Staying Sane As You Work From Home

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A licensed professional counselor shares some words of wisdom

You thought it was your dream come true—but “working from home” isn’t quite as easy as it sounds. Many challenges are surfacing as employees all over the country try to do their jobs from their kitchen tables.

With Gov. Ralph Northam’s recent announcement about continued closures through June 10 (hopefully earlier), we know lots of you might need a pep talk. Pamela Smith, LPC, CEAP, is a local licensed professional counselor with years of experience in individual and family counseling. Here are a few of her suggestions for the work-from-home crowd:

Follow a schedule—“I think we all work better with a schedule,” says Smith. “Even though we are working from home, try to get up at the same time every morning. Set an alarm.” Then, take a shower, dress as if you are going to the office, put on makeup or jewelry. This will help you get in the right mood, Smith says. Finally, be sure to map out how your day is going to go or create a to-do list.

Set reasonable goals—Stemming from the above, Smith says she hears many people complain that they just can’t seem to finish any of the tasks on their to-do list—and they feel stuck. She says lack of motivation is very common during this time of uncertainty and suggests trying the 5-minute rule. “Break down tasks into little pieces,” she says. “If you want to clean out the garage, maybe start with one shelf. If you want to do more, great.” When possible, use the same approach with your work tasks.

Find and make personal space—This especially applies to couples and/or families that are not used to being together as much. “I think we’ve got to talk to each other about this and figure out where everyone’s space is so that if we need to get away for a few minutes we can,” she says.

Stay hydrated and eat well—“Stress and eating can collide and thus we either overeat, avoid food or forget to eat,” Smith says. We all know we feel better when we are taking care of our bodies. One idea is to use this time to improve your cooking skills or find ways to challenge yourself to eat healthy on a budget.

Use a timer for breaks (preferably dance party breaks)—Breaks are essential for the work day—they clear your mind and reset your body. “I have a friend working from home with family who told me at five minutes to the hour, everyone stops what they are doing and gets up and dances. Just to break the ice and give everyone a good laugh,” Smith says. She suggests finding a new genre of music and to have some fun with your playlist.

Cut yourself (or your employees) some slack—In other words, be flexible. Slower internet speeds, children in the home and other factors will make it a lot more difficult for employees to be productive. “A lot of people struggle with change. This is a scary time,” she explains, adding that we, “need to lower expectations and practice radical self-acceptance, accepting everything about yourself, your current situation and your life without question, blame or pushback. You are doing the best you can in a very difficult situation.” 

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