Taking care of the personal now that we’re going digital

A sun in a blue sky with some clouds

These days, more and more of us are staying home and going digital for work, pleasure and connecting with friends and families in order to #flattenthecurve. COVID-19 has spread across the globe and is impacting our lives in significant ways. The digital world that we have at our finger tips offers many advantages: it keeps us up to date, entertained, connected and allows us to work from home.

And yet, it also means we run the risk of losing track of our personal well-being. Digital connection is not the same as real-life connection. Working from home constantly makes it easy to forget where work ends and free time starts. I can only imagine what it’s like to throw children in the mix. There are a lot of tips out there on how to manage the working part in WFH when you’re not used to it, but I’d like to touch on everything else.

How do we stay sane and take care of ourselves in all this?

Set boundaries

I’m a firm believer and supporter of the flexibility that working from home provides. You can choose more freely when you start and end the working day. There’s no commute that you need to take into account. You’ll find yourself to be more productive because there are no co-workers to distract you (there might be others asking for your attention, but that’s another issue). This is great if you’re working from home a couple of days a week and you can use the extra time to get some difficult work done. However, when you’re WFH full-time, it can easily turn into working all day, everyday. That’s not healthy.

To prevent this, decide a schedule for yourself and stick to it. Determine when you’ll start in the morning, take a proper lunch break and clock out in the afternoon/evening. Put it on the agenda, set a reminder in your phone, ask the other people in your house to come and remind you, teach your dog/cat/other animal to grab your attention when an alarm starts playing. Do whatever it takes, as long as you don’t end up spending every waking minute with work. Getting away from it and doing something else will mean you have a clearer mind when you pick it up the next day, or after the weekend. Yes, weekends still exist, and you should take them.

Get outside

This may not be an easy one, depending on your living situation.

If you have a garden or can still go on the street, take a walk. If you have other living beings in the house, maybe even play a game. Throw a ball around, play hide and seek, run after your dog/cat/other animal. And a little rain will not hurt you, or who are you trying to save that hairdo for? 😉 With spring around the corner, you could possibly get some work done in the backyard. Remove the weeds, mow the lawn for the first time, replant some potted plants etc. Or just sit on the patio with your preferred drink and enjoy the sun and fresh air.

If you live in an apartment and you’re not allowed to go on the street anymore, it’s more difficult. But not impossible, you can still get fresh air. Go out on the balcony if you have one. If you don’t, open a window and stick your head out. Take a couple of deep breaths and let your eyes wander. If the weather’s nice, you can even open all the windows and air out your apartment. Fresh air and a bit of sunlight can do wonders to our mind, body and spirit.

Enjoy the first rays of spring sun!

Move your body

First things first, I’m not an athletic person by any means. I mean, I’m short of breath after two flights of stairs. And yet I mean it when I say that you should move your body. You might be surprised by the amount of movement we miss out on when we’re at home 24/7. Not walking to the car, public transport, the office, cafeteria, bathroom, that colleague on the other side of the building or site, your favorite coffee shop or lunch spot etc. That’s a lot of walking you’re not doing. You should make up for that.

There are different ways to move your body. You can take a walk if you can still go on the street or in your garden (see tip #2). Any stairs around? Go up and down them a couple of times. You can turn to YouTube for free workout videos, there are different options depending on your physique. From yoga to HIIT, there’s something for everyone. Chase your pets or kids if they like it. Turn on some music and have a dance party. And if you have significant other with you… I don’t need to spell that out, do I? Just move your body, whichever way you prefer. 😉

Get away from the screen

Just as your mind needs rest, your eyes need rest too. It’s easy when you clock out of work to browse the internet and fall down a Twitter, Instagram, YouTube or other social media rabbit hole. Try to avoid this. And yes, TVs and smartphones are screens to. Turn to something else. Read a real, paper book if you have one. Do something creative like drawing, painting or other arts and crafts. Play a board game with the family. Clean the house, one room every day (bonus tip to move your body!) or that oven, bathroom cabinet or other place that is in desperate need of a cleaning. Reorganize a space or closet. Make a jigsaw puzzle. There is so much you can do away from the screen, experiment and maybe you’ll find yourself a new hobby or rekindle an old one.

Get enough sleep

You may have thought “awesome, I don’t need to get up early because I don’t have to commute to and from work!”. Yes and no. If you have a one-way commute of an hour or more, definitely take that extra time to sleep a bit later. Just don’t use it as an excuse to stay up an hour later in the evening and binge-watch Netflix (or play another round of the board game you’re playing). Just as it is important to set and stick to a schedule for work, it’s important to maintain a healthy life schedule as well, and that includes getting enough sleep.

Decide when you want to get up and set your alarm. I highly recommend not straying too far from your normal wake up time so it’s easier to slip back in to your normal routine when the time comes. Once you know what time you want to get up and how many hours of sleep you need (on average it’s 8 hours, but you might need more or less), you know by what time you need to be in bed. Make it happen. You’ll thank yourself in the morning (or the next evening when you don’t have to work 2 hours longer than planned because you couldn’t get out of bed).

Be like the cat, take some rest

These tips are common sense and absolutely also valid in a time without COVID-19, but when you’re working from home it can be easy to forget. Consider this as your friendly reminder that you also need to take care of yourself. Don’t forget the personal aspect while we’re going digital even more than before. Stay at home to stay healthy physically and use these tips to stay healthy mentally.

Good luck! #flattenthecurve

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