Working from home in the time of pandemic: taking care of your mindset
We need strategies to take care of ourselves and our mindset and especially so during times characterized by rapid change and uncertainty (like now). Here is my personal top ten list (it’s actually a list of 12; I couldn’t stop at 10). These are some of the things I am including in my life right now to stay focused and sane amidst all this family togetherness time. I hope you find it useful.
1. Recognize this time as a transition. We are physically designed to maintain the status quo. Our bodies are wired to preserve a constant and steady state. Because of this, we signify change as error or as danger. Then we have a response to that signaling. That response happens on cognitive, physical, and emotional levels, but we aren’t necessarily aware that this is happening. Instead, we act out in baffling ways (anyone involved in religious wars with your spouse over proper Q-tip organization this week?). Recognizing that you are going through a transition can be helpful. It allows you to accept your biological reality, be compassionate with your experience, and understand that you might in fact be upset about something else (ah! not the Q-tips after all!). Seeing transition for what it is also highlights the need to make a plan to support yourself through this time of change. Keep reading for a set of things you might choose to include in your own plan.
2. Communicate with your team; they’re going through a transition, too (see #1 above). Right now, it is more important than ever to stay in touch. If you are a team leader, recognize that different people on your team are going to have different needs for contact, information, and perhaps even security and they will be looking to you to fill the gaps. Going remote doesn’t mean cancel the staff meetings and skip the 1:1s. Keep them. Consider adding virtual happy hours and slack/chat/IM water cooler options. Get creative. Discuss team norms for your virtual interactions, too (e.g., we will use video; we may show up in our PJs; dogs, children, and food may be flying around in the background, etc.). And if you don’t lead a team, don’t disappear in this. Find ways to stay visible and engaged.
3. Do “walk + talks”. If your work situation permits, I encourage you to hold some of your meetings via phone so that you can use the opportunity to get outside in the fresh air (observing social distancing guidelines, of course!). Granted, not all meetings are conducive to this format, and now more than ever forcing yourself to turn on your video in many of your meetings is key. That said, assess the meetings you do have and decide which ones could work just as well as a “walk + talk”.
4. Be super present in meetings. I shared tips last week about creating better virtual meetings and you can read all about how to do that here.
5. Choose gratitude. Determine that right now, you’re going to choose gratitude for those you share space with. Yes, you probably are 100% right: your entire family is made up of the most annoying people on the entire planet. You could double down in that position, or you could decide to address that later. Which one will cause you more suffering?
6. Communicate with the people you share space with. Talk about how you will structure your days and make any agreements you need to in order to facilitate that structure (e.g., Hey Honey: every second that you can’t see me, guess what? I am in the basement on video calls; so…this means when I suddenly emerge from the basement, I really, really need to pee and I would also like to get the ringing sound out of my ears before I can be human again; can we agree that you will wait 10 minutes before throwing our child at me?).
7. Connect. For everyone you skip hugging or shaking hands with, reach out to connect virtually with someone you care about. We are, nearly all of us, engaged in social distancing right now. Yet, we are social beings in need of regular social connection. We can keep our physical distance but need not keep our social distance. And we are discovering connection in new ways. Many of us have found our way back to each other via virtual happy hours, virtual dinner gatherings, Netflix parties, and even virtual workouts. Try on some new ways of socializing! (For fun, here’s a list of 32 ways people are using Zoom besides work!)
8. Celebrate beauty. In big ways or small, look for opportunities to create beauty around you and to celebrate life. What works for you will be a matter of personal preference and taste, but here are a few ideas: take time to notice the signs of Springtime outside your window (if you are in the Northern hemisphere); open all of the windows on a sunny day; start a photo-a-day diary; organize your pantry; surround yourself with transporting scents. If you need more inspiration, check out Ross Gay’s Book of Delights.
9. Put yourself on a media diet. What amount of news do you need to stay informed but not throw yourself into trauma? Whatever amount that is, just make sure it isn’t a constant stream of the negative stuff. It isn’t good for you. (Studies show even media-based exposure to collective trauma can have long-term impact on physical and psychological health.)
10. Choose your inputs wisely. Related to tip #9, be choosy. Your brain is like its own separate mini-me you carry around with you all day. What you put in it comes out later post-digestion in some unrecognizable form. So be picky and intentional about what you feed it. I’m sharing a few voices I find uplifting right now here; I’d love to hear yours, too! Please email and let me know.
- Philosophical: Krista Tippet ‘s On Being podcast.
- Mindfulness: Meditation apps. I use Insight Timer but there are so many out there. As for form of practice, right now, a basic tonglen practice is soothing.
- Civic responsibility: Citizen University and here’s Eric Liu’s speech from a recent Saturday.
- Travel: Conde Nast Traveler
- Arts! Art classes!
- Innovation: Watching various local and small businesses respond in ingenuous ways. This is exciting stuff.
11. Reflect on
behalf of the future. Give some thought to what is here for you and
your loved ones in this moment. Is there anything to learn and carry forward into
the future? Maybe, maybe not, you get to decide, but this is definitely a
question I am sitting with.
12. Do something good. This one is very personal and it has to feel right for you; in case you are looking for some inspiration, here’s a good list of ways to help; here’s another good list with a Seattle focus; and here’s ways to be a virtual volunteer. Doing good is good and it feels good, too!
Of course, there are more ways to move through this time but I promised to keep the list short. I hope you find these tips helpful. I’d love to hear from you about what you are doing in your own life to stay sane while working from home.