While work in your pajamas while sitting on the sofa may seem appealing, the reality is that it is actually quite challenging.
I know. I’ve worked from home for the past three and a half years. It can be difficult to motivate yourself, be productive, and manage your well-being.
The main reason that working from home is hard is that it blurs the line between personal life and work. And if you also have an underlying mental health condition—like depression or anxiety—spending too long isolated at home can impact your well-being.
The unfortunate reality is that due to COVID-19, many people around the world have been instructed to work remotely to try to reduce the spread of the virus. These times are really uncertain. We don’t know how long we’ll be in self-quarantine, and many people fear running out of food (and toilet paper) for their families. Restaurants and schools are closed as states try to reduce crowds.
For those of us who are self-employed or run a small business, social distancing presents a whole other challenge. We might not even have work in a few weeks.
All of these stressors are detrimental to being productive or feeling calm while working from home during the pandemic.
That said, as the Buddhists say, “The only way out is through.” We can get through this. We can achieve some semblance of normality in the most uncertain and stressful times.
Here are our top tips for finding peace while working from home.
- Keep a routine. Get up at the same time for work. Get ready, eat meals at the same time, and go to bed at the usual time. That also means taking a shower and getting out of your pajamas. This will keep your body clock on track and provide a sense of normalcy.
- Create a morning ritual. I like to do some kind of exercise or yoga, read something inspiring, journal, and meditate. I do this before anything else because it calms my nervous system and grounds me before I start working.
- Keep regular hours. Try to stick to your regular working schedule and perform the duties you normally do at work.
- Work in 52-minute increments. Seriously. Set a timer and work for 52 minutes and then take a 10-minute break. You’ll be surprised by how easy it is to keep this up and how productive and focused you are as a result.
- Move during your breaks. If you have a dog, take it for a walk, even if you don’t lace up your shoes and walk only a couple of blocks.
- Practice mindfulness. When I am stressed or feeling out of sorts, I sit for five to ten minutes in front of something I find calming. That could be in my garden, or even in front of my favorite plant. Aloud or to yourself, say five things that you can spot in the room around you. Do not judge or label how you feel—just observe. You’ll find that your breathing will slow down and deepen, and your shoulders will relax. Anytime you feel stressed, return to this practice.
- Plan your meals. Maybe you could pick a new recipe to try. This way you spend a limited and focused time in the grocery store while practicing social distancing, and you can still occupy your time getting creative in the kitchen.
- Hydrate. Keep a glass of water at your desk/workspace. Try to drink at least six glasses of water each day.
- Keep a structure with family. If you have kids who are at home due to school closures, it may be challenging to work, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a routine. I’ve seen lots of people structure their days as follows:
- Household chores
- Playtime outside
- Clean up
- Get ready for bed
- Stay social, but do it remotely. I set regular dates with friends and family to FaceTime or Skype. We can still catch up and share our fears while in the safety of our homes.
- Create work and home spaces. Try to create separate areas for different activities. For example, work in one room, like the kitchen (or home office if you’re lucky enough to have one). Try to sit in a comfortable chair and at a table or desk. Take breaks outside. In the evening, relax in your usual spot. This level of separation should keep you from feeling like you’re stuck in the same place for days on end.
- Set boundaries. If you live with others, be sure to tell them when you are working and ask for them to try to keep the noise level down. Consider wearing headphones.
- Take recovery online. There are many meetings being hosted online right now:
- Unity Recovery has teamed up with the Alano Club and WeConnect to provide free virtual meetings five times daily. These meetings are non-denominational, agnostic to any specific pathway, and open to everyone. Link here.
- In The Rooms hosts online meetings for all recovery groups including AA, SHE RECOVERS, SMART Recovery, NA, MAT Recovery, Recovery Dharma, Gamblers in Recovery, SLAA, and many more. Link here.
- For queer, trans, and questioning sober people, Tracy Murphy is holding online Zoom meetings. These are not recovery meetings, but rather a social support space. Link here.
- Reach out to those struggling. If you’re having a hard time, take a moment to imagine how it is for someone who is immunocompromised or is in a high-risk group. Reach out to your community and see if you can help.
- Get busy. Take the opportunity to organize and spring clean your home! Clean out closets, drawers, cupboards.
- Eat regular and nutritious meals. While it’s tempting to eat whatever we want, our brain needs nutritious food to help us keep focused and energized during stressful times.
- Limit news intake and social media. It can be quite anxiety-inducing to watch the rise in infections and deaths across the world.
- Schedule downtime. Try to unplug from technology completely. Turn off notifications on your phone and computer, and maybe even the TV. Try doing yoga at home, taking a bath, going for a walk, or reading a book.
It can take practice and discipline to try to stick to a working from home routine. Go slowly, but keep at it. It will get easier. After a while, you’ll be grateful for the structure in your day.