University of Mississippi

Take Care Tuesday!

Managing Mental Wellness While Managing Expectations

There is no debate that social distancing is vital to curbing the spread of COVID 19, and we all have a responsibility to help flatten the curve.  BUT maintaining some sense of normalcy during this pandemic may seem out of reach.  My hope is to provide a few ideas to help you manage your mental wellness while also managing expectations at work.

First and foremost, prioritize your mental wellness.  While sending us home to telecommute in our “home bubbles” will help to flatten the curve, many of us are trying to balance working from home and life at home.  The kids are running around; the pet has become much more needy and curious; we have spent hours trying to snag a grocery pickup; and we all just survived a blackout due to the recent severe weather.  So let’s be honest, it hasn’t been easy, but we are in this together.

The following may help in managing your mental wellness and expectations while home:

Create a new routine

Throw out what used to be your morning routine (tuck it in your back pocket for when we return to work).  Creating a new routine will help you get into the mindset of work and feel more productive. There is no right way to do this, as each of us have a different situation at home (you know, those needy pets and kids, just mine?).  Whatever your new routine, make sure it is a healthy one and you are able to follow the next few tips!

Know yourself and thy WFH weaknesses

Let’s face it, we love a good distraction but if you find yourself getting distracted while WFH, find a way to put yourself in a professional mindset.  Dress up, fix your hair, grab your favorite work coffee mug, take off your house slippers (as I look at my own feet in slippers), whatever will help prepare you for the work day.  It is hard to draw a line between home and office when you’re literally at home, that place in which you generally decompress from the day. It is time to get ready for your day and follow your new routine!

Just get going

Tending to your own health is crucial during this time.  Practicing mental health can help boost your psychological immunity.  Keep yourself motivated by creating a list of responsibilities, expectations for the day, or projects to complete during this time (we love a good honey-do-list)!  Including physical activity in your day will be an excellent stress reducer and mood booster. I suggest chasing those needy pets and kids outdoors, as it will really help expel some of their energy, two-for-one approach to physical activity!

Your sleep may be all over the place

If you followed my two-for-one approach you may not have trouble sleeping- but if you find yourself anxious about what’s ahead, it most likely is wreaking havoc on your sleep!  If you find yourself staring at the ceiling at 3am for more than 10 minutes-change what you are doing. Grab a book or listen to music (please, no tv or phone as the blue light will keep you awake).  This change of scenery will help your mind rest, stop the cycle of worry, and hopefully lead to a little zzzzzzz.

Practice mindfulness and acceptance and be kind to yourself

Whether you meditate, pray, practice yoga, exercise, create art; whatever your spiritual practice that allows you to focus your attention in the present moment, do it.  We tend to compound negative emotions and self-doubt in times like these (“This is unbearable” or “I should handle this better”) but each of us deserve a little grace. To ease feelings of this pandemic and isolation, acknowledge your struggles by being kind to yourself.  We are all sharing your experience right now!

Manage work expectations

It will be helpful to have conversations with your supervisor, colleagues, and peers about what you believe you can achieve at home.  Define priorities during this time and discuss how your tasks will be completed and set deadlines to keep work progressing. If you need to break to feed your children or your pets (I recommend it), communicate with your team as to what parts of your day you will be unavailable. Make sure these are ongoing conversations.  Be HONEST about what isn’t working and where/how you can be supported. Need suggestions on how to have that conversation, here are a few starters:

      • Do you have what you need to work from home?
      • I need XYZ to work from home.
      • Do you need time off or more flexibility?
      • I need extra time to complete this task.
      • What “life” responsibilities are impacting your ability to do your job?
      • My kids are driving me crazy, I need a break today. J
      • What would make you feel more supported?
      • I appreciate the support you have given me, this is working well.
      • How do you plan to take time for yourself?
      • I plan to do this today to help me with my mental wellness.

This is not a one size fits all recipe for mental wellness and setting expectations, but it will allow you to pull aspects that you may not be currently utilizing to help you create a space, create a routine, or just create boundaries to help you telecommute better.

For more information on how to telecommute, ask my colleagues…I have no idea how to do it and am learning each day! We are in this together!

Take care, be well and HOTTY TODDY!

Lightheartedly from a distant,

Erin Cromeans
Assistant Director of Wellness Education

April 27, 2020