“Everyone is driven by the need to fill their life with meaning. Sometimes this need is articulated clearly and then a purpose emerges and that leads to a sense of direction and a sense of mission. Most times it is not. So the void is filled with action. People have kids, gets mortgages, raise families, pay bills, go to work each day without asking why and then, some day, they die. Some times all this is enough. Many times it’s not. Action fills the void nicely. Makes each day feel tiring. But without a sense of purpose. Without a sense of vision, it leads to a pattern of behavior that doesn’t lead anywhere. Most times we die before we realize this of course.”David Amerland
My inbox is jammed right now with messages from people who aren’t coping with having to stay home or work from home.
Luckily, working from home and being stuck at home is something I’ve had vast amounts of experience with, thanks to chronic illness.
If you’ve been used to living big, out in the world, with freedom and choices and structure in your day that comes from your job, or your kids education, then this lockdown might be harder than you’d expected.
Here’s what I know that can help:
Exhaustion – It’s likely that you’re chronically exhausted. Most adults are. We burn the candle at both ends, we get poor sleep, and we are always on the go, mentally and physically. Now you’re home, and have nowhere else to be, you might feel disappointingly fatigued. You might have no capacity to push yourself. Good. Slow down first. Let yourself get some deep rest. Eat well. Hydrate. Nap. Get early nights. Sleep in. Rest. Binge on Netflix or books. Let it be okay to be home and exhausted. There’s a lot going on, and you’ll also be tapping into the angst and fear of the world and that’s exhausting in itself. These are uncertain and unusual times. Cut yourself some slack. Let yourself come back to balance.
Give Shape To Your Days – Do things that help separate your days into meaningful intervals. Don’t overthink it, but do create rituals and routines for you and your household. Aim for a difference between weekdays and weekends. Sunday mornings is our Coffee and Pastry day. I bake a cake or some kind of treat. I brew coffee and froth milk and my husband and I sit on the veranda and enjoy a home-made morning version of the things we used to do before the world stopped. It’s a ritual we only do on a Sunday, and it’s something we really look forward to. Mondays might be Clean Sheets day or Office Team Zoom Huddle Day. Tuesdays might be vacuum the house, take out the trash and make tacos for dinner. Have a vote on it if you need to. Or make a chart for the fridge. Some simple little routines and structures help everyone adapt, and they stop your days all becoming the same.
Get Dressed For The Office – Working or studying from home? Don’t do it in your pajamas. Have a shower (seriously, it can so easily slide from letting your standards drop to full-on depression, and it’s such a slippery slope!) and dress for work. No, you don’t need to wear a suit, but elevate yourself into something that makes you feel like being engaged and ready to use your mind. Brush your hair, wear something clean and comfortable and that will let you be online and visible if needed. Throw on some perfume, cologne, lipgloss or whatever is your thing. If you’re homeschooling your kids make sure they are clean and dressed too. When you finish your workday? Feel free to go back to slobland. It will feel so good to have that clear difference between working and not working.
Keep Regular Hours – If you’re working from home it’s so tempting to just answer that quick email before breakfast, or check your messages after dinner, or skim your inbox at 2 am when you can’t sleep. Not only does that train anyone you work with that you’ll be available 24/7 now, it also exhaust you mentally not having clear boundaries between work and personal time. Same for your kids. More than ever you need to have downtime as well as work time. Don’t fill your days and nights with work as a coping strategy – it’s a lousy one and it will burn you out.
Eat Regular Meals – Oh, it’s so convenient having the fridge just there, the snacks just there, everything tasty just there… And a great form of procrastination is snacking, and emotional eating (including eating because you are bored) is a poor coping strategy. Plan your meals and snacks and stick to them. Try putting them out on the bench or in a basket for the kids at the beginning of the day, so that you don’t overeat. And don’t eat where you work. Take a proper break!
Create Some New Rituals – What can you do to make being at home a bit more special? You could have a date night and set the table, light a candle and get dressed for dinner. You could hold family pizza and movie nights. Maybe you could meet your mum or your best friend for a Saturday afternoon online cuppa and a chat, or have Wednesday nights as your gaming marathon. Saturday morning could be baking day. Instead of a hurried shower maybe you could take your time, pour a glass of wine and then settle into a bath with a podcast or audiobook once a week after your online yoga class. You could bring back family dinners at the table (this holds for housemate situations too) or take turns reading a storybook aloud at bedtime (no matter how old you are!)
Get Yourself A Project – What helps any lockdown situation is having a project to work on. Projects give meaning to your time, and give you the satisfaction of completing tasks or learning new things. You could fix up the things you’ve been procrastinating about at home, or take up a craft or hobby. You could start or complete that thing you’ve been talking about for years. You could improve your fitness, learn a language, write that book or become a home baker.
Stay Connected – You might have closed the doors on the world, but that doesn’t mean you need to be a hermit. Call someone for a chat. Send an email or hand-write a long letter. Start a crazy emoji-laden text thread with your bestie. Join an online group, or connect with loved ones, friends, colleagues or mentors via video. The whole world is still at your doorstep, and now you’ll have more time to actually make that connection or deepen that relationship.
Most of all, be kind to yourself and to the people around you. Keep strong boundaries and give yourself time to adjust to new routines. Ask for help when you’re struggling. Check in on people you care about and make sure everyone is okay. We’re all in this together.
Hugs, love and homemade magic, Nicole xx