Self-Isolation Journal, Day 13: No, it’s not exactly 13 Days in October, but in many ways, this has the same sort of apocalyptic feel. The streets are increasingly empty, people seem to be in a perpetual state of low-level panic, and the neighbors are giving me suspicious looks when I go outside to get the mail. Instead of “duck and cover” films, we’re inundated with reminders about social distancing. We’ve closed our border, closed our stores, and closed our doors.
Maintaining a little bit of personal sanity through this crisis is important. Introverts are probably more at ease with the sense of “aloneness” while extroverts are likely struggling. Those with children at home might actually crave some of that aloneness. Adjusting to telework adds another dimension to the struggle; if you’re unused to working in isolation, then the change could come as a shock.
So, how do you get there from here? How do you maintain your sanity in a time of pandemic?
Stick to your routine.
Routines are key. Whatever you did before this, keep doing it. If you started the day with a cup of coffee and a shower, do it. If your mornings began with quiet time and a newspaper, do it. If you were an early riser, do it. Whatever you do, don’t change your routine, because life will eventually return to some sense of normalcy and maintaining your routines now will ease that transition back to a “new normal.”
Remember these four words: this too shall pass. We live in a world where we’re deluged with information 24 hours a day. It’s worse now. A lot worse. Daily and even hourly updates on the coronavirus are the norm, and that much information can be detrimental to your well-being. Add to that your friendly neighborhood social media troll posting apocalyptic news from questionable sources, and you’ve got a recipe for panic. Step away from the screens and give yourself a break. Find a reputable source for your news and avoid the overload.
Structure your days.
When you break from a daily work routine, it’s relatively easy to find yourself less focused and productive. You can easily find yourself sitting in a chair, staring at a screen waiting to respond to email. Instead, build out a schedule that frames your day and stick to it. Give yourself dedicated time to work key projects, schedule conference calls, and be sure to allocate some down time. Avoid the email trap – you can be responsive without letting it drive your schedule.
Just because you have to maintain physical distance from your team doesn’t mean you can’t stay in touch. I’ve seen everything from an open Slack channel to a dedicated Zoom conference room; find what works for you and allow yourself to stay connected to your colleagues. You don’t have to miss out on that morning coffee chat with your team – you might just be able to do the same thing on a video chat. The human connection will do you good.
Spring is here. Social distancing doesn’t mean you have to stay locked up inside. I schedule an hour every day to walk the dogs through the woods behind our house. We all come home happy and refreshed. You don’t need to have dogs to get outside. Make time for yourself to enjoy the outdoors. Smell the flowers. Mow the grass. Feel the sun on your face and the wind in your hair. Get outside.
There are any number of things you could add to this list, but this will at least get you moving in the right direction. This week, I started each day with a classic album playing quietly in the background – this “deep listening” offered a respite from much of the chaos around me. I also took the time to check on the welfare of others, something that those unaccustomed to being alone will appreciate. Finally, I allowed myself to enjoy the break from the usual grind. That’s not always easy to do but doing so is good for the soul. It’s okay to smile once in a while, even when we’re faced with a pretty grim situation. In the immortal words of Bobby McFerrin, “Don’t worry, be happy.”