Being mindful of mental health needs in a time of quarantining, I wanted to put together a suggested schedule to follow. Many of us have experience in working from home in some capacity, even if it is one day a week. This situation is different on so many levels that we need to be very mindful of including: our partner/roommate also being home, children not having daycare or school as usual, and a lack of socialization during the work day or after the work day.
In times when anxiety runs high, creating routine and even ritual can be very soothing.
I have always encouraged my clients who work from home to create a strict schedule to follow. This schedule helps them to be more productive and feel better about the thought of being home all day.
Of course, life needs us to be somewhat flexible so consider this a flexible schedule. I hope you can take this schedule and adjust it to your own needs (add in kid time, chores, etc. that fit your particular situation). I left large time gaps for several items so feel free to shorten them up for your own mental health needs. For some, a start time and end time are very helpful but for others, it is better to just have start times.
7:00 am- Wake up and enact a morning ritual. Download the Calm app on your phone and do a morning meditation. Find a yoga lesson to stream on your tv. Go for a run. Put on a favorite song and mentally bring yourself into your day.
8:00 am- Get dressed. Studies show that even if you are not going into the office, dressing like you are ready to meet people will help you be more mentally prepared to work. Prepare your breakfast and watch or read some news. Be mindful of the amount of news you are taking in and the best way to do is to limit your exposure. Reading is found to be psychologically better for us than watching the news so those who struggle with anxiety may want to take heed of that.
9:00 am- Start your work in a dedicated work space at home. If you have the luxury of an at home office, work there. If you have limited space, be creative. In times like these where working from home is a temporary thing for most people, set up a section that is just your workspace. If you have to share the dining room table, try setting up a barrier between you and your partner like a cubicle. Don’t be afraid to be creative! Plants can serve as barriers around a work space too.
Mentally, having the dedicated space will not only help you stay focused, but it will also signal to those who are also home that you are working and not available for conversation. Put the remotes away, turn on some music and get your mind into a place of working. I like checklists because they hold me accountable and it feels great to check things off the list as I work. For others, their schedules need to go around meetings so be mindful of the way your work has to go and try to incorporate your own mental health ideas.
10:30 am- Midmorning, try doing a mental check in with yourself. If you have time, get up from your work space and do something physical or social. At work, many people walk to get a cup of coffee or socialize a little with coworkers. You can use this time to check in with other people who are either in your home or shoot a friend a text to check in.
Another option, particularly if you find your anxiety to be rather high, doing something active AND productive may help. Fold some laundry, do some sweeping, etc. Chores around the house can help you feel productive and also can help lower anxiety. Another great option is to go for a walk around the block if the weather is okay. Taking a little time in the morning to check in on your mental health is great practice and can lead to rituals being formed (like mid-morning walks). Keep your time brief- maybe 15 minutes or so- and get back to your work.
12:00- Take time to eat lunch and walk away from your workspace. Lunch is typically a social period for most workers so try to maintain that when working from home. Working from home by yourself? Facetime a friend of yours and chat with them while you eat. Resist the temptation to use “free time” to run errands. You want to try to mimic the concept of being in an office in an effort to maintain concentration and productivity.
1:00 pm- Work on some of your most important tasks. For those of you who may struggle with attention, try 20 minute sprints at a time. Work 20 minutes, then take 10 minutes to walk around, get a drink refill, etc.
2:00 pm- Do another mental health check in. This time of day can be tricky for most in terms of productivity so I recommend taking this time to go for a walk or a bike ride if you have the time and the weather cooperates. Use a walk to think through how you are feeling and if you have other people in your home, encourage them to walk with you. I would recommend saving one of your mental health check-in’s for yourself and if you live with someone else or have kids, incorporate them into the other check-in.
3:00 pm- Back to work. Try your sprints again if that worked well for you. Be mindful of checking the news and social media because that can increase your personal anxiety. If you are feeling isolated, text a friend and let them know. Your social connection does not have to be completely cut because of the quarantine. It is imperative that we use our “always on” connection to actually connect with others and have conversations as much as we can. Reach out. You would be surprised at how mandated social isolation can make us all feel isolated.
5:00 pm- As you wrap up work for the day, try to create some sort of ritual around ending your work day. Try another mediation, journaling, creating a checklist for the next day, etc. Write down all the things you accomplished for the day and share it with a friend. We can turn to each other for accountability and recognition when we are working from home. Creating ritual around beginning and ending tasks can also help us separate ourselves from the “work me” and the “real life me.”
6:00 pm- Engage in family/friend time as best you can. If you are at home with family or roommates, use this time to interact. Make dinner together, chat, play a board game. I would not turn to television just yet as you still need to make sure you are mentally doing okay. If you live by yourself, Facetime one or a few of your friends and family. Zoom also offers video sessions where you can add multiple people into your call. Connect with others and talk about how you are feeling.
7:00 pm- Take some time for yourself. Encouraging everyone in the household to do a solo activity like reading, watching TV (in a different room), journaling, working on a puzzle. It is still very important in times like these that we schedule alone time to de-stress.
8:00 pm- Create a “wind down” ritual. Maybe watch a favorite TV show, read a book, etc. Warm showers or baths also help our minds calm down. Meditation will always help your mind relax particularly before bed. I love using my Calm app and listening to a bedtime story to help me relax.
Figure out what works best for you. Reach out when you need to reach out. Prioritize your mental health and lean on relationships around you…even if that means Facetiming or doing Zoom calls.
We are all in this together and we will figure it out together.
Social isolation should NOT mean isolating yourself. In times of crisis, we need to lean on each other.