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Creating a good routine is the key to successful working from home, mental health counselor says

The Advocate - 3/29/2020

Mar. 29--Home is where the office is for a lot of people these coronavirus days.

And, for some, that change is proving to be a bit of a bumpy ride as they try to juggle company duties and kids along with worries about the disease and social distancing.

A local mental health counselor says one of the best ways to deal with the upheaval in our daily lives is by creating a sensible schedule.

"For a lot of our clients, I'm advising them to have a routine. Whatever time they woke up, maybe they can extend it an hour, but I wouldn't do it more than that," said Tanya Stuart, owner of Genesis Holistic Solutions Center of Baton Rouge. "Get up. You don't have to put makeup on, but change out of your pajamas, because if you're in your pajamas, you start to feel sluggish and lazy and no sense of urgency. So, having some level of routine is going to be important."

While you don't have to put on the clothes you might wear to the office, Stuart suggests getting into clothes that are comfortable "where you can go from cooking and working and maybe walking the dog down the street. I'm in yoga pants, and that's not what I would wear to work, but I'm still able to do those things but just a little more comfortable."

For many suddenly thrust into the work-from-home scenario, having children in the house complicates matters. Especially when they are younger, children see parents being home as an opportunity to play, Stuart said.

"It is important to try to explain to them in an age-appropriate way," she said. "One suggestion would be is to have a schedule printed out of what to do during blocks of time. Some of that time could be for them just to sit calm listening to a breathing exercise or meditation. I would probably do these in small increments depending on the child. If you teach kids that they have to be constantly stimulated, then as adults they have trouble relaxing and participating in self-care activities.

"This is a time for kids, adolescents and adults to learn patience and acceptance."

In addition to getting up and out of your pajamas, here's some other work-at-home tips:

Office space -- Create a dedicated office space to help keep you focused during work hours; something you can walk away from in off-hours.

Watch your eating -- "You tend to kind of graze a little bit when you don't have any structure," Stuart said.

Learn how to use the mute button -- If you're on a conference call, mute your phone when you aren't speaking; background noise can ruin the meeting.

A quite place -- Find a quiet place for client calls. It could be in your closet or even in your car.

Work in some form of exercise -- That's good advice at the office, too. Take a walk around the block or around your house, stretch, play a quick game of hoops with the kids.

Avoid distractions -- Commit to avoiding distractions, including on the computer. Limit your time on social media and news sites. "If you've already got anxiety, it's not going to help this," Stuart said. "I tell them (clients) I would watch probably 30 to 40 minutes of the news, because you need to be informed. You need to know what's going on, but you don't need to be overwhelmed by it where you catastrophize in your mind."

Above all, Stuart encouraged people not to let the current conditions overwhelm you.

"I tell my clients: It's forced change, forced adjustment, but if you just ... take that leap, it might not be as bad as you anticipated," she said.


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