From One Teleworker to Another: A letter of self care, boundaries, and knowing your value
From one teleworker to another,
The changes that have happened recently
are unprecedented and if you’re anything like me, they’ve been anxiety producing. But from a former teleworker to another, we are resilient and we are strong. Sure, it’s going to change the way we operate and the way we look at things, but we will adapt and come out of this with more wisdom than we can imagine.
But ... there are some things I want to warn you all about. Some mistakes that I learned from my own experiences, that I don’t want you all to have to endure. As many of you know, during my last year of my Masters and my first year of my Psy.D, I began a job that I LOVED working with victims of crime on a hotline. While I started off working in an office, eventually I was transferred to working at home, in order to be able to balance both school and work. I was and am so grateful that the company was able to accommodate me in those ways, but as time continued, I was unable to see the ways it would change my personality and mental health. You think as a psychology student, I’d be able to see my own struggles, but NAH. [note this is why every good therapist has a good therapist]
It was not until I resigned, that I was able to see the immense amount of stress I was under. The immense amount of sadness, pain, and anxiety I was holding. No matter what I watched on TV I found a way to see the worse, rather than seeing the best. My beautifully decorated 565 sq ft apartment felt like a hole to me, rather than the inspirational, light, and airy space I designed it to be. It was not until I left, that I was able to see just how badly teleworking affected me. Did it have to affect me so poorly? The answer is no and here is why:
1. I spent many of my days working from my bedroom or working from my couch. That means that at 2 am, when I got a call from a victim enduring something violent, I would take the call from my bed, assist, and then attempt to fall back asleep. My living space became my work space which was only asking for more problems. I was not able to keep my work life separate from my “life” life, which made for a horrible concoction. So what that means for all of you at home is even if you aren’t working in the same field as I was/am, still try to find a separate area that can be just yours. What I suggest is finding a little room, a hallway, somewhere that is not your living space and work there. That way, once you get up from the desk, and walk into your bedroom or living room, it feels like a separate area.
2. I spent about 90% of my time at home. Not seeing my friends, not exercising, and ordering in and as we know, isolation is one of the worst things you can do.
So what I suggest now, with this quarantine, is finding ways to still find joy with your friends and family- but it may require some creativity. Now is the time, more than ever, to become tech savvy. FaceTime (FT) your friends and have virtual happy hours, FT your families, download the Netflix Party app so you can watch shows together, or even download HouseParty so you and a group can play games with each other.
There are also TONS of apps for fitness but my two favorite ones are the Nike Training Club and Nike Running club. [note: they’ve made all of their premium workouts free so take advantage of having Cristiano Ronaldo coach you]
Google some new cooking recipes and give them a try and although it may be hard, try to lay off the snacks. Your future self will appreciate you later.
3. Practice self care and advocate for yourself. The part that I did not mention above is the reason why I resigned from the job I loved. After working there for a little over a year, I had nearly 100 hours of leave. Things became stressful, and I started to realize the toll it was taking on me. After advocating for myself to supervisors, I asked if I could have a ‘mental health day,’ which according to our job’s policy was something we were able to ask for the day of with no “if’s, and’s, or butt’s” due to the nature of our work. I asked for the day, several days in advance, in order to not inconvenience anyone, only to be met with them demanding I work it out with other coworkers to be able to take the day off and then replace my day off with taking over another coworker’s shift. I knew my worth, I knew how hard I worked, and I knew that any time my job needed me, I was there for them and so I had to ask myself, why weren’t they there for me? Fortunately, I was in a place financially where I was able to walk away thanks to my Navy Scholarship, but it hurt in the worse way possible to know that my job did not value my work in the same way that I valued them. Now, I am OBVIOUSLY not suggesting anyone leave their jobs, especially not in a time like this, but what I am asking is that you practice self care, recognize your worth, and be patient with yourself. Here’s what that looks like:
If you’re religious, continue to pray. For me, it’s reciting the Serenity Prayer.
Find new hobbies. I’ve personally been reading a new book each month, but would also suggest crafting, DIYs, getting back to old things that you loved, and also going on walks/runs.
Know your worth and the value of your skillset. Meaning, there are times where you will go the extra mile for your company, but at some point in time it calls for a renegotiation. Companies are laying folks off left and right, so don’t take on work that they would not hire another person to do, yet subsequently, would like you to take on. It will only add extra stress and more resentment, if you feel you are unappreciated.
If you need a break from work, take the break and regroup.
Know when to take a break from the news and social media.
Make a playlist of your favorite songs and your favorite inspirational quotes.
Practice yoga, meditation and deep breathing exercises. 10/10 recommend calm.com
If you have children- firstly, godspeed to you all BUT try to find activities that you can do with them. This is a time that you can join them in their world. Learn what their day to day is like and what things they are learning in school. Help them find new joys in life and if you can, show them a bit of the work that you do. Get them engaged so that they can see what you do every day besides just going off into an imaginary void. Remember that this is the perfect time to bond with them, and while it may be stressful for us, it may be stressful for them too. Just like yoga, walks, and etc can be soothing for us, they can also be soothing for them. Create a space where they can share how they’re feeling with you, and listen out for the ways they may be expressing themselves. Just recently, I suggested that my mentee group keep a journal of what the quarantine is like for them and would suggest the same here.
Lastly, to those of you in relationships… they may be the ones we love to hate. Something fun to do is to find an imaginary coworker that you all can blame things on. Try new things together-cooking, reading, going on walks, exercising. Or if you’re anything like me and mine, we enjoy playing pranks. Lastly, find unique little spaces that you can each go to when things do feel like they’re escalating that way you can still maintain some level of peace. These times can bring out the best and the worst in us, but it’s important that we prove just how resilient we are.
I know this post was long, but it was on my heart to share my story and my experiences in the hopes that it will resonate with y’all or assist if you are feeling something similar. This is my first time back teleworking since I left my job, and I would be lying if I said there have not been times that my own anxiety has hit the roof. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my years as a psych student, it is to express ourselves and to let ourselves feel the true depths of what we are experiencing. To others feeling this way, know that you are not alone and together we will get through this. I will continue to post self care words of wisdom, advice, and activities on my social media accounts and also welcome any thoughts and questions you all may have.
Stay safe and Stay healthy.