By: Joe Fruscione, Ultimate Spark! Coaching Guest Contributor
Before COVID-19 sent many of us back home to work and manage other responsibilities, I was a full-time stay-at-home dad and part-time freelance editor. I have years of experience working from home, as well as parenting while working—or trying to work, anyway.
As someone who now works full-time in communications at an independent school, I’m fortunate to still be stably employed and busy working from home. Whether I’ve worked at home or at work, I’ve had to balance my professional responsibilities with my parenting ones.
Sometimes it’s easy. Sometimes it’s...less so.
Even when it’s easy, though, I’m always attentive to my mental health, anxiety levels, and self-care practices. Here are six things I’ve been doing regularly since stay-at-home orders have been put into place that you could adapt for yourself:
1. Use your network as often as you need to: Remember that support comes in different forms, and that different people are capable of different kinds of support. It could be specifically about an anxiety or mental health issue, or it could be about something fun and distracting to remind you of better times. People (men especially) need to remember this: it’s not a sign of weakness to ask for help and support.
2. Check in on people in your network, and communicate what you need to them: Whether you’re single or in a relationship, remember that you can’t rely on 1 or 2 people for support. For some people, a short “How are you?” text might do the trick. For others, a longer phone call, text thread, or video chat might be needed. And, if you need something—a pep-talk, a venting session, space, whatever—from a close friend or family member, don’t hesitate to ask for it.
3. Remember that your time and energy are limited: When deciding who’s in your support network, be careful about who you spend your time and energy on. Support goes both ways, so the family and friends we interact with should fill us up and make us feel valued. Don’t worry about spending less time and energy on people who drain you, and don’t expect to be able to keep in touch with everyone you used to see regularly.
4. Find new routines for life at home and outside: Things are different now, and they might be for a while. And when they’re back to normal is out of our control. It’s tough to miss what you used to be able to do, so a new routine, hobby, or set of projects could help keep you occupied. Try your best not to fight the change; adapt to it, and keep reassessing what works and what doesn’t.
5. Find whatever grounds you—and keep going back to it: Music. Books. Exercise. Movies. New shows you’ve never seen. Old shows you’ve seen countless times. Heck, even something tactile (e.g., stress ball, fidget spinner/object, or memento) can help keep your mind occupied in a tough work and/or domestic moment.
6. Take a break: down time and being unplugged are very important now. I’m a big fan of Dan Siegel’s Healthy Mind Platter to make sure my self-care choices and work/life balance are synced up.
Remember: None of us were trained to handle everything we’ve had to handle physically, mentally, and emotionally these past few months. Keep taking good care of yourselves—your whole selves.
Silver Spring, MD