NACA BLOG - Self-Care While Working From Home - 5/12/2020

NACA Board and executive director

May 12, 2020
Shelly Morris Mumma, Ph.D.
St. Norbert College (WI)

There’s no need for me to tell you what a crazy, unusual time we’re experiencing right now. Work is the one thing I’d like some social distance from, but since I temporarily work from home, it’s impossible to do. Here are some things that are helping me to try to have a healthy balance.

  1. Schedule breaks during the day. Just like I would always make time to have a non-working lunch while I was on campus, the same is true now. I’ve scheduled a weekly lunchtime video chat with work friends that would have been sitting with me in the dining hall. I have two other work friends that like to have a smaller lunch conversation, so I video chat with them on a different day. And, as other folks have asked me to “eat lunch” with them, I’ve scheduled it. I am an extrovert and I need time with others to help me recharge. This is a great way to do that.
  2. Get enough sleep. This one is harder now than it was. I lie down at night and lots of things start going through my mind. So, I’ve had to figure out ways to relax and stop thinking when I go to bed. I’ve also had to be mindful to not pick up my phone and start checking it while I’m trying to fall asleep. Typically, I listen to a podcast as I fall asleep. Now, I just need to make sure it’s not one about current events.
  3. Figure out how you want to manage your time and tasks. Now that I’m working at home, I can work as long as I want each day. Then, the problem becomes figuring out when to relax. I’m trying to stick with a “normal” eight-hour day without doing work in the evening. For my own accountability, I created a spreadsheet where I track my hours each week. It’s not incredibly detailed, but it’s helping me to stay close to a 40-45 hour work week.
  4. Find time to be active. I had just gotten to the point where I had created a habit of going to our campus fitness center on weekdays when we were all sent to work from home. Now, I’m trying to get outside and take a walk each day. I am also trying to create reasons to get up and walk around a little throughout the day. Basically, I’m doing what my watch is telling me to do. When it tells me to stand up for two minutes at the end of an hour, I walk upstairs and refill my water or grab a pop. And, on weekdays. I get outside and walk in my neighborhood for about 30 minutes. The fresh air also really helps.
  5. Pay attention to what you eat. It is so easy to just walk in the kitchen and get a snack every time I get up. I am trying hard to not do that. Some days it works, others not so much. I also realized that a pandemic requires that I have chocolate on hand at all times. I’ve become pretty good at limiting myself to one or two pieces a day. I firmly believe a treat is okay, as long as it’s really a treat and not something I’m eating constantly. (If you want suggestions about good chocolates, get in touch.)
  6. Think about your day, once at the start and once at the end. I’ve found it more difficult to focus on long-term tasks throughout these changes, so it has become even more important for me to check in on my list of things to do every morning and every afternoon/evening. I am relying on my running list of things to do and also scheduling reminders in my calendar.
  7. Ask for help. Working from home has made it easy to forget that I’m part of a team. Video chats are just not the same as walking down the hall to talk with someone or brainstorming ways to work together on something before a meeting begins. I have had to get much more intentional about asking others to assist on projects. It’s one of my least favorite things to do, but incredibly necessary. We all need help to accomplish the important work we do with students, even when they’re at a distance.
  8. Do the best you can and cut yourself a break. We are all dealing with new work situations and it’s a struggle for everyone. Remind yourself that you’re doing the best you can. If you’re video chatting with others over lunch, you can remind each other of this important point. The crucial thing is that we’re each trying and it’s okay if something is not perfect.
  9. Have a little fun. Have you had a Zoom happy hour, yet? In fact, I’ve had a couple with friends I’ve made through NACA. It’s helpful to have that time to unwind with others that know what you’re going through and the kinds of things that are difficult right now. I’ve scheduled video chats with other friends and am FaceTiming with others way more than I did before.
    This is definitely a work in progress. Some days I do better than others. And, it’s important to know that what works for me may not work exactly the same way for you. Make adjustments. Try different things. But, I do know that the most important thing of all is …
  10. We will get through this. We won’t be working like this forever. It might be for longer than we’d like, but it won’t be forever. We can do this!

Good luck and be forgiving when you forget to do some of these things. Wake up the next day and start over. Let go of yesterday’s mistakes and move on.

Shelly Morris Mumma, Ph.D. is the director of Leadership, Student Engagement & First Year Experience and the Campus Center at St. Norbert College (WI). Active in NACA for over 15 years, she was recently elected to the Board of Directors with her term beginning in May. She holds a bachelor’s degree in communications from Washington State University, a master’s degree in student affairs in higher education from Wright State University (OH), and a doctorate in leadership studies from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Related Professional Competency: Professional Development

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