Structure & Goal Setting Tips During Challenging Times
Anne Markowitz, L.C.S.W., is a consultant for Barrier Free Living providing workshops around the topic of anger. She shares a few tips about maintaining balance during this challenging period.
I hope everyone is well and taking care of yourselves and each other.
We are living in extraordinary times, and have to act extraordinarily. With this in mind, I wanted to share a few ideas about getting through this experience, whether we are staying in, working from home or not working at all.
Remember, this is one episode of life. Things are changing, but will change again, and the virus won’t last forever.
Structure is extremely important
Get up in the morning and do your usual morning routine. Lying around in pajamas and watching videos may FEEL like relaxing but will actually make you more anxious over time.
We need to feel productive in some way to feel good about ourselves. If you are working from home, try to set up a schedule every day that includes a lunch break and social interactions with colleagues. Have lunch together over FaceTime. There are group chat apps (gchat, google hangouts, zoom etc.,) that can let you see and chat with more than one person at a time.
If you are working from home but used to commute 45 minutes to get there and 45 minutes back, maybe you will feel better if you still make a kind of commute. While you can, if you can, walk a few blocks and come back; get some air before you start work. Do the same thing at the end of the work day. Air is important; changing the environment is helpful in breaking up the day.
If you are used to talking with colleagues during the day, why not FaceTime them on your phone while you’re working on your computer. Then you can gab with them while you’re working and complain as usual about the emails, etc. Much more like normal.
Don’t isolate yourself
Even if we are home-bound, we need each other. Keep in touch with friends and family, even for a few minutes.
Schedule talks with people like you schedule work hours. This shutdown is going to last for a while so we need to keep our social connections going. Make a deal with friends and family that if you haven’t called each other in a three days, both of you are responsible for calling each other and checking in.
There’s no excuse for not exercising
If you have three square feet of floor and the internet, you can exercise. The internet is your friend here.
Running in place to music, doing an aerobics workout, doing an online zumba class—it won’t cost you a cent. Twenty minutes of aerobic activity will keep you healthy.
Be flexible about goals
If you were planning to work for an hour with a client or colleague and the timing doesn’t work because, for example, the client or colleague has screaming children at his or her end of the call, make it a ten minute call and have another ten minute call later or next day.
If a project needs to be postponed, schedule it or break it into steps that you can do over time. Schedule everything you can, because routine is important, but be reasonable.
Be aware of anxiety
Almost everyone is more anxious right now.
Anxiety keeps us alert and stimulated so we unconsciously feel we are protecting ourselves. In other words, we figure, “If I worry about it enough, it won’t happen.”
So a little anxiety can be useful. But people are holding onto anxiety right now, and the media is feeding this. If you or colleagues or clients are getting too anxious, try to reduce the anxiety to a reasonable level.
Try to be honest with yourself about how much “news” you are watching. Remind yourself that we can control some elements of our lives and not others.
Anxiety is fear of the future, so focus on the reality of today. What do I need to do now, today? What can I control today? Break things down into steps if you are overwhelmed. And reach out to people you trust for help, if you feel isolated in your anxiety.
Again, going out into the air (if possible), exercising and feeling productive are the best antidotes to anxiety and depression.
Have some fun
My own feeling is, let’s try to enjoy this a little.
Yes, it’s exciting to have all this going on, and it’s also devastating—people getting sick and dying; people losing jobs and worried about money and food and the future. There is no question this is going to be an enormously difficult time.
But here we are, and every day we make choices. So if we are stuck at home, here’s the challenge: what can you do now that you never have the time or motivation to do? Now’s the time.
Want to learn to do something? Learn a new language, learn how to program a computer, learn how to make a lamp, learn how to draw/sing/bake/belly dance?
It’s all free on the internet. You are the only obstacle. If you have kids at home, all the more reason to be creative. But take some time for yourself, too. It’s good for the kids to see you taking care of yourself.
What do we want to learn while we go through this? When we look back on this period, how do we want to see that we acted?