Any life coach will stress the importance of maintaining a good work-life balance. And, of course, you don’t need anyone to tell you how much harder it is to achieve that balance when you work from home. Add to that the mental and emotional toll of facing this uncertain future — the financial implications are dire; bankruptcy lawyers are expecting a surge of cases as more and more people file for unemployment — and actually not having the autonomy to leave your house and pursue your normal hobbies and non-work-related activities.
After a long, dull winter, we’re all itching to get outside, fire up the bbq grill with friends, enjoy outdoor festivals, and take the kids to the playground. Instead, we’re sequestered indoors, watching the flowers bloom from our windows.
If you’re a parent, you’re well aware of the impact the global pandemic has had on the education system. Whether your children attend public, private, or Catholic schools, they’re now home for an indefinite period of time. Yet, their education should not come to a grinding halt. If you are a working parent, and you have the ability to work remotely, you are now juggling your job, your housework, and your kids’ education. Finding balance and taking care of your own mental and physical well-being is more challenging than ever.
But there are steps you can take to ease the burden and achieve a more balanced lifestyle during this stressful time.
Four Tips to Achieve a Balanced Life During Quarantine
1. Set a Schedule (and Stick to It!)
If you used to commute to your job every day and your commute has now been cut down to a 20-second walk from your bedroom to home office, your daily schedule is going to look quite different. You may feel less inspired to shower as soon as you wake up, pick out an outfit, and fix your hair. Your normal routine simply doesn’t seem as necessary. However, you have to ask yourself: do you usually do these things for the benefit of your coworkers or for yourself? The truth is self-care and grooming are important to maintain a professional appearance, but they’re also important to your mental and physical health. Your dental care should not suffer simply because no one is around to smell your bad breath. Good habits and a steady routine are essential — in fact, they’re in our nature. And not only will breaking your routine make you feel less normal, it can also affect the way you feel about your self-worth and ability to succeed.
So, when you wake up, follow a normal routine. Because you don’t have to commute, you actually have more time to dedicate to yourself.
And set boundaries. When you work from home, it’s easy to get caught up in your tasks and fail to take a break to eat or stretch. Create a schedule and set aside a specific start and stop time, with a clear break for lunch. Walk away from your computer. Eat in a normal dining area, not in your designated workspace. If you live with other people, invite them to take a lunch break at the same time so you can enjoy some social interaction.
2. Don’t Overdo It With Homeschooling
You are a parent, not a teacher. Nor does anyone expect your child’s education to be your full-time job, especially if you have an actual full-time job. Go easy on yourself and your child; they are also experiencing the mental and emotional effects of the global pandemic and may need time to adjust. Consider your job as a temporary homeschool parent as more of a “facilitator” than a “teacher.” While some schools may be better equipped to provide at-home learning materials and online solutions, your role should be to provide guidance and encouragement, not to teach chemistry or English literature. Make sure your kids have the resources they need to access their school work and complete it on time. Make sure they have a quiet space to work. But most importantly, make sure they have support. And remember that being “in school” doesn’t mean sitting at a desk for six hours straight — let them unwind in between classes or projects. Encourage them to get outside and pursue other learning activities that interest them, like sports, music, and the arts.
3. Keep Your Weekends Sacred
Find a way to differentiate your weekdays from your weekends. When you’re not leaving the house, it can become easy to let the days all blur together. The kids don’t have weekend playdates and you and your significant other aren’t going out for date nights. But there are things to do with kids on the weekends that make those days off special. Plan a family movie night, go “camping” in your backyard, host a bake-off. You might need to get a little more creative than in the past to keep yourselves occupied, but that’s half the fun!
Try to maintain a social life on the weekends, as well. You may not be able to spend time with family and friends in person, but we’re fortunate enough to live in an age with the technology you need to stay connected. Host Zoom parties, FaceTime with your family, invite friends to play online video games with you. Churches and other religious organizations are also hosting services online to keep their communities connected.
Ultimately, make sure your weekends are for fun and relaxation. Just because you have access to your “office” doesn’t mean you should keep working.
4. Stay Active
When you’re at home all day every day, you’re naturally going to be more sedentary. Even the short walk to and from your car when you’re going in to work or running errands is some physical activity, and you’re not even doing that right now. If you’re like many Americans right now, you’re binge-watching Netflix on the couch when you’re not at your computer. That’s a lot of sitting, which is absolutely terrible for your physical health.
It’s easier said than done, but get moving. Set a reminder on your phone to stand up and stretch every 30 minutes. Take a walk outside on your lunch break. Stay standing during your next Zoom meeting — anything to avoid sitting for eight hours straight or more. Better yet, if you’ve got some chores you’ve been putting off, go take care of them now. Now that the weather is nice, you can clean your gutters or work on your home landscaping.
This hasn’t been an easy time for anyone, and those who are quarantined at home might be finding it very hard to maintain a healthy balance between work, school, family, and housework. For the sake of your mental and physical well-being, try some of the steps listed above.