I have been working remotely as a freelance writer for several years. Like most people, I spend a lot of time scrolling through social media, sometimes just to help pass the time, and I have noticed that many of us are struggling. My lifestyle hasn’t changed much and I feel lucky that my experience of working remotely is serving me well during a lockdown.
Full disclosure: I consider myself to be very fortunate. I live in Ireland in a house with a garden but before you start rolling your eyes, I lived in a studio flat for years before that. Also, I admit that I don’t follow a strict routine as such, but I’ve noticed that I tend to fall into some habits that have been useful as coping mechanisms.
I Spend More Time Thinking About What I Will Be Doing Than Actually Doing It
I start the day thinking about all the things I will be doing, then spend more time during the day thinking about them a bit more. Sometimes I even end up doing them, but that’s not the point. The activities or tasks I think about are very specific to the confines of my house or, in the best case scenario, they are related to the luxury of going to do my food shopping. In other words, I don’t feel frustrated by thoughts of activities I used to do and am not allowed to at the present moment like travelling.
Food shopping has started to cause me a low level of anxiety – it can happen when you don’t leave the house much and food shopping is one of your few reasons you are allowed to go outside, but you see reports of people panic-buying and long queues outside supermarkets.
What I’ve learned is that, part of my thinking time is well spent considering all the options and tactics I have at my disposal to face the food shopping successfully. I can choose a time that is not dedicated to care staff and the elderly that I know won’t be too busy (I shall not disclose when!). I can also choose a supermarket that is not around the corner from me and than I need to walk to for at least 20 minutes allowing me to get a bit of exercise.
The low-level anxiety I experience causes a few memory lapses, so I may forget to buy something that was actually on my shopping list. I have learned that whatever I was supposed to get will have to wait until the next time I leave the house, which can be 3-4 days later.
In Ireland, at the time of writing, you are allowed to go outside once a day to exercise within a 2km radius from where you live, but I am preparing myself mentally to the possibility of a full lockdown like in China, Italy, Spain and France.
All this staying at home means I have extra time to think about what I probably will never go round doing, like redecorating the hallway. I also refuse to learn a new language, lose weight or whatever you are supposed to do to use time productively.
I Know I Won’t Be Productive For More than 20 Minutes In a Row
These are exceptional times in which we get more distracted than usual.
You can do some great work in 20 minutes bursts and then allow yourself a break (in my case, the break ends up being longer than the actual productive time but that’s a different matter).
The mind wants to wander because the body is not allowed to, so who am I to judge? Fly away, my pretty, take flights of fancy and then, when air traffic control says so, it’s time to land.
During a break you can tackle a short non-work related task that needs doing (no, not redecorating) – in my case this is usually something to do with cleaning. This also frees up time during the weekend to do… absolutely nothing! I have decided not to work at weekends and give myself permission to stare out of the window for hours if I want to when I am not working.
I also like to research new recipes during breaks because meals have become the most important parts of the day (who am I kidding? This was always the case).
I will also send a few messages to friends to lift each other’s mood. If I feel I need to burn some nervous energy, I will do some digging in the garden. I am aware that not everyone has a garden, but you can decide to grow some house plans and even some vegetables or at least kitchen herbs like oregano and basil. Tending house plants will not expend calories but is a welcome mental distraction from stress. Luckily many supermarkets supply compost, plant pots, live plants and seeds. I found that having houseplants is extremely soothing and gives you something pleasant to look at, while tending to plants is something you can look forward to during the day.
I Am Giving Priority To Sleep
We are all spending more time online and that can disrupt our sleep. After years of insomnia, I have promised myself to have a better sleep hygiene.
I listen to podcasts at bedtime and make sure I don’t have coffee after 4pm. I also don’t set an alarm to allow my body to rest and wake up naturally and I don’t judge myself for either oversleeping or going to bed early. Going to sleep, alongside eating, is a highlight of the day. I am sure all those hours think about everything and nothing are helping me sleep better, as I do my worrying in the daytime.
Have I got my life sussed out? It’s debatable, but I am noticing I am getting calmer each day, mostly because I have made peace with the fact that the current way we are living may be here to stay for a long while.