working from home challenges answered

Working from Home in a time of quarantine

Maybe you’re working from home and it’s all new. On top of it, you’re either alone more than usual or you’re trying to work from home with other people also home…maybe your kids or mate..or both. It can get a little nuts.

Even for those of us who are used to working from home, this pressured time brings with it extra challenges. Here are some guidelines ALL of us can remember in order to stay sane, stimulated, and productive.

Tips for Working from Home

1. Do your work in the same place. Those of you home with others probably have this one figured out already. You know you can’t be all that productive with everyone else swarming around so you’re off in a designated room, maybe quite obviously, an office or study. (That might have required some furniture moving and cleaning.)

For some of you monitoring small children simultaneously, being in a central location and available might be crucial. Still, same thing: set up and “go to work” in a designated zone. Teach children that when you’re in that zone, you’re at work. Do be “interruptible” for very young children. Thirty seconds of focused attention when they really need it helps kids feel secure and we all know that minimizes chaos in the house.

I know this takes patience. If you manage 30 seconds of focused attention calmly, kindly, and completely… (and obviously without blowing your stack,) kids can quickly get a sense that there is still structure and safety in their day. You may need to educate them (calmly and kindly of course) about the differences between need and want. Remember, connection, safety, and security are needs. Plus, getting outside and taking a walk can be just as important for children as it is for dogs.

2. Go to work at the same time. Even if your company does not require it, you’ll be more productive. Announce to those you live with that you’ll be at work from X-X and taking your breaks at specific times. Then do it. On top of making you more productive, you’ll experience your work day having a beginning and an end. And it should have an end.

Especially when we’re available at home, everyone else can start to think we’re available 24/7. I have an assistant doing all her work for me remotely, and as a boss, I’m careful about when I send her an assignment and my expectations regarding how long I hope it will take…i.e. when her part is “due.” Not all bosses are going to think about that. But YOU can, especially when you’re NOT the boss. You have nothing to fear by communicating a boundary around this. You’re soon going to be a frazzled mess if you don’t.

Sometimes communicating that boundary is about your behavior. As in, DON’T answer the email at 9 pm. Answering is on you.

And if you ARE the boss (and I’m reminding myself here,) stop work communications at your own designated hour. You need time away from work. We ALL do. Time to work, time to play, time for domestics, time to connect (in relationship- with those is proximity and those at a physical distance) and absolute, do-nothing down time.

A note: Some of you are doing your essential work in finance or medical supplies or innovative restructuring and I know you have a sense of urgency for the work. You still need a break. And regular food and sleep, and some movement. You might need a hug or several. You need more than a few deep, relaxing breaths…and a shower. Which leads me to:

3. Get dressed. You don’t have to wear the same clothing you’d wear to the office, but groom yourself. Make yourself presentable. Shower. Wash your face, do your hair, and brush your teeth. Wear something you’d be happy to have everyone at work see you in…on “Casual Friday” sure.

If you’re meeting clients online, it IS okay for it to be business up top, party on the bottom…as long as no one sees your bottom. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Me, I’m definitely ditching my dress pants and heels for the home duration. Look, I’m not suggesting ridiculousness here. You should be comfortable but definitely groomed and dressed.

Because YOU know the difference.

In addition, this actually signals to those you live with that you are working. Then when you change into cozy lounge wear, it signals that you’ve left work. It might sound silly, but it matters! This is especially helpful for young children. Guess, what? Your mate will appreciate the distinction too.

General Comments on Working from Home

You are going to be subjected to more distractions: neighbor noise, other people’s pets, your pets, the dishes, a television, social media threads, and an onslaught of additional email. Who else here is suddenly buried in assurances and descriptions from every business they’ve ever frequented… in response to the coronavirus? (I know I might be one; I’m hopeful you’re finding it helpful and truly comforting. That’s what I’m here for, after all.) The three point structure above can help minimize the impact of those distractions.

Some of you are already better than others at compartmentalizing. Now is the time to do it. And don’t get mad at your mate for engaging this skill right now. He or she might be super good at it and now’s the time to engage it. Besides, all of us benefit from leaving work at work. Remember: work time, play time, domestics, connecting time, and down time.

Other tips for Productivity

These tips are good no matter whether you’re working from home or not and if you make them a practice now, they’ll increase your productivity exponentially for the long term.

Get up and move around every fifty to fifty five minutes. Even if you’ve fashioned a standing desk at home, move around. Get some blood flowing. Check on the kids. They’ll be glad you did and will feel simultaneously more connected and more willing to “allow” you to get back to work. Give someone a hug for more than 20 seconds. It releases oxytocin and that always helps lower cortisol, the stress hormone. And, it’s soothing.

Maybe take a cold shower in the morning. I can’t bring myself to do this quite yet. I enjoy the hot ones for their steaming and comforting qualities right now. But science indicates a cold shower wakes up the neurotransmitters, increases resilience, helps manage stress, and seems to have a strong correlation with creativity and motivation.

Do everything else you know to do to take care of your stress level. You might know from our work together whether you are heartfirst, brainfirst, or bodyfirst. If you ever answered the question from me about what you do when you enter a party, you also might know if your instinctual stack is first one-on-one, social, or self-preservation. It all makes a difference in the things that work best for YOU and addressing your stress.

More on that in a future blog.

A final note:

For now, (and always) be kind and gentle…with yourself and with others. Keep those things structured that can be. Rest when you’re tired. And create your own center of safety, whether it is your routine, inside your heart and mind, or inside your home.

Of course, if I can help with any of that, let me know. Let’s connect.

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Coming soon, ways to cope if you are alone in your house- with or without furry, breathing friends. And what to do is you want to KEEP DATING during COVID-19.

 

parenting

Parenting during Coronavirus

Parenting during coronavirus (stay-at-home, shelter-in-place, quarantine, lockdown…whatever you are calling it) is going to be challenging if it hasn’t been already.

These times will absolutely accentuate the positive and the negative of your existing family system and structure, no matter what age are your children.

Some of you are home with wee ones. Some have school-agers. Maybe you have a wrangle of multiple ages with bigger children capable of giving a hand. Still others of you are home with moody teens or young adults wrestling their own disappointments: social opportunities shut down, dating relationships challenged, questions about their future looming.

No matter what, it’s a challenge.

On top of it, you know parenting is one of the BIG THREE that affects marriages, right? Mishandling differences in parenting style, money management, and the sexual relationship can ring the death knoll for any marriage. Notice I said mishandling differences. Having differences is not the problem. Many of us need help figuring out how to handle the differences.

No matter what your parenting styles, even when they differ greatly, here are guiding principles you can each use and adapt for good (not perfect) parenting right now.

Parenting during Quarantine

It’s Parenting 101 all over again.

Some of you have heard me use the model that good parenting consists of nurture, guidance, and limits… in physical, intellectual, emotional, spiritual, and sexual realms. All that nurture, guidance, and limiting is age-appropriate, of course. Not very many of us GOT that growing up but we CAN intentionally offer it to our children…at any and every age.

How are you doing with that matrix?

And if it’s just complete pandamonium and you’re thinking, “Yeah, right, Beth. Nurture, guidance, and limits!? I’m just trying to survive over here” skip down to the numbered points below. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Those should help.

No worries. You’re human. And you already have a family system in place and working or not working so well, in which case, use this time to revisit your family norms, structure, operation, and health level.

I’m not saying start from scratch and drum up All the Good Stuff right this minute under pressure. I’m saying you can use the matrix to continue to shore up your parenting even now. Use it to spend some brain space envisioning what you can do to be a better parent.

And pay attention to and emphasize all the great things that actually work. Then remind children of their positive family identity. “We prize family and togetherness. We’ll get through this together. ” Or maybe you can say “We always get through hard things. This is no different.” It is true that “this will definitely be a time to remember.” You ARE creating family memories…even now.

Above all, and in all, be kind and gentle with yourself and others. Just as much as you are able. And get some help if you’re having a hard time with that.

Parenting in Quarantine can be pure chaos

…if you let it. You are in charge of the kids, not the other way around. Even though you’re exhausted, stressed, and sleep deprived while relationships may be strained, you really are in charge. I know your brain might be in fight, flight, or freeze mode and if you identify with that, let me know. I’ve got specific tools to help get you to a more regulated state. And don’t worry, I’ve been helping people with that and more…not just the last three weeks, but for years.

Here are parenting principles to help:

1. Know that your kids are individuals who will have varied and unique responses to stress. Respect that. Honor it. In fact, acknowledge it out loud in a sentence or two even if your audience is likely to respond with an eye roll. Even teens need to feel seen and respected by their parents.

2. Everyone wants to hear things are going to be okay. (They ARE going to be okay. If you don’t know that, let’s chat.) There’s no need to overemphasize this or to fake it. Be genuine. Your kids always want to know that you have got this. You are the adult in their world. They do take their cues from you. It’s okay not to know everything and have all the answers. You can admit you feel scared sometimes too. But it’s not okay to make your kids take care of you right now.

3. Don’t neglect yourself. If you’re freaked out about something, tend to your own freak out. Call your therapist. Lots of us are doing video telehealth now and it is super helpful and safe. There are concrete skills a good therapist knows and can teach you to help address your issues and get you solidly feeling so much better. Then you’ll be ready to jump back in and be a great parent. (Of course, call me. I’m here for you.)

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Plus these important parenting tips:

4. Do provide structure. The creation of predictability and certainty in uncertain times is soothing to EVERYONE, including you, whether you realize this or not. Create structure. Order play times, designate time for work (homework, chores,) time for taking care of business, (when Mommy or Daddy need to be alone for a limited amount of time) and times AWAY from the parenting task…even if it is just for a long, luxurious shower. Or, if they are the correct ages, do get some away time when they are in bed for the night.

5. Rest. Literally, like all of us were told when our babies were born, rest when they rest. Do that now if you can. Don’t expect yourself to go, go, go…even though most of us are doing this within our own homes now. These ARE stressful times. Give yourself and your kids a break. (And remember, a break implies that they were previously on-task or hard at work. ๐Ÿ˜‰ But I mean this figuratively as well. Leave room for human responses. Keep your discipline and consequences within reason. If you’re having trouble staying reasonable because you’re just overwhelmed, call a friend, take a break, and of course, get some professional help if you need it.

A few final tips for parenting now

6. Play. No matter what age your children -and I mean grown ones too- play together. On purpose or spontaneously, do something FUN. Board Games, competitive ones, made-up ones, goofy ones, whatever. But PLAY together. It’s a great way to experience JOY.

7. Be grateful out loud. Make lists of good things. Count blessings. Say a prayer before meals. Whatever fits you. But do it and let your kids see and hear you as well as contribute their own ideas. You might not force surly teens to add to the list, but let them hear you doing this.

8. Enjoy this time. It IS unprecedented and that means there will never be another time like it. It’s new and different, which means your brain is on high-alert recording memories and experiences. Make some good ones for your kids.

In addition, Psychology Today has published the first of a series dealing with parenting during crisis. Read it right here. You’ve got resources to make the most of your quarantine.

If you’re having a hard time with any of this, related to parenting or just related to you, reach out. I am here for you.

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perseption is everything reframe for relief

Cognitive Reframe to the Rescue

Cognitive reframe is not just a psychotherapy term. It is that. But it’s more. You can actually do it with your masterful mind and FEEL better. It’s sort of like magic. Or ninja neuroscience.

Here’s how to engage a cognitive reframe: you notice how you’re thinking about a thing: “oh my God, there’s no toilet paper! What will we do?!” For example.

You don’t label that thought. It’s not bad or good. You just notice that’s the way you’re thinking about it and then ask yourself, “Is there another way to think about this?”

The answer is, yes.

You frame it differently in order to have a different impact. For instance, “Wow, someone else has A LOT of toilet paper. I wonder what that stack looks like in their house?”

This is not a joke, although some of you might be smiling. I get that. Those of you who own the toilet paper right now, you’re probably definitely smiling.

This is also not a value judgement about whether you TP hoarders really need ALL.That.TP. This is for everyone else looking at that empty shelf who might actually be in danger of resorting to wash cloths and having a moment of sheer wonder, anxiety, and possible almost-panic. It’s okay. Don’t worry; that feeling can happen to ANY of us. There’s no judgement.

Another cognitive reframe:

There’s nothing wrong with wash cloths.

In fact, they don’t leave TP pilling. (Most of us think that’s a good thing.) And they are reusable. They worked for hundreds of years.

Does anyone remember cloth diapers? Hullo? They have always been a good thing for the environment and very effective in helping the littlest bums learn to hold the pee for the little potty.

When I think cognitive reframe, I think creativity

Know what? You don’t have to actually believe and invest in your reframe, you just have to consider it as a possibility. It loosens the death grip on your ONE WAY of seeing a thing and helps ease the associated suffering: anxiety, heartache, depression, grief. Whatever ails you.

Know who’s good at this?

Kid-minds.

They’re flexible and imaginative and don’t put ALL the stock in the first way of seeing things. Try it. Put on your best kid-mind and dive in. You can do this with anything.

A Cognitive Reframe Story

Some of you know I love a good story. Here’s one: Monday, working from home, I thought I’d do the responsible (and prudent) thing and I ordered some grocery supplies on line. Things like face wash and body wash, mouth wash and deodorant: things no one else will care about so much (except my honey) if I am endlessly working from home. But I care about these things!

(Apparently I have plenty of toilet paper, but not an abundance of run-of-the-mill cosmetic supplies.)

So, I ordered online for delivery. All the cosmetic supplies and frozen vegetables, which, if you know me at all, is almost blasphemy. Fresh is my mantra. But: wrong face scrub, no veggies, sample size pit-juice, and, to top it off, the shopper picked himself up a box of brownie mix which I never ordered, I did pay for, and I did not receive because he obviously took them home as a tip for his less-than-stellar job as my personal shopper. (I really did NOT order brownies! Honestly. I’d make those from scratch… most of the time.)

Of all the things to surreptitiously add to a grocery order!

At any rate, the order was such a fail, I braved the store myself the next day.

And purchased $276 worth of food, beverages, and supplies to get me through at least a month if I were to be quarantined all by myself in my house.

Which is not happening anyway, btw. I’m not quarantined nor will I shelter in place all by myself. There’s My Honey for company (which is not his real name.) And the cat (also not his real name.)

Fast forward to the grocery shelves.

Yes, there were vacuous, bare, clean racks with NOTHING on them where the meat and seafood usually are, where there used to be dairy and bread and paper products.

But do you know what my cognitive-reframing-trained brain did?

It got creative.

What other protein can I introduce?ย  There WAS packaged meat, just not the freshly cut stuff.

I even remembered to buy sauerkraut, potatoes, and (chicken) sausage in order to celebrate St Patty’s Day with “bangers and mash.”

Personally, I shrug at bread since I consume so little of it, being gluten sensitive, but whole wheat crackers fit that bill nicely.

I bought not-my-brand decaf coffee and chose organic microwave popping corn since all the families with kids off school obviously absconded with the other stuff and the overwhelming sense I had was of…

ABUNDANCE!

I have enough, I am enough, I do enough.

Oh my word! There were some empty shelves, but there were aisles and aisles and aisles and plenty of lush, fresh produce, and multiple choices of real food just waiting to be loaded into my cart and organized in my pantry.

And guess what? There was still PLENTY when I left it behind, despite the fact there were so many shoppers in the store, dutifully staying 6-feet apart, allowing turns choosing similar items and lining up with some distance between carts to check out.

Makes me wish I owned stock in Kroger, Cub Foods, Byerly’s, Lund’s or Whole Foods!

Made me proud of us as humans!

We can feed the world, people. And make toilet paper galore. And replace the paper towels that sold out! I hear that PnG (right here in Cincinnati) is thinking flexibly about all kinds of anti-microbial products and sanitizing solutions they will sell to us this year!

For EVERY negative, there is a positive reframe

This is not just half-empty, half-full rigmarole. It actually matters. There is always a different way to look at the darkest thing you’re considering. And it does not need to be related to these unprecedented, strange times. It applies to your relationship. To your parenting. Your money. To your food, your sister, your workplace, your circumstances, your self-imposed, silly limits, and every single other thing that troubles you today.

And if you can’t see the alternative just by getting creative, or you’re having trouble thinking flexibly, call your therapist. Or me. We want to help you. We’ve got ninja magic neuroscience tricks up our sleeves that work. Cognitive reframing is just one of them.

Be well. Be safe. Get in touch. Follow on Inst or FB. Join the Insiders so I can send you Love Letters . Reach out for contact or an appointment. I’m here to help.

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