This morning, as I walked my dog Milo for what feels like the eight thousand two hundred ninety-seventh time during my workday, I realized that it’s November and we’re still working from home, seven or eight months and some change later. As we run toward the joyful (and arguably equally stress-inducing) holiday season, I’m sure I’m not alone as I notice myself slacking on my self-care. Don’t get me wrong, I love having endless access to the holiday cookies in my fridge, being able to take Milo on a mid-afternoon walk, and staying in comfy clothes all day, but working and living in the same space has proven to be a challenge. I know it was time for me to refresh my self care habits, so perhaps these will help you too.
You’ve heard it again and again, but forming a routine has been extremely helpful. My routine includes making sure I’m prioritizing sleep and hygiene, even when I don’t feel like I have to without heading to the office. It also includes the simple tasks in the morning like making the bed, drawing the curtains to let in enough light, and enjoying my coffee at the table while reading. They’re little things, but they cue my brain that it is time to work. The simple things at night, like washing my face and making sure I’m in bed in time to get enough rest have made all the difference. There are definitely still days where I still roll out of bed and stumble to my computer, but somewhere along the way I started rocking business on top and a sweatpant party on the bottom as a daily uniform, and what I’ve learned lately is that it really helps me to install these micro-rituals in order to help my brain to separate the time better.
Speaking of separating the time, because we’re spending so much time in one place, it’s easy for it to all start to blend together. With that in mind, I noticed my to-do lists piling up with personal and work (and everything in between) tasks. A good part of your morning routine might be identifying the five tasks on that list that you really want to accomplish. Narrowing it down helps me to focus on getting those five tasks done in a timely manner--and to have compassion with myself when getting through just one seems impossible. Some days are just a little harder than others, and this can make it easier to remind myself that I’m okay and doing what I can to make it work.
In addition to self-compassion, having options of coping skills at the ready for those tough moments makes a huge difference. If I need to cool down, I can lean on deep breathing, guided imagery, or counting down from ten, if only for one minute. While it may seem daunting, I know I can always find one minute to myself to re-center. Groundbreaking. Taking a breath picturing myself in my happy place at the beach, and imagining the tide taking away my stress, can do wonders for me. If I’ve got a little more time, in under thirty minutes I know I can go on a walk or run, or even toss on a workout video. If getting sweaty isn’t an option, calling friends and family to connect helps a lot, too. Working from home is a lot lonelier than we might have suspected, and connecting with loved ones helps ease that. I find that by keeping this time screen-free, sticking to phone calls rather than texts and facetimes, I can avoid feeling like my day is spent endlessly staring into my computer.
As we mark more days of this on the calendar, maintaining self care the same way that we were for that very first two weeks is important. It may not be plastered across social media, and it’s certainly not all candles and face masks, but it’s absolutely still a priority. Or at least Milo and I think so.