Work and Money
Work-Life Balance in the Age of COVID
Work-life balance has always been a tough juggling act for professional women, but in the age of COVID-19, the line has never been more blurred. Your kitchen table is now an extension of your desk, you’re home-schooling in between Zoom meetings, and you’re always “on” since your computer is just an arm’s reach away at any given moment. Worst of all, without having to worry about beating traffic, getting home to let out the dog, or running out to pick up the kids, there’s very little impetus to check the clock and a lesser sense of urgency to drive you away from your work. Suddenly, your days are longer, your nights are fuller, and you’re more tired than ever.
The best way, however, to set a boundary, is to insert a tangible break, focused on a task with no relation to your personal/family life or your professional one. A jolt to shake you out of thinking about your tasks and demands. In essence, create a ritualistic limbo middle ground.
To help shift your mind from work to life, take a moment to insert what I consider a mental bookend to divide the two. This should be a 10-minute to one-hour pause between the demands of both to allow you to take a breath, re-center, and focus on yourself. Establish with your partner or roommate that this is a no-interruption zone, and that calls and requests should be held. Your partner’s and cohabiters’ support will be especially important if you have little ones, so be sure they’re on board … and offer to return the favor for their designated “me” time!
As important as it is to have their respect for this pocket of time, remember you need to do the same for yourself. Set an alarm for the end of your day, but not on your computer, nor your phone if you keep it close. Make it so that you must physically get up out of your chair and step away from your workspace to turn it off. The simple act of having to leave your desk is often enough to keep you from returning to it.
Then, choose your daily activity. It can be anything — this is your time — but here are some suggestions:
- Make a cup of tea and sit outside, undisturbed, and think about what you see. Journal the most soothing part of your view, or sketch it to really sink into the moment.
- Step away from your desk for a brief meditation. Dim the lights and do some yoga breathing, or a short series of movements. End with savasana.
- Take a stroll with a sensory focus in mind. For example, leave the house with the intention of finding a purple flower, or hearing a duck quack, or smelling fresh-cut grass. You may not achieve your goal, but your mind will be distracted with this scavenger hunt as opposed to stressing about the demands waiting at home.
- Do a quick lifting session or a mini HIIT (high-intensity interval training) workout for a quick surge of endorphins and energy. Exercising — even when you think you’re too tired for it — can often “trick” you into feeling like your body is waking up, even if it’s at night, giving you a feeling of a new day … which is essentially a reset.
- Treat yourself to a dessert, and really focus on it. Take your time and think about each bite, savoring it slowly. Frame it as your twofold reward: for getting through the first part of your day and to brace you for the second.
- Set up a short playlist you can close your eyes and zone out to, and just listen to it. Create different variations by mood or era to be transported to a different mental place, and just allow yourself to be there.
- Listen to an audiobook for a designated amount of time, or read one chapter of an actual book. Set a limit so that you can look forward to this daily, but not get lost in it.
Or, try all of them and see what works for you. But the most important way to bridge the divide between work and play is creating the gap in the first place. Widen that space with a simple ritual to reclaim your life balance today.