The Balance Between Worry and Work: It’s a Work in Progress
Working from home has always been my dream. I imagined how wonderful it would be to have more time to carve out a work-life balance. No commuting would mean extra time to cook more nutritious meals, exercise every day, and be more productive as I focused on my work without interruption.
For many people, including myself, remote work is a new, unexpected reality as we practice social distancing.
Not surprisingly, working from home is falling short of my expectations due to the current circumstances. The dream did not include: constantly refereeing sibling fights, home schooling, a new puppy who loves biting, countless worries about friends abroad and elderly family and friends with compromised immune systems getting sick, a plummeting economy, reduced family income, or a new time-consuming addiction to coronavirus news updates. Sound familiar?
With so many industries being hit hard by COVID-19 — hospitality, entertainment, automotive, retail, small business, to name only a few — many people no longer have paid work and the reality is that no one knows when this health crisis will end. A record 500,000 Canadians filed for Employment Insurance during the week of March 16th; the highest number since the Great Depression. In the coming weeks, that number will only increase as more companies will have no option but to lay off workers (Parkinson et.al, 2020). Our labour market has drastically shifted in ways no one could have predicted. Our daily lives and the way we socialize has dramatically altered in almost the blink of an eye.
Stress is a natural response to uncertainty. In times like this, we need to try and carve out some “normalcy” for ourselves and direct stress energy toward productive ends. Recognize what you have control over and what you don’t.
How can we balance a healthy level of worry with taking action to promote a healthy mindset?
- Don’t underestimate the power of keeping your morning routine of simply showering and dressing for the day. Create a to-do list of SMART goal tasks for the day. Be sure they are Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic and Timely. If you are not working, or if you have saved your commuting time, use the extra time to complete tasks that never get done. Clean out closets, do a deep clean of your home, or spend quality, focused time with loved ones (following public health guidelines).
- Consciously try and adjust to your new situation. For those feeling isolated or unmotivated by working remotely, there are countless articles available about working from home that offer very helpful tips. One reason they are helpful is that they describe how to inject some regular routines and normalcy into our day. Having a daily structure that mirrors a regular day offers comfort, which can’t be taken for granted during this health crisis.
- Hold out hope to your clients. Encourage them to keep job searching. Coach them to develop a great ATS résumé and to develop their video interviewing skills. Many companies are still recruiting, but they will be modifying how they assess their candidates.Stay up-t0-date with constantly changing hiring trends.
- Challenge yourself to think of ways to offer assistance to others. Even the smallest gestures have a lot of power. Doing something kind for others gives us purpose and hope. Support people in essential jobs, like cashiers, healthcare workers, or truck drivers by offering a genuine thank you and showing gratefulness for the work they do providing essential services. Let’s allow the best in human nature to prosper during this unprecedented time.
- Do a “gratitude challenge” and try to focus on the things you have rather than what you don’t. This is a core element of positive psychology. Studies have shown that people who practice gratitude report feeling higher levels of mental and physical well-being, they sleep better, and have more energy and motivation. Practicing gratitude is a way to keep seeing positivity and to build resilience.
Here is how the challenge works:
- For a period of 14 days, be aware of things (big and small) that go well during the day.
- Reflect at the end of each day and write down 1-3 things that happened that you are grateful for. For example: having clean water readily available; a laugh you shared with someone over a hilarious meme that resulted in you feeling more connected and understood; gaining back time spent on your usual commute to make a sit-down meal for your family; the sunshine on your walk; economic relief programs provided by our government, etc.
- Writing these things down in the same place is critical. You’ll discover that you will feel more connected to your thoughts and feelings. Read through your entries at the end of the week or start a conversation by sharing them with loved ones.
Though my ideal of exercising and cooking daily nutritious meals is still a work in progress, the activities are a reminder that despite the unprecedented situation outside the front door, taking care of ourselves and others during this time is essential. With a home school schedule starting this week, I intend to join my kids’ “gym” period.
I will work on my physical health daily. Check! I will spend quality time with my kids and complete my gratitude journal entries. Double check! These actions are not a complete cure for the building worry, but they are enough for now.
Gather strength from and give strength to others. The same can be said for kindness. Though we will all have unique and difficult experiences during this crisis, we will share the common experience of getting through it together.
Jillian Perkins-Marsh works as an Alumni Career Counsellor at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. She is a dedicated professional who is energized by witnessing resilience and success in the job search. Supporting individuals while they discover and pursue their goals towards creating personally meaningful careers is the core of her work. When not working, Jillian is also a homeschool teacher, puppy trainer, and news junkie.