People are doing as much as they can from home right now, including work and school. In this environment it can be difficult to set clear boundaries. Boundaries between work and homelife. Boundaries between when you’re on and tuning out. Boundaries between yourself and those you love.
But boundaries are like healthcare workers, they’re essential. So let’s break down how to create boundaries so you can stay sane and happy while being homebound.
What Creates the Lack of Boundaries
When we work from home our work tends to bleed beyond the usual 9 to 5 hours. You may be checking emails as soon as you roll out of bed or getting text messages about work late into the evening. As a result it’s like we have an obligation to always be on. And, those hours before and after work when you’re supposed to have rest and solace — those have evaporated.
That blurry line about when you’re on the clock and when you’re not is due to a lack of clear boundaries. The boundary may not be there for various reasons. You don’t know how to approach setting one or you may have tried and had people push right on past the line you set. This is where you learn you must not only create a boundary, but more important, enforce it.
But setting boundaries and enforcing them isn’t easy and may push you outside your comfort zone. And at a time like this you may feel guilty about your need for space and time. You might say to yourself: “I’m lucky enough to be working still and working from home, I can’t complain.” In turn you may think that taking time for yourself is self-sabotaging when it comes to job security.
The place that was once your sanctuary away from the world, is now your office, school, gym, and restaurant. It’s everything. It feels like there’s nowhere to get away to. And you may feel it’s impossible to compartmentalize the different parts of your life.
Why it Matters for Your Happiness and Well-Being
You’re spending most of your time at home and balancing that with your responsibilities. If you’re struggling, you aren’t alone. Working long hours, homeschooling kids AND dealing with the stress of living through a pandemic — even one of those is a lot.
That compounded stress makes us feel depleted. I’ve seen a lot of people suffering right now. And, they take it out on their families or themselves. That might look like you snapping at your kids or losing your temper with your partner. It could also show up in negative self-talk or binge eating or drinking. I know I’ve eaten a few (read: WAY) too many cookies after a day of work, taking care of an infant and living through corona.
The nonstop work makes you feel burnt out. And, without clear boundaries people will continue to steal your time and energy. You’ll continue being overworked and unhappy.
Neuroscience shows that our bodies need downtime to restore. Without rest, the neural connections that produce calm and peaceful feelings become weaker. It’s then more difficult to shift into less-stressed states. Meaning you can’t relax, you can’t sleep or you’re feeling anxious even when you’re trying to decompress.
Moreover, overworking yourself has diminishing returns for your productivity and creativity. When you’re burnt out and your brain is fatigued it’s harder to get things done and come up with new ideas. In contrast, when you take a break your brain can recharge, concentrate and create.
Have you ever noticed that when you daydream you start coming up with new ideas? Or when you’re in the shower, you finally figure out the solution to a problem you have? That’s because when your mind is at rest it can create novel neural connections in the background. The kind of connections that lead to brilliant ideas.
What You Can Do About It
The only way to recharge physiologically, is to take a break. Yes, even when you’re home 24/7 you need to take a vacation. The stress of a global crisis and altered schedules makes taking a break crucial for your health.
What I recommend for people is to make taking that break easy. You don’t have to plan a week long getaway. Nor should you feel like a vacation is out of reach because you can’t hop on a plane to a faraway destination.
Even a day off here and there can help. Start by disconnecting from reading or watching the news. Then do activities or projects you thoroughly enjoy. Sleep in. Take a nap in the middle of the day. Have a beer or glass of wine. Take a walk when you would be working or schooling. Don’t answer your phone unless it’s someone you genuinely want to talk to.
And a day off at home can feel like a real vacation by turning it into a staycation.
Imagine tasting fresh beignets or a spiced tajine…smelling the scent of the sea or spices in the air… seeing grand architecture or beautiful dancers.
Imagine feeling the hot sun on your skin or soaking in a steamy bath… hearing new languages on a magical getaway that transports you to a new place, all while still being home.
If you’re struggling with feeling burnt out, bored or unhappy with your quarantine routine, a staycation may be what you need.
I help people make taking time for themself easy with staycations. I know what it has done for me. I feel more like myself. I’m having fun, I get to feel connected to my husband and laugh and have new adventures. And, I stopped feeling like I am trapped in my house or living in the movie Groundhog’s Day.
If that’s an experience of life that you’d like to have, I’d love to support you. Leave a comment, join me on Facebook or send me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org
I'm Natasha Ho, a trained chef and avid traveler. I've studied culinary traditions from cuisines around the world, and I help food lovers learn how to cook a wide variety of meals that are consistently delicious so they can have more fun, ease and joy in their kitchen.