Like many people during this time, you may have transitioned to working from home during Coronavirus. This has been a big adjustment for many, and unless you have previous experience with working from home, this adjustment may have not gone as well as you would have liked. Here are some tips for those who may be struggling with working at home and navigating this transition during the Coronavirus quarantine.
SETTING UP YOUR WORKSPACE
One of the most important factors that will benefit you while working from home is creating a designated workspace. What your workspace looks like will depend on who you live with, how big of a space you have available, and the items needed to effectively do your job. If you are not lucky enough to have a home office, you will have to create your own. If you live with others, you will want to find a quiet space where you can work without distraction and interruption, preferably in a room with a door that closes. Try to avoid working in your bed or on your couch as it can be hard to mentally separate work time from relaxation time. You will want to find a chair or another seat that you can comfortably sit in for extended periods of time. If you have access to, or the ability to create a standing desk, use that to give yourself breaks from sitting. If using a laptop, you might want to invest in an external mouse or keyboard to make navigating your computer easier. When choosing your work area, try to find a spot with as much natural light as possible. If you work in the evening after the sun has set, make sure you have enough light to keep yourself alert and focused; if needed, you may want to bring another lamp in from another room or move an existing one closer to you. Additionally, for most of us, video calls have become a regular part of our workday. When choosing your workspace, you may want to keep in mind what appears in the background during your video calls. How much of your home life do you want the other person to see and how casual of a video call is it? Try turning your computer camera on and checking out what others will see before connecting to that video call.
CREATING YOUR WORKDAY MINDSET
For those that are new to working from home, it may be tempting to sleep in and roll out of bed right before your start time. Try to stick to your normal routine as if you were going into the office; get up at your normal time, eat breakfast, have your coffee, shower, and get dressed. Use the time that you would normally spend commuting to do something enjoyable for yourself like going for a walk, reading, or playing with a pet. Not only will sticking to your normal routine help your brain get into work mode, it will also make it easier to transition back, if needed, to working in the office.
It can be hard to stay focused and motivated to work while at home. As much as possible, eliminate distractions. Try starting the day off with the tasks that are most enjoyable to complete or the ones that you find the easiest. Being able to accomplish tasks early in the day will help provide a sense of accomplishment. You can also try making a list of tasks for the day and checking them off one by one as you complete them. Seeing your list get smaller and smaller as the day goes by can also help you stay motivated. For those difficult, boring, or just unpleasant tasks, try breaking them down into smaller steps and identify a way to reward yourself after you complete each step. Rewards could be taking a break, eating a snack, going for a walk, snuggling with a pet, getting 10 minutes of phone time, or checking in a friend via text.
If you are finding it hard to assess your level of productivity while working at home, you are not alone. First and foremost, it is very likely that you will not be as productive while working at home compared to if you were at the office. This may be due to factors related to your environment, like having children at home who you are also trying to school, or due to the nature of your job and limitations that working at home create, such as having to send an email and awaiting a response instead of walking down the hall to ask someone a quick question. Additionally, you are not just working from home. You are working at home during a global pandemic and it is reasonable to expect that you may have some difficulties with focus and concentration due to increased stressors, anxieties, and responsibilities. Keep communication open with your employer or supervisor regarding their expectations for you while working from home. Check in with these individuals on a regular basis to receive feedback with how they think you are doing, to receive assistance with prioritizing tasks, and to ask for help as needed. Additionally, reach out to co-workers for support and to explore what has worked for them.
MANAGING WORK/LIFE BALANCE
Depending on your job, working from home may allow for some flexibility with regards to work hours and scheduling compared to going into the office daily. Although this can be helpful for those working with children at home or sharing a workspace with a family member, it can also make it difficult to maintain a healthy work-life balance. If possible, start and stop work at the same times you normally would if you were going into the office. If you must modify your work schedule due to other competing demands at home, make sure that you block out the same amount of time in your day for work. While working, make sure you take breaks throughout the day. Ideally, breaks should involve removing yourself from your workspace and engaging in a non-work related activity. Schedule both short (5 -15 minutes) and long (30 – 60 minute) breaks throughout the day. It is important to figure out what works best for you. You may prefer to take breaks at designated times each day, or you may want to structure them around your schedule, such as after completing a difficult task or after a draining video call. For longer breaks, you may find it helpful to set up an automatic away message notification with your email or to notify co-workers that you will be away from your computer for a specific amount of time if you are concerned about people trying to reach you and expecting immediate replies. Set a timer for the duration of the break to help keep you on track and allow you to focus on utilizing your break effectively instead of worrying about when you should get back to work. Use your breaks to eat a snack, go for a walk, connect with a friend, read, workout, play on your phone, or even catch up on some dishes or fold some laundry. As the end of the workday approaches, you may find it helpful to plan and schedule out the tasks you will need to work on or complete for the next day. It can also be tempting to continue to check and respond to emails after our workday has ended, and unless your job requires you to be accessible 24 hours a day, try to avoid doing so. If you live alone, working from home can become socially isolating. If you find yourself craving time with your office BFFs, schedule an after-work virtual happy hour or game night to stay connected and socialize with your friends.
If working from home is new for you, it may take some time to get into a routine and adjust to the change. Be patient and give yourself time to adapt. If you continue to struggle with working from home, explore working with a counselor to help with managing stress, developing problem-solving skills, developing effective time management strategies, or any other issues that may be affecting your ability to work from home.
Having trouble staying productive at home? We can help! Therapy isn’t just for when you are feeling depressed. People use therapy to work through difficulties in many aspects of their lives including work related issues. Our therapists will work with you to identify and remove the barriers to your productivity working from home. Complete the contact request form below and one of our licensed therapists will reach out to you directly to learn more about how we can help.
You have been working out for months, hitting the gym consistently and making real progress with your fitness goals, and then Coronavirus (COVID-19) hits, the gyms close, and you are stuck at home worried that all your hard work is going to go to waste. Maybe you have not been exercising at all because the job, the kids, or just life was taking up most of your time and you could not figure out how to fit exercise into your hectic schedule. Exercise can also be an incredibly effective tool to manage your anxiety during this uncertain time. Now with some extra free time, you want to start building healthy habits, one of which includes exercise. Some people love working out from home, while others find it very challenging and do not know where to start. Here are some tips for those that are struggling to stay active during the shelter-in-place order.
Start with Something Fun
Sometimes it can be hard to find the motivation to start exercising. Try to focus on the types of exercise you enjoy. If you do not like it, then do not do it. Building and maintaining habits are a lot easier when doing something we enjoy.
Try Something New
Maybe you cannot do the exercises you enjoy anymore because of a lack of equipment, lack of space, or some other reason. Try developing a new exercise goal or trying a new method of exercise. No more heavy lifting at the gym? Challenge yourself to do one more pushup, squat, or crunch in a row each day to build endurance. Try out a free yoga or Pilates video on youtube for the first time.
If starting a new exercise routine feels overwhelming. Start by setting a small, achievable fitness goal like increasing your a daily step goal. If you cannot muster up the motivation to workout for an hour, that is okay. Maybe you can only push yourself to do 20 minutes, no problem. Just remember, some exercise is always better than none.
What if you are committed to exercising during this time, but not sure what to do? There are countless resources available right now: workout apps, online videos, virtual personal training sessions, and more. If none of those appeal to you, then make up your own exercise routine. Worried about not having any exercise equipment? No equipment, no problem. You can easily turn household items into weights. Add books to a book bag and wear it while doing lunges. Use water bottles as dumbbells to complete sets of curls and presses. Got a box of cat liter or a bag of dog food laying around? Hold that close to the body while doing squats. Have a small child wrap their body around your back and do pushups for an extra challenge. Use a steady chair or ottoman to complete one legged step-ups. For those of you that have limited space, body weight exercises can be used to get a full body workout in. Clear a space that is slightly longer than your height and about a foot wider than your hips and you are good to go. See how many burpees, jumping jacks, crunches, or high knees you can do in a minute or cycle through a variety of exercises with a specific number of sets and repetitions.
Get Sunshine and Fresh Air (Safely)
If you are still struggling with motivation, try going for a walk. If you are working from home, try substituting the time you would normally be commuting or using break times during the workday to get out and walk around the neighborhood. Take the dog or the kids on a walk to the park. While outside, remember to practice social distancing and wear a mask when unable to stay 6 feet or further away from others.
Still struggling with motivation? Get a workout buddy. Quarantined with family or a roommate? Use each other as support to build motivation to exercise. Living alone? Video call a friend or co-worker and workout together. Additionally, plan your workouts ahead of time, share your plans with someone, and schedule them into your week.
Staying active during this time is even more important now than it was before quarantine. Many of us have been experiencing increased symptoms of anxiety and depression, increased alcohol/food consumption, and decreased levels of overall daily activity. Exercise is not only effective in helping offset some of those extra calories, but can also help improve our mood and lower our anxiety. If you have not been exercising and are trying to start, or if you took some time off since the gyms closed and are trying to get back on track, give yourself time to get into a routine. It is important to set goals and take action, but if you find yourself having an off day or even an off week, be kind to yourself. If you continue to struggle with your exercise or health goals, seek support. Reach out to a friend, family member, or a counselor to help.
Bergen Counseling Center is currently accepting new clients via teletherapy video sessions. Your sessions may even be covered under your in-network insurance plan. Complete the contact request form below, and one of our trained and licensed therapists will reach out to you personally. We are still here to help during the coronavirus quarantine.
Contact Request Form
UPDATE: In accordance with Governor Pritzker’s extention of the previous executive order, the Bergen Counseling Center has made the difficult decision to continue to operate exclusively via telehealth video sessions through 5/30/2020 or until otherwise directed. We’ve made this decision based the safety and best interests of our employees and the clients we serve. Thank you for your patience and flexibility during this time.
Per Governor Pritzker’s executive order regarding shelter in place, as of 3/22/20, Bergen Counseling Center has decided to conduct all sessions via telehealth communication. However, we are happy to inform you that Governor Pritzker has also issued an executive order requiring IL insurers to cover all mental health telehealth services at in-network rates. This means, if you are a current client, you can continue seeing your therapist through our telehealth services. It also means we are still accepting new clients from all of our previous in-network insurance providers. We are proud to offer a fully integrated, confidential, HIPAA compliant video conferencing platform through Simplepractice Telehealth Services (Learn more). Although mental health is listed as an essential service that is excempt from Pritzker’s shelter in place order, we believe it is in the community’s best interest to abide by the executive order to remain at home. We will maintain 100% telehealth until April 7th or until otherwise directed.
Current Clients: Your therapist will be contacting you before your next scheduled appointment to confirm your telehealth appointment and answer any questions. Given the the rapidly changing Covid-19 response directives, contact your insurance company directly if you have any questions regarding the specifics of your plan.
WE ARE STILL ACCEPTING NEW CLIENTS!
New/Potential Clients: We are happy to help you in this time of crisis. Please complete our contact request form to the right and one of our therapists will reach out to you directly within 24 to 48 hours. ***We do not offer crisis services. If you feel that you are in a crisis and in need of immediate assistance, please call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room***
Thank you for your understanding, flexibility, and adaptability during this uncertain time for us all. We understand how unsettling the current environment can be, and we remain committed to serving our community as we all go through this together.
The Bergen Counseling Center Team
Don’t gather in groups larger than 50 people. Don’t touch your face. Wash your hands for 20 seconds. Sanitize. Don’t gather in groups larger than 10 people. Stay home. Do you have flu-like symptoms? You might have the coronavirus (also know as COVID-19). You’re asymptomatic? You still might have the coronavirus. Do you have groceries? Do you have enough toilet paper? Have you heard the latest update? How anxious should everyone be about the dangers of the coronavirus?
Are you feeling anxiety about Coronavirus? Are you overwhelmed yet?
Amid the growing concerns related to the coronavirus disease of 2019 (or COVID-19, as it’s been named), new articles surface every day discussing the impact that this new virus has had so far on countries around the world. Most people are feeling the impact of the virus on their day-to-day life even without perusing the latest news cycle—new mandates require people to work from home, schools are cancelled, and there’s a sudden short of toilet paper, of all things. We’re all working overtime to take precautions in order to stay physically healthy. But what about our mental health?
Here are a few tips for managing the seemingly inevitable stress and anxiety related to COVID-19:
Do what you can, then give yourself permission to focus on other things.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website has an excellent guide on COVID-19 including symptoms, what to do if you’re sick, and precautions to take in order to slow the spread of the virus. As of now, the latest recommendations are to wash your hands often (for at least 20 seconds at a time), distance yourself from others (especially social groups of larger than 10 people), clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces in your home, and to practice good hygiene (cover coughs and sneezes, stay home if you’re sick, and wear a facemask if you are sick and have to see a doctor or otherwise go out in public.)
And that’s it. That’s all you need to do. Once you know what to do, you can take comfort in knowing that you’re taking the necessary precautions to avoid spreading the virus or becoming contaminated yourself. Anything else is out of your hands.
Practice boundaries with the coronavirus.
Can you remember what we all talked about before the coronavirus dominated everything we saw, read, or listened to on TV or the internet? This is big news, so it isn’t surprising that it’s everywhere you look. But there is a point where more information isn’t helpful; instead, constant flooding of your newsfeed with the latest celebrity or athlete who has tested positive just becomes scary and overwhelming without actually bringing anything good into our lives.
Here’s what boundaries with the COVID-19 looks like:
“I’m feeling overwhelmed by all this talk of the virus.”
“If you aren’t feeling well, I’d prefer you stayed home.”
“I appreciate you trying to help talk to me about this, but I need to deal with my feelings about the virus myself.”
“Honestly, I’m a little coronavirus’d out. Can we talk about something else?”
Boundaries are about creating change in your environment in order to allow you to manage your own feelings in the way that you need to. It may be difficult to limit the degree to which the coronavirus takes up space in your mind, but there comes a time where unplugging from the never-ending updates may free up some space for you to do other things that will further help restore some balance to your life.
Hold on to your routines—and your social support!
What did you do before the coronavirus required you to stay home? Who did you spend time with? It’s easy to begin to feel stuck when you feel as though you’re unable to continue with your regular life, especially when there isn’t a definitive timeline for when life will return to “normal.” Take a moment to ask yourself—what if this was my new normal? Do I have to give those things up completely? Or can I recapture some of my hobbies or friendships through other means?
Cinema enthusiast? Movie rentals are more accessible than ever. Try having a movie night at home with stovetop popcorn and store-bought candy. Is your yoga studio closed? There are tons of free yoga videos available on YouTube that you can do in the comfort of your own home.
Beyond removing you from your hobbies, social distancing can feel isolating. If you’re accustomed to getting together with your friends for a drink on the weekends, try to keep that routine alive. Services like FaceTime, Google Hangouts, and Zoom allow for multiple people to video chat with each other at once, so you can keep your weekly hangouts without risking contagion.
Now is also a great time to get connected with online communities who may be interested in the same things as you, or to try a new hobby like board games or Get back into reading or try cooking a new recipe. There are plenty of options; the important thing is to carve out some space to enjoy thinking or experiencing something that isn’t panic over the pandemic.
For those who make use of therapy to help manage their stress or anxiety, or those who have been considering it, the CDC’s recommendations to stay home pose a particular problem. Fortunately, many therapists are beginning to offer therapy services over an online, video chat platform. The therapists at Bergen Counseling Center are now offering telehealth services for current and new clients to help provide support during this pandemic which may also be covered by your insurance plan. Contact us for a free 15 minute consultation to see if teletherapy services would be a good fit for you.