About six weeks into sheltering-in-place, I hit a low. As someone who is able to work from home, I am well aware my low is far higher than those on unemployment, which makes me a bit reluctant to talk or write about my situation. But, as I learned many years ago from a therapist, it’s okay to feel badly about our situation, even if we are better off than others.
My day job is business development (aka sales). I spend most days visiting clients and prospective clients, and attending events. While I also enjoy the days when I work in my office, my favorite days are the ones when I am out and about.
A bunch of times over the years, especially in the era since technology allowed productive remote work, I have worked from home. I always enjoyed that break from my routine. But now, working from home is no longer a break from the routine. It is the routine.
There are some pluses. My commute is about 45 seconds long, instead of anywhere from 20 to 90 minutes – but that also means I have lost the time when I would switch from work mode to home mode on the car ride home, and much has been written during the past couple of months about the importance of unplugging at the end of the day (as well as many other working from home tips).
I’ve now been working from home for more than four months. As I said, about six weeks in I had a bad week. I started feeling the stress of everything. It was even physical, with a tightness in my chest at certain times of the day.
I soon realized it wasn’t just about working from home. It was also time spent in the supermarket – a place with a layout I have now memorized, helping to make visits there akin to a NASCAR pit stop. I’ve become more comfortable with those visits, but I am reminded how stressful these situations can still be when I notice the way I am breathing behind my mask.
Plus, opening the mail and packages with the attendant hand-washing protocol is stressful, reading the news is stressful, and worrying about the health of my parents and my mother-in-law is stressful.
Working on projects for work that would be stressful under any circumstances have been more stressful during the pandemic.
And, finally, my neck began to hurt, as I wrote about here, because I hadn’t created a proper ergonomic setup for my workspace at home.
Thankfully, on a particularly stressful afternoon, I remembered one of the best, and yet simplest, of the happiness strategies: smiling.
As I’ve written about many times, smiling releases chemicals to your brain that make you think you’re happy. It works for me every time. When I smile, my troubles don’t disappear, but I immediately feel better.
And smiling is connected to another of the great happiness secrets – gratitude. Often, when I’m smiling, my brain starts wondering what it is I am happy about, and I automatically think of things I’m grateful for:
- My family members have either not been sick, or have had mild cases
- My friends who had more significant symptoms have recovered
- I have a job where I can work from home
- We live in the internet era allowing for work from home and online ordering and entertainment
- The winter has passed
- Weekly FaceTime sessions with my three grown children
- Weekly Zoom sessions with a group of five high school friends
- Guided Zoom meditation sessions I’ve logged onto a bunch of times at 10am eastern with Coyote Jackson of Zen Habits
The cloud I was in lifted that weekend as I continued using the “smiling” strategy. I hope I never forget it again.