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Workplace investigators working remotely part 3: Thoughts on self-care while working in a pandemic

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Here is the third installment of the chain blog that our colleagues started, sharing their experiences working at home during the COVID-19 crisis.

This blog focuses on what we’ve learned while trying to take care of ourselves in the midst of the coronavirus chaos.

Veronica Howard: Like many people, staying home has meant I’ve spent a lot of time on my laptop. This magical machine has become my workstation, my TV, my window to see friends and family, my cookbook, my COVID-19 monitoring system, my grocery store, my gym… etc. I’m lucky to have such a powerful device that makes these things possible. But I’m spending way too much time staring at a screen, something that we know can impede sleep, which in turn can weaken our immune systems – not exactly a winning combination these days.

Now more than ever, I’m learning to set boundaries when it comes to screen time for the sake of my physical and mental health. I’ve had some success. Putting the laptop somewhere out of sight when work’s done for the day helps. Once it’s away, I put on a record, crack open a cookbook, or flip through a magazine. It feels like 1998 again, and it’s a relief to have a break from the screen – and the doom and gloom. I like this new habit and I’m hoping it sticks around post-virus.

Janela Jovellano: Like Veronica, I have also had to set boundaries in order to take care of me through this time. It first started with streamlining my information intake. In the first few days of the “new normal”, information was coming in from all directions through my social media feeds, well-meaning texts from loved ones and news alerts on my phone. Not only was it a lot; it was distracting. Don’t get me wrong; I want and appreciate information but had to control when and how I was getting it. I now subscribe to a newsletter that summarizes the key COVID-19 developments that day and read it at the end of my day. I still feel connected but more focused.

Boundary setting has also been vital for my self-care as a working parent through this challenging time. I am well-aware of the colour-coded hourly schedules, where working parents are currently teaching second languages, creating elaborate crafts out of toilet roll tubes and demonstrating how to make homemade mini pizzas in their kitchens. While my family may not be doing all this, setting a loose schedule and understanding it may not be perfect; explaining some new house rules about when (and when not) to interrupt a parent (we all remember what that looks like!); and dividing and addressing responsibilities with my partner who is also working has really made a difference as I navigate through these times. And now over to my colleague, Pamela!

Pamela Vlasic: Picture it: leaning on the counter, working on my laptop while snacking on my four-year-old’s cold (and half-eaten) bowl of Alphaghetti. Yes, this actually happened this week, but I also know I am not alone in this scenario. The act of turning into a scavenger for sustenance likely resonates with many of you out there who are working at home, while trying to keep little ones entertained and alive.

It was at that moment of “cold Alphaghetti” that I realized that I needed to take better care of myself. I do not know how long we are going to be engaging in social or physical distancing, but I do know that I need make changes to ensure that I stay healthy. Going forward, I am going to prepare one healthy meal a day for myself and I am going to sit at the table while I eat it. I have filled the freezer with frozen vegetables (long lasting and easy to cook) and I have also loaded up on baby spinach (a very easy way to sneak all kinds of nutrients into your meals). Parents out there – I see you! This has not been easy, but we cannot survive on cold Alphaghetti alone.

Dana J. Campbell: I think for many of us now working from home, self-care has, unfortunately, fallen to the bottom of the list of priorities. Like my colleagues, some may be balancing between working and parenting or perhaps even caring for other ailing or elderly relatives in your home. It may not be caring for someone else; it may just be surviving in a crowded household. Everyone’s struggle during this time is different, but one thing is for sure, the struggle is indeed very real. My challenge has been “Chronic Snacking.” Yes! I have named it. I read recently that if you name what you are feeling or dealing with, then perhaps you are better able to manage or control it. I found that I would sit at my laptop working all day while picking at the snacks I have surrounded myself with and barely moving from my workstation for the entire day. As I am sure many of you can relate, my “lockdown snack collection” had a very short life span. It dawned on me last week that this was a recipe for disaster. So, I decided to make a change.

I knew I was going to snack (no need to fool myself into thinking otherwise) but I decided to incorporate healthy snacks. Another change I decided to make was to start my days with a great workout session. It could be anywhere between fifteen minutes to an hour, depending on how much time I had. The point is to get my heart rate going. This has made such a big difference in how I feel during the day. It is not just physical therapy, but mental therapy as well. I also actively take a break at some point during the day just to get a good stretch and break the monotony of sitting at my laptop.

Remember, you can’t care for those around you or continue to effectively work from home if you don’t invest in some amount of self-care. Self-neglect is not part of the new norm.

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We recognize that people are at home and trying to find ways to stay connected and up to date on current issues. We will be making our next three webinars COMPLIMENTARY. We want you to have the tools you need to maintain a safe, healthy, and effective workplace environment.