Leadership / 05.19.20
Self-Care for Everyone at Home
We are all in transition, and it’s important to know that this is a time when self-care usually takes a back seat. Studies are showing that, during the COVID-19 pandemic, as many as 50% of us are feeling some sort of anxiety and depression. So, let’s talk about how to move our self-care from the back seat to the front seat.
Self-Care Working From Home
Working from home can feel isolating. If that isn’t bad enough, studies are finding that when people work from home during times of social isolation, we often work more not less; it’s far too easy to slip into habits like working late into the evening. To maintain balance, set firm quitting times. This is healthy and helpful for you and your family; it also sets clear expectations for your co-workers about when they can (and should not) reach out to you.
Another best practice around managing expectations is to share deadlines for your projects. Because we are not seeing each other every day, it’s easy to lose track of deadlines. If you are working on a project with other people, have a face-to-face Zoom call to talk through details and delivery dates like you would if you were at the office. You don’t want to be stressing out waiting for something that will never come or, worse, have someone waiting for something from you that isn’t on your radar. Connecting visually is also a great way to maintain strong co-worker relationships.
Anyone who knows me won’t be surprised when I suggest decreasing stress by writing out a to-do list of everything that needs to be done. Do this at the end of your day or first thing in the morning — whatever works best for you. A to-do list helps you prioritize what can wait for another day and what needs to be done immediately. You’ll feel much better knowing you are not forgetting anything, and it feels great to check tasks off as they are completed.
Have a Designated Workspace
One of the best things you can do is to have a dedicated space to work, and hopefully it’s also a space that has a door and desk. The door is important to minimize intrusion and distraction from others who may be at home. An office desk is important because it’s almost always going to be far more ergonomic than any dining room table.
Do your best to pack away your work at the end of your day if your dining room table is your only solution. Your brain needs a break, so whether you shut your office door or pack up your laptop, do your best to “turn off” your day. You don’t want to be staring at your computer or be distracted by your laptop blipping and bleeping all night long. I also recommend going for a 20-minute walk at the end of your day as if you are leaving the office.
One last thing: Try not to work in your bedroom — keep this for relaxing and sleeping only.
Stay Connected – Don’t Only Email
For many of us, our colleagues and peers are also our friends and an important part of our social network. When working from home, this human interaction is more important than ever.
I’m a big email fan, but I urge you to not let that be your only source of communication. Make sure you are taking the time to schedule Zoom meetings and speak on the phone throughout the day. And don’t restrict your communication to formal business meetings; have lunchtime check-ins and end-of-day happy hours, and don’t forget to celebrate when someone on your team has a birthday, similar to how you would if you were in the office.
If you are a leader, it’s highly recommended you bring your team together every morning for a group check-in. A 20-minute Zoom meeting helps everyone stay connected, revisit team priorities and be reminded of organizational values.
Your body and brain really do need a break. If you were in the office, you would have a dozen or more small breaks as you went for coffee, walked to meetings and perhaps went out for lunch, not to mention your commute to and from work. This type of variability is good for your brain and your mood. When working from home, try to duplicate these breaks as best you can.
Go for a walk before work and another at the end of the day. Mid-morning you might want to phone a friend (I call my mother) while you are brewing a second pot of coffee. At noon, take 15 minutes after lunch to wander around your backyard or sit on your balcony and relax. The idea is to do get away from work a few times a day and do something that is stress free.
Self-Care When You Are Furloughed
While a few weeks of paid absence might have sounded intriguing for a fleeting moment, being furloughed is often as traumatic as being laid off. Even though you know you are going back, it’s natural to have feelings like frustration, sadness, fear, fatigue and a whole bouquet of other emotions.
Managing your internal voice is important because it can either support your good intentions or compound your stress. A positive inner dialogue will help you trigger your resourcefulness, creativity and identify opportunities. In contrast, negative self-talk can impair your creative problem solving and increase your anxiety. Give yourself time to adjust and to grieve but be careful not to linger there.
Reflect on Your Priorities
While being furloughed may not be the outcome you like, use it as an opportunity to spoil yourself all day and all night. Spend time with your children, read those books you’ve been collecting for years — and include one of your past favorites.
Be open to the positive possibilities. Take some time to proudly list all of your accomplishments. After you do that, update your resume and LinkedIn. These should always be up to date especially if you attend conferences, present at conferences or sit on expert panels, or ever want to.
Definitely consider what you want to learn about yourself and your industry from this experience. What might you want to know when you are called back to work? Take a week to do an in-depth review of what other businesses are doing in response to COVID-19. Look at leaders in your industry locally and from other countries. What are they doing that is innovative?
This is a great time to be learning informally by attending online webinars. You may find a few new ways to diversify your skills in a way you wouldn’t have been able to if you were working.
Don’t underestimate the importance of other people. One great way to deal with negative feelings and anxiety is to talk about it with friends and family; they can be your best support, and you will find you are not alone.
This is a great time to reach out to your network for a virtual coffee or lunch. There is nothing like the support and positive feedback of friends and colleagues familiar with your best work. It may also be a great opportunity to create a new community with folks who were also furloughed and who you will always be able to share this experience.
Set a goal to have at least one networking call every day and two or three in-person video meetings every week.
Time Management Is Still Your Friend
We all know the saying, “An idle mind is the devil’s playground.” Well, let the devil know your playground is closed. Too much time on your hands can surface negative feelings.
Just as you might do if you were in the office, plan your week and then plan your days. Stephen R. Covey always asked his students, “What are your biggest objectives/priorities?” Is it a big project with your family? Perhaps there are a few webinars you want to watch? There is always that room that needs to be cleaned out and painted. And, of course, you always want to make time to get some exercise.
Have something major to do every day and then fill in the rest with other things you enjoy — and a nap.
These are troubling times for everyone, and we have to know that there is no going back to how things used to be. The more we can prepare to work in an environment steeped in change — where change will be the name of the game — the better off we will be.
Until then, take care of yourself, eat well, sleep well and find time to do things every day that lift you up. Accept support from people who care about you and will listen and laugh with you.
And in times of stress, let’s remember a nap may be just what the doctor ordered.
Bruce Mayhew is an executive coach, corporate trainer and conference speaker who has spoken at a number of INTIX Annual Conferences. Mayhew specializes in soft skills like leadership and new leadership development, motivation skills, generational differences, difficult conversations training, change management, time management and email etiquette. Learn more at www.brucemayhewconsulting.com.
You May Also Like
This article was contributed to INTIX. Have a story idea of your own? The Access editorial team is always interested in hearing from INTIX members who have ideas for contributed stories/guest columns. Read through the Access content guidelines for full submission details.
Want news like this delivered to your inbox weekly? Subscribe to the Access Weekly newsletter, your ticket to industry excellence.
Tags: Leadership , COVID-19 , Coronavirus