No commute! Work in your pajamas! Sounds like a cake walk, but burnout can happen in all kinds of conditions, even if you normally work from home, are a stay at home parent or your job has been furloughed. Any time you are burning your candle at both ends you leave yourself vulnerable to ultimately being burned in the middle. Don't let that happen to you!
While having the choice to work from home may sometimes be welcome, being forced to work from home, with no relief, no direct contact with others, no choice is incredibly stressful. You want to do a terrific job, but your resources, your work space, your time alone to think or zone out while commuting, are all gone! Where you used to be able to go out to dinner or grab a drink with friends, you now have Netflix as your primary support system. Are you also a parent? There is a constant distraction and other roles to fulfill like teacher, short order cook, and referee. The housework has doubled because everyone is home, all the time, and food shopping has become a marathon stressful event. What used to be manageable juggling has turned into swimming in a pool of distraction and anxiety with no end in sight.
The antidote to anxiety and stress is to control what you can:
Control is always a breath away. You can always choose to pause and breathe. Just sit. Close your eyes. Watch your breath flow in and out. Slowly deepen each inhale and exhale.
2. Ask for help
If you are responsible for other humans and they are old enough to help, let them. In fact, insist on it. Even a 4 year-old can help dust or gather dirty clothes in a pile. Set up house rules: wash hands, no dirty dishes left in the sink, beds get made, underwear gets changed, everyone helps with dinner…. Whatever is most helpful.
3. Mindset Reset
How you think about stress matters. Stress is stressful – what is there to consider? Your body experiences negative stress and positive excitement exactly the same way. How you interpret incoming stimuli is up to you. People who see stress as a challenge that they can try to overcome instead of something negative that is happening to them are likely to live longer. Even the loss of your job, while a reality you may not want, can be a blessing in disguise. Perhaps it pushes you to try something new, or it allows you to focus on enjoying your children. Even if it is challenging because of the loss of income you can still choose to see it as a challenge you can rise to instead of something thrust upon you for which you have no control. Your choice.
4. Get up before everyone else
Give yourself the gift of quiet in the morning. Use that time to double down on your self-care. Ideas: have a cup of warm tea, coffee, or better yet, water with lemon while you open a window and listen to birdsong. Meditate for 5 minutes. Write in a gratitude journal. Get 20 minutes of exercise. Write down your goals for the day and make a plan. Take a hot shower. Get dressed - it will feel better than pajamas all day.
5. Take regular breaks
If you are sitting all day – don’t forget to get up at least once an hour. Stretch. Grab some water. Every couple of hours take a breathing break. Play a song you love.
6. Leave work
If you can, close your work for the day. It helps to list everything that needs to get done the next day so you can walk away without worrying that you’ll forget something. Make it a ritual to straighten up and shut your computer.
7. Leave time to unwind
Sit and enjoy dinner. Plan an activity with others; with your family if they are with you, or virtually. You can have a virtual happy hour, dinner, or visit. Use the House Party app to gather friends and play some games. Read for pleasure or personal growth. Take this time even if you have to work after the kids go to bed.
8. Get creative
Creativity keeps you happy and engaged. Try some new recipes, craft, play or write music. Learn a new tech skill. Write poetry or a story. Write an article. Journal. Make a play with your kids – spend the week practicing, working on costumes and props – then perform it virtually or tape it and share with family. Fantasize about vacations you’ll take and then have everyone research activities in that area. Make a power point together about anything. Get creative about getting creative!
9. Move your body
Move purposefully. Get outside if possible and safe. There are unlimited resources - just google whatever you enjoy doing and something will pop up! Check your cable tv, YouTube and Facebook. Get an app. Heck, just do some old gym moves like jumping jacks, squats, pushups, jogging in place. Turn up the tunes and get your dance on.
10. Eat healthy
While crunching chips and scarfing ice cream give us a burst of momentary pleasure, eating healthy, nutritious food helps you feel great in the long run. Check out the My Plate and other healthy living information at CDC.gov. Fruits, vegetables and fiber help keep you satisfied, keep your mood stable, and can help you look and feel fantastic. Get creative. Make it colorful. Make it delicious. Use online resources. There are hundreds of Quarantine “how to” cooking videos.
Remember that you have so much more that you can control than you might realize. Start with making a list of your top 3 non-negotiable actions that can help you center and feel more in charge. Ask for the appreciation you need if it’s not forthcoming. Say “NO” when possible. Remain flexible so you can bend with the wind and not break in trying to fight it. Stay well my friends.