Work at home is a dream come true for many of us. But for those who have never done it before, and with no opportunity to prepare a dedicated work space; or maybe you are already set up but now your kids are trying to use distance learning, your spouse is having Zoom calls while sharing your desk space….WHEW it’s a lot all at once. I get it, I’m experiencing some of this, too. We might have to file this move to impromptu home offices under “Be careful what you wish for”.
The global pandemic and it’s surreal results are leaving us stressed, depressed and looking for new ways to cope. Even as states re-open it’s slow, deliberate and very few of us are back to any familiar routine. The usual escapes outside the house: meeting clients for coffee, hanging with like minded colleagues at networking meetings, even taking that conference call at Starbucks, are still largely unavailable.
Being so close to being free-range humans again, but still planning to be home for several more weeks, is frustrating and isolating still. I asked three of my trusted colleagues: a networking leader, a stress management therapist, and a no-nonsense life coach; for their “do’s and don’ts” advice on how to stay connected.
President of the Modern Observer Group and creator of Empower Business Connection networking events
I lead and organize multiple networking groups across Connecticut. I have had to pivot my own networking, and that of our groups, along with my work. Through my own experience, and speaking to our members about how they are dealing with a lack of connection, prospects and leads, I have this advice to share.
DON’T be isolated. While we have to physically stay separate, phone and video conferences keep you in touch with people. To keep yourself mentally strong, talk to friends and family. To keep you business strong, talk with other business people, clients and suppliers. Stay top of mind by checking in and seeing how they are doing. It makes you feel better as well.
DO stick to a routine. Set up a home office, go to work every day. If you have nothing to do, start a blog and use social media to market your expertise. Polish up your skills with online courses. Let people see you as an expert so when things get back to normal, you have been presenting yourself as an expert in your field.
DO market your business. For business owners, it’s about marketing, marketing, marketing. Bring your website up-to-date, post on social media, attend virtual networking, let the world know you are still out there. If you can work remotely keep pitching clients. If you have to wait to reopen, reach out and build your leads for when you do.
LCSW, Owner, Pathways Therapeutic Counseling: Anxiety and Stress Management
You are understandably stressed. Work has changed, socialization has changed and life as you know it has changed and there are so many unknowns right now. The good news is that there are ways to help yourself feel better!
DO recognize what you have control over versus what you donâ€™t. Utilize the tool of re-framing your thoughts. Your thoughts become your feelings and emotions, which then lead to your behavior. This is a basic principle of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).
Here is how to implement the restructuring of a negative thought. When pessimistic or upsetting thoughts come into your head, itâ€™s best to stop and ask yourself if there is any other way to look at the situation from a different perspective. For example, if your thought is: â€œIâ€™m not allowed to be around anyone right now, this is the worst.â€ That leads to the feeling of loneliness and lacking motivation to do anything else. However, if you prompt yourself to try to look at the situation from a different light it gives you a more neutral and less impacting emotion. So you can re-frame the thought by saying to yourself, â€œYes, this is hard, however, by not being allowed to be around other people right now Iâ€™m keeping myself, colleagues, friends and family safer. This wonâ€™t last forever and there are other ways to connect with people. I can get through this.â€ With this type of replacement thought you can feel more positive.
DO try a new way of talking to yourself. If youâ€™re struggling to come up with things to say to yourself, a great skill to try is to ask yourself how you would respond to a friend. We often are more supportive and kinder to others than we are to ourselves. This strategy helps you give yourself what you need to have a brighter outlook!
DO connect with old friends you havenâ€™t caught up with in a while. Also, checking in on others and hearing their experience is a great way to feel connected and to realize that we are all in this together.
DO make plans for when things are more settled down and safer. This will give you something to look forward to.
DO ask yourself what hobbies, passions or self-care can I still do? Maybe you have more time now than you did before, and can take advantage of that. Even if itâ€™s one small thing per day, this is important in feeling good. Maybe itâ€™s listening to music or a podcast, being outside on a sunny day, doing some stretching, re-organizing a junk drawer. Donâ€™t beat yourself up if you donâ€™t get everything done on your to do list. Remember that now is the time to be kind to yourself!
Lastly, if you find yourself excessively struggling, DON’T hesitate to seek help. Bettering yourself is something you won’t regret. Many providers are telehealth based right now and are able to guide you through this time. You’re not alone.
To learn more, visit LauraJuliano.com, where there is additional information on stress management resources. Laura has a practice in Glastonbury, CT and is currently using telehealth services.
Guided Life Coach, Owner of Find Your Happy and co-creator of Coaching Queens and Coffee Beans: Quelling the Quarantine Quivers group
Itâ€™s so important right now to remember to take care of ourselves. We are out of our normal routines and spending more time in our â€œdaytime jammies”. That makes it easy to just kind of become a sloth. We do what we need to do to get our work done, but â€¦ weâ€™re not really taking care of business when it comes to ourselves.
DO Find other ways to connect with people, this is crucial. Not just through typing at people online, but through phone calls, video calls, whatever. There are groups like the one I started on Facebook where we not only have Facebook interaction, but we have regular Zoom calls to just connect, share, laugh, and create community. Itâ€™s so important that we still feel connected to life, the universe, and everything while this self-isolation lasts.
DON’T sit in front of the TV all day long and mindlessly eat. Donâ€™t binge watch Netflix. Donâ€™t go days on end without putting on â€œrealâ€ clothes. Donâ€™t focus on the â€œwhat ifsâ€ of this whole thing. It is what it is. Practice acceptance and allow what is to be…what is.
DO get alone time. Weâ€™re spending much, much, much more time together with our families than we are accustomed to. It is critical for our own well-being (and sanity) that we get some alone time each day. And that applies to everyone in your household. Set aside an hour where everyone goes to their own space (if the kids are old enough), and read, meditate, take a bath, go for a walk, do a craft, plant your garden, or whatever makes you happy. If the kids are too young to leave unsupervised, trade off that hour of alone time with your partner or use nap times to take care of you.
DON’T worry about cleaning the house or doing laundry or whatever you feel obligated to be â€œdoingâ€ during alone time. Learn to just BE for a bit. If you canâ€™t take an hour all at once, make sure youâ€™re giving yourself an hour of ‘You’ time throughout the day, even if itâ€™s just in 10 minute increments.
DO take care of yourself even if you are a single person and riding this out alone. Make sure youâ€™re doing some of the above ideas every day.
Most importantly: DO just breathe.