Recently I wrote about the pitfalls of permanently working from home due to the pandemic. Six weeks later and I’m hearing from my patients more and more about the ways in which they are struggling. Things are getting harder rather than easier. So many people are working longer hours than ever before. They’re having a harder time shutting down the computer or stepping away from their desks even if they have no reason to believe their job will be in jeopardy if they do so. Just because we’re working from home doesn’t mean we don’t have other things to do. We still deserve our “me” time. I suggest paying attention to how much you’re working and why you’re working so much. Some people are working more because the pressure to bring in new business is stronger. That reality does exist for many people but even if that is the situation you are in; you’re still allowed to take time for yourself. In many instances, employers are encouraging people to take their vacation days and I am echoing that suggestion. I know glamorous trips aren’t happening in the same way and the thought process is why take a day off when I can’t do anything (although there are more options lately). The truth is it may be a long time until you can take the vacations you normally would and in order to preserve our mental health, now is the time to take a break. The time has come to get more creative in how we do that. Working nonstop and adding in more hours will lead to burn out. For some it’s a way to distract from the outside world. I understand the pull to want to do that but it’s not healthy to disconnect from reality even when reality can look glum.
What seems most important right now is trying to differentiate work from home when most of us are living and working in the same place. This can feel especially difficult to do when living in a New York City apartment. If there’s space I recommend designating a specific area to your “office”. It may mean packing up your space at the end of the day in order to eat dinner at the dining room table. I believe rituals can be helpful and like the idea of having one both before and after work. This could be as simple as taking a few deep breaths in order to facilitate the transition between the two. Other recommendations include leaving the apartment and going on a ten-minute walk, listening to a favorite song or two, coloring, or having your morning breakfast before sitting down and opening up your computer. We no longer have a commute, but we still deserve that time as a transition between our work and our personal lives. You would be surprised at how a quick ten minutes helps shift your mindset. I guarantee it will help you in the moment and even more so in the long run.