In these worrying times many of us are coping with changed lifestyles, having been forced to stay at home during the coronavirus lockdowns. Whether trying to carry on with work as usual or looking after your family – or more typically both – this is our new reality for an indefinite future.
Whatever your situation, the sudden changes to routines and life patterns, and uncertainty about the future, especially over work, money and the safety of our loved ones, can make us feel anxious and stressed.
If at home, perhaps for you the main challenge is to stay sane and calm, keep some order and structure to your life while trying not to overindulge in snacking.
Perhaps your challenge is to organise your space and time so you can work while keeping peace within the family.
More positively perhaps the lockdown is providing you with time to get one of your long-cherished pet projects off the ground.
One of my clients said that the lockdown felt like an “extended Christmas” – first you are excited but than you look forward to it being over and having your usual routine back and some much needed privacy.
Below, I offer some tips that my clients and I have found helpful in coping with the situation we find ourselves in.
If at work you are used to setting yourself high standards and making super-human to-do lists, you are in danger of not even starting.
If you know that routine is helpful but also represents a challenge for you, I suggest setting up a simple, consistent morning routine consisting of 3-4 items. For example:
- Getting up at 7am
- Exercise from 7.15 to 7.45am
- Shower and get dressed from 7.45 to 8.15am
- Breakfast from 8.15 to 8.45am
Aim to keep your morning routine six days a week. You may notice that if you are on top of things in the morning the rest of your day then becomes more manageable and satisfying. Don’t forget to take a break from the routine on Sundays.
Staying fit and healthy
Take a look at the NHS eat well guidelines: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/the-eatwell-guide/
Here is another good summary of a healthy approach to food:
If you like a glass of wine or a cake, try to restrict these treats to once a week and make a point of really enjoying it as a special occasion rather than gobbling it down with a sense of guilt.
Working from home
More likely, the boundaries between work and “life” become blurred as work crawls over our private life. We can feel overwhelmed, stressed and burnt out by work, with no breaks from constant phone calls, emails and online communication.
The opposite difficulty is to stick to it, not get distracted and manage the work we have planned. It’s all too easy to find work-time dwindles, overcome by endless household chores or simply lack of organisation.
I suggest starting by deciding what work/life boundaries you need. The obvious ones are time and space. Can you define when you work and when you don’t? Can you create some work space in your house where the interruptions are less likely?
Another, subtler, but still important boundary relates to your mental preparedness, the boundary between different states of mind. How do we move into the “work state” and disengage from it? There are various transition tactics to try. Try changing into your work clothes, put on your “work face” even wear your work shoes.
The mental transition can be difficult. Make a realistic plan for your working day and prioritise the tasks according to their urgency and importance. Start with those tasks that require more concentration and intellectual input. Keep work emails and communication limited and well defined, desirably leave as much of it as possible to the second half of your working day. Make sure you take at least one substantial break to have your lunch and get out for a brief walk or just a stroll in your own garden.