When I first learned that the company I work for was asking us to work from home indefinitely, I felt ready to take on this new workflow—I knew it would change up my daily routine of going into the office physically, but I had no real idea that this change would weigh so heavily on my mental health.
It was mid-March, and an official quarantine order was put into effect. I told myself, “I’ve got this” in terms of how I was prioritizing my work tasks. Let me just say, I learned quickly that burnout is a very real thing. As days blended into weeks and weeks blurred into months, I realized that I was not prioritizing the tasks of self-care, majorly when it came to my mental health. I started opening up to my family and close friends about how I was feeling. It wasn’t the easiest thing to do but I am glad I did; most of them were feeling the same way.
This global pandemic has understandably forced many of us to rethink what we give our energy to on a daily basis. It has disrupted our lives and we have had to change the way we do a lot of things. Personally, I realized that I was not giving myself enough time to reset before going back into full work-mode the next day. I felt like I was becoming a shell of my former self, with limited interactions with my friends and family. Even reaching out via social media was becoming a chore and I found myself getting exhausted with the days so quickly but didn’t know how to get myself out of this “funk.” The more I started seeking out ways to take care of myself, mentally and physically, I learned that it made me more productive and I wasn’t feeling so much of the heavy burden of my depression and anxiety resting on my shoulders. Every day is still a challenge, though. I think it’s important to point out and be aware of “false positivity” and accept the fact that it’s OK to feel sad. We need to allow ourselves to be real and process feelings of negativity–we’re human after all! However taking these small steps has made a big difference in my life so far, and has helped to set me up for a better tomorrow–and a better rest of my week.
I wanted to share some of the same helpful steps that I have been taking in the hopes that someone else reading this who may be struggling to feel somewhat “normal” again can realize that one, they are not alone, and two, there are ways to combat our depression and feelings of anxiousness. These steps are what I started calling the Reset and Refresh Routine:
Reflect on the positive moments of your day –big or small.
We can really be our own worst critics. When we feel like we haven’t met a goal we set for ourselves, it’s easy to start feeling like we aren’t good enough because we didn’t do enough. Something that helps me when I start to feel like I am dwelling on the bad parts of my day is to pick out my “wins” from the day. I checked in with a friend or my sister. I finally finished that chapter in the book I am reading. I treated myself to an iced coffee. I got laundry done. These may seem small and maybe even insignificant, but actively thinking about these things allows me to have a sense of gratitude and appreciation. I just feel better doing it.
Set aside time to stretch in order to release any built-up tension.
I didn’t realize how much this one would make such a difference. I roll out my yoga mat and lay out on my back for about 10 minutes before I do my nightly face-washing routine. While on my back, I stretch my arms out to the side and slowly move them upward, elongating my body. (I don’t do yoga but I think I should start!) I take deep breaths in and slowly exhale. As I am exhaling, I think of it as releasing tension or thoughts of negative situations from the day. Release the stresses of the day and let the bad energy go.
Swap screen use with reading a book or doing something else you enjoy.
I will admit that I am someone who is completely addicted to social media. If I thought I was on my phone too much before being quarantined, I hadn’t seen nothin’ yet! I am constantly scrolling through social media on my phone. I used to think that if I had screen time before bed, I would get bored and just eventually fall asleep. I started to get really bad migraines and was told by my optometrist that I needed to try limiting my screen time, especially before going to bed. Now I give myself a good 1-2 hours of no screens before bed. I read my book, write in my journal, or work on my knitting project. It has really helped to give me a good night’s rest and feel a lot more recharged for the next day.
Take a few minutes to list out your priorities for the next day.
Most of the time we have a checklist in our minds already–things that we know we have to get done the next day or sometimes during the week, and it can actually do our mental health more harm than good. We think about it over and over before bed and stress ourselves out knowing that we have these responsibilities. This one is still difficult for me personally because my mind feels like it just never shuts off. I know a lot of people that experience the same thing. With this one, I started literally writing out the actual things I need to get done–and you know what? I would “set it and mentally forget it.” I like to think of it as a way to mentally unwind. If it is written down, I will do my best to get to it, but I don’t need to overthink it tonight.
Carve out some time to do at least one thing that serves you.
Is there a new activity or hobby you just learned? Is there something you really enjoy doing that you have re-discovered? For me it’s a few minutes of meditation. Using the Calm app, I try as best as I can to clear my mind and reset from the day. I know this one can be especially difficult for parents of small children. You might be thinking that it would be near impossible to have time for yourself. Try your best to set aside some YOU time, even if it’s just a few minutes to close your eyes and focus on your breathing. If you are able to set aside a little more time for yourself, fill it with anything that you feel really serves you, physically, mentally, spiritually–as long as it gives you clarity and peace of mind to go into the next day feeling empowered.
I get stuck in my head a lot, and most times completing just one of these things can be difficult. If you’re like me in this way, know that it’s OK to try just one of these steps if it works for you. Be proud of yourself for accomplishing that one step and give yourself the space to understand what you might personally need from the day, rather than worrying about what the day needs from you. ~
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