FINDING YOUR CORONA QUARANTINE GROOVE: Recalibrating for the new normal
by Jenny Gomez
We all find ourselves suddenly having to adjust to a drastically new normal…one that we had never ever anticipated or imagined before, because it’s like nothing we’ve ever seen in our lifetime. COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc across our nation and the global community, but what kind of chaos is it also causing in our homes, our families, our work and our own mental health? There is much of this situation that is beyond our control, but it’s crucial that we find the pieces that are and be intentional about doing the best we can with those. Here are a few things to consider and tips to try:
Let’s be real. Most of us struggle with finding a healthy work-life balance.
I know I do, 100%. It was hard enough before COVID-19. Now we have gone from working 9-5-ish in an office Monday through Friday-ish to now working from home. There was a structure, boundaries, a time frame (kind of), etc. Now what?! Maybe you are lucky to have your own home office with doors. Or maybe the guest room or kitchen table is your new designated workspace. Regardless, you now have to figure out the most effective way to be productive from home.
Set a reasonable schedule for yourself.
Practice having a healthy and productive balance between work time and breaks. Work time will be much more efficient if you aren’t trying to juggle housework at the same time. To avoid distractions as much as possible, schedule your tasks at times you usually would. For instance, schedule housework after 5 p.m.
Try to start your day like you normally would.
Wake up at a normal time. Then, have your normal morning routine, before starting into work mode. Have your coffee. Eat breakfast. Exercise. Take a shower. Get dressed … in something comfier than business casual, but still Zoom conference call appropriate (on the top, at least). If you don’t do these things before you get into “work mode,” they might not happen that day.
Try to take breaks in a different room from your primary work spot.
Even better, go outside. Keep an eye on the time for breaks, as they tend to be a little looser when at home and time can pass by quickly.
Try to connect with colleagues visually.
For example, Facetime or Zoom, not just on the phone or via email. Seeing people’s faces doesn’t seem so important until you aren’t easily able to. This is a very helpful way to feel more connected and communicate more effectively. Our work friends often become like family and it is hard to be away from them.
Create a comfortable and efficient workspace.
This is likely going to be a little less temporary than we all had originally anticipated. So, create a space that you can work in. For example, I was originally at the kitchen table, as my husband’s stuff is already in the home office. I quickly learned that with all of us home, the kitchen table could not be my desk. So, I took over the guest room, bought an affordable desk, and set up shop.
Know when to shut it off and be present with your family.
Absent an emergency or deadline, do your best to find a good stopping place at a reasonable time. Close your computer, and walk away. This is a stressful time for all members of your family. Making time to connect and having fun with each other is especially important right now.
Nurture your marriage in creative and intentional ways.
When one or both partners begin to work from home, a major dynamic shift takes place in the relationship. We are spending WAAAAAAY more together time than typical of most couples. As much as we love each other, adjusting to that can be a challenge.
Communication is huge, and it needs to start immediately. Discuss roles and expectations with your spouse. Identify opportunities for romance, intimacy, and connection (which is so important). Be specific. Key areas you should talk through now that you’re both home might include:
- Workspace and time boundaries;
- Juggling kiddo responsibilities (because oh yeah, they’re home too);
- Who’s going to let the dog out and when;
- Household duties;
- When each of you can have some alone time to go workout; and
- all of the other important things that need to be re-calibrated
Having a strong partnership is helpful to get through this unusual time successfully. But it requires some work and a lot of patience and communication.
Be patient with your spouse and show them grace. With everything going on, you and your spouse are likely experiencing heightened anxiety. Look for ways to be kind. Listen when they want to talk or process feelings. Find ways to make their world a little easier.
We all process feelings differently. Given the magnitude of what is happening, you may see a level of fear in your spouse that you’ve never seen before. The best thing to do when a loved one is struggling is to listen and listen fully. Don’t try to fix it, unless they ask you to. Validate their feelings and then nurture them. Even leaving a sweet note for them to find when they first open up their laptop, can mean a lot and set the tone for a great day.
Kids are not little adults.
Children are in a different developmental and cognitive place than us. They experience, process, and express things differently. Some may cope better than expected. Others may have fears and worries for their family, communities, and society. As children come to grips with how their world has changed in an instant, they are likely to be “off”. Meaning, they may be moody, grouchy, whiney, weepy, hyper, or lazy. They may straight up obnoxious and on your last nerve just as you’re trying to take care of some work. Children may not fully understand the degree of what is happening globally. Yet, they do understand that everything in their world is suddenly different. And that change can be scary.
Look for ways to create consistency and structure in their world. Children can’t feel safe, unless their world is, for the most part, predictable. I realize how ridiculous that sounds, given current circumstances, but regardless, do your best. Create a schedule, routine, and boundaries and try to stick to it. Something visual will be most effective. Try a daily checklist and schedule that can be hung on the fridge. Be open to modification, as this process unfolds, but communicate about it with your kids and they’ll likely understand and move through any changes smoothly.
Congratulations, you’re now a homeschool teacher! Kids are adjusting to online learning, which is a whole other frustration (for kids AND parents). It can be a flashpoint for anger.
It’s important for parents to communicate and help children understand their expectations. Explain the importance of your “work time” and their school time. Help them understand what they need to do when they have a question, are hungry, or need your help during “work time”. Give them concrete ways to understand. Be much more specific than, “don’t bother me when I’m working.” For example, try “if I’m on a call, please do not interrupt me unless there is vomit, blood, or fire involved.”
As a parent, being proactive. will go light years in helping with the constant interruptions. For instance, before you jump on a call, go check on them. Make sure they have what they need. Give them a hug. Praise their efforts and hard work. Then, give them a rough estimate of how long you’ll be on an important call.
Your mental health (sanity)
This. Is. Stressful.
It just is. Anxiety typically stems from a perceived lack of control. I think it’s safe to say that most of us feel like much, if not all of what is happening, is beyond our control. And it’s scary and overwhelming. Look for ways to focus your attention on things that are within your control. Distance yourself, emotionally, from the rest. Worrying about the current situation won’t change an ounce of it. Focus on what you and your family can do to stay healthy, productive, and successful. It can have a lasting impact, once life starts to feel more normal again.
“Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
This is the time to lean into relationships and support systems. We are all struggling in varying degrees with these current circumstances. While there are no quick solutions, it feels good to talk with others and support one another. During this time, make sure you find ways to prioritize self-care. So much of this situation is draining, and self-care will help you replenish.
If you begin to feel like your feelings are unmanageable or that you are starting to feel more overwhelmed than not, then please seek professional support. Most clinicians have all transitioned to virtual sessions or teletherapy during this time. So, there are no concerns with accessibility. Ask a trusted friend, colleague, or physician for a referral.
Social distancing for the long-term is not easy.
Humans are social creatures. As such, we typically interact with others and are in different places throughout our day. Social distancing and ‘shelter in place’ orders are not super conducive to our need for community. So, it’s important to fill that need in different ways. For example, find creative ways to touch base with others. Then, connect with our peers, friends, families, faith communities and neighbors. Thankfully, technology can be very helpful, but also be creative about other options. Don’t solely rely on a screen to connect. We will be on screens for much of our days. We must find other, non-technological ways to stay connected to others, as well.
I’ve seen neighbors coloring messages with chalk on sidewalks for each other, happy hours where everyone is sitting on their own front sidewalk, and even a workout, where the leader had a blow horn and was hollering out exercises to all of the neighbors in their own respective yards. I’m sure we all saw the amazing videos coming out of Italy. Neighbors would sing together from their balconies at a given time each evening.
Practice good self-care.
It’s more important than ever, so that you can not only survive, but thrive during this chaos. When I work with kids, I explain self-care by listing the 5 parts of people to nurture daily:
Mind: Daily mental stimulation is vital. Work or school does it for a lot of us. But sometimes we need other things as well like puzzles, games (like chess), or reading.
Body: I can see how many people could easily fall into neglecting physical care during this time. I’ve seen many people share how they are stress eating, neglecting exercise routines, drinking too much, slacking on personal hygiene, and/or having wacky sleep patterns. Be intentional about taking care of your body and staying healthy. It’s important to continue to exercise (for physical AND mental health), eat a well-balanced diet, take your vitamins, drink lots of water, and get plenty of sleep.
Feelings: The best thing to do is to make sure you are letting your feelings out. They are all okay. It’s okay to be scared, mad, worried, frustrated, impatient, annoyed, and on and on. We are not defined by our feelings, but by what we do with them. Find healthy, constructive coping strategies that work for you, so that you can process and express your feelings most efficiently. Coping skills are individualized and you have to find what works for you. Some ideas are writing, journaling (check out bullet journal ideas!), art, exercise/physical activity, talking about them, being outside, etc.
Spirit: Whatever your particular faith is, most people report that they believe in some sort of higher power. In times of stress, being connected to your faith and nurturing your spirit is crucial. For some people that is easy and comfortable and a part of their daily life anyways. For others, this one can be a challenge, but no less important.
Kid: We all have a kid part of us…it’s the part that wants to have fun, laugh, be silly and unpredictable, and goof off. This is a serious and often scary time, but you absolutely need to find ways to blow off some steam and just have some fun. Whether it’s video games, a water balloon fight in the back yard with your kids, or a fun zoom happy hour with your friends, find opportunities for laughter and light-hearted fun.
We will get through this and I truly believe we will be more resilient than ever. Be patient with yourself, your family, your work friends, and your community as we move through this historical time together. Find ways to establish balance and positivity in your new normal and look for opportunities to show others grace and kindness … even when ‘others’ at that moment happen to be your kids who are driving you up a wall! Take lots of deep breaths and remember, this too shall pass.