Many of us have been experiencing the phenomenon known as “sudden onset working from home.”
Working from home has and always will be a great idea.
But when it’s all you have, you find out quickly that you need some strategies to keep your wits about you.
How do you stay flexible when unexpected challenges come up and sudden priorities prairie dog their way into your day?
The biggest factor in staying afloat in today’s constantly changing work environment is learning how to stay flexible.
If you can bend fifty different directions without breaking, you’re more likely to keep standing for the long haul.
In Day 25 of my book 31 Days of Mental Health Moments, I unpack an object lesson about flexibility using the physics of skyscrapers. It turns out basic architecture has some things to teach us about how to withstanding pressure from outside and inside.
Some days it seems like you have pressure coming from every direction, doesn’t it? How can you set yourself up to stay flexible even as some powerful winds blow?
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, you have to build some intentional practices into your day to keep yourself moving but stable.
Have some go-to ways to decompress during the day
The Industrial Revolution brought us the straight-up, eight-hour workday with its well-defined breaks. This is a long time to work at one time, in my opinion.
You need to have regular times in your day that you remove yourself from the pressure of the work and reconnect with you for just a couple of minutes.
- Take a walk,
- Watch an episode of “The Office,”
- Chop vegetables for dinner tonight,
- There are no wrong answers here.
Play around with a few different healthy practices until you find “your thing.”
The important thing is that you find some time and space to disconnect from that pressure. It will recharge you and help improve your creativity, too.
Use your phone to remind you throughout the day to step back for just a couple of minutes.
Develop a breathing practice to call on when you start feeling overwhelmed
Breathing deeply from your diaphragm will help you take your anxiety down a notch in those stressful moments. You can find the technique for this in my book as well.
This technique is used by combat personnel, first responders and other high risk workers to find some calm in the moments where they really need to shine.
It is possible to stay calm when chaos is spinning all around you. Learning how to breathe right through it is an important skill to have in your tool belt.
Practice deep breathing when you don’t feel stressed so you can more easily access it when you really need it.
Remind yourself of your own humanity
Being human means being powerful, amazing and breathtaking, while at the same time being fragile, vulnerable and prone to fracture.
We all share this.
It’s okay to not always feel like you’re on top of things. Some days just aren’t like that, no matter how hard you try.
Have a few affirmations near you that acknowledge that you showed up, you tried and you did move forward just because you were there.
You don’t have to confront anything or draw any lines in the sand.
Just acknowledge that it’s challenging to walk around in your skin sometimes and that tomorrow will be better.
Flexibility is about giving yourself the grace and space to make mistakes and to rise above your mistakes to succeed.
I read the above article recently about how artificial intelligence (AI) may become the next big frontier in helping people deal with their mental health issues.
At some point in the future, you may be unpacking your issues with a bot who is programmed to respond to your symptoms. This bot can also access data that your phone has collected about your mental health through your voice and emotional expressions in your photos.
It might sound crazy, but on some level it makes sense.
- Bots don’t need sleep so access to help at 2 a.m. isn’t an issue.
- If you’re worried about others knowing you’re getting therapy, a bot can be a more private experience.
- And programming means the bot will be able to pull in more information on the spot for your specific issue (instead of your therapist remembering that helpful nugget after the session is already over).
In our constantly-moving world, bots may provide some therapeutic relief in those moments when you just need some quick input. I’m not convinced of the long-term success, but I guess we won’t know anything about long-term success with any of these technologies for a while.
My own personal experience has been that many people, including those of the younger generations, really prefer the human, face-to-face support of a therapist. I’m not so sure AI takes over for that. But I don’t think any of us thought we’d one day carry a phone everywhere either. So there’s that.
I’m curious to see where this technology actually lands in real life.
What do you think? Would you be inclined to work with a virtual therapist instead of a human therapist?
One great thing about our content-rich modern times is that the flu doesn’t have to bore you anymore. Thanks to on-demand media platforms, no longer do you have to endure long periods of restorative and restful sleep to help your body perform critical repair functions to vanquish the replicating virus inside your body whose sole purpose is to take you out. That’s so 90s.
Instead, you can stay awake watching limitless episodes of shows you didn’t even know existed, and a few that you’ve seen at least 10 times. Except for the part where every breath is an accomplishment, it’s a great way to keep your finger on the pulse of what’s new in pop culture.
Binge watching has changed how we flu, and I’m no exception. I’ve compiled some of my favorites from my own influenza visit last week. I hope you don’t get the flu this year, but if you do, I don’t want you to be unprepared. :-)
Atypical – Netflix
The main character in this comedy-drama, Sam Gardner, is diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). This show is a fair assessment of a high-functioning life on the spectrum, for Sam and for his family. What I love about this portrayal of someone with ASD is that it honestly shows the emotion, humor and empathy of a young adult trying to move into the next phase of life. Emotion, humor and empathy are not usually associated with ASD, and this show goes a long way to dispel the myth that these three important human components are lacking in someone with ASD.
There are many challenges in a life with high-functioning autism. One of them is that in many ways, a person can look very much like any other peer in his or her age group. But so many of the things neurotypical peers take for granted – like dating and leaving for college – can be an enormous struggle for a person with ASD. Atypical shows this struggle in an honest and hopeful way.
Spinning Out – Netflix
Okay, this one is super campy. And I’ll admit that as a former figure skater, I will watch literally anything related to skating because there’s just not much out there for us. But I had to give this a fair shake. While it’s full of soapy drama and some fairly loose morals, it did a fair job of presenting mental health challenges in the skating community.
The main character, Kat Baker, is an elite skater struggling with the challenges of a devastating injury and the drive to continue her career. Kat deals with bipolar disorder and does a good job of managing her illness until she decides that going off her meds will help her and her pairs partner, Justin, get to nationals faster. She perceives that her medication is keeping her from taking risks and becoming that larger-than-life skating persona the sport celebrates.
One of the hardest things to help someone with bipolar disorder understand is that the very mania that makes you creative, energetic and super productive towards your goals is the very thing that will bring you crashing down. Who wouldn’t want to feel all these things? Kat falls prey to this idea, and the results affect more lives than just hers.
Note: There are some disturbing images of self harm and portrayals of sexual abuse (not graphic, but just the implication is stomach turning) so be aware of that.
I Love Lucy
Lest you think all I do is watch stuff about mental health, well, okay maybe I do. But I do watch other stuff, too and I Love Lucy has been a staple for me since I was a kid. One day when I was seven, I roller skated into the side of a parked pickup truck with my face. Super grateful there was no YouTube in those days.
Anyway, my mom plunked my hysterically bawling self in front of this show on afternoon TV, and I forgot everything else. As I sat nursing a busted lip and holding my shattered glasses frames together, I discovered the power of one funny person to simply make me laugh no matter how I feel on the outside.
So in a time of influenza, Lucy Ricardo always gets a prime spot in my binge-watching menu. I own the complete series on DVD but you can find episodes on Amazon Prime.
Okay, so those are my picks to help the flu seem a little less like an unproductive day on the couch.
What are your favorite flu picks?