Working From Home -The Survival Guide
Jen Wood is an emotional wellbeing coach, psychotherapist and wellbeing consultant. She is based at Restoration Yard in Dalkeith Country Park. She's worked from home for 10 years and has some insight for those of us who have been thrown into it at high speed during this Covid-19 outbreak
As a freelance wellbeing consultant, coach and therapist, I have chosen to work from home for the last 10 years. I had time to think about and plan for it. The difference for many of us now is that many organisations have had to implement working and learning from home changes with no time to plan or mentally prepare. As humans we generally struggle with rapid change. We also don’t react well to situations which are outwith our control. Our brains respond to it as a threat, which can trigger unhelpful coping strategies.
Here are some of my suggestions for creating your own working from home survival guide:
Have a positive morning routine
I love creating positive habits starting from waking up. I suggest to my clients that as soon as they wake up, they sit on the side of the bed with feet on the floor and spend a mindful minute feeling grounded through their feet and body. If you try this, notice your posture, imagine a thread on top of your head pulling you up so the spine lengthens, and the shoulders relax and the chest opens. Body language can influence mood. Then you can set your intention for the day, which could be ‘This is/will be a good day.’ If that feels a bit unlikely, try ‘This is a good day in some way,’ as it opens the way for possibility of something good.
Focus on what you can control
We can’t control the current 'lockdown' situation, which triggers our stress hormones. However you can counteract this by changing your focus onto what you can control.
This could mean deciding where you’ll be sitting, dressing in a way that helps you feel confident, and setting your intention for the day. It might be not watching the news or spending a lot of time on social media. You can also learn to control your thoughts, which can change your emotional state and improve motivation.
Have an achievable ‘To Do’ List
At the end of each day, write your to do list and goals for the next day so that you have clarity/ focus and you do not have to waste time in the morning. This has also been proven to improve sleep quality. Also, don’t have too much on your list. If you have 10 things, and you only manage to do seven of them, your brain will focus on the three that you failed to achieve and you may feel like a failure. I encourage clients to focus on One Thing Per Day. Then when they achieve that they have a boost of dopamine (happy hormones) which encourages them.
Have a 'Ta Da' list of achievements
This is a list of what you have achieved in your working from home day. If you pay attention to what you’ve achieved rather than what you’ve failed to achieve, you will develop more of a positive growth mindset.
Schedule in fun/pleasure
We need this more than usual at the moment, to offset any anxiety we might be feeling. I use a Mastery and Pleasure schedule, to ensure that we balance out the essential with the pleasurable. Fun could be watching a funny clip on YouTube, spending half an hour being silly with the kids or pleasure could be listening to your favourite tune and having a quick dance in the kitchen.
Go outside or exercise if possible
Breathe, take off your shoes and socks if you have a garden, and feel the grass under your feet. Have a walk round the block. It’s very helpful to keep our lungs healthy! If you can’t easily exercise outside, try a yoga or fitness class from home - check out our Wellbeing Lab schedule of online classes. Kids are welcome too so it's a good way of getting them some exercise as well as positive mindsets.
Move between meetings
Using technology can be very exhausting. I suggest taking a moment to move and stretch between each Zoom meeting or call. It’s partly exhausting because we’re getting used to working in a new way. Also, with Zoom and other online meeting apps, we’re closer to each other in comparison to when we might be sitting in a room with them, and that in itself is more intense.
Have a solution focused mindset
Many of us have an inner critic with a very loud voice. If the inner critic says ‘you’ll never be able to get that done,’ imagine turning down the volume of that voice, then imagine how things would be different if your wise self said ‘I wonder how I could get that done.’ A tiny shift in perception can create a big change. The voice with the most power is the one we listen to.
Juggling kids with work?
Don't put too much pressure on yourself. If you can keep the kids relatively occupied and settled, you are doing well.
Even if you can’t, you are doing well. It’s an extremely difficult situation for parents, especially if they are having to work from home. I always remind parents of the benefit of being compassionate. Ask yourself, what’s the most compassionate thing I could do right now? The most compassionate thing might not be online lessons, but a hug and a biscuit! We don’t have a rule book to follow for the current situation. We’re making it up as we go along.
Notice the little things that you’re grateful for. If there was a silver lining in this cloud, what might it be for you? For me it’s spending more time at home with my partner and dogs. For you it might be having more time as a family or realising your network of caring friends.
Tiny things are great to start with. Perhaps it could be additional time for morning yoga because you don’t have a commute.
Stay in touch with each other
I’ve been talking to people about physical distancing and social proximity. We need contact with people to survive. This is how we evolved, and there is great technology available now to allow us to keep in touch. This is particularly important for those who are in 'lockdown' on their own. Consider having an accountability partner whom you check in with at the beginning and end of each day. You can encourage each other when you’re struggling, and congratulate each other when you’re not having such a good day. Share your To Do and Ta Da lists! At times like these, we all go through roller-coasters of emotions, and it can feel good to support colleagues when they need it. Team meetings are great too.
We are all in the same boat at the moment, so if we connect with each other when we’re struggling, and savour the good, we will get through this and be stronger and more resilient.
Jen Wood is available for online consultations via her website