They told us it could happen, but when it did, we didn’t expect this. Will it, won't it? Who knows. Some say another lockdown is not far off and a New Normal is here for a long time to come. If you are wondering how to navigate this new normal, you've tried a few things in the first lockdown and want to be more proactive this time round, I know exactly what you mean, we’re like 2 peas in a pod. We've all been united in our covid-19 experience and it’s also been different for everyone. So let’s look at how to gently cope with Phase II:
The Work/Life Balance Misconception
Burnout Redflags to look out for
Discover Your Creativity
3 Simple Ways to Set Boundaries when Working From Home.
The Work/Life Balance Misconception
I am not sure I am totally sold on the idea of work/life balance, in that work is a part of life and it is very rarely balanced. Strive for HARMONY that’s what I say.The blend of home life and work life can become a little hazy. We often spend more time interacting with colleagues than we do our own friends and families. Research at Irish Jobs Recruitment suggests that more than 40% of those working from home are working longer hours. 21% say they struggle to switch off from work and 12% feel they work less efficiently. Whereas 11% claim they have a heavier workload. How can you balance this out?
Lean in to work at times, but also embrace home life when needed. It may not always be equal, but as long as there is harmony between the two and it works positively for you, then that's perfect. It’s about knowing when to switch it up. The key is listening and responding accordingly, before burnout kicks in. You have to be attuned to the whispers and really good at noticing, when something has shifted. It takes practice. That’s why so many modern guru’s bang on about meditation and mindfulness. Those physical sensations are a really good indicator that something is up and stillness and quiet time can help you become sensitive to those changes.
Your whole team wants more life and less work. The team at work and the team at home. Well this might be true however, most people want to do a meaningful job and relish recognition when they do. One of the fundamental needs of human beings is to feel purposeful (Maslow’s hierarchy triangle 1943) and without it we feel useless, which affects our self worth. People will be more comfortable in their leisure time if they feel they have done a good job in their work time, that they are valued, appreciated and that they matter.
The above being said, you can’t have it all. No matter how much planning and scheduling you do it is very likely that you still have to sacrifice something. You will have to make choices about what's really important to you and how you can realistically accommodate that.
What are some of the Burnout Red Flags to look out for?
Your thinking is getting cloudy and it takes you longer to focus. You could need food/water and time away from the computer. Switch it up and change the environment. A 10 minute walk outdoors could do it. This can feel difficult when you are in the middle of something but rather see it as time away - Reframe it as a refresher break, or loo break (everyone is entitled to that right?!) Say whatever it is that will allow you to take action and stop working.
You can’t remember when you last spent time with friends or family for nothing more that a catch up. As social creatures we need interaction to survive and isolation has a negative impact on overall well-being. It's not always easy during lock down but be proactive and schedule in some friend time. Or a mummy daughter/son date. Or hang out with a favourite aunty. It's really about connecting and as women, we thrive when we are in positive female energy, it can really top us up. It works on zooms too, however, in the flesh is definitely best, just to see their expressions and feel their warmth does a lot for our immune system. Research by University of Queensland shows positive interactions actually have an effect on our cells. Which is not surprising if you know about the impact words have on water…… but that's for another blog hee hee!!!
A Change in your sleep pattern or you are having trouble waking. Poor sleep for more than a few days is something to take note of. Sleep is so important for us, it's restorative. It renews cells, flushes toxins and repairs DNA. However with technology keeping us constantly connected, our sleep has become seriously impacted. It's easy to get into an unhealthy sleep pattern after a couple of late nights, a few early mornings and phones in bedrooms making it difficult to switch off. Sleep quality is declining and without it our brains and bodies will struggle to function. Quick fixes like a brain dump to-do list; sound audio for relaxation and a new pillow or mattress can make all the difference. If you have broad shoulders like me, check out a silicone filled pillow to give your head, neck and spine the support it needs each night.
Discover your Creativity
Darling! Oh did I hear someone say creativity???? Yes Yes and Yes! This is where I get you to think outside the box a little. Think back to the last time you did a colouring-in book or built your own creation out of Lego? One of my Encouragers is creativity - it has healing restorative properties for so many of us. Women who have worked with me or completed one of my courses have really enjoyed the creative aspect of the course or consultations. People often think it's about doing a creative subject or activity, however, I say there is Everyday Creativity.
Creativity is in almost everything. Even how you organise (or don’t, hee hee!) your sock draw is a form of expression. If you were to write a piece of creative writing what would it be about? How you have designed the interior to your home, your personal space - that is extremely creative. You are creative in the meals you choose to prepare - even if the choices are the same. The art of cooking, however quickly it’s done, is still a creative process and personal expression, how you cut the peppers or even place the food on the plate. If you mindfully notice those moments you can appreciate just how creative you are.
Day Dream! A simple and fun creative exercise. Think of a colour - What colour popped into your head first, stick with that one. What does it say about you? Imagine yourself dressed head to toe in that colour including hat and gloves, a total complete colour block, as they say in the fashion world! See the different textures of the fabrics. Now just for a moment there you were in your imagination - a powerful and wonderful tool. (Unless of course you are dressed head to toe in one colour, including accessories - then I take it all back). Being in your minds eye, even for a moment, is a form of creativity. Something as kids we use all the time, but are conditioned not to so much as we get older. I give you permission to Day Dream regularly! It gives the brain an active break, where it can be free, and where nothing is right or wrong.
For me, lockdown was able to shine a light on the simplicities of life, like baking a Tottenham cake with pink icing and sprinkles. It was the first question that my eldest son asked with talk of a local lockdown. ‘Mum when are you going to start the Tottenham Cake baking again?’ My reaction? “Boom - let’s do it!”
3 Simple Ways to Set Boundaries when Working From Home
Whether you're going out or you're staying in, an effective morning routine will set you up for the day. So when planning (your morning routine), ask yourself how long do you need to rise. I like to flutter up in the mornings. What's your routine?
1. Remember your personal routine is just as important, as your routine for the rest of the family. I like to give myself 30-minutes thinking time in bed before floating into my day. I also like to enjoy my breakfast so I will wait to eat until everything else is done - so I can eat mindfully you might say. Do you need to have a cuppa before your day starts? How will the children wake up? When do they wake up? Do they need a pre wake up, wake up call? What's the order that you need to do things to try and keep your day smooth? Note down what 3 of them are so you can build them into your morning. Whatever it is, try and stick to it, make it a regular routine. That way everyone will be on the same page.
2. Respect your non work hours - make them sacred and productive - even if that is a chill day of doing nothing. Giving it a label makes you feel less guilty, aka ‘A Recuperation Day’. Yes it is ok for your friend to watch the kids so you can stay home and sleep. Yes it is always ok to have tinned macaroni for dinner twice a week if you are exhausted. The family will survive - and be happy there are no veggies. (Don’t get excited kiddies, it's only a one off!). Signal when you are available for interruptions and when you are not - headphones are a good one. Signs on the door can help, oh and two stock responses that have worked really well for me are “Oh I wish I could but I’m in the middle of something at the moment, I'll let you know when I am free. And “Unfortunately I’m not currently taking questions.” These have been a real lifeline in the busy shenanigans of my house! Even if it's just you and you’ve got a million and one things to do. Use your ‘no’ boldly to decline unnecessary requests and tasks from colleagues. Think of a way to point them in the right direction. Be the CEO of your time.
3. If you are ill physically you would take a day off right? When we are mentally drained or emotionally unwell, we are still entitled to a day off. Just because you are working from home doesn’t mean you have to work when you do not feel great. It's better to heal when something is in the early stage - the recovery is quicker and the return back to work is faster. When we put things off or wait until we are rock bottom - it's so much harder for us to get better. Our body has to work harder to heal. But we worry, how do I explain this to my boss? And will they judge me? I’m at home, I should be fine to just get on. Err no!! NO it’s not ok!!! Know when not to push through or lean in or keep going. Know when to press pause. Know when to take a time out. Know when to stop. Because after a while you will be forced to stop when you can’t take it anymore. So, listen to the whispers. Our bodies talk to us all the time, take a moment and listen. For example you can practice being still with 3 deep belly breaths.
Whether your weekends will be back to binge watching Netflix or sipping wine on a zoom call with a holiday themed background and Christmas lights or simply trying to encourage your elders to stay safe. As things unfold, it will always be about balance and harmony. So although it wasn't necessarily the summer you had planned, you still have time to plan your winter to make it as brilliant and breezy in the New Normal as you possibly can. Enjoy!