By: Cynthia Villarreal, Account Executive
The spread of COVID-19 made last year a struggle. For most professionals 2020 also meant transitioning to remote work. To some, the transition was easy but for others the transition created new, never-before-experienced challenges. Many people had to deal with isolation, depression and a lack of motivation on a level that they couldn’t have prepared for.
I believed working remotely was going to be easy. But as time progressed I realized how difficult it was for me, mentally. Due to the isolating nature of this past year, I quickly began feeling depressed because I was working alone. As an outgoing person, this transition was extremely difficult. I thrive in environments where I am meeting new people, engaged in social environments, and that was no longer an option with stay at home orders.
Although I was progressing at work, and even managed to get a promotion, I was still struggling with self doubt and feeling as if I was not doing enough during the work day. Because I did not have someone physically next to me, cheering me on in regards to work, I began to question all of my work. I felt insecure in whether it was up to standard and this part of my journey was very unsettling for me.
While working remotely came with its struggles and challenges, I was also able to find some positives. This transition allowed me to connect to my coworkers on a deeper level and get to know them better. We became our very own support group. We connected through being isolated and working remote and were able to provide each other with advice and ideas on how to survive the pandemic.
This transition also allowed me to become a better communicator, and as a result of the situation, my anxiety about work projects decreased immensely. Once I was able to keep my work on track, I was then able to prioritize my friends, family and also do some self reflection. These things brought me joy despite the tough times. I discovered new passions, like cooking! I wanted to share a few of the things I learned during this period of self-discovery in case it can help anyone else out there as we continue to work towards returning to normal.
Finding a Supportive Community Made a Difference
In the beginning of the pandemic I was suffering silently. I felt ashamed because although I was healthy and employed, I still had negative feelings, which felt selfish. I felt selfish because there were people who were losing their jobs, homes and lives and I was still healthy, employed and had a roof over my head. When I opened up to my employer about these issues, I realized that I was not alone. Most of my colleagues were dealing with their own similar struggles. Opening up allowed me to feel better and started a mental health conversation in the workplace. This was one of my supportive communities – I was able to gather insights and receive advice on how to deal with situations. Knowing I had them and I was able to talk to them about my issues, made me feel normal and that I was not alone in my struggle.
Hobbies Can Provide an Outlet and Structure
It sounds cliche, but in order for me to feel normal again, I had to do things I loved or that made me feel like I had a purpose. I tried a variety of things – some like meditation and daily walks – I quickly found were not for me. Instead I kept trying things until I found something that I enjoyed. A few other failed attempts at hobbies included: reading (couldn’t focus), candlemaking (not as fun as it sounds) and tye-dying (I ran out of things to tye-dye).
After some self-reflection, I realized that when I was in college I enjoyed cycle classes and after a class/workout, I always felt better. I decided to buy a stationary bike to see if that would help. Beginning an active routine gave me structure and energy throughout the day and ended up having a positive impact on my life. It gave me something to look forward to and a sense of accomplishment. While working out everyday is still a constant struggle, I realized the positive impact it was having on my mental health.
Organization is Key to Maintaining Work-Life Balance
Working from home can get hectic and separating your work-life from your home-life can quickly get overwhelming. I found that organizing and separating your ‘living’ space from your ‘working’ space, as well as organizing your spaces can make a huge impact on your day to day outlook.
For example, making a conscious effort to create defined lines of what areas are designed for work and which are meant for home – helps a lot. Try not to work at your kitchen table or in bed, and don’t eat at your desk. Simple changes like this can bring a lot of relief. As far as my actual workspace, I was able to organize myself in a way that made me feel productive and allowed me to see my progress in real-time. One of my issues was feeling like I was not doing enough so by creating lists and checking them off throughout the day, I was able to see my progress and feel accomplished.
Working from home has definitely been a transition that I was not prepared for, but by sharing my experience I hope others can apply some of the things in their daily lives to create a healthier balance. Remote work has been a challenge for many and creating an environment that works for you is essential to your overall mental health and productivity. Good luck!