Written by therapist Zach Seifert
It can be a challenge mustering up the courage to force ourselves outside of a comfortable space. While the last two and a half years may not have been what would be traditionally considered, “comfortable,” in some ways I believe we have become comfortable with “discomfort”. When Covid-19 came hurling into our lives, a lot changed immediately. For some, family and social patterns were destroyed overnight; for others, the comfort of the daily normal shift became a confusing and draining irritation. We have found an increasing understanding of our limitations as well as our resolve. Often, the impact of this pandemic is lost within the necessary adaptations we have had to make to stay productive, engaged, and able; ultimately working to survive the inevitable nature of what we cannot control.
If Covid has taught us anything, it has been overwhelmingly how to live with our choices: where we live, what we have chosen to do for work, what kinds of people we have let into or kept in our lives, etc. It can be a challenge to look at these last couple of years and find takeaways that can support our growth as we continue to live in an ever changing space. Today, I wanted to focus on those working remotely, not from a traditional office space, and provide a couple of suggestions on how to provide yourself with the best chance of remaining encouraged and productive.
Adapting to Change
While there have been many companies partaking in remote work prior to Covid, preparation was most likely given to those accepting these positions. Covid really did not allow for the same luxury to those impacted by this changing work landscape. Overwhelmingly, I have witnessed people becoming tense, restless, and exhausted from working remotely. Often, working from home or a space that has been identified as safe, has caused confusion specifically in detaching from their work, when the workday has concluded. Job transitions into a virtual space were required to adapt immediately, with no real blueprint for how to make it manageable. Many individuals who transitioned to this “new normal” were baptized by fire through an extremely difficult season.
I believe there are two extremely crucial practices that you can implement to better manage this change, specifically the shift from active work to relaxation – ultimately, learning how to better manage the profound impact that Covid changes have had on virtual workers today.
First, if you have the ability and access, it is essential to keep work in a separate space than where you relax and unwind. This could look like a second bedroom that can be transformed and utilized as an office, or a kitchen nook space that can be transitioned into an office for working hours. Creating a clear separation from work and your safe space is paramount here. It is impossible to fully disconnect from work or relax when we can see our office across the room. Our brain has no cue telling us that the workday has officially ended. Assignments, tasks, or even solutions to problems can have free reign to occupy our thoughts because there may have been no clear detachment from the space where these thoughts had plagued our conscious mind during the workday. Sure, we can challenge these thoughts, but the workspace in nature associates work to our brains every time we see it.
Secondly, I would urge you to create a separation ritual that would allow awareness of the shift from work time to the safety of your abode. This can be as simple as powering down your computer and monitor, laptop, or device with which you complete your duties. It can also look like sweeping the premises of your in-home office space, confirming you have everything you need, and shutting the door to the office while outwardly stating, “I will not come back in here until the start of my workday tomorrow”. The goal with creating a ritual for this detachment is that it remains conscious and attainable. Setting a plan with multiple complicated steps can make it hard to replicate as a rhythm day-to-day. I would encourage you to keep your ritual under 5-steps, if possible, keeping a tangible 3-step plan, writing it down and posting it on a sticky note or piece of paper close to your workstation.
While this may not completely alleviate the discomfort of adapting to this new way of being in a working context, it can really help to consciously separate from work responsibilities, and maintain the integrity of your safe space. Whatever your ritual, take some time to critically engage in developing a purpose for each step making your ultimate plan concise and repeatable. This gives our brain the nudge and freedom it needs to identify the shift from performing work tasks to relaxing in a safe and secure environment.
Whether you have struggled to adapt to this changing landscape or not, we all can empathize with those feelings of anxiety related to unknown changes. Staying conscious and mindful about how a change may be impacting you gives you the control on what steps to take in search of alleviating the tension you may be experiencing. If this sounds like you or someone you know, we would love to have the opportunity to talk more in depth about how to remain mindful and build healthy coping mechanisms into daily life. Finding help is a step away!