With so much uncertainty these days, life is just, well, different. The number of emotional waves I’ve been through during our days of working from home has been a complete rollercoaster. I think in the beginning there was a little excitement about having some “snow days”, and not having to worry about the hustle and bustle of getting into an office, but about a month in, it hit me.
Like many others, especially those accustomed to a role where seeing and speaking with people is everything, it became challenging. Seeing people over Zoom wasn’t as exciting, staring out the window but not actually getting a chance to feel the weather was weird, and I secretly missed the excitement of seeing if I left with enough time to make the 7:19am train.
I also have a 4 year old daughter, and we are now home every day together. I will say, I am incredibly fortunate to have a situation where we could keep our nanny on full time, and know that there are many families out there that in addition to so many other challenges, are now also becoming full time caregivers. Don’t get me wrong, the extra time I’d gained with her having breakfast, dinner, and once in a while a lunch break has been wonderful, but the change in routines wasn’t easy. Now our nanny who once was the 9-5 boss became second choice to mom, and some boundaries had to be created to maintain some sanity for everyone. Luckily it was as simple as creating a rule that when the door is closed I’m in a meeting, and when the door is open you’re welcome to come in for a kiss and a hug.
Life and work lines became a blur. Because I wasn’t leaving the house, I found myself just popping the computer open as soon as I sat down with my coffee. 6am quickly became 11am, and next thing I knew I hadn’t even showered yet nevermind accomplish anything else but work. The same thing was happening at the end of the day. There’s still work to be done, and hey I’m making up time by not commuting so there was almost an internal pressure to just keep it going.
I hit my breaking point when I realized the neglect I was providing to both myself and my family. Heading to the gym during a lunch break didn’t seem like a huge deal, but doing that from home made me feel like then people would think I’m not actually working. The amount of fear I experienced and pressure I put on myself was actually pretty intense. But – it did ultimately provide some much needed clarity.
Not every day is the same, but there are things I need for me in order to be my best.
- Exercise. Getting in some form of exercise every single day is crucial for me to perform at my highest. When I feel better about myself, I’m happier. And when I’m happier, I’m more effective. The majority of my days I get up before my daughter does and hit the (home) gym. I’m a fan of lifting, but it doesn’t matter what you enjoy, just do it. If something throws my morning off for some reason, I’ll do something else like get out for a walk during lunch. Which brings me to number 2.
- Fresh Air. The benefits of some fresh air and vitamin D are unbelievable. If I work out in the morning, I’ll still try and get outside one way or another. Take advantage of an “outdoor office” for an hour and have your meeting outside. Maybe the glare is a pain, or the wifi is spotty, but find a meeting that makes sense and get out there! I also make an effort to grab the mail when it comes. Take a quick break and walk to the mailbox; I swear it helps and maybe you’ll see a real human out there to interact with while you’re at it. Getting out at the end of the day is almost always a priority. It’s a fun time for me to get out with my dogs and daughter and enjoy a little outdoors before the sun goes down.
- Eat well. I felt like meal planning was essential when I was on the go to avoid the stops for a sub, or a caramel macchiato, but being home is worse! The ability to just head on over to the fridge or pantry at any point has become a much harder habit to resist. Even though I’m home, I’ve continued to meal plan so that it’s thoughtless when it comes to lunch time. I even prepare a few snacks (Monster Trail Mix, my fave!) to keep me from the raiding.
- Set time limits. This is one I’m still a little more lax with, because I do enjoy the flexibility. BUT, when I’m on I’m on and when I’m off I’m off. So when it’s craft time, or time to ride bikes, or just play in the yard, it’s electronics off. I think it’s so important to have that undivided attention, and not have my daughter thinking she has to fight my phone or laptop to get it.
It’s important to recognize that everyone is facing their own struggles and challenges in their own ways. I absolutely try to remain as upbeat and positive as possible, but every day seems to bring something new. Setting some sort of routine to keep you balanced will be essential to maintaining your mental wellness. One thing I recommend if you’re having a hard time working in time for yourself, is putting it on your calendar. Block off time for lunch, or carve out time to walk around the block. Whatever it is that makes you feel the best and perform at your highest should be your priority.