Last month I wrote about being prepared in the event of a major illness or death. Unfortunately, preparedness seems to be the topic of the quarter…
With the world-wide COVID-19 pandemic in full swing, this month let’s talk about how to gear up if you choose to self-quarantine, decide to work from home/are told you must work from home, or actually have to be quarantined due to illness.
First, be sure to stock up on basic supplies. Yes, I know that’s becoming more challenging as grocery stores and online merchants like Amazon are experiencing depleted supplies of soap, toilet paper, and disinfectants.
However, you should still be able to purchase groceries without too much trouble. While large quantities of cookies and chocolate may seem like the antidote to stress, I encourage you to opt for choices that pack a nutritional punch to ensure you consume vitamins and minerals, fiber, antioxidants, and protein needed to support your immune system. Some good options (barring food allergies) include: tuna fish, peanut butter, frozen shrimp, lentils, black beans, chickpeas, frozen fruits and vegetables, as well as produce that tends to be shelf-stable for longer periods of time (bananas, apples, broccoli). My daughter’s supply prep even included a stop at the wine store!
Second, create a productive work environment for yourself.
1. Set up a location for your home office. Some of you may already have a home office, but many of you probably don’t since you don’t normally work from home. Ideally, it should be a dedicated space so you won’t need to move and rearrange things daily; if you use your dining room table and have to clear it off each evening to serve dinner to your family, you may get frustrated quickly. Instead consider whether you can set up a folding card table in a spare bedroom, or even in a corner of the living room. Consider whether you will need to participate in video meetings; if so, make sure the background behind your workstation communicates professionalism. Create a bin of basic supplies so you have everything you need at your fingertips and won’t have to repeatedly walk into another room to grab something.
2. If other family members are home from school or working from home, try to designate separate areas so you can all be productive. Plan to have dinner together to socialize or vent at the end of the day.
3. Establish set work times. While you may not necessarily (depending on your job) have to work a traditional 9-5 day, be sure to start your day at a reasonable hour. Because you don’t have to commute, you may be able to sleep half an hour later, and still start your workday at a reasonable hour. Be sure to establish a time to stop working. This is important because working from home can be problematic for some people because the workday never ends; you can always walk into your home office. That said, make sure you do take some breaks during the day to get up and move. Walk the dog, walk around the block to get some fresh air, or just run up and down the stairs a few times.
4. Treat working from home like work. Wake up, make coffee, and get dressed. If you are wearing clothes rather than pajamas, you will boost your productivity. Consider using a tool like the Time Timer or a technique such as the Pomodoro method to help you stay focused. It’s easy to get sidetracked by dirty dishes, the laundry, or even constant snacking when you’re home-based. Incorporate one of these techniques to help you get your work completed. You can load the dishwasher when you take a lunch break. And yes, be sure to take breaks to eat and hydrate.
Third, limit news consumption. Many of my clients have been calling me to tell me how stressed out they are by the news reports. Rather than constantly checking your phone and/or social media, limit media reports to once or twice a day. If you find yourself getting panicked or overwhelmed, you may want to delay looking until the end of the day, after you’ve completed some tasks and crossed some items off your list.
Fourth, use this “found time” to accomplish some of the items you’ve been meaning to get around to forever. Maybe it’s organizing your basement, or perhaps it’s writing a book or starting a podcast. It might even be catching up on overdue correspondence such as writing a letter to your college roommate or writing a thank you note. Make progress on that stack of books on your nightstand. Give yourself something to look forward to when all this is in the rearview mirror and start planning your next vacation. After being housebound, you’ll need to get away!
Fifth, and finally, stay calm! This too will pass…eventually.
If you live in New Jersey, and have questions about the virus, there is a 24-hour Coronavirus hotline number you can call: 1-800-222-1222. Trained professionals are standing by to answer your questions.
As realistic as some social media posts may seem, accurate and current information should be obtained only from reliable sources such as the CDC website at www.cdc.gov or the NJ Department of Health website at https://www.nj.gov/health/cd/topics/ncov.shtml.
Stay safe and healthy!