Updated: Dec 28, 2020
Feeling as well as you can during Covid, and other difficult and disruptive times.
(FYI I don't know how to change the default photo accompanying this post)
As of November, more than 85% of New York City’s white collar work force was still working at home, and had been for over 6 months. Although this change was initially largely welcomed by most people – happy to get back time and money spent commuting, and excited at the prospect of not getting dressed up for work – it quickly wore thin. Starved of the companionship that was taken for granted before the pandemic, workers found themselves pining for the lost interpersonal contact. My clients speak longingly of the work exchanges and post-work happy hours they shared with colleagues, and of missing passing another person in the hallway on the way to the pantry. WFH loungewear, at first liberating, became depressing for many people, who came to miss getting dressed and being seen in professional work attire.
Dislocated, isolated, and with their schedules thrown into a state of pandemonium, it’s not surprising that so many people are struggling with depression and anxiety right now.
It’s of crucial importance to remain focused on the building blocks of your wellbeing right now.
Consider it in this way – when you are looking at homes or apartments online, the information you see in the real estate posting are flattering photographs of built out interiors and manicured gardens. The foundation – rarely discussed – is nonetheless of critical importance to the soundness of the structure. If the beautiful house is built on a poor foundation, you are bound to have serious challenges when bad weather arrives.
You are like a house. You need to have a solid foundation, especially now that we have terrible weather (metaphorically). This solid foundation isn’t something that will likely be seen in social media updates, or the subject of conversation with friends and colleagues. It is largely invisible, and completely crucial.
ESTABLISH ROUTINES. This is critical. Important elements of your routine are:
· Maintaining a regular sleep schedule. For many people having difficulty achieving this, it is helpful to mindfully safeguard your sleeping place and sleep time. This includes not working in bed, establishing a regular bed time, and not drifting into endless internet wormholes right before bed time (especially not looking at upsetting material online).
· Eating regularly. This means at roughly the same time every day, and being careful to eat balanced meals. Some people take comfort in cooking – consider if you prefer to prepare your own meals.
· Exercising regularly. This is a challenge, with many exercise venues being unavailable. If your regular workout routine is disrupted, other options include online services, including online personal training (if within budget and of interest). It’s also important to FORGIVE YOURSELF if you fall out of this routine. Many people, especially now, get so upset with themselves for not working out for a day or two, that they find attempting to resume disheartening and reminiscent of failure. It is not failure. Give yourself room for flexibility.
· Getting out of your home regularly. Even if it’s just to go for a walk. If crowds make you nervous right now, early morning walks are peaceful alternatives. If there is a coffee place in your area that you like that is open early, you can get yourself a treat and turn this into a pleasant routine.
o Regional trips – if you have a safe means of transportation, consider going on trips within the state or neighboring states for a change of scenery.
· Changing your clothing, and wearing something nice. Working from home can get quite cozy, and that coziness can take on a life of its own. And backfire…once you’ve been living in your pajamas for a week and feel kind of grimy. And depressed. Changing your clothes, ideally into normal work clothes, will likely help you feel better. You can avoid “dry clean only” clothes to avoid unnecessary expenses and errands.
· Hygiene! The work from home time blur – several days can go by, and you realize you haven’t taken a proper shower or washed your hair. It happens to a lot of people these days. You will feel better if you take a nice hot shower. And for those of you that have skin care routines – make sure to stick with them. The experience is very humanizing.
· Know when to start and stop working. A personal challenge of mine – and many other people. Working From Home morphs into Living At Work. Your work laptop is right there, your work phone is right there, the phone is ringing at 9pm, and if you answer it now you can get the issue taken care of at once…that’s a slippery slope. Most of your home begins to feel like an office, and you therefore never physically leave work. There’s no psychological breather – no way to unplug, unwind, and refresh. At times it may feel exhilarating, but it can become exhausting, embittering, and unboundaried. Create a work schedule, and only vary from it for true emergencies (if your work permits that latitude).
· Is it time to get a pet? Maybe, but make sure to plan ahead for its needs once Covid is over! Pets provide comfort, company, and routine. Whatever companion animal you are considering, please make sure that you will be able to continue to care for and pay necessary attention to the pet AFTER Covid is over. These days won’t last forever, and your pet doesn’t deserve the heartbreak of rejection and the trauma of being sent to a shelter once you’ve returned to the office. Only get a pet that you are confident you would have been able to care for BEFORE you worked from home. If you generally worked late and will be going back to that schedule, a dog may not be a good choice for you, unless there is another caretaker available to walk the dog and visit it while you are working. Having said that, there are plenty of hired professionals who can fill this need for you.
· Time with loved ones. This can be hard for high achievers, who are working non-stop. It’s incredibly important that you spend time talking to people who know you and care about you. Right now, for most people the best way to do this is by SCHEDULING that time. Before you would schedule time to see people, right? Same thing now, even though you’re scheduling zoom meetings and phone calls more so than in-person dinners and concerts.
· Time engaged in other activities. Crafts? Sports? Many of our regularly enjoyed activities aren’t available to us RIGHT NOW, but rather than totally holding our breath until they return, this is a good time try out new things. Meetup.com is a great place to find activities (some virtual, some in-person) in your area that might be of interest to you.
· Check in with yourself. Once or twice a week, take a moment to reflect on how you’re doing. Questions that might be helpful to ask yourself include “How do I feel?”, “Am I taking care of myself?” and “What do I want to do – that I can do – that I am not doing?”