We’re Living With the “Pilot Light of Stress”

It’s the low-grade anxiety that always seems to be burning.

MarinCa / Shutterstock
MarinCa / Shutterstock

Eric Stine is the Chief Revenue Officer at Qualtrics. Recently, for the first time in his professional life, he became a full-time remote employee because of the coronavirus pandemic. Each week, he’ll share the highs, lows, and learnings of a WFH newbie. You can read all of his diary entries here

Week Seven — Murder Hornets? Seriously?!

So this is a thing now? I’d worry about them, but I can’t even leave the house. Of course, as beaches and parks reopen, this will become a thing to worry about. I hope someone told the damned hornets about social distancing.

I’m so glad I can finally redirect some of that excess stress I was just beginning to let go of to something productive like murder hornets. When someone inevitably tells me that Nostradamus predicted some random date in 2020 for the world to end, I just might believe it for once. I’ll certainly direct some stress toward it.

A co-worker of mine calls the feeling many of us are experiencing right now the “pilot light of stress.” It’s that low-grade anxiety that always seems to be burning.  We’re worried about work, our kids, homeschooling, our parents, coronavirus, poverty, unemployment, the economy, local businesses, whether the taco place we like will survive, how much to tip the Instacart driver (25% at least) and now some sort of nuclear winter wasp on steroids that destroys honeybees and might kill us.

And of course, as a result, next week they’ll be out of honey at Safeway because people will freak out about the honeybees. Just when you were relaxing because you could finally get toilet paper and yeast and the president ordered pork plants to remain open.

We’re also experiencing stress because we’re robbed of ritual. It’s spring, the season of weddings and graduations, but those are canceled or postponed. The stories of people who’ve lost relatives to COVID-19, or anything else, and can’t have a funeral are heartbreaking. 

So far, since we’ve been in quarantine we’ve missed St. Patrick’s Day, my sister’s birthday, my father-in-law’s birthday, April Fool’s Day, Easter, Passover, my dad’s birthday, Earth Day, my sister-in-law’s birthday, May Day, and Cinco de Mayo (though there was no reason not to get drunk on margaritas at home — that’s just giving up.) Celebrating over FaceTime just isn’t the same. It’s too much like all these Zoom happy hours people want to do at work. The celebratory feel wears off after the first one. Then you’re just drinking in front of a computer screen, which — before all this happened — was just your basic Tuesday. 

We also missed March Madness, though I won my office pool. Largely because there’s no one else in my office but me (and occasionally the dog). To be honest, I didn’t miss it. If I did, I would have tried to recapture the feeling it gives me every year by burning a $20 bill.

This weekend, it was Mothers’ Day — one more ritual gone by the wayside. Millions of adult children missed out on watered down mimosas and a pricey prix fixe brunch menu. Gifts from Amazon were a welcome substitute I’m sure — though delivery on non-essentials like gifts is running several weeks out. You could have sent flowers… but they’d probably attract murder hornets.

Working From Home in the New Normal is a data-driven storytelling initiative from SAP and Thrive Global, bringing together insights powered by the Qualtrics Remote Work Pulse with actionable Microsteps and stories from Thrive to help you navigate working from home. Visit daily for the latest data and stories to help improve your focus, prioritization, and well-being.

This post has been updated.

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