Thomas G. Suk, PhD, LMFT, LCPC " />

Organizing your Stay-at-Home Day

Tears of sadness were heard from my wife’s home office as she pointed to her computer screen. There presented in a grainy and distant image was the wedding of her nephew and his bride. The pair stood alone at the altar, absent were the previously named wedding attendants, a few isolated family members sat the front row of what would have been a full complement of wedding guests. “This is the first wedding of one of my nephews and we had planned to take a trip to be there,” my wife lamented. “I am so sorry for them, all dressed in their wedding finery, with so few to witness or celebrate this special day with them.”

This is life in the pandemic, missed celebrations, cancelled trips, summer events and sports not in play. And it takes its toll on us. Anxiety has increased for many; our days are displaced from their normal routine. Parents pull double duty as teachers, health care and other essential workers head to work at elevated risk, one day fades into the next for those whose offices are now in their home. There is a feeling emerging that the summer will open up for us, but we still have some time to go before we get back to old and probably some new routines. One practice that can help us manage all the change and the displacement, loss, and anxiety that comes with it is to take charge of our day. Here are some thoughts on how to organize your Stay-at-Home day.

Have a Plan. In pre-Covid days the demands of each day wrote some of our schedule for us. We needed to be at a meeting in the office at a certain time, get breakfast for the kids before they head off to school, catch public transportation, walk the dog, meet friends for a light dinner. Now, this external structure that comes at us and shapes the organization of our day isn’t there, well, except for the dog. We also have additional time on our hands. No after-hours school activities, no group social dates, no business travel, no organized sports for you or the kids.  Some of us are putting that to good use with an average of 20 minutes of additional sleep as reported by Fitbit sleep tracking. Events that shaped our day in the past aren’t there right now; we need to do this ourselves.

Find your Rhythm. Both work demands and your personal style help develop your rhythm. Some people start work early in the day, others get rolling later and keep burning into the night, some individuals use breaks in their day to keep motivation going. Even with parents as teachers now slowing for the summer, working and parenting at the same time requires some juggling. To help organize your stay-at-home day, try to discover the rhythm that works best for you. Once established, use that same pattern each day or have a pattern for your week where each day has a distinct focus. One day might be your appointment day, followed by a day of desk work, followed by a day to focus on the creative aspects of your job. Just how you allocate your day or week is less important than the structural flow. At least you will know what day of the week it is.

Stay Social. I know that sounds odd during this time of social distancing, but we are social animals and being alone, especially during challenging times, will add anxiety to most people’s lives. It is with others that we can compare and normalize our experience, with others we share ideas about how to live well in a pandemic, and being with others tamps down the loneliness and the worry. The slogan, “we are all in this together” is meaningful precisely because being home is a tough place to be during this time. So, schedule some time into your day or at least a few times in your week where you get intentional about contacting someone. Call, send a text, write a letter, Zoom a friend (if you have some Zoom energy left). Join a friend for a 6-foot-apart walk together, stand in the front lawn of a neighbor while they sit on their front steps, or call a sibling you have not spoken to in a while. We are sharing in a common, even universal experience. Don’t walk this way alone.

Schedule Fun. We all need something to look forward to. Plan for some fun in your day or several times in your week. How about a game night with those you are staying at home with? Or a video game night, for those who don’t normally do video gaming. Work through the 100 top films of all time that you have not yet seen. Class up a few meals. One family went high end on Sunday brunches. They set out the fancy plates and silverware, made special food and drink, and set up formally in their dining room to enjoy a long brunch together. The options are many, the important thing is to plan for fun and place it into your schedule.

Get Physical. We may be sleeping more which is generally good for our health, but it seems we are also eating more because we are home a lot. Gyms are still closed and may be for awhile so get creative with getting physical. One simple approach is to take a walk. Consider walking fast to increase the exercise value. Get intentional and you will begin to look forward to your daily time outside. Maybe there’s a podcast you’ve been wanting to check out, a walk could provide that opportunity. Dust off that old weight set in storage, fill up those bike tires and get out there. Get that heart moving faster.

Our days have been different and will continue to be so for a while. To keep the blues, anxiety, and loneliness away spend some time organizing your day with these five tips in mind.

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