Amanda Cade

Worth It! (Things to try, read, watch, hear, and discuss)

Photo by Anna Tukhfatullina Food Photographer/Stylist on Pexels.com

It’s Thanksgiving week here in the United States, and because it’s 2020, many of us are planning for celebrations that will look very different than in years past. My family, for example, will be eating in separate houses with Zoom running, then meeting up in my sister’s backyard to have a socially distanced dessert (made possible by her firepit and a couple of portable heaters). Then we’ll mask up for a little more conversation.

It isn’t how we would have wanted things, of course, but with Covid cases rising and the CDC issuing holiday warnings, we’ve decided to make sure we protect something we’re all very thankful for: our continued health.

In this difficult year, it can be hard to find gratitude, but I hope that all of you are actively seeking it. While the “new normal” is definitely getting old, and we’ve all missed out on a lot of things, I’m focusing on what I have and what is really important. I’m grateful to be employed, to be safe, to be able to stay connected to friends and family, and to have had an unexpected opportunity to really examine my life and my priorities.

I’m also grateful for resilience, support, and the knowledge that, as my mother so eloquently put it, “We’ll all come out the other side, and when we do, we’ll have a new appreciation for so many things we might have taken for granted before.”

Be positive, be well, and be thankful.

What are you thankful for this year?

Last week, Collins Dictionary announced that the 2020 word of the year is “lockdown”. Runners up included “Coronavirus”, “key worker”, “furlough”, and “social distancing”. Definitely strong contenders and a tough decision, but I feel like the list of finalists missed one very important 2020 theme: Uncertainty.

I’m thinking about a conversation I had with a friend a few days ago, while COVID cases are rising rapidly, our school districts debate in person versus virtual education, our election results are being challenged, and many employers (including mine) discuss safety precautions and possible changes in policy. At one point, my friend said, “Right now I almost don’t care what the decisions are-I just want decisions to be made. I want to have an idea of what’s going to happen. I want to be able to react and plan and figure things out, instead of sitting in limbo all the time”.

Her comments perfectly reflected another term I didn’t think much about until this year, but am now intimately familiar with: uncertainty fatigue. So let’s talk about it.

What it is

In some situations, not knowing what’s going to happen can be exciting and positive, but there’s a big difference between wondering how a movie is going to turn out or what you’re going to get for your birthday and wondering if you’re going to lose your job, if your kids will be able to go to school, or if you or someone you care about is going to catch a deadly virus. That kind of uncertainty is stressful rather than exciting, and its effects are cumulative.

You see, when things are uncertain, you burn more energy than normal. This manifests predominantly in a heightened awareness, because the back of your brain is acting on fight-or-flight instincts. As far as your hindbrain is concerned, you are in a strange environment, and there could be tigers lurking in every bush, so you have to stay alert until you’ve normalized the environment enough to feel comfortable. When your brain keeps identifying new possible threats, it doesn’t let you relax.

You see, when things are uncertain, you burn more energy than normal. This manifests predominantly in a heightened awareness, because the back of your brain is acting on fight-or-flight instincts. As far as your hindbrain is concerned, you are in a strange environment, and there could be tigers lurking in every bush, so you have to stay alert until you’ve normalized the environment enough to feel comfortable. When your brain keeps identifying new possible threats, it doesn’t let you relax.

In our modern world, the uncertainty we’re faced with doesn’t come from strange trees and bushes that might hold predators (At least, I hope not!). Instead, we’re facing ever-shifting political landscapes and global pandemics. The latter is especially strong, because every time you go in public or interact with another person that isn’t a close member of your family or friend circle, on some level you are aware they could be carrying the Coronavirus. 

Uncertainty fatigue comes from extended periods of being on high alert for possible changes. Your brain is keeping your body primed for a fight that never comes, and it starts to wear on you. 

How to recognize it

The signs and symptoms for uncertainty fatigue, like so many things happening in the world right now, are more complex than they seem at first glance. It manifests as restlessness, irritability, insomnia, and an inability to feel comfortable even in familiar environments. Even though you’re home and safe, you know that there are possible things that can go wrong, and your mind is blaring a red “DANGER” sign at full wattage. 

Uncertainty fatigue is a subset of the stress response, but it’s unique in that many normal stress management techniques don’t work very well. Stress management frequently relies on removing stressors from your environment, finding a new location to relax, or changing what you’re doing. However, all of those are changes, and can actually make uncertainty fatigue worse. You think you’re doing all the right things, but you’re treating the wrong problem. 

This can create a negative feedback loop that exacerbates the issues, but can also help you identify the problem. If stress management is paradoxically making you more stressed, then you’re probably suffering from uncertainty fatigue, and you need to try something different.

How to fix it

First, try to establish control where you can. This is not a time to make unnecessary changes, other than establishing a routine. Make sure that there are regular bedtimes, mealtimes, etc. for everyone in your household. Remove clutter from your environment so the monkey in the back of your brain knows there’s no predators there, but wait a while before making significant changes to your environment. Your home is your fortress against the uncertainty of the world outside, and the more like a bastion it seems, the better you’ll feel. 

This is far from the first time I’ve talked about self-regulating your media intake, but it definitely bears repeating. Find two or three news sources you both trust and that provide definite answers. Avoid media that asks questions about what could go wrong without providing hard evidence or resolution. Limit your social media to trusted friends and colleagues that you know won’t spin wild theories or share unfounded stories. 

Also, try to determine the largest source of your uncertainty, and seek out an answer. For example, is the uncertainty coming from not knowing if your children are going back to school and if it’s going to be safe if they do? Read up on the rate of infection in your area, read their school district’s official statement, and then tell yourself that’s enough. The answer may change, but you cannot control what the answer will be. Instead, you can control what you will do if that changes. Tell yourself: “It’s not in my control, and that’s okay. I can control what is within my sphere of influence, and everything else will have an answer in time.”

The goal here is to stay as informed as you need to feel confident without spiralling into conspiracy theories and more uncertainty. Trust that the experts know what they’re doing. It might take some time to find out exactly what ratio works best for you, but once you have it, you’ll be on the route to a more certain and confident mindset that will stick with you. When you add routines and a stable environment on top of that, then you’ll just need a few nights of good, solid sleep to recharge the energy you’ve burnt on uncertainty. Although everything won’t magically be better, you will definitely start to feel better.

What are the uncertainties in your life, and how are you coping with them?

I guess it’s only fitting that the year that started with Australian wildfires, took a hard turn into a once in a century pandemic, veered into massive social unrest, and is having a record hurricane season also includes the most contentious Presidential election in living memory. Regardless of what side you’re on – liberal or conservative, left or right, Democrat or Republican or Libertarian or Green party – it’s hard to argue that this election is anything other than massively stressful. With the official election two days away, the campaigns already gearing up for legal challenges, and the media offering dire predictions of corruption and more social unrest, there’s a lot of additional stress in this already intolerable year. 

To my US readers, and anyone else who’s concerned about the outcome, I urge you to do your best to just stay calm. Here’s how:

Manage your Media Consumption

Modern media, be it conservative or liberal or even fairly non-partisan, thrives off amplifying the worst news, because bad news gets views. This can, very easily, create the impression that everything is on fire all the time.

Shockingly, that can lead to feeling more than a little stressed out.

It’s also becoming harder and harder to avoid. When scrolling through social media, it’s almost inevitable that you will see some post or another with a newly apocalyptic prediction for the election. This will undoubtedly get worse on Tuesday, as polling numbers start coming in. 

So you need to self-regulate your consumption. Check the news only as much as you absolutely need to, and the moment you start feeling stressed, step away. Don’t fall prey to doomscrolling, where you are endlessly flicking through the bad news and winding yourself up. If your feed is completely overwhelmed, turn off the app, or even uninstall it temporarily. I’ve been a politics and media junkie since I was teenager, and even I’m going to take it easy on election day.

If you find that you just can’t stay away, seek a balanced perspective instead of relying solely on partisan media (see this earlier post for more on that).

Occupy your Mind

Sometimes, though, we don’t need external influences to get spun up. It’s easy to become your own personal Cassandra, prophesying doom and feeling like no one listens. As the results come in, and things start getting more heated, you’re going to be increasingly tempted to make your own doom scenarios even if the news supports your desired outcome. 

So keep your mind busy. Do something to distract yourself. Sure, you can stress about the latest election results, but you stressing about it is going to have zero actual impact. On the other hand, what about those projects you’ve been putting off, like cleaning your closet or sorting your bookshelf or whatever? Those will make you feel less stressed, give you a task you can accomplish, and have exactly the same impact on the election. Reading a book, watching a movie, or having a conversation about something non-political will also help you maintain calm.

Avoid Discussing Politics

Speaking of things that won’t impact the election, endlessly discussing it won’t change the result, but has a good chance of changing your stress level (and not for the better). This is true whether or not the person you’re speaking with agrees or disagrees with your point of view. If they agree, then the best case scenario is that you share your thoughts and that’s it. However, there’s a good chance that the conversation will devolve into a negative thought feedback loop as you share fatalistic predictions (trust me, I know). At this point, it’s very likely that these conversations will jump straight to doom and gloom. 

And that’s with someone who agrees with you. If you’re on opposite sides at this highly charged time, there’s a good chance that your conversation could start to feel like you’re trapped in a website comments section. Your best case is respectful disagreement, but that’s become increasingly rare in 2020. Most likely, you’re going to find yourself in an argument.

That’s not to say you should avoid discussing it at all. However, limit your discussions to people with whom you know you can peacefully talk politics (see this post for more on navigating these conversations). Also, don’t be afraid to end the discussion if you feel yourself starting to stress. Practice saying something like this: “With everything going on this year, I only have so much bandwidth for politics. Can we change the subject?” It’s polite, it’s respectful, and it’s hard to argue because you are just saying “I don’t want to discuss this,” without doing anything that makes the other party feel attacked. 

Final Thoughts

Please make sure that you do the one thing that can influence the outcome: VOTE. If you’ve already voted (absentee, early in person, etc.), great. If not, be sure to get to the polls on Tuesday. While it might take a while to know the final outcome of this election, the best thing we can do is stay calm and be patient. It’ll be ok.

I know that we’re all familiar with the horrible feeling of looking at something and saying, “It’s too much” or “I don’t even know where to start”. Whether it’s an assignment at work (welcome to my world), a household task (personally, I love to cook but always feel deflated when it’s time to clean up the kitchen), or a personal project (today I struggled to start writing this post), we often have a strong aversion to starting, and continuing, something that we know is going to take a lot of time and energy. Sometimes I get so overwhelmed by the big list that all I want to do is put it away and watch Netflix for five hours. 

Conventional wisdom says that you can’t get too focused on the details that you miss the whole, but sometimes it’s actually good to ignore the forest and focus on the trees. Simply shifting focus from the big task to the small task and thinking, “Yes, this is manageable. I can do this” is often enough to get us going. Here are a few reasons it’s sometimes good to forget about the forest for a while:

It keeps you moving forward

I can’t emphasize enough how much looking at the whole sometimes causes us to sabotage ourselves. It’s so easy, in the middle of a huge task, to find reasons to quit, take excessive breaks, or just sit there thinking about how hard it is. A tree by tree focus makes you more likely to start (and finish) something, because it seems much easier, and each tree is a step in the right direction. Each tree we tackle makes the next one seem more manageable, and reinforces the idea that we can do that because, after all, we just did this.

It allows for choice

Sometimes you have to do things in a linear fashion, but other times you’re able to pick and choose. Focusing on smaller tasks lets you ration your energy and decide what you feel capable of tackling right now. Do you need to take care of some of the simpler things to help you get into the groove? Should you do something difficult to get it out of the way and feel better about the whole process? If there’s something you’re particularly dreading, can you afford to wait on it so it isn’t crushing your overall motivation?

A lot of times getting started can be the hardest part, so accomplishing something, even something small and simple, can break the mental deadlock.

It provides feelings of accomplishment

I’ve written before about how small victories have a huge impact on our attitude and ability to keep going. With a focus on the trees, you dramatically increase your opportunities to feel accomplishment, which helps you feel better about the situation and increases your motivation.

Do you find yourself focusing more on the forest or the trees? How do you keep yourself moving forward?

Last week, we talked about asking for help when you’re overwhelmed and stressed. Today, let’s consider the other side of the equation: when someone’s asking you.

Should you say yes?

When people come to me, “yes” is my default answer. However, while agreeing is the nice thing to do, that doesn’t mean it’s always the right thing to do. If you aren’t careful, you could find yourself taking on more than you can manage. Last fall, I wrote a post called Things that Aren’t Selfish, and there’s a similar point to make here. It’s great to help others, and to decrease their stress level, but doing so at the expense of your own well-being is a little too much selflessness. So ask yourself:

  • Do I have the time and energy to do this?
  • Do I have some responsibility in this situation?
  • Can I do this without shortchanging other important things I need to accomplish?
  • Am I the best or most appropriate person to step in?
  • Can I count on the person asking me to reciprocate in the future?

If the answer to any of these questions is “no”, you should consider kindly refusing the request.

How do you say no?

If you’ve decided it’s best to refuse, or partly refuse, the request, saying so can feel awkward and uncomfortable. Here are a couple of ways to handle it:

The No-Time No: A time crunch is the most common reason people have to say no, and is also the easiest for someone else to accept, since chances are they’re in a similar situation. Simply saying, “I’m sorry, I’d love to help, but I just don’t have the time right now” is an honest, forthright way to refuse. If you can, point the other person in the direction of someone else who might be able to step in.

The Future No: This one is a partial yes, but there’s a no involved. It involves setting a limit to your involvement and making it clear that there’s only so much you’re able/willing to do. For example, “Yes, I can help you upload that information, but if we encounter any problems you’ll need to talk to Bob in IT” or “I can help you work through the first step, but I won’t be able to stay involved past that point”. With the future no, you’re giving someone the help you can spare, but in a way that prevents you from getting more involved than you can afford. 

The Conditional No: This is another partial yes. Here you say, “No, I can’t do that, unless…”. You want to avoid transactional phrasing here. This isn’t exactly, “I’ll only do X for you if you do Y for me”, but more along the lines of, “I do not have the time to complete X for you unless someone takes Y off my plate, or helps make it easier”. This can even be as simple as saying “no” to the timeframe the person asked for, but letting them know if they get an extension on the task you’ll have time later. Or, if it’s your boss, letting them know you’ll need an extension on something else. 

The “Not my Circus” No: Sometimes, you’re asked for help with something that isn’t in your wheelhouse. This is an obvious no, because you can’t handle it, and during crunch time you don’t have the bandwidth to go outside your normal area like you might want to do during less crazy times. However, there’s one thing you can do with this no that benefits everyone, and it’s such a simple thing, especially with so much communication being electronic right now. Look at the difference between these two responses:

  • “I’m sorry, my department doesn’t handle that, and I don’t know off the top of my head. You’ll want to reach out to Bill, I think that’s his department’s job.”
  • “I’m sorry, my department doesn’t handle that, and I don’t know off the top of my head. I’ve copied Bill on this reply because I think he’s the person who handles this. Bill, could you help Stan with his question, or get him to the right place if I’m wrong?”

It’s such a tiny change and only takes a couple more clicks on your part, but it makes life so much easier for everyone involved. 

How do you balance your desire to help others with your own well-being?

At work, we’ve really been struggling lately with increased workload, challenges associated with partial return to working on site, and lots of policy and procedure changes. Everyone has been under the gun, and it’s been a chaotic time overall. I’ve taken the past week to focus on two things: organizing my professional responsibilities and taking care of my personal needs (hence my brief hiatus from the blogging world). 

Things are finally achieving a new equilibrium (knock on wood), and that’s given me some time to reflect. One of the things I’ve been considering is the difficulty in navigating something that under normal circumstances is relatively uncomplicated: helping each other. Since the beginning of the pandemic, we’ve all been in personal and professional situations where there’s a greater need to support others, while it’s been more difficult to do so. Everyone has limited bandwidth available, because everyone is dealing with similar issues.

This is a topic I’ve touched on before, but during these times it’s definitely worth revisiting. This week, let’s focus on what to do when you feel like you might need help, and next week we’ll take a look at the other side.

When You Should Ask

In conversations with my team at work, as well as my family, I’ve discovered that a lot of us have been reluctant to reach out to others and request assistance. We assume that everyone else is busy, equally overwhelmed, or likely to overextend themselves for our benefit. If you find yourself experiencing these feelings, ask yourself a few questions:

First, is this supposed to be a shared task? It’s easy in a crisis scenario to find yourself taking on more and more responsibilities, and sometimes everyone is so crazy you start taking on shared tasks solo because you have the bandwidth and other people don’t. And that’s a great thing to do! However, if you find you miscalculated, or something else got dropped onto your lap, there is absolutely nothing wrong with asking others for help. Even if it’s as simple as “I know I said I’d cover this, but now I need to pull this data for a new report, I need help with completing it.” There’s nothing wrong with saying a task that was supposed to be shared needs to be shared again. This also applies to cases where people might not be pulling their own fair share. Sometimes, just asking is enough to bring it to their attention and get them to pick up the pace.

Second, can it get done quicker with help? One thing to keep in mind during crisis work is everyone has limited resources because there is a goal that needs to be met, usually with a timeframe attached. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with asking for help if that’ll get the job done quicker, because it benefits everyone if you do. Sure, the report isn’t due until Friday, but if your local Excel guru helps with the spreadsheet formulas Monday, you can enter the data Tuesday and have it done on Wednesday, which means the team waiting on your report could start their next task earlier. It creates a chain reaction that leads to the crisis ending sooner for everyone. So even though you’re hesitant to ask the Excel guy for help because he’s running as crazy as everyone else, if you do ask, and he can spare the time, it could lead to the entire organization suffering less.

Third, and finally, can you ask without the expectation of a yes? This is deceptively tricky. Sometimes the mere act of asking carries with it an unspoken pressure, the assumption you’ll get a yes. Even if you didn’t mean to. I’ve started using “feel free to say no” or variants on that phrase when asking for assistance, to eliminate the unspoken assumption.

When You Shouldn’t Ask

If you’re concerned about the appropriateness of a request for assistance, there are a few other things to consider: 

First, can I finish the task solo without placing undue stress on myself? That undue stress part is important, because it’s okay to ask for help when you are technically capable of doing something but are lacking in mental or physical energy. However, sometimes I wanted to ask for help because I was frustrated, tired, or not thinking clearly and confusing those for stress. By taking a moment to reassess and reevaluate, I realized that what I really needed was a short break before trying again. 

Second, am I asking the right person? I’m sure we’ve all been bounced between three or four people saying it’s someone else’s responsibility, and that can be very frustrating, but it’s important to take the time to try and figure out the right person to ask. I’m currently spearheading a major ongoing project, and have been very careful to send out clear organizational and contact charts. I’m also responsible for relaying information from other teams, even though I have no authority over them or role in their work product. Unfortunately, it has become very common for people to ignore the organizational chart and direct all of their questions (and criticisms) to me. In many cases, I’m the wrong person to ask, so someone is wasting their time waiting for a response from me, and placing stress on me because I want to find them the answer so they didn’t get shuffled around. 

Third, do I think the person I’m asking has the bandwidth to help me? This is really challenging, because we usually don’t know exactly what’s going on with someone else. If they’ve been wrestling with other problems for thirty straight hours, you don’t want to accidentally become the proverbial last straw. So when you’re thinking of asking someone to help you out, I recommend beginning the conversation by asking how they’re doing and getting a sense of their current situation. In addition to giving you an idea about whether a help request is appropriate, questions like these are important for building and maintaining relationships. Then, if it seems like you can make the request, make sure that you’re asking without the expectation of a yes (see above).

How comfortable are you asking someone to help you out? How is your support system?

About an hour ago, I got an email from Maria, my immediate supervisor at work and my role model for leadership during difficult times. With her permission, I’m sharing what she wrote with all of you:

“Good morning, Amanda. I see from the emails you’ve sent that you worked most of the day yesterday and have already started working today. I know that we’re behind the eight ball on a lot of things, and I appreciate all that you’re doing, but I’m concerned that you’re pushing yourself too hard. I’d like you to take the rest of the morning (at least) to rest and recharge. Read a book, watch a movie, do some baking, call your sister, take a walk…do anything besides work. Then, later today, sit down and really think through what we need to accomplish in the next week, what can be delayed or approached in a lower gear, and how I can support you in finding the balance. Remember that if you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be at your best as an employee, leader, family member or friend.”

As an empathetic, caring, and committed manager, Maria knows me well and knew exactly what I needed to hear today. I was especially struck by the last line, because right now so many people are consumed with the feeling that they need to devote all of their energy to being the very best parents, employees, friends, relatives, and so on. However, time spent paying attention to our physical and emotional health pays dividends in making the time spent on other things much more effective. I know that when I’m feeling burnt out, I might spend an hour on something that on another day might take twenty minutes, because I didn’t think I could afford to take a break, even though the break would undoubtedly have saved me time in the long run. (Here’s more about why taking time out benefits your work and productivity.)

I know that this is a particularly difficult time for parents, and it’s easy to think you need to devote every spare minute to your family. My sisters have recently expressed that while they’re very focused on parenting, they don’t feel like they’re always doing a great job. This makes sense, because effective parenting also requires taking care of yourself, so you have the energy needed to take care of others. (More on that here.)

I’m taking Maria’s advice today, and I hope you will, too. Enjoy your day.

As I mentioned last week, I’m now alternating working from home and at work. While this has presented some unique challenges with social distancing, I’m getting used to the new routine. What’s taking a little more time to adjust to are some changes in how I spend my days. Over the last six months, the long stretches of time spent sitting and working have slowly but steadily increased as the things that used to have me moving around the building (meetings, training sessions, going to the coffee room, etc.) were replaced with Zoom sessions, increased emails, and my desktop coffee maker. 

In recent weeks, my training schedule has gotten back to something close to pre-pandemic days, but there’s a huge difference in how that plays out now. Before, I worked in person with groups of people, often with reference slides projected on a nearby screen, and I was constantly in motion, checking in with individuals and small groups. Now, I sit in my chair and interact through the computer. One day last week, I spent a total of ten hours in my home office and only got up four times.

So I’ve been thinking a lot about the importance of unshackling from the desk, both at home and in the office. Here’s what I’ve come up with:

Get Moving

Working at home requires a lot less movement, because even just reaching my desk at work involves getting in the car, walking through the parking lot, going to the elevator, etc. Inside, everything is just a little more spaced out. Even heading down the hall to the restroom or to refill my water bottle requires more movement than when I’m home. Even at work, though, I’m sitting around more than usual (see above). Given that walking, even a little bit, has enormous health benefits, it’s something we don’t want to lose out on. So, it’s important to build short breaks into the day. Even a few laps around the room a few times a day gets our bodies engaged and contributes to our overall health.

Stretching can be done in short spurt so you get the benefits of moving without being away from your desk too long. If you, like me, are nearly constantly monitoring emails, online discussions, or Zoom sessions, try these simple stretches that you can do without going anywhere. Also, do some standing. Several of my colleagues swear by standing desks, although there are some mixed opinions about how long you should use them. At a minimum, health experts agree that we should stand up at least a few minutes every hour to help with circulation, blood sugar levels, avoiding muscle cramps, and gaining other health benefits. 

Watch Out For Your Eyes

In the old days, there were more distractions, location changes, and in person interactions that pulled us away from our screens. These days, the computer is the gateway to just about everything. If you’ve had an increase in tired eyes and headaches, you’re not alone-many of us have been battling eye strain, a nasty byproduct of too much sustained screen time. Luckily, there’s an easy way to fight back: use the 20/20/20 rule. Every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. This simple trick has an enormous, and pretty much immediate, positive impact. In fact, if you’ve been online for more than twenty minutes, take a quick break from reading this post and look away right now.

In addition to time, it’s important to be aware of blue light. This type of light travels the deepest into our retinas, and has been linked to cumulative damage. In the more immediate sense, it contributes to eye strain and headaches. Many devices have a built in option to filter blue light, but if yours don’t, consider either screen covers or glasses that filter it for you. I switch screens so often that the glasses work best for me, but my friend Mike wears glasses for his vision and so had gotten a screen cover for his monitor. You can also get prescription lenses that include blue light filtering. Blue light protection has immediately noticeable benefits. A while back, my mom started to complain about eye strain, so I loaned her my extra pair of blue light glasses over a weekend to see if they helped. It made such a difference for her that I told her to keep them and bought myself another spare set. 

Watch Your Habits

One of my friends recently joked that she was fighting “the death of a thousand snacks”. She’s still working from home full time, and has realized that it’s a thousand times easier to walk to the fridge or pantry to get a snack than it is in the office (rummage for change, leave the desk, go down to the vending machine…). I’ve discovered that being back at work still involves a risk of unhealthy eating these days, because many of us have stocked up on non-perishable munchies in our offices. Fighting the snacking impulse can be really draining, especially if you’re feeling bored, lonely, or stressed (three hallmark 202 emotions). Instead of trying to eat less, I’m changing the options on hand, choosing veggie chips, granola bars, and fruit. Changing my grocery list has definitely started to change my day to day food habits. 

Finally, be aware of your posture. Over the course of the pandemic, half of the people I know have started turning into bananas because of how much they’re hunching, and the other half are leaning back on their couches with their head awkwardly propped forward. Both of these postures put extra strain on the back and neck, and this can lead to short and long term.  Try these tips for good posture, and be sure to change position (like standing, stretching, or walking) to prevent stiffness. If you’re experiencing a lot of stiffness and soreness, you might consider investing in a new chair. I have a great chair at work, but less so in my home office. I’ve been alternating between two, because one is more comfortable and better supports my posture, but the other allows me to swivel between two computers and an additional monitor. I think it’s probably time to get something that does both. 

Clientmoji

What’s your level of “sit and screen” time these days? How are you managing it?

(Side Note: Am I the only one who’s having fits trying to figure out the WordPress block editor?)

It’s a holiday weekend, and I’m staying home. Locally and across the state, our positivity percentage is still high, so I’m continuing to be cautious, especially since I’m now back at work a few days a week. I’m using a lot of the weekend to catch up on work, in the hope that I can start scaling back on the recent string of fourteen hour days. Meanwhile, there has been an unexpected increase in challenges to my commitment to remaining cautious during the ongoing pandemic.

So I thought it might be worth talking about a few of these situations, for anyone who might be facing something similar.

Quick Conversations

So far, I’ve been physically present at work for six days over the past three weeks. Every single day, several people have asked if we can “get together for just a minute”, or simply opened my door and stepped in to ask a question or start a conversation. Most of my coworkers believe, as I do, that the best thing to do is keep our doors closed and continue communicating virtually or over the phone, even if we’re both in the building, but some think differently, or figure that one time won’t hurt. So several times each day I’ve had to politely ask people to leave and request that they send me an email or a Zoom invitation. The next time I go in, I’m going to put a sign on my door and hope that helps everyone get the message.

Invitations

Not everyone agrees with my level of caution, and I respect that. However, I must admit that I’ve been a little taken aback at how many people have invited me to parties, dinners, and movies. One particular friend has been pushing in person gatherings since our state reopened. She has never broken the current guidelines (which are stricter in my city than they are across the state), but has consistently been organizing group events ranging and has become frustrated that I have consistently declined. Most recently, she told me that she is planning a small party for her birthday, and said that she desperately wants me to attend. I would love to, and I hate to disappoint her, but I’m simply not comfortable with the risk, especially since I don’t know everyone who will be there, and therefore have no way of knowing the possible exposure risks. The best thing we can do in situations like this is to empathize, show respect for the decisions of others, and ask that they do the same for us. I’ve mailed her a gift and am making sure to communicate with her regularly so she knows that I still care, despite not being ready to spend time in person.

Personal Care

I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned this, but my hair is about two feet long. I usually get it highlighted about every six weeks, and I was past due when everything shut down. So I ended up with about four inches of very dark hair that then suddenly changed to light caramel. When a coworker teased me about it, I freely admitted that it looked pretty silly. I actually spoke with my stylist, who urged me to come in and promised to wear a mask and take precautions. I have to admit it was pretty tempting, but ultimately I decided it just wasn’t worth it, especially since she works in a nearby county that doesn’t have a mask mandate. I ended up dying it all to something close to my natural color, and it looks…well, it’s better. Lol. A lot of people I know are going in for haircuts, manicures, massages, etc., and have suggested that I should, too, especially given my current stress level. In the end, though, I just don’t feel safe.

Events and Experiences

Going to the movies has been one of the hardest things for me to resist. I love movies, love the theater experience, and usually see tons of films when they’re released. This weekend, half a dozen people in my circle plan to see Tenet, which is only playing in theaters. I’m a huge Christopher Nolan fan, and usually see his movies as soon as they open. The movie won’t be available on demand for quite a while, and I hate to miss it on the big screen. However, there are so many streaming options that while I’m disappointed to have to wait for this particular film, I can still get my movie fix. Just last night, my sister Audrey came over so we could watch Bill and Ted Face the Music (which, by the way, is a lot of fun), and while we missed the big screen, we also acknowledged some of the benefits, like being in the comfort of my living room and being able to hit pause if we wanted to make a comment or needed a quick break.

Final Thoughts

I think the most important thing for all of us is to be kind, empathetic, and respectful to each other. If you’re finding that you’re more concerned than others around you, be firm in your decisions, but don’t make negative assumptions about others’ motivations and decisions. If you’re more comfortable with resuming daily activities, don’t take it personally if people in your life feel differently. Above all, avoid the temptation to argue, accuse, or attack. We’re still in this together.

How comfortable are you at this point? What have you been doing, and/or avoiding?

I have two tough weeks behind me and another one ahead. In fact, I had so much work to do this weekend that I didn’t have a chance to write my regular Sunday morning post. So instead, here’s a quick post for #MondayMotivation, because I think most of us could use a little bit of mindset support these days.

A Song to Get You Going

“The Champion” remains one of my favorite songs/videos because of the musical energy, positive lyrics, and inspiring images.

For more great motivational music, see this post and this post.

Reminders to Keep Trying

For more great quotations and other content, visit my Instagram page.

A TED Talk That Inspires

Amy Purdy’s story always reminds me of our capacity to overcome obstacles and live our best lives.

I hope you all have a great Monday and a fantastic week!

motivation

What’s ahead of you this week?