29 Top Tips for Staying Home and Staying Sane During the Coronavirus Crisis

29 Top Tips for Staying Home and Staying Sane During the Coronavirus Crisis

Plus bonus tips from the Subscription Insider team on how we’ve kept ourselves sane and productive

Working at home by choice is a wonderful thing. Working at home when you are not allowed to go into the office is a bit more challenging, especially when you are doing so with spouses, kids, roommates, partners and pets in tow. How do you find balance and sanity among the chaos and uncertainty? How do you handle the cabin fever and the crankiness when are you around the same people all day every day?

Let’s start with the elephant in the room. I am grateful to have a job, at least for now, and I don’t take that for granted. Millions of Americans aren’t so lucky. During this difficult time, I am fortunate to be able to work from home, but that doesn’t mean it is easy. Some days are a struggle. I feel disconnected, unmotivated and downright depressed. Other days are easier when I get to connect with co-workers, friends and family and when I feel productive, having the time, space and freedom to pursue projects that excite me. And, of course, there are the days that are just plain lousy. I want to pull the covers over my head, eat pounds of chocolate, drink vats of wine, and stay in bed watching Tiger Kings until June when, hopefully, this will all be over.

The good news is that this is not The Shining. We are not trapped in a remote hotel with Jack Nicholson never to be heard from again…though it may feel like it at times. We are in this together, and we can lift each other up by sharing ideas, inspirational stories, resources, ridiculous quarantine memes and cat videos. Here are 23 tips I’ve collected from friends, family and co-workers on how they are staying sane while we wait out the coronavirus pandemic. Feel free to add your own. We can learn from each other and still like and love each other when our lives return to a new normal.

Image: Bigstock Photo
  1. Treat your workdays like any other. Set your alarm, take a shower, brush your teeth and get dressed. Yoga pants, sweatpants and athleisure wear count as getting dressed. We aren’t judging you.
  2. Make your bed. No, I’m not your mom. This is a tip from my doctor when I worked at home full time. Make your bed every day to avoid the temptation to fall back into it when returning to the bedroom for something. It is a simple thing, but it really helps.
  3. Set aside a designated space for each person who is working or studying at home. Everyone gets their own special spot for their work and supplies. This applies to personal space too. We all need a place we can retreat to when we just need a few minutes alone.
  4. Take regular breaks. Get up at least once an hour to move around for a few minutes. If you wear a fitness or smart watch, you might already be getting reminders. A kitchen timer or phone alarm will also work. Stretch, walk around the room, run up and down the stairs a few times, do jumping jacks, walk to the mailbox or take out the trash, but get moving so your muscles don’t rebel when it is time for a bathroom break.
  5. Take regular lunch breaks and have healthy, pre-measured snacks or fruit on hand, so you aren’t tempted to plow through a whole box of Cheez-its or package of Peeps because they are calling your name. This will help fuel your mind and keep you from losing it when you’ve eaten your 20th Twinkie in three days. This tip may or may not come from personal experience.
  6. Get some fresh air at least a few times a day. Soak up the sun if you are lucky to have nice weather. If it is raining where you live, feel the rain on your skin. If it is snowing, well, move.
  7. Stay connected to others outside of your home. We know (or hope) you still love your spouse/kids/roommates/pets/partners after four weeks of sheltering in place but reach out to the other people in your life too. Call your parents, wave to a neighbor, text a friend, or chat online with a co-worker you miss seeing. There are free and subscription tools available for video chatting and connecting online (Microsoft Teams, Netflix Party, House Party) to make this easy and fun.
  8. Do something nice for someone else. Go shopping for an elderly friend who can use the extra help, leave a note of appreciation for your mailman, smile at a grocery store clerk, or put a “thank you” sign in your window to thank healthcare workers and first responders. 
  9. Set aside alone time for yourself every day, even if it is only 15 or 20 minutes. Find a quiet spot to just breathe, take a bath, lift weights, read, stretch, meditate, color or cry…whatever gives you a sense of peace or relief.
  10. Dedicate time every day for others in your household. Let your spouse and kids know that you love them, even if you are cranky right now, and do something fun together. Play cards, video games, I Spy, have an indoor scavenger hunt or watch a favorite movie or show.
  11. Keep the lines of communication open with others in your household. You are going to get on each other’s nerves. There is no way to avoid it but ask them how they’re feeling and share your own thoughts. You don’t have to emotionally vomit on each other but check in periodically.
  12. Every morning email your boss with your work plan for the day. At the end of the day, follow up with what you’ve accomplished and what work remains outstanding. This shows your boss that you are still “showing up” for work every day, even if it is in sweatpants. It also helps you hold yourself accountable.
  13. Go video. Have all your meetings with your camera ON. It is amazing the difference it makes between your team, co-workers and clients when you talk face to face via video versus just over the phone. The video creates a connection between people in the meeting that a simple audio connection cannot.
  14. If you can, schedule similar activities on specific days. For example, try to book all of your meetings (in person or video) on Tuesdays and Wednesdays or host/record webinars on Thursdays. The reason for this is first of all mind-set, but more importantly, if your team needs to make adjustments in their home office to have a quieter environment for those meetings, they can more effectively plan.
  15. Check in with your boss weekly in person, by phone or video chat. This way your boss can share any concerns or pass on new information, assignments or projects.
  16. If you own a company, you may have to look at how you do business differently. Since you won’t be working face to face and it will be more difficult to monitor your employees’ behavior, focus on trusting other people to do tasks to at your desired level of output. You can do this with good communication and setting of realistic expectations.
  17. Consider giving an assistant more access to email, my work, etc. to support you so you can focus on the tasks that require your attention. Delegate other tasks to your team.
  18. Find small things to keep yourself motivated. For example, create a play list for each area of your life – your work time, exercise time, alone time, family time, bedtime. When you get bored with it, shake things up and listen to a curated playlist. I love Spotify’s lists like Sunny Day, Songs to Sing in the Shower, and One Hit Wonders. [Pandora and Spotify have free, ad-supported streaming music services, but their paid subscriptions are also good. Apple Music and Amazon Music Unlimited are offering 90-day free trials.]
  19. Make your workspace your own, so that it is a place you enjoy being in. I like lighting a candle, opening the window, and keeping my work area neat and organized. My cat Lucifer likes to claim my workspace for himself. To get him off my desk, I open the blinds and make room for him on the windowsill for the important work of bird and bunny stalking. He is an indoor kitty, so this is close as he gets to hunting.
  20. Bond with co-workers in new ways. A group of my colleagues started a Thursday lunchtime yoga class that we do virtually. One person is responsible for selecting the class and sending out the calendar invite. He sets up the meeting, shares his screen, and off we go to twist and stretch our minds and bodies! It is a fun way to be together while being apart, and I enjoying hearing the noises of other people’s pets, kids, etc. in the background.
  21. At the end of the workday, leave your workspace. This helps to physically and mentally separate yourself from your work life and transition to your personal life.
  22. If you are truly missing office life, visit I Miss The Office for background office noises – muttering voices, doors opening and closing, footsteps, copy machines, chewing sounds and other familiar office sounds. You set the number of colleagues you want to annoy you and click on the devices you do or don’t want to hear.
  23. On social media, some of my friends have named their pets as co-workers and are posting their antics online. “My co-worker keeps staring at me and nudging me under the desk when I ignore her. It makes me feel very uncomfortable. I think it is time to report {Fluffy/Fido/Sammy} to HR.”
  24. Find something positive to focus on – try a new hobby, take a walk around your neighborhood every day, call your mom, write to your grandmother, whatever makes you feel good. I am taking this time to take care of myself. I exercise every day, even if it is just stretching, doing a few yoga poses, or 10 minutes on my exercise bike. I put a sticker on my calendar for every day I work out, so I can see at a glance the long streak I have going, plus I have an excuse to buy fun stickers! Once in a while, when I really want to feel normal, I even wear make-up and style my hair! That’s usually reserved for rare outings to Costco or the grocery store.
  25. Limit your time online and watching the news. It is important that we stay informed, but it is easy to become overwhelmed with information overload and political posturing.
  26. Focus on what you can control. It is unlikely you can control the government’s response or the rumors about what’s happening now or next, but you can control your part in it. That means social distancing, limiting trips outside your home to only those that are absolutely essential (e.g., grocery shopping, filling prescriptions, etc.), wearing a mask when out in public, and practicing good hygiene including frequent and proper handwashing. Try to let the rest go.
  27. If you are in a position to help somehow, please consider doing so. Write a letter to a local senior center to brighten someone’s day, donate to your local food bank, sew face masks, or volunteer at a day care center for hospital workers or first responders if you can.
  28. When in doubt, shop online! Amazon and QVC will love you. More importantly, if you still have a job, figure out how you can support local businesses. Order takeout from your favorite restaurant, buy a gift card for a local retailer or nail salon that is closed temporarily, or try online classes from your favorite artist’s studio. They will all appreciate your support as they try to make ends meet. The economic stimulus is coming, and it will save some businesses, but not all of them. Help those that are important to you and your community.
  29. Be kind to yourself. Forgive me for sounding like a therapist, or your mother, but whatever you’re feeling is okay. This is an unprecedented time. No one was expecting this, and there is no playbook for how to handle this. The introverts among us are like kids in a candy store, seeing infinite possibilities and appreciating the opportunity to remain in our shells without having to make excuses. Meanwhile, others will be stressed out, because they’ve lost their jobs, had hours or pay cut, or just dread the uncertainty of it all. And some will be sad, because they are worried about their parents, adult kids, friends and distant family they miss. Don’t beat yourself up. Acknowledge your feelings and express them to your roommates, your partner, your pets or to a journal.
Image: Bigstock Photo

Bonus Tips from the Subscription Insider Team

The Subscription Insider team works out of our own home offices, and we are each “quarantined” in our own states and locations. I asked each of them to share their top tips with our readers.

Kathy Greenler Sexton: Kathy wears many hats at Subscription Insider, including entrepreneur and publisher. She is also a wife, mom and now a teacher with a young son at home who would normally be in school. She offers the following insight from a personal perspective:

“I also like to get out and do something daily – like walk our dog. Hanging with our son and playing with him is awesome even in a pandemic.  We have EPIC games of ‘Trouble’ and we have been building fires in the fireplace and enjoying.  It’s these moments (even when I have been working super hard) that I cherish and keep me centered,” Kathy said.

Sean Sexton: Sean tries to spend time every day working in the yard. Being outdoors and the fresh air help keep him sane!

Image: Bigstock Photo

June Foret has worked from home for 17 years and knows it is easy to get in a rut. What helps her is to get dressed, because it can be so easy to work in pajamas. She likes to get outside or at least open a window and take a few deep breaths. It really helps the soul she says. She also offers the following suggestions.

“I love to learn and be challenged creatively, so I pick a new hobby/skill and try it out. You can learn anything on YouTube! My best pro tip is get up often, your productivity declines after sitting too long, so every hour get up and do something, a load of laundry, prep for a meal, snuggle with your dog, color with your child. Just 5 minutes will change your mindset and you will be amazed how much more you have accomplished then sitting still for eight hours a day attempting to ‘work,’” June said.

Seth Clampett works from home full-time. He has taken this opportunity to hire a full-time person to help him with day-to-day tasks, so he can focus on higher level strategy and decision making. He has ceded some control to that team member. He has focused his energy on what needs to be done versus what can wait and on trying to do more via email and less in a meeting format, virtual or otherwise. A lot can be accomplished over email.

“I could give you the usual platitudes about logging off and allowing yourself to feel like it’s ok to be slightly less productive at this time, but I don’t think that it was been true for me. If anything, it’s felt more manic than ever, and I’ve responded by working later, earlier, and more on the weekends than I had in the past. I think it’s going to be a phenomenon that is shared by a lot of entrepreneurs or high-level decision makers – the need to do something, the need to feel like you’re still pushing the ball forward, the need to not slack off,” said Seth.

Dana Neuts: I have never had a problem being productive whether working from home or an office. I am also primarily an introvert, so this is an ideal scenario for me. My focus for sanity has been on self-care. To me, that means exercising daily – yoga, stretching, riding my exercise bike – and taking my dog outside so we both get some fresh air and sunshine. I have also taken advantage of the time to cook healthier foods and try new recipes. With good fuel in my body, I have more mental and physical energy to get through this. My biggest challenge is that my parents are in a nursing home thousands of miles away, and I can’t see them to be sure they are OK. I can’t make my spring trip to visit to spend time with them. Instead, I send letters, pictures and care packages and call them.

Image: Bigstock Photo

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