LIBN Column April 15, 2020, By Jenna Kern-Rugile
Rumor has it that Shakespeare wrote King Lear during the plague. So, how’s working at home during our modern day plague going for you?
Social media and other sources are replete with articles about how you can use your time during the pandemic to be more productive. Not only are you supposed to be working remotely at full capacity – or even harder, because, after all, it’s a time of crisis for your company– but you’re told it’s a great time to learn a new hobby, declutter your closet, get in shape and, while you’re at it, write that play or novel that’s been brewing in the back of your mind.
While you and your family are experiencing one of the most stressful, uncertain and challenging times in our country’s history, you are being encouraged to tackle your to-do list and use all of those “extra” hours to accomplish more than ever.
The truth is, we are all in survival mode. Not since 9-11 have we felt a similar shock to our systems and existential threat to our welfare. And, with no definitive end to this period of isolation and upheaval in sight, you are bound to be way more than a little off your game.
The roles we use to define our worth—our ability to earn a living, to protect our families, to provide an education for our children—are under threat. A large part of our identities are based on interactions with our colleagues, friends and family. But the need for social distancing has thrown those foundational elements of our lives into chaos.
While the chances of you or a loved one dying from COVID-19 may be relatively small in stark terms of percentages, it’s not at all unreasonable to be so frightened that focusing on even simple tasks is difficult.
Bottom line: Now is not the time to put pressure on yourself to be a superstar. Give yourself—and your employees, bosses, kids and everyone else—a break. If you’re working from home, expect to be less productive than usual. We’re all living through a period when our bodies and minds are on high alert. It’s normal to feel overwhelmed. In fact, it would be unnatural to feel otherwise.
If you’ve got kids at home, the challenges are multiplied. You’re now expected to be teacher, playmate and parent. If you work on the front lines, or in a grocery store or any other public-facing job, you’re putting your health at risk. And your financial portfolio has likely tanked.
For everyone’s sake, adjust your expectations. Expect your kids to be more clingy and anxious than usual. Expect them—and yourself— to be more tired or easily triggered to anger. Let your loved ones express their feelings, and talk to someone about your own. Tell your kids it’s normal to be frightened, but reassure them that the best scientists in the world are working on solutions, and that we will get through this.
Instead of training for the marathon, focus on the basics for you and your family: Eat healthy foods, mostly. Take some walks (dogs are loving this). Get up from your desk and stretch. Play ball with the kids. Allow yourself to get some extra sleep. Keep clearly defined work hours. Limit your news consumption to a “need to know” basis.
Don’t isolate. Use technology to stay in touch with peers, friends and family. Texts aren’t enough. Use Zoom or FaceTime so you feel truly connected. And when speaking with your co-workers, ask them how they’re doing.
We’re in uncharted territory, and there’s no right way to cope. This is a time when doing the best you can is a perfectly acceptable goal.
Bio: Jenna Kern-Rugile is Director of Communications at North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center, a children’s mental health agency that serves all of Nassau County. The Guidance Center is seeing new and existing clients via video and phone while its buildings are closed. For more information, visit www.northshorechildguidance.org. To schedule an appointment, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (516) 626-1971.