I have internet, so I’m aware that there are countless articles with tips and tricks to maintaining a healthy work/life balance while working from home during a pandemic. To be fair, I’m not adding anything particularly innovative to this conversation when I suggest you simply do the following: (1) Declutter your space in order to calm your mind. (2) Embrace the storm of this uncharted territory. Where I believe I can help is in the execution.
When your email inbox seems to be mercilessly replenishing, while your phone is ringing off the hook, and you’ve had to cancel yet another socially distanced Bumble “date” (read: sweaty walk on the Westside Highway) because your boss just asked you to get her something “ASAP,” take a deep breath. Fight the impulse to take a nap, and instead, clean out a closet. I’m not suggesting you organize your entire home by category, à la Marie Kondo. Only one little closet.
Take the Amazon packages from three years ago that you meant to return, the old puffy jackets with the stuffing bubbling out of the frayed seams, the enormous air purifier you actually love but never remember to buy replacement filters for, and donate them if they’re salvageable. Throw them away if they’re not. That’s it! But most articles fail to delineate exactly why having a well-organized closet will center you, and it wasn’t always abundantly clear to me either until I found myself working from home.
The next time your emails flood in quickly enough to drown you, or you’ve forgotten what it sounds like when your phone is not ringing, or your toddler vandalizes your home and calls it an “art project,” roll out your neck, stretch your hamstrings (pro tip: don’t skip this step), walk over to your newly decluttered closet, twist the knob, step inside, and shut the door behind you. Enjoy the dark. Savor the scurrying footsteps and slightly panicked calls outside the door as your boyfriend or children search for you, never suspecting the “junk closet” has enough space for you in it. You have found peace, and all you had to do was take a moment to organize your closet. Namaste.
Thanks to Instagram’s #inspirationalquotes, we all know that storms in life are merely tests. But we are never told how to pass!
The next time you’re pretty sure your camera angle just showed your whole team that you weren’t wearing pants during your Zoom, open yourself up to the storm. Literally. Open weather.com, scroll down below the “daily forecast” to the “breaking news” segment and take note of where those gale force winds are growing stronger. Then unplug. Take a few hours in front of the TV, cook some dinner, read to your kids, walk your dog, or make love to your quarantine boyfriend whom you’d only be casually seeing were it not a pandemic. When you’re feeling ready to work again, simply respond to the slew of angry emails by explaining that the storm knocked out your WiFi, apologize profusely for the delay, and get on with your day. Nobody knows where you’re working from anyway! Pro-tip: Refer to a tropical storm or hurricane by its proper human name to really sell the story. The storm is your friend. Embrace it.
Working from home during a global pandemic is really just as simple as organizing and embracing. I know the countless articles on this topic are written by MDs and PhDs, and that I am neither of these things. But I did have three really productive days while working from home back in June, so in the national spirit of throwing medical advice and empirical data to the wind, this should be the new authoritative article on the subject.
In all seriousness, I don’t presume to know what each of you is going through at work or at home—especially when the two are combined—on any particular day. What I do know is that we all want to hide or unplug sometimes. My only real piece of advice is to try to be gentle with yourself, and every so often, indulge the desire to disappear for a while.
This article originally appeared in Betches.