I hope you are well and that you had a nice holiday. I took the whole shebang off, as was on my original, school calendar. I’ve definitely found it hard to shut off my working brain now that I’m totally working from home, and I don’t think that’s healthy. It’s not that I’m so much more productive or anything, but I keep poking at school stuff and writing stuff, even when I should be done for the day.
Before the pandemic, I had booked a lil trip to the Chicago area to see my fam. I was supposed to leave Wednesday, when my university officially started the holiday, and come back on Saturday. I’d enjoy a quiet Sunday and Monday, and then go back to work. But because of the pandemic, I kept finding myself staring at my planner and figuring everything I could get done over that time period, now that I didn’t have to go see family.
Then I realized how crazy that was. The holiday was still there. My vacation was still there. In fact, that was one of the few things in my life the pandemic hasn’t overturned. So I took the time off! I mean, I still did the work I’d have done normally, because I’m never truly off as the director of a program. BUT I didn’t do anything more. I didn’t get ahead. I didn’t stay on top of this newsletter. I didn’t create anything out of nothing that I’d then have to monitor. I just read books and went on walks and waited, impatiently, for Insecure to begin on HBO.
And this is what I’m writing to remind you guys who are lucky enough to work from home to do. For those of you who are going in for essential jobs—bless you. Take care of yourselves. I recognize how privileged I am to be able to sit my ass in safety while you guys are out there risking it all. But for those of us, like me, who are working from home, make sure you do the following:
1) Keep work hours. Turn your computer on at some point and turn it off at some point. You may absolutely adjust your normal hours to better match your sleep cycle, but don’t keep wandering away and coming back to your work for an entire day. Shut that shit down and walk away from whatever you’re using as a desk.
2) Keep your weekends! Same thing as above. Just because you can work on a Saturday doesn’t mean you should. Give yourself a break. If you feel that work is the only thing keeping you sane, can you find something non-work (i.e., hobby) to enjoy, instead? Remember that always being stuck in to job mode isn’t necessarily good for the job, itself. You can’t see the forest when you’re tired and banging your head against a single tree.
3) Shut your office door, even if you don’t have an office door. What I mean by this is to make sure you’re not staring at your workspace all evening/weekend. For some of us, that can be as easy as clearing up our papers and shutting our home office door. But for others, that might mean cleaning off the kitchen table every night so it’s a kitchen table again. I know this sounds like a lot of work only to get up the next AM and put everything back, but there’s nothing more haunting than an open file staring at you from across the room. So even if you just lay a towel or tablecloth over that shit, just make sure you’re not staring at your work for the entire evening or weekend.
4) Create an “I’m done with work ritual.” Maybe you do a stretch routine. Maybe you make a cocktail or a mocktail. Maybe you just light a candle, do the dishes from the day, and then start cooking dinner. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but it should signal to your brain that You’re Done Now.
5) Remember you don’t have to be on top of everything right now. Everyone is struggling. I’m fairly mentally healthy, without a previous diagnosis of anxiety or anything, and I have bad days. So I know that anyone with a pre-existing condition must be cacking it, and that I should expect even my most unflappable colleagues and students to need some rope. So I’ve drastically lowered my standards for myself, for my students, and for my colleagues. I’m trying to mete out the same patience I hope I can expect, and I’m assuming people aren’t doing whatever they’re doing that’s annoying me on purpose. In fact, I’m assuming that my just being annoyed is probably a symptom of what’s going on now, and that I should calm the fuck down.
So that’s what I got! Be good to yourselves. This shit is hard and weird and we’ve just started. Good habits can help keep ourselves sane, in the long run. xoxo
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