel anxious or stressed? Choose to feel calm.

Strategy Five: Smile and Change Your Posture

Yes, this really can make a difference.

What do you notice about people who are sitting at their desks who are stressed?

They tend to have a closed posture. Leant over. Head in hands. Screwed up face. Notice when that’s you.

When it is, sit up straight, put your shoulders back and smile. Just changing your physiology like this can instantly change how you feel. In this current situation this can be very powerful.

Strategy Six: Take a Hike

Why not take strategy five a bit further?

Get up, take a walk down the corridor or around the office. Even better go outside and take a brisk walk round the block. It doesn’t have to take long, but it will make a difference.

If you’re stuck at home, walk around your flat or house. Or stand just outside the door and be outside.

Strategy Seven: Take a Lunch Break

If you’re one of the many thousands of people who sit at their desk and work through their lunch, STOP!

Don’t tell me you can’t or you’ve got too much to do. It may seem like that, but by taking at least half an hour (try to make it ¾ or even a whole hour), you can transform your stress levels in a really good way.

This is super important if you’re working from home as the break will have a hugely positive effect on your wellbeing.

Get away from your desk. If you can, get out of the work environment. You could go for a walk, or read, or play sport, or just sit in the sun. Just do something that you enjoy that’s different to work.

If your work has one of those cultures where people tend not to take lunch, dare to be different.

Make it clear to your colleagues that you intend to take a break. It can be as simple as saying “I am taking a break now for lunch. I’ll be back in 45 minutes”.

Time to take action

So, there are your Seven Steps to a Calmer Career.

Have a play with them.

Find the ones that work best for you.

Then make a habit of noticing how you feel.  I find that when you make a habit of this, you start to notice the tell-tale signs that you’re getting stressed earlier and earlier. Then you can employ your strategies sooner and start to create a much calmer and more enjoyable working life. 

Do you have any other favourite strategies?

Share them on my Facebook page Dave Cordle Career Coaching

or even better, bring them into The Career Café 

Stay calm! Be happy!


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