A Three-Part Prescription for Working-at-Home During the COVID-19 Crisis

Apr 2, 2020

We’re well into weeks of the stay-at-home and social distancing recommendations as this crisis unfolds. I’m hearing a lot of stories across the country, and I know you’re all working hard to keep your families healthy and your businesses alive. Many of you have been working from home, and it’s tough.

You’re juggling work, kids, increased sanitization needs, and a lot of information coming your way about how to responsibly access unfolding governmental relief programs. It’s overwhelming.

It’s safe to say, most of us are experiencing an increase in worry, concern, and fear as the pandemic continues to unfold. In light of this, I thought I’d offer a few simple, yet vital things you can do to help reduce stress.

Think of Long-Term Changes to Your Rituals, Routines, and Environment

The reason I say, “think long-term” is because we’re all being traumatized to one extent or another. This pandemic came on fast, and our lives were changed with little warning. Trauma stays in the body, and it has a long-term impact. More on what to do about that in a separate post.

For now, I’m inviting you to reconsider your rituals, routines, and space as follows:

1. Rituals

Your morning rituals have dramatically changed over the past few weeks. Be more intentional about those rituals. Consider at least five minutes of deep breathing (from the belly) every morning. Ideally, a morning meditation is best. But, if you don’t have time for that right now, as I don’t, consider a few minutes of deep breathing throughout the day.

Why do I keep emphasizing this?

Because daily, ongoing stress, puts us in the flight-or-flight response. The body holds that stress and tension. This impacts your immune system, and you really don’t need that right now. Deep breathing will not only relax the tension in the body, it will tell the body that you’re okay. You’re not being chased by the wild tiger named COVID-19. You are calm. You are safe.

If you can do yoga or exercise, even better. But, unless you’re a trained athlete, I don’t recommend taxing your body right now. Everything in moderation.

Another morning ritual you might consider is journaling. I design specific practices for all my coaching clients to help them get into the rhythm of journaling. It will help you get your thoughts and fears on paper, and in doing so, alleviate some of the stress that’s rushing through your body.

Whatever morning or evening rituals you currently have, think about adding at least one stress reliever into the mix. Commit to this over the next two weeks, and adjust as needed.

2. Routines

I’m hearing a lot of you stress over the amount of sanitization you’re having to do in your homes. I get it. We must do all we can to stay healthy, and our homes need to be sanitized more often and in ways we may not have typically thought about before—doorknobs, grocery bags, and such.

You will make yourself crazy if you are compulsively cleaning every square inch of your home. I’d rather see you commit to specific routines.

Think about what you can be doing consistently or you won’t be able to sustain it. You cannot be working, watching children, and cleaning every door handle 24/7.

Here are a few examples of some new “house routines” we’ve recently adopted:

  • Amazon boxes are left on porch for several hours as the virus can live up to 4 hours on cardboard. I then spray them with sanitizer and unwrap them careful to wash my hands afterwards. Remains are placed in a trash bag and removed from our home.
  • Sanitization of all bathrooms before and after select people enter our home.
  • More calculated trips to the grocery store; counters wiped down after groceries are put away; bags into plastic bag and taken to outside bin.

I suspect as things unfold and new ideas surface, we will adopt more routines beyond our normal cleaning. What I’m not doing is stressing out over every single potential germ in my home.

We cannot control the virus, but we must not let the virus control us.

Be smart, not crazy, or your mind, body, and spirit will suffer well beyond the effects of the virus.

3. Space

Working at home means that our space has been disrupted. Many of you are having trouble focusing. That’s partly due to stress, partly due to space.

If you’re working at home alone, it’s tough. It’s even tougher if you’re used to working in an office where you have space to concentrate, and you’ve now got a partner and children in the mix.

Recognize that you all have different personality structures and you need different things. Being home together constantly is quite different than evenings and weekends.

Some of you will need more quiet time than others. Some will need more activity or you’ll be bored to death. In our house, I’m used to working out of my home office whenever I’m not physically with clients.

My husband, on the other hand, is used to driving all over town and being in multiple meetings each day. He is high energy, and when he’s home, he’s usually whistling, singing, cooking, banging cupboard doors, or on the phone. (Can you feel my tension rise as I’m listening to it occur all at once in this very moment? Yes, he can multitask beyond no other!)

For the most part, we’re blessed to have separate home offices, but we can easily distract one to the point of insanity.

The solution?

We honor one another’s work schedule. We’re careful not to barge in on one another’s calls. We close our respective doors if necessary (getting ready to do that NOW), and we do our best to break for lunch so we can connect. (Thank God he likes to make lunch). If he gets restless, he goes for a drive; I go for a walk.

Space is important. So are your relationships. Make the most of your environment. Be kind and gracious to one another.

Communicate. Communicate. Communicate.

We’re resilient. We’ve got this. We will be bigger on the other side.

Stay well, my friends!

For up-to-date information on how others are handling the challenges of COVID-19, please listen to some special episodes of my podcast, The Other Side of Potential: https://sharonspano.com/podcast/.

If you’re stuck and would like to schedule a one-on-one call with me, please go to: https://go.oncehub.com/crisiscoach.