People are now working and schooling from home. It’s what some are calling the “new normal,” and that means there’s some adjusting to do in order to settle into these new routines.
According to Elizabeth City State University’s associate professor of psychology, Dr. Jacqueline Huff, there are a number of things people can do to ease into working from home and create a balance in their day-to-day routine.
“The first thing, and people have probably heard this, but keep a schedule,” said Dr. Huff. “Try to keep a schedule in regard to work or with kids and what they’ll be doing.”
Dr. Huff says it’s important to keep things as normal as possible while at home. At the same time, however, keep the schedule flexible.
Flexibility in your routine, she says, helps to reduce stress.
“It gives you permission to work out things in a different way,” said Dr. Huff. “The message has been put out that these are unusual circumstances and it’s OK to be flexible.”
Dr. Huff also recommends that while working at home, create your own workspace. Set that space aside for only work.
“If they have children, sometimes the children will see that mom or dad is in the work seat now,” she said.
And likewise, for the kids, give them a specific workspace dedicated to schoolwork. If the kids are not doing schoolwork and you need to work, give them tasks to perform, but also spend time with them.
“You can work in spurts,” she says. “Take 20 minutes for email and then pay attention to the kids.”
While people are adjusting to the “new normal,” stress is likely to be an issue. Dr. Huff makes some specific recommendations to help relieve stress.
“Exercise at home,” she said. “If you can get out in the yard do it. Or if you don’t have a yard, get a friend online and do a challenge together.”
Many people use eating as a stress reliever, but being at home, creating a new routine, has its dietary pitfalls.
“Sometimes when at work, for some people it manages how much they eat,” said Dr. Huff. “When we are at home we are reaching for food. You might be munching on things you might not otherwise be munching on.”
Dr. Huff suggests you have healthy snacks on hand and to be mindful of your eating habits, and what you are eating. Stress, she said, reduces the immune system so make sure your body is receiving proper nutrients.
Another way to manage stress, says Dr. Huff, is to pay attention not only to your new routine, but also include aspects of your old routine. For example, if you awaken on a workday at 7 a.m., continue do so now that you are working at home.
She also recommends that you stay in touch with people. There are a number of virtual tools available for online video such as Zoom or FaceTime.
“Staying in touch with people is a stress reliever,” she said.
Stress can also be caused by an overload of information. It is likely, she said, that people are constantly scanning the news for updates. Dr. Huff suggests limiting your news intake to key times of the day such as morning and evening, whenever possible.
Dr. Huff said it is also important to remember that outside help is available to manage stress and care for your mental health. Many institutions and businesses such as ECSU offer an Employee Assistance Program, connecting you with mental health professionals.
The EAP program employed by ECSU offers a limited number of free counseling sessions and some can be done over the phone or virtually, said Dr. Huff. For more information about services offered through ECSU click HERE.
In addition to mental health counseling, Dr. Huff said substance abuse help is also available. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, or SAMHSA, is available to offer assistance. You can logon to the SAMHSA website HERE.