working from home

How to Stay Grounded While Working from Home

When your commute is your bed to your desk, things can get a little rough.

By: Bibi Deitz

So you’re working from home. If you’re lucky enough to count yourself among the people who can work from home, you should consider yourself blessed: The unemployment rate is soaring in ways we haven’t seen since WWII, and then there are the actual angels who are going to work each day to take care of our sick or provide groceries, medicines, and other essentials to the general population.

But anyway, our global crisis aside, perhaps you’ve found yourself taking a crash course in WFH of late. Maybe you’ve had to fashion a desk from, say, a bunch of books and a plank of wood. Maybe you’ve been panic-buying ergonomic chairs. Whatever the case may be, we’re right there with you—though I do usually work from home, I don’t usually do every single waking (and sleeping) activity from home, and it’s…a learning curve.

We chatted with a few psychologists and other people who seem to know WTF to do with oneself in times like these about how we can stay centered while pounding the keyboard day in, day out, and honestly—they had some great suggestions. Be right back—going to take a 15-minute walk and call a friend.

 

Rethinking your commute & staying grounded

This is a tricky one, and if you’re feeling a little squirrelly, join the club. “When our livelihoods are at stake, we can easily fall into a fear-based mentality,” says Dr. Jennifer B. Rhodes, a licensed psychologist, relationship expert, and forthcoming author of Toxic Insecurity. “The biggest thing we all need to do to stay grounded is to move our bodies.”

There’s a somatic reason for this, she adds: “Sitting for prolonged periods of time will cause the fearful emotions to get stuck in our hips—especially hip flexors—and upper back, from rounding forward on the computer. In order to stay grounded, a cardio-based workout, yoga with a special focus on balancing poses and working the legs, and meditation can help [you to] stay out of the fearful state of mind.” There you have it, folks: If you didn’t already have a reason to get moving, a little movement can def make your anxiety melt away. We have some good suggestions for stretches or home workouts you can try!

 

The secret to productivity

It’s hard to remain productive when you’re a step away from the TV at any given moment. But the key here is simple: “Use external rewards,” says Kali Rogers, CEO and founder of Blush Online Life Coaching and author of Conquering Your Quarter Life Crisis. “I know that we are all supposed to abide by internal rewards—doing things because they make us feel fulfilled—but desperate times call for desperate measures.” Truer words were never spoken.

These rewards are small, but they act as the carrot at the end of the proverbial stick to keep you going. “That could look like a 15-minute TV break, a nice meditation, a small treat, a phone call to a friend—whatever feels like a reward for getting stuff done,” she says. If you’ve never taken a 15-minute TV break in your life, we’re right there with you, but you get the idea. “Take advantage of the distractions your home offers, but leverage them to help you work more efficiently,” she says.

 

Grounded, check. Productive, check. But what if I’m still anxious?

Even if you’re feeling centered and productive, it’s hard to keep anxiety at bay right now. All you need to do is turn on the news or open Twitter or the Times, and a full-blown panic attack is just a headline away. Professional coach Nina Rubin, M.A., has deceptively simple suggestions to keep your chill: “Take a walk outside, or stand or sit on your balcony or patio,” she says. “Call a friend while you’re walking outside” or take in the air on your terrace.

And above all: “No TV news while working, and read newspapers only twice a day,” she says. That’s a tall order for all of us, especially those of us who spend a zillion hours a day on the internet. But I have to report, my friends—I took her advice today, and kept my news consumption brief, reading the Times once and watching the news in the evening. I’m sure I won’t take that suggestion every day, and I certainly haven’t historically been taking it, but I do feel more relaxed than usual. Surprise, surprise.

Another route to zen: Paying attention to those notions zipping around your head. “Staying calm requires paying close attention to your thoughts,” says licensed psychotherapist Michelle Farris. “Thoughts create feelings, so when thoughts become negative, stop and change that thought into a comforting message. You have the power to change negative thoughts by replacing them with ones that calm you.”

That might seem impossible, but she breaks it down to small tweaks. Instead of saying to yourself, “I hate being trapped at home,” she says, try to “tell yourself, ‘I can handle this just for today,’ or ‘It’s OK to take a break right now.’” If you’re gentle with yourself, you’ll feel calmer, and your brain will slow down a bit. “Your thoughts will become more manageable when they’re focused on you and what you need,” Farris says.

 

Procrastination: Will it actually kill me?

Procrastination besets the most saintly of us all, but in times like these, it can be hard to tackle the projects facing us each day. If you’re finding yourself living la vida mañana, be kind—and don’t forget to breathe. “Lots of deep breaths!” saya Dr. Jennifer Howard, a licensed psychotherapist, healer, relationship counselor, and author of Your Ultimate Life Plan.

And keep it practical: “Make lists, break it down into even smaller lists, and tackle them as best you can—and be kind to yourself,” she says. “Being harsh never really helps us get our goals done, especially during impossible times.” And no—it won’t kill you. Especially if you keep up those breaths.

 

A final word on productivity

“Forgive yourself!” Dr. Howard says. “These are extraordinary times. This will pass, and you will be able to move past this to your greatest achievements.”

Straight from the horse’s mouth, folks. If you just blew through yet another Netflix marathon, we get it. Sure, this is a great time to read all the books you always meant to read or create the art you’ve always wanted to make, but now is not the time to hold yourself to a gold standard. We’re in the middle of a pandemic. None of us have lived through anything like this before. So if you have to watch more TV than usual, go for it. Just try to do some stretches or something while you’re at it.

 

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