“This feels a lot like 9/11” is what my mom told me as I called to check in with my parents after, one-by-one, cities in Texas started shutting down and implementing “shelter-in-place” policies. I was still a kid when September 11, 2001 happened, but I was in a foreign country, and the uncertainty we felt then, is eerily familiar now as the term “working from home” has a new meaning. As we as a world learn what it means to really quarantine ourselves, we are left navigating uncharted territories and establishing new norms that could last for a week, 3 weeks, or 3 months. The timeframe is unknown as more and more cases are confirmed. How many are unconfirmed?
How can we create some normalcy in the midst of chaos? I am not an expert in any of this, but here are some things that have helped me.
1. Establish a Routine
Before any of this, I had a routine, from when I got out of bed to when I went to bed at night. But once I began “working at home,” it was like all familiarity went out the window and I had lost all motivation to do anything. With the help of a loved one, we got back into our routine. We started getting up together in the mornings and making breakfast and having coffee, so that we could start our day on a positive track. I am the type of person who could sleep all day if I were allowed, so getting back into a rhythm of getting up early really improved my productivity.
Establishing a routine does not just have to be for working at home. Many of us have other roles or responsibilities, but creating some sort of routine will help us feel organized and keep our days from blurring together as we binge-watch entire TV seasons. A routine helps us map out our days a bit better. Our mental health is so critical right now, and routines can create opportunities to check in with ourselves about what we are doing and how we are doing.
2. Create a distraction free zone
Whether you are working at home or trying to motivate your child to complete online learning for school, it is so important to find a space that is as limited in distractions as possible. This may involve several levels of creativity, as many of us have little space to create something elaborate. But when we are at home it is easy to become involved in anything except the work we need to accomplish. I struggled the first week of working from home and had to make time to create a space that was specific to work. At the end of the day I shut off the computer and closed my webcam to spend time with my family.
3. Set goals for yourself or your family
For me, finding motivation is hard. With so much uncertainty, I have found it challenging to stay motivated to be somewhat productive every day. I started by having daily tasks, not only for work but also for taking care of myself and my house. This helps me feel accomplished at the end of my day and less like I wasted an entire day watching another episode of “Law and Order SVU.” Your goal doesn’t have to be anything elaborate, it can be as simple as “Today, I want to make sure my family and I spend 30 minutes sitting outside,” or “Today, I am going to finally wash and fold the laundry that has been stacking up.” For families, you could get really creative and make task wheels or project charts so that everyone can work on something that doesn’t involve being plugged into a device.
4. Take care of yourself
Now more than ever we need to be investing in ourselves and our mental wellness. Brain breaks are imperative. Working from home, many might be finding themselves saying, “I feel like I work more now than I did before.” There is truth to that! If we are not ensuring that we are stopping for periodic breaks and stopping at the end of the workday, the time is gone and we are left feeling overwhelmed, exhausted and drained. Take time to stop and breathe, play with your kids, play with your pet rock, take time to be you. If you are not okay, that is okay. A lot of us are not okay right now.
For more resources on coping with the current pandemic, please visit our COVID-19 Resource Center at cisdallas.org/covid19.