I remember way back when a couple of weeks ago when I had set “work” times and “home” times. In fact, I had my life even more organized than that. Tuesdays and Thursdays I saw counseling clients all day and into the evening. Monday, Wednesday and Friday I did administrative work for Aspire Counseling or worked with my second business supporting other therapists around the country while my kids were at school. When I was home, I tried really hard to be present doing very minimal work.
And then…Coronavirus began to pop up all over the US.
It changed everything. The second week in March, we still didn’t have any cases locally but it was clearly only a matter of time. We weighed the pros and cons and decided to move to online counseling over the weekend. In a single weekend, I set up a home office and held practice sessions with most of our therapists to test out our online counseling platforms. We wanted to make sure when we started seeing clients online Monday we were ready to go.
Work/Life Balance Doesn’t Look the Same in the Midst of the Coronavirus
The truth is that, like most of you, my work/life balance looks very different as I’ve settled into a “new normal.” Now, I wake up early to check e-mails and make sure none of my clients have any urgent issues. Then, I spend most of the day acting as a teacher and caretaker for my young children while my husband, a nurse, goes to work at the hospital. I answer calls and texts, but to be honest I’ve found it difficult to do much else with the kids needing most of my attention all day. When my husband gets home, we have a quick dinner together. Next, I head to work. I work in the farthest corner of my house and use a white noise machine to make sure my family can’t hear me talking to clients.
My point is…the new normal looks very different. Even when I’m working, I’m in the house. Sometimes, I feel guilty for working while my husband puts the kids to bed. Other times, I feel bad for not being quicker to respond to client e-mails while I’m coming up with new ideas for science lessons for the kids.
But Balance IS Still Possible
In the last few weeks, I’ve learned that balance IS still possible. It just looks really different than it used to. Here are a few of the lessons I’ve learned while working from home, raising little kiddos and trying to find a new normal:
Lesson #1: Be Flexible
This one hurts me a little to even type! My type A personality likes everything pretty much set in stone. My clients know that I rarely deviate from our set meeting schedule. And well, I thrive on routine. But that’s not possible right now. Things are…different. I’ve already had to move counseling appointments a couple of times. Good news, the world didn’t stop turning when it happened and most of my clients have rolled with the changes. I’ve also had to change up our home schedule a couple of times when I’ve realized what times of the day my kiddos think the best or when new opportunities (like Storytime with my son’s school) have become available. All of my education and skills training over the years has really come into play.
The truth is, I’m MUCH more flexible the last few years than I was as a young adult. But I still know my tendency is to stick to routine and order. I’ve dug deep the last couple of weeks to be mindful, stay present, find wise mind and practice psychological flexibility just like I would ask of my clients.
The lesson I’ve learned is that it’s easiest right now if I acknowledge from the beginning that all plans (even Zoom calls with friends) are flexible. I just tell myself that our needs change day to day right now. Most people are pretty understanding when changes do come up.
I still prefer order and structure, because my brain likes to make sense of everything. But sometimes things need to shift was we get new information, things come up, etc.
Lesson #2: Acknowledge You’re Imperfect
Honestly, perfectionism is hard to live up to even in the best circumstances. But right now? Everyone is feeling a little strained. And there have been several articles recently about how emotionally exhausting this whole situation is even if someone is just sitting at home all day without others around.
So…of course you’re going to make mistakes. Of course you won’t live up to your own high expectations right now.
I get a TON of e-mails every day (100+) between the various hats I wear (personal life, counseling & therapist consultant business) but I try really, really hard to stay on top of those. Right now? Yeah…my response time is a little slow. I try to check e-mail throughout the day, but it’s usually while also making lunch, monitoring my son’s journal writing, etc. So…I’ve gotten a little behind. Therefore, I decided today to set up an away message for the e-mail inbox that gets the most messages. It’s just a simple message acknowledging that my responses may be slower than usual.
I think that this step is really important for most people’s mental health right now. None of us need that pressure to be perfect. What areas are you struggling to live up to your own standards right now? And how can you take that pressure off and acknowledge that during this very unusual, unique time you may have to adjust that standard a little bit?
Lesson #3: Prioritize Connection
I’ve saved the two most important for last. And I’m not sure which of the two is the most important, because they’re pretty intertwined. So….let’s start with making connection a priority.
One of our greatest needs as human is to feel connected. We’re constantly seeking connection. Whether that’s to a spouse, friends or even a pet. We want to feel like we’re in relationship with another being who values and cares for us. Like we’re making a difference and contributing to the wellbeing of someone else.
I don’t really care for the term “social distancing” you’ve been hearing. I wish instead it was called “physical distancing.” Because what we need right now is more social connection. We need to feel connected to one another more than ever.
So….how can you feel more connected to the world even while staying in your own home? Can you text a different friend every day and try to reconnect even if you haven’t spoken in months? Which of your friends might be interested in a virtual dinner party where you prop up your phone and chat via FaceTime while you eat? Are you able to sew masks for healthcare workers or sent handwritten cards to a local nursing home?
I cannot recommend strongly enough that you find some way to connect with others right now. Since I’ve spoken personally for the rest of this, I’ll admit here that this has been a top priority for me during this time. Every morning my children and I FaceTime a friend for weather & calendar time. Throughout the day, I touch base via text with colleagues & friends. Once a week we have a Zoom dinner party with my extended family. In some ways, I feel almost more connected to others than a few weeks ago and I think that’s been important for my own adjustment.
Lesson #4: Self Care is More Important Than Ever
Ok, if you’ve been following my blogs for long or if you’re one of my clients, this one doesn’t come as a surprise. You know that I REALLY value self are. It’s not just something I say, but something I think about on a regular basis. And the truth is, my self care has had to look a little bit different right now. Yours might too. That’s ok. The important thing is that you have a self care routine right now. That you make it a priority to keep yourself emotionally and mentally as strong as possible in this period of stress.
Maybe your “typical” self care involves a monthly massage, a girls night out with friends, working out at the gym or participating in your Sunday school class. None of those are possible at the moment. What can you do instead? How can you get those same needs met? Can you watch workout videos at home, watch your pastor live stream church, learn to cook new meals or add meditation into your daily schedule?
Support Through Online Counseling During the Coronavirus
Everything about this situation is tough right now. But if you’re looking for support, our therapists are still here and willing to help. We can help you process the sheer weight of everything you are are going through so you come out on the other side of this stronger emotionally. When your typical coping skills fail, our therapists will help you learn new things you can try.
Through online counseling, we’ll pair with you on this journey. No, we don’t have a set road map of what this journey will look like that we can share with you. The truth is, we’re on this journey too. But we do understand mental health. And we can give you a safe space to work through your own feelings.
If you’re interested in starting online counseling, just follow these simple steps:
- Contact us online or by calling 573-328-2288.
- Set up a free consultation with one of our therapists.
- Begin sorting through your feelings and regaining your sense of balance during this time of stress.
Counseling for a Variety of Issues from Anywhere in Missouri
The nice thing about online counseling is that we’re able to work with individuals anywhere in Missouri. So, if you’re in the midst of our largest Covid outbreak (at the moment) in St. Louis, in rural Shannon county that doesn’t have a single confirmed case (officially….) or right here in Mid Missouri, we can help. We have therapists that offer online counseling for a variety of mental health issues including trauma (very relevant at the moment), grief (both loss of a loved one to death and more general loss), depression, anxiety and anyone in the LGBTQ community.