As a woman, and especially as a South Asian woman driven to achieve, I sometimes fall into the trap of being superhuman because I hate saying “No.” And I know I’m not alone. In addition to having fulfilling but demanding jobs, women take on a disproportionate amount of work at home and tend to be the ones who care for kids, parents or other family members, be there for friends, teammates, and others who need a helping hand or a listening ear. Between emails, calls, Zoom, texts, WhatsApp, Messenger, and more, it is easy to get sucked into a state of playing Whack a Mole 24/7. Which is why, when you work from home, intentionally setting aside downtime for self-care or just plain vegging out is important! COVID-19 is here to stay and we need to pace ourselves to have the stamina for the long haul.
COVID-19 has taken away our commutes, the traffic, and much of the racing from one meeting to the next. We work from home. No rushing around to run errands, chauffeuring kids to practice, or shopping for groceries, quick trips to malls or gift shops. But if we thought work from home translated to free time, boy how wrong were we! It’s as though the manic pace of life just shifted from outside the home to inside the home. Now, we take calls, answer emails, and write reports while also helping kids with their online classes, feeding them lunch and snacks, and entertaining them. With the whole family home, who may also work from home, there are more meals to cook, more messes to clean up, and more responsibilities vying for our attention.
I have been working 24/7 on important work related to the COVID-19 response and have found it extraordinarily fulfilling! It is exhilarating to know I am helping in some way to stop the pandemic. But what I didn’t realize is how exhausted I also was, even though I was working from home. One evening last week, I was so exhausted that while trying to get a plate out of a cabinet, I dropped an entire bag of lentils on the floor. The mess I created was a wake-up call for me, a reminder that I need to stop and take time for myself. We hear so many tips on how to work from home, but not enough about what else we need to do, to keep ourselves happy and healthy.
Since we can’t go to the gym or even listen to a podcast on our evening commute to unwind, it is so important to find other ways to make time for ourselves. I’ve been making sure that I take time to work out regularly on my elliptical while I work from home, eat well and be nourished. I’ve found that sometimes you have to take a break, let your coworkers know that you’re “out of office” or “out for lunch” so that you can take a break from the constant stimulation.
Sometimes I just take a walk around the neighborhood and give myself a mental break. But you can also watch some TV, enjoy a hobby, or get outside and do some gardening—even if it is only for 20 minutes. When the weather is poor, find things to do in your home to take a break from the work from home. You can even start an indoor garden with the produce in your kitchen. Throw some coriander seeds into a pot filled with potting soil and grow cilantro. Avocado pits with toothpicks to suspend them above a small cup of water will sprout a cute houseplant in just a few weeks.
This is a stressful time for everyone. No matter how lucky you feel to have your family healthy and home with you or to still have a source of income, you need to give yourself permission to break from work from home and take time to chill.
Read tips about setting up a more productive home office.