We all know by now that we have to stay inside, to stay safe, in order to protect ourselves and others (especially older people). Though we know this is important (even essential) so that we can stop the spread of the SARS-CoV-2, it may still take a toll on our physical and mental well-being.
Let’s take a look at some coping mechanisms that we can use so that we stay sane throughout this pandemic.
While working remotely is still work, if you are not used to it, you might feel like days are conflating and you do not actually accomplish much. It is really important you still maintain some kind of routine (you can invent a new routine tailored to this specific situation) so that the overall situation has little effect on you and your work.
Here are 9 steps you can include in your daily schedule that will help you establish a routine:
Wake up at least 30 minutes prior to “going to work”
Even though it might only take you a minute to go from bed to your laptop, do not wake up at 8:59 am if you usually start working at 9:00 am; you need time to actually wake up, have some coffee/tea, eat breakfast and scroll through social media;
Refrain yourself from doing any work-related activities in your spare time
Do not check Slack/Gmail or any other tools that are work-related before or after work hours; if you did not start working yet or already finished working for the day, make an active effort and stay away from work-related tools; you can also hide your laptop or put it somewhere where you can’t see it, to get out of that mental zone;
Take a shower, make your bed, open the windows
•It is really easy to stop doing these small things, especially when you know you won’t leave your house and you have no meetings scheduled for the day.
•Still, don’t underestimate the power of the small things. Take a shower, change into office clothes, do your make-up, and even make your bed/open the windows.
•Small steps for your scenery, a giant leap for your productivity. Even if it means tricking your brain, the work environment is what will ultimately optimize your performance.
Don’t work from your bed/bedroom
If possible, try and find another place in your house to work from; it can be your living room or your kitchen, but try to avoid at all costs working from your bed/bedroom for it can cause a merge between working and relaxing hours (you might even feel like you never stop working/you never actually do any work);
Listen to some music
While at work there is a constant buzzing around you, at home things might get a little too quiet at times; listen to some music, turn on the TV, forge some noise so that isolation is not deafening;
Don’t do chores while working
You can easily start doing house chores while taking a break from work, but it can get disruptive and actually shift your focus, not to mention you’ll get tired faster by switching from one task to another; do house chores in the morning, before work, or in the afternoon, after you hide your laptop;
Lunchtime is lunchtime, no matter what
Don’t eat while working, don’t even check Slack or any other platforms while eating; turn off your laptop, prepare your meal and eat without any distractions, or with distractions, you enjoy (like Youtube, Netflix);
Every now and then, make sure you take a break and actually get up, move your body, start dancing, singing, call a friend, a parent; again, do not check slack or any other work-related platforms while on a break;
TIP: if you want to take it a step further, add an hourly event in your calendar, so that you get a notification every time it’s time to give yourself a well-deserved break.
Have more to-do lists
If you used to have to-do lists before this pandemic, it might be a good idea to actually write down even the smallest tasks, that might seem unimportant; it is really easy to feel unproductive when you stay in the same environment for work-relax-sleep activities; writing down everything you have to do and then checking them as you go may actually take you out of that mental state of “not actually doing anything”; you stay in the same environment for work-relax-sleep activities; writing down everything you have to do and then checking them as you go may actually take you out of that mental state of “not actually doing anything”;
TIP: take 5–10 minutes at the end of every day to acknowledge how productive you were and give yourself a “pat on the back”.
Go out for walks
While we are isolated, we can still go out for short walks (5–10 minutes around the block) so that we stay sane; make sure you don’t get close to anyone on the street and try and look for more secluded nearby areas;
Video calls or at least voice messages
Text messages are good, phone calls and voice messages are better and video calls are ideal (given the situation); whatever your go-to means of communication is, always try to take it a step further and have human contact;
Stop watching the news if you feel anxious
Limit the news intake, especially if you know they can trigger anxiety; unfollow people/pages or turn down the TV/change the channel if you feel like being surrounded by new information every few hours is triggering;
TIP: you can try and bundle the news intake into 2 periods of time throughout the day: before starting to work and after you finished the work for the day, read news and acquire new information from credible sources.
While limiting your news intake is necessary, staying informed so that you know what is happening and prevent your brain from making assumptions based on fear/worrying is also important;
Take up new hobbies
A new hobby does not mean you start being a marathonist or an opera singer; it can be as little as reading 10 pages/day or listening to a new and interesting podcast while cooking/doing house chores;Social isolation doesn’t have to stop you from enjoying all your favorite activities or from discovering new interests you’ve never even given a thought before.
Reach out to your friends
While we are all trying our best while working from home, cooking and cleaning, it is paramount to stay in touch with our friends; a 10-minute video-call/phone call will do no harm, and it will actually make you and your friends feel connected even when afar;
TIP: try and talk about other things as well, do not make the call about Covid-19 altogether, there are other interesting things you can talk about and it will help shift your perspective.
Reach out to your vulnerable relatives
Though your friends might be used to video calls or phone calls from you, your older, more vulnerable relatives may not reach out to you; call a relative to just check up on them, ask them how are they doing, try not to be alarmist and talk about other things as well;
TIP: if they are not aware or do not want to stay isolated, do not feel too responsible in educating them; try and explain the situation, while being rational but empathetic, and refrain from being aggressive or manipulating.
Do some exercise
If you’ve never exercised before, maybe it’s not the best time to start with a 3 hour CrossFit training, for it can actually cause more harm than good (frustration can build up); still, try and find some easy exercises (maybe some cardio/yoga) that are pleasant and keep you active;
•This is a difficult time for most of us; it is only natural to feel scared, worried, sad, angry, mostly because you feel like you are losing control; these are all-natural emotions, make no attempts in trying to control them, unless you have a video-call with a client (bursting into tears or yelling in a call/meeting is a faux pas);
•When talking to your friends/colleagues/family, let yourself be vulnerable to the extent of accepting that you are human and therefore, feel; feel your feelings but also try and stay rational regarding this pandemic, anxiety also comes from having a very rigid mentality;
If you feel like you are “losing it”, seek help (there are a lot of therapists that do therapy sessions online), build a support system (a friend, a group of friends, a family member you can talk to when you feel like spiraling and they know how to keep you grounded) and look at some free apps that can help you relax;
BONUS (APPLE) — APPLE technique (for anxiety, fear, and worrying)
Acknowledge: notice and acknowledge the worrying and anxiety-produced thoughts as they come to mind;
Pause: do not react to the thoughts; pause, take some deep breaths (10–15 seconds);
Pull back: don’t take for granted every thought you have, make sure you know that sometimes worry talks without being right; thoughts are not facts;
Let go: imagine the thought as a bubble and watch it go away; don’t respond to it, don’t interact with it, just watch it float away from you;
Explore: stay in the present moment (BONUS 2 teaches you how to do that); explore and notice your breathing and your body, it helps shift the attention;
BONUS 2 (10 5 5) — ACT Technique
The 10 5 5 Grounding Method — this method is used for when someone feels like spiraling and/or a panic attack is about to happen. It is just a relaxing process, so if you feel like this does not help you, seek specialized help as well.
TIP: remember that panic attacks cause no harm and it is our body and mind’s way of trying to protect us.
10 — breathe in for 10 seconds and breathe out for another 10 seconds;
5 — notice and name 5 things you hear right now;
5 — notice and name 5 things you see right now around you;
Working from home and dealing with the Coronavirus pandemic can be overwhelming, but don’t forget to give yourself time, take a deep breath when life gets complicated (search on Google for breathing exercises and start from there) and remember that you are not alone.
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