Working from home is not new to me, but being (basically) stuck at home is. Since working with clients is out of the question at the moment (and my part time job is closed due to COVID-19), I've found myself with extra time on my hands. As we here in Kansas enter our third week of sheltering in place, I thought I'd share my strategy for staying sane while staying put.
My approach involves a sort of non-traditional to do list. Instead of starting with a detailed list of specific tasks to complete, I am starting each day with a list of experiences I want to have. Your situation is no doubt different from mine, so your list of daily experiences will probably be different as well. Whatever your circumstances, the basic concept behind this approach can be widely applicable.
My List of Daily Experiences
For me, this typically takes the form of personal scripture study and time spent in prayer, and it's usually the first big "task" I tackle each day. This experience might also include listening to uplifting music, meditation, or any other activity that leaves you feeling grounded and spiritually connected.
By physical strengthening, I am referring mainly to exercise, and the goal is to leave you feeling energized. For me, this includes strength training, stretching and flexibility exercises, walking, or using the elliptical machine. Ideally, I try to do a combination of these activities each day. It doesn't really matter what form of exercise you choose. The important thing is to get moving. Exercise is good for the mind and body. It's an effective means of battling depression, and it boosts the immune system.
As a side note, since adopting this approach, I have been more consistent about working out than I have probably ever been. I seriously have not missed a day, and I feel great!
Fresh Air and Sunshine:
It is my goal to get outside everyday, if only for a few minutes. Even in bad weather, it's good to stand on the porch and breathe in the fresh air. Some days I have gone for a walk. Some days I have worked in the yard. We have been blessed with (mostly) good weather the past couple of weeks, so we have been eating many of our meals outside on the deck. Every time I step outside, no matter what the weather or the time of day, I feel my spirits lift a little.
The number of potential items on this list is endless, but my goal is simply to do something to improve my physical surroundings every day. Some days it has been an organization project. Some days it's simple household chores. Some days it's a more involved home improvement project. Today I cleaned out the drawer organizers in my kitchen. Yesterday my son and I transplanted hostas.
While I am not working at the moment in the traditional sense, there are still lots of things I want and/or need to do. The goal here is to spend a few hours each day doing something productive. Most of us have a list of projects we've wanted to tackle but haven't had the time (or perhaps the proper mindset) to get them done. Now is a great time to check some things off the list!
While we often crave idle time to do as we please, too much down time is depressing. There is joy in work. Accomplishing a task provides a mental and emotional boost that leaves us feeling good about ourselves. On the flip side, an idle day often leaves us feeling unsettled and dejected.
Serving others, even in small and simple ways, is good for everyone. It lifts the giver and the receiver. I've been amazed and impressed by the myriad ways in which people have been serving one another during this crisis. It's truly inspiring., That said, service doesn't have to be grandiose to be worthwhile. It can be something as simple as a phone call to a friend, especially one who lives alone. The best service is the service rendered to individuals within your own home.
Connect with Family:
This one may seem strange given that we're pretty much all sheltering in place with our families, perhaps spending more time with them than we would like. But being in the same space as another person and connecting with that person are not necessarily synonymous. The key word is connect. How that looks will vary from person to person and family to family. Some days we do something together as a family. Other days I try to make a one on one connection with a family member. Some days my goal is to connect with family members not living in my home.
Connect with Others:
In addition to connecting with family, I'm striving to reach out to others living outside my home. This can take the form of a handwritten note sent through the mail, an email, a text, or a phone call. It could simply be smiling eyes aimed at a stranger in the grocery store (above your face mask). In a time when people are feeling disconnected physically, emotional connections mean a lot.
This is the one area in which I have been most inconsistent so far, but I think it is important (despite my lack of success). Having something to look forward to every day, makes it that much easier to get through the day. I encourage you (and me!) to find a way to fit something fun into every day.
Stick to a Schedule
I get more done when I have a schedule in place. It's tempting not to set an alarm these days, or to think "I can do that later". In an environment in which time has taken on a diminished degree of importance, it's easy to lose track of time. Losing track of time typically leads to wasting time, and wasting time often leads to regret. It can become a vicious cycle that ultimately results in depression. So, for me, a self-imposed schedule is important when I have no outside demands on my time.
Keeping Track of the Days
The more time I spend sheltering in place, the harder it is for me to remember what day it is! My husband recently suggested that we start scheduling certain activities for certain days to help us keep track of the days of the week. For instance, we might designate one night of the week as family movie night, another as family game night, and another as family history night. Personally, I think it's a great idea, and I am excited to give it a try!
So, there you have it - my daily experience list designed to save my sanity while sheltering in place. The thing I love about this approach to scheduling the day is that it allows lots of room for interpretation. This means that no two days need look the same. Variety is important in preventing boredom and depression.
I hope you are having a good experience sheltering in place, If you're struggling to find focus and feel productive, I hope this method will prove helpful.
Take care. Stay safe. God bless!