I’ve worked from home for the past 8 years to better manage my personal and professional lives. Having the benefit of working from home pre-Covid, I had a routine that was productive and manageable.
Enter Covid. With the kids and husband home, my previously identified schedule has gone out the window. I now always have something to do, or someone to help, during my breaks.
Being at home so much has taken it’s toll. We are working in our bedrooms, living rooms and kitchens. Those with offices are sharing their space with a child, or two.
When we take breaks, we do house work. We make ourselves and our kids lunches. We put away dishes. We put in a load of laundry. We let the dog out. Rinse and repeat.
Day after day, we do the same.
We are exhausted.
We’re tried of being home. We’re tired of our children being home. We’re tired of not seeing extended family, friends and coworkers.
We’re not focused on our health. We’re too tired to exercise. We don’t see a point. Where can we find time? We are always working.
I’ve gained 20 pounds on a relatively small frame over the course of one year due to stress from the pandemic and my new life at home. As I write this, I take a break because my 6-year-old needs help logging into yet another online learning portal.
It never ends.
Work never ends.
And while I will continue to work, I’m taking my health, and my mind, back.
I’m ready to start living more and working less.
I’m tired of feeling exhausted everyday without having done anything.
Have you felt the same?
Ever wonder why you feel this way? You sit at your computer joining meetings, writing emails and working on deliverables. After an eight hour day, you get up exhausted. You didn’t do any physical work. Sure you walked to the kitchen to warm up lunch. Sure you let the dog out. But it wasn’t a physical day so why are you so damn tired?
The reason we are so exhausted is because we are over stimulated.
Each day an average of 6,200 thoughts circulate our minds. After processing these thoughts, we make countless decisions. This process repeats over and over again. There are times when our brains are able to process information and times when it’s not.
There are times when our brains simply cannot process information.
Yet, we try to force it. We don’t take breaks. We focus on work. We focus on cramming as much as possible in our minds without allowing time to reset.
Just as we have circadian rhythms that dictate our sleep cycles, we have ultradian rhythms that dictate our brain activity.
An ultradian cycle generally consists of 90 minutes of high-frequency brain activity, during which it is much easier to focus and get your tough work done. This period is followed by a period of low-frequency brain activity, usually lasting around 20 minutes. During these periods of low-frequency brain activity, it’s common to field unfocused and have difficulty concentrating.
So what’s a good way to deal with the low-frequency time? Take a break.
And what’s a good way to deal with work from home exhaustion?
Take a break.
Not only will taking a break allow your brain time to restore, taking a break will give you a chance to move.
To maintain high quality thinking during work, 90 minutes of actual work followed by a 20 minute break will allow you to restore your brain to high frequency.
But what about your body? What will restore it?
You can use your 20 minute break anyway you wish. You can put in a load of laundry. You can make a snack. You can take a nap.
But, the best use of the time is to move.
Have you looked at your step count lately? We all have smart watches. We’re all counting and recording. But that move ring doesn’t seem to be closing lately. The ring was always closed when you first got your watch. But now even with a 30 minute workout, you’re not closing that ring. Your usual 10K steps is currently hovering at 3.
I’ve been there.
I’ve vowed to get 10,000 steps a day during my breaks. Each day since I’ve started this new habit, I’ve hit 10K. Some evenings I’ve had to walk back and forth in my bedroom to hit 10K but I did it.
My dog is happier as well. She’s walking close to 5 miles a day and seems to have left my husband’s side for mine. It’s a win win.
Don’t work on the weekends.
We’re home all day, everyday, weekdays and weekends. The last thing you need to do on the weekend is sit in front of your laptop. You owe it to yourself to turn it off and move.
You need to differentiate work time from free time.
Whether it’s a house project, a hiking adventure or a long walk outside, you need to find a way to keep moving. Netflix and chill can’t be your weekend relaxation when you’re not leaving the house during the week. You’ll end up depressed.
I’ve been there.
One of our favorite weekend activities is hiking. We typically don’t go much in the winter. This winter has been one of the snowiest in the past decade and yet we have continued to hike throughout winter.
We had no choice. We needed to get outside. As a result, we enjoyed several snow hikes. We packed lunches. We made the car a mess eating, changing and wearing dirty boots, but it was all worth it.
Without realizing, we’ve made memories during this unprecented time. We were able to get through home exhaustion by hiking.
Change your schedule.
I’m a creature of habit so anytime my schedule changes, I feel uncomfortable. I equate changing my plan to negatively changing the day’s outcome.
It doesn’t work that way.
When the weather’s tolerable, we step out for lunch with the kids and sit outside. We picnic. We go for an ice cream run. We do whatever we can do to get out of the house.
The children are on hybrid schedules. During their weeks in school, my husband and I often go out for lunch or an afternoon coffee. We take the dog on walks together. We change our schedules to make the most of our alone time together.
Not only is it good for our marriage, it’s good to get out of the monotony of living and working at home.
Take time off.
Despite not having anywhere to go,it’s still necessary to take time off. You need these days now more than ever. Take a day off on a nice day to enjoy the sun. Go to a winery. Sit outside. Drink a glass of wine while you play monopoly with the kids.
Whatever it is you must take time off. Your brain and body need it.
Pick up a new hobby.
During one of your breaks, try pivoting to a new hobby.
My pandemic hobby is playing guitar. If a meeting ends early and I have another one in 10 minutes, I pick up the guitar and play. It’s a good way to break up the day without starting another task only to get interrupted a short time later.
I’ve found since I enjoy playing guitar, I find time to do it. I throw a sheet pan dinner in the oven and play guitar while it cooks. I put one of the kids in the bath and play guitar while waiting for them to bathe.
There are always short windows of time throughout your day. Finding something you enjoy doing during these windows helps break up the day.
We’ve all been through a lot this past year. Our lives, and schedules, have been turned upside down. We’ve replaced the 40 hour work week and 8 hour weekly commute with a 60 hour work week at home.
We’ve added additional responsibilities to our lives without removing any. We’re not only employees and parents but also, teachers and friends.
It is undoubtedly exhausting. And if we keep doing it, we will burn out.
We owe it to ourselves to focus on our mental and physical health. And we owe it to ourselves to focus on personal improvement. By working less and living more, we’ll reset our brains and bodies to be the best version of ourselves.