We’re going on 12+ weeks at home, and it has been quite an interesting experience. Talk about a huge learning curve!
We have been navigating distance learning for the girls (yep, add a teacher to our roles!), learning how to WFH with 4 other people, making and baking comfort foods (and the consequences), trying to carve out time in all of this for myself (self-care), & learning effective communication especially when I feel burnt out and crabby!
The Learning Curve
Back in March, the school district emailed parents that school was indefinitely halted, that is when reality hit me like a brick about how close to home COVID-19 was getting. Trav and I had just hit a great cadence and productive routine with sharing a workspace. But adding 3 boisterous girls into the mix definitely threw everything off.
Setting up shop was important for us to proceed. So we quickly had a family meeting and decided who would work where. Initially, I was sharing the office loft with Natalie. That quickly didn’t work out. She loved to show me all of her homework assignments, which I enjoy, but it meant productivity was at an all-time low for me. Travis tried his best to get her attention focused but it was hard.
Once the desert den was finished, Emily immediately took over that room. She is the middle child so I’m very aware of helping her feel empowered and letting her own a space that she can call her own.
Rachel (my teen) was fine in her own little studio AKA her room. Compared to the younger 2, we actually found we had the opposite problem with her. We needed to work harder to draw her out to get fresh air, spend time with us, and interact as a family. I could honestly probably write 5 more blog posts on navigating teenage years for the first time, watch this space 😉
This is how I dream Rachel’s bedroom to be. I would love to help refresh her room. But she is a creature of habit and I stay committed to honoring her personal boundaries.
So with the girls pretty much sorted, that left Trav and I. Where should we set up shop that would be most productive for us both? I ended up traveling like a nomad around the house and putting others first (more to come on that).
Travis moved his work to later in the day, as he was delegated to homeschool Nat. This worked best as I had so many morning work commitments that were time-sensitive.
So in the midst of all this, and 12 weeks in, I have been reflecting on our biggest challenges. I have put down my thoughts, tips, and of course, some design must-haves, that could help all of you. Read away!
Thought #1: Set Schedules
Determine a work schedule and location for each person. This has been super important for us. Once Emily finishes school next week, I am going to take over the Desert Den for designated hours. I have learned there is no harm in prioritizing your own needs by carving out time on the calendar for you, your work, and your own self-care. Self-care is hard for me but I am trying! I have found that staying indoors for weeks on end, even when trying to take care of myself, I struggle to do it.
Thought #2: Build Boundaries
Setting up boundaries and rules when a person is working is key. When Emily was in the desert den learning, we told Natalie she couldn’t bother her sister. Same with me, when Mommy has her AirPods in her ears, she is not to be bothered. Reality: they still bother me, even Travis, ha!
For really important calls or projects, lock yourself up. There is no way you can get peace and quiet with co-shared spaces for projects that require your laser-focused attention.
I also want to point out that there have been professional situations where I shared workspaces. I completely understand the whole idea of having open spaces so creativity can flourish and ideas can be communicated in real-time.
However, there is definitely something to be said for an enclosed area where you can focus and concentrate on important projects.
Where do I lock myself up? These days it’s been my walk-in closet! As they say, out of sight, out of mind 🙂 Definitely not ideal since it gets no natural light or fresh air but it does the trick when I have uber important projects that need all of my focus. I have been going back and forth between the closet and the backyard. Being outside is wonderful but it’s not always ergonomic, so I have to limit my time there.
Isn’t Jenni Kayne’s closet to die for? So simple and serene. I would sit at the window all day long!
Thought #3: Change Up The Scenery
Be willing to change the scenery and move around to see where you work best. Maybe this week it’s the bedroom, and the next week a corner with a small side table and chair works better. In an ideal world, we would stay in the same WFH location, but this isn’t always realistic. I find that when I need fresh creative energy, changing up the scenery helps tremendously with that! Try to be consistent with your work schedule and have the same work bag of helpful tools that you can move with you from place to place.
I love my Filson Dryden Briefcase. It has tons of interior compartments. I used to take it for traveling and site visits. Now I use it as my WFH tote as well! I have the assurance all my chargers, cords, files, books, laptop etc are all in one place no matter where I work in the house.
Thought #4: Manage Emotions
I have been thinking a lot about emotional management, and how we can navigate this while we are all at home. I have been reading about HSP (Highly Sensitive Persons), and I am sure there are more of you out there!
Here are some of the characteristics of HSP:
- A highly sensitive person may suffer sensitivity to all of their senses, it can make everything from watching a TV show to their outfit to the smell of a house, feel difficult.
- Highly sensitive individuals often feel other people’s emotions to such a degree that they take it on themselves and then build upon it. An HSP is a true empath and can feel the emotions, energy, and behaviors of people around them.
- An HSP might find difficulty in watching a sad or embarrassing scene in a movie. Most people can empathize but do not need to stop watching, however, an HSP may need to stop because it becomes too much. Because of this sensitivity, movies, TV shows, games, & social media can be really challenging. THIS EXPLAINS SO MUCH WHY I CAN’T WATCH CRINGE-WORTHY SHOWS. lol!
- Honing an HSP emotional skills has advantages. Following these feelings can lead to acute awareness and an ability to navigate social problems. Even something as simple as acting can be assisted by the ability to feel the audience and other cast members. A well balanced HSP can almost appear magical in their responding to the needs of others as they feel it before others even become aware of the problem.
- Some common myths about HSP:
- That they are making it up.
- That they can’t help others because it hurts them to be around folks in need.
- They are thin-skinned.
- They are autistic. (Though people with autism are HSPs, HSPs are not necessarily people on the spectrum.)
- Only women are HSP. (Women do tend to be more intuitive than men but that is very different from HSP.)
- I found this blog helpful for learning more.
How can we learn to manage our emotions?
First up, flush out irrational fears and thoughts as soon as you are aware of them. To be honest, I don’t think I’ve been taking enough breaks to flush them out. The frustration of not being able to get things done with so many distractions and questions from my family has hit me hard at week 12!
For example, as I’m writing this to you, Emily and Travis have both come into the Desert Den to chat and ask questions. A closed-door obviously isn’t working as a sign to my family that I need privacy! I try to let my family know that when the laptop is on, AirPods are in, and the door is closed, they can’t ask me “important and time-sensitive questions” about. This is definitely a learning curve for us all! In due time…
Thought #5: Communicate Clearly
Communicating clearly sometimes means using all of the verbal, non-verbal, and written communications, especially when you’re on calls or focusing. As two therapists you would think that we always communicate effortlessly and effectively. Uh..think again!
We could be categorized as the worst clients ever on this one. Don’t get me wrong, our awareness is high but when emotions run even higher, all bets are off! We regress to two 12-year-olds in a power struggle.
So what has worked for us? Written communication. This works as it slows down my verbal diarrhea of rationales and reasoning, and Trav has the time to think clearly about what he wants to convey to me without the pressure of me standing there waiting anxiously.
Trello has played a huge part in helping us work together on tasks. Travis has time to think and let me know what is going on. I can slow my roll by looking at the updates on Trello. I really don’t want to be that work partner who makes him feel like I’m micromanaging. That is the last thing I want to do!
Play around with the various forms of communication until you find the right combination for you. There is no right or wrong answer but remember, it’s best to avoid letting someone assume they know what you’re thinking. We know what they say about assuming…
Thought #6: Increase “Feelings” Vocabulary
12+ weeks in, increasing your feelings word vocabulary is now of utmost importance. A robust feelings vocabulary helps you to name and label your feelings and emotions. This can be harder than it sounds, all of us (myself included) can struggle at times to convey what we are feeling, and what we need. Opening up the way you speak about your feelings, beyond just the obvious (sad, happy, angry) can help you and your family to find solutions to move forward.
Thought #7 Manage Comfort Food
As soon as we hunkered down at home, we baked…and baked… and baked some more. I also cooked and cooked and cooked. Our meals were decadent, delicious, and oh so comforting. We aren’t alone here, how many people have you seen within your community bake banana bread the last few months?!
Emily loves to bake and she recently found Halfbakedharvest.com. Emily was drawn to Teigan’s Chocolate Chunk Coconut Banana bread.
Image credit: Halfbakedharvest.com
There is something so comforting about the warm smells in the house and the happiness of eating something so yummy. I digress…
Food is a common self soother that we can all fall prey to, but it can be unhealthy when that food is packed full of sugar and sky-high in calories. I’ve found working on mindful eating as a great tool, especially during stay-at-home.
Before you eat, set the intention that you won’t keep eating until you are full, instead eat until you are no longer hungry. It is also important to slow down, take the time to savor each mouthful, and truly chew. Most of us scarf down our food. Within moments, our plates were clean and we hardly took a moment to enjoy it. Mindful eating is easier said than done, here are some other tips and tricks to help you.
- Mindful eaters are pickier about what they choose to eat and aren’t afraid to tailor a meal to themselves (asking to hold the sauce at a restaurant for example).
- Mindful eating is forgiving and flexible. Overeating happens on occasion and that is OKAY! They are able to let it go, and start fresh the next day.
- Gauge your hunger before you start eating, “am I actually really hungry or am I just eating out of boredom or comfort?”
I’m currently reading this book by Susan Albers, Ph.D. on soothing ourselves without food.
Thought #8 Move it!
By week 10 my jeans no longer fit me the same. I was SHOCKED! How did this happen so quickly?! I was exercising and eating at home. Were my bad habits around eating potato chips while binge-watching true crime documentaries really that detrimental to my weight? I guess so.
I had a realization – in “normal” life, I was out running errands, school pick up/drop off, etc. Cutting out that extra little movement here and there really adds up. I thought I was exercising enough to make up for it but then I took a look at my exercise log. I realized I was working out less than normal. I guess the stress of life had gotten to me and given me reasons to do other things.
I have had a huge paradigm shift in exercising. Instead of seeing it as something I will fit in when I can. I need to treat it like brushing my teeth. It’s part of my life every day. You need to move your body daily, it is not only important for your physical health, but also for your mental wellbeing. Working out helps to flush out those negative feelings or emotions, and magnetize towards the endorphins!
Even if you can’t fit in a full-blown workout, try a walk, some yoga, some stretching, and you will feel the benefits. I have become a huge fan of 20-30 minute HIIT workouts on the Peloton app. I have no excuse to not do them so my consistency has increased dramatically.
It even has meditations on there. So I easily transition from a workout to a cooldown meditation routine. I simply love it!
The Last 12 Weeks: These Design Must-Haves Have Got Me Through!
Last but not least, I have been thinking a lot about what furniture, decor, and accessories that have helped me function better emotionally and physically during the last 12 weeks. After all, I am an interior designer!
Thought #9: Choose Cozy Chairs
First up is this West Elm Chair: I love love love this chair. Where would I be without it? It has the perfect seat depth and back support to feel comfy and work from a corner. Add a plant and side table, you’re set!
Thought #10 Pass The Pillows
Shuffling pillows around have been a lifesaver to quickly change the vibe of a room into something new. With 12 weeks at home having gone by, it is helpful to have this tool up my sleeve to help switch up the energy of a room. All the moving around that the family is doing right now, this has helped us be flexible as well as breathing new life into our routines.
Thought #11: Mirror Mirror On The Wall
Mirrors help foster feelings of rejuvenation (we could all use some of that right now)! They instantly make a room look so much larger, brighter, and more open. The reflection helps to bring in the natural light and then move that light around the room. With all the time we are spending at home, a mirror can be a great light trick to make space feel more open.
Thought #12: Creating Calm
I’ve been thinking a lot about helpful things to have around you wherever you are working from home. Aromatherapy, wall grids, and plants are my must-haves.
Wall grid: a wall grid really helps to keep things organized and easy to visualize, you can also put up fun art and photographs of your loved ones that you haven’t seen in awhile
Aromatherapy: Aromatherapy uses your olfactory senses to relax and focus. Some of my favorite essential oils are lemongrass & lavender. Each essential oil delivers benefits unique to the plant from which it was derived. So if you have specific symptoms you’re wanting to treat or planned use for your essential oil (like cleaning your house), do a little homework to find the right one for you.
Plants: now is the time to brush up on your plant Mom skills! Research has shown that plants help us refresh and renew. Want to know more about plants? Have a read of one of my previous blogs, How to cheer yourself up with plants here.
As the world moves towards easing up on sheltering in place, it seems like WFH reality is still very much in set. The fact is more and more of us are going to be working from home. Big companies like Twitter have said that employees don’t need to go back to the office (ever again)!
It is important, now more than ever, to brush up on our tips and tricks for navigating WFH life within our families and shared spaces. I am trying to embrace the new routines, and the extra time we can spend together as a family, but it’s hard.
It’s difficult to know what the next few weeks will hold, but I am learning as I go, and will continue to share my thoughts with you all as we journey through the next few months together.
Do you have any questions I can help with? Comment below or email me, I’d love to help you.