There’s not a playbook on what to do when you’re quarantined at home because of a pandemic. It’s OK to feel angry because your spring break trip was canceled. It’s OK to feel anxious not knowing what may happen tomorrow or next month. And, it’s OK if you’re euphoric that you don’t have a 45-minute commute, and love being home all the time.
Life coach Erin Slater says everyone handles stress differently. The key is to understand what you feel is OK, just realize it may not be what everyone else is feeling.
Like so many people, Erin also is learning a new routine. She’s adjusting to life of e-learning with her 7 and 14-year-old, with her husband working from home, and meeting her own clients through calls and video chats. People from around the country seek out Erin’s help when they feel stuck in their jobs or in their personal lives, to help them achieve their personal goals or map out a new career. Right now, everyone is trying to figure out how to navigate life during a pandemic.
People seem to be in two different camps, she said. There is one group who love the freedom and space of working from home. This group usually has older kids or no kids at home. Then, there’s the group who have younger kids, and for them, it’s like hell. The worst thing to do is to compare and judge.
“People who are overwhelmed feel guilty about it. People who are grateful feel guilty about that,” she said. “It’s OK to feel exactly how you are feeling, and to be pissed off and to be sad and to grieve that this is not what you expected March and April to be like.”
In a time of stress, people often forget about the basics. But that’s the best place to start.
Tip No. 1: Figure out a new routine that includes honoring yourself.
Decide what time you will start your day, and what time you will end your workday. Use the time you typically would be driving to the office to do something for yourself. That may mean sleeping in later, fixing a big breakfast, taking a walk, reading a book. It’s your time, use it for yourself.
“Rituals in the morning are important,” she said. “You need to create boundaries and disconnect, so you aren’t always on.”
When your workday is over, close the laptop and shut the office door (if you have one).
Erin has found that some people have worked even more hours after working from home. This is not the time to take on more. As a former work-acholic CEO, Erin knows the signs of burn out all too well.
She’s heard from her own clients how they roll out of bed and immediately start working. Since, they don’t have a 30-minute commute, they assume they can get more work done. If you want to avoid burn out and feeling overwhelmed, you need to set boundaries and priorities.
“You are not indebted to your laptop,” Erin said.
Tip No. 2. Fuel your body and soul first.
Here’s a mental exercise Erin recommends and uses herself to help filter the items that really deserve to be on her to-do list:
- Is this going to fuel my body or soul? This may include making sure you’re getting enough sleep, building your immunity by eating healthier foods and getting in some exercise, even if it’s just a walk around the block. Maybe you want to focus on spiritual growth. Or, maybe you need to read more positive books or articles or listen to more positive podcasts to build and nourish your mental health.
- Is this absolutely critical to my work? If not, put it aside for now.
- Does this need to happen for my home or my family?
“This is not a normal time, so if you are overwhelmed, and want to take control, take control by letting go of some things,” Erin advises.
Tip No. 3. Focus on what you can actually control.
“In times of stress, our brain is continually sending signals to our bodies,” she said. “This is fight or flight time.”
During stressful times, some people freeze. Others will fight by trying to control and direct everything they can. Both are draining. To help overcome this, write down all the things you are worried about. Now, determine of these things, which things can you control? Give yourself permission to let go of all those worries that you have no control over.
Typically, at least half the things that may be keeping us up at night are things we have no control over. Our focus needs to be on the things we can control.
Tip No. 4. Get creative.
When we get stuck or frustrated or feel helpless, we often forget we are creative people, who can come up with creative solutions. It’s easy to get stuck by dwelling on the negatives. For example, if your gym has closed, instead of lamenting you can’t work out anymore, come up with a creative alternative. Look for an online exercise you can do at home. Also, be cognizant about how you are talking and thinking.
Instead of saying, “I have to take yoga online, say, you get to take yoga online.”
Erin recently posted a blog about stress, and had this to say:
“It’s your world, and you can create it as you wish. Remember, what one person perceives as stressful, another barely notices, or sees as exciting and full of opportunity. Change is inevitable, suffering is optional. Change your mindset to experience more fulfilling experiences. How will you choose to respond to what life throws your way today?”
Click here to read more about Erin or to read her blog.