Like most people, I have good days and bad days when it comes to managing my stress and anxiety. The COVID-19 outbreak situation definitely spiked my anxiety for a few weeks – and still does on occasion. My son and I had a three-day weekend for Spring Break that began March 13, and basically we never went back to work/daycare – from then on I found myself working remotely from home.
The way my anxiety tends to manifest itself, is that I get overwhelmed. I think about all the things I need to do, and I feel paralyzed, like I can’t start on any of them. And when I sit down to do one thing, I can’t concentrate because I am worrying about all the other things on my to-do list. I have a hard time being present in the moment.
When I started working from home, I really had a hard time balancing work time, parenting time, and my own “me” time. I felt guilty that my son was watching a lot more television, and then I’d also feel guilty that I couldn’t focus on work without getting interrupted frequently (three-year-olds can be a little needy at times…) Then at the end of the day, I’d feel frustrated that I didn’t get to do anything just for myself – I’d feel worn out from interacting with people (albeit my own family) all day and not getting some much-needed alone time.
So how did this look the first few weeks at home? Well, it looked like me feeling really frustrated about all of it and getting angry and annoyed at everything. To summarize: not good.
I began to see that I really needed quiet, alone time to myself to recharge – typical for an introvert like myself. But what I found is that if I didn’t schedule this time specifically on the calendar, it just wouldn’t happen.
This eventually led to my husband and I deciding to purposefully plan out each evening – not only was I going to schedule my alone time, but we also decided to schedule other things, like family game nights, craft nights, pizza/movie nights… Our weekly schedule is jam-packed – honestly I’ve never been so meticulously scheduled with my time as I have while sheltering-in-place. You might think that scheduling almost every hour of the day would be stressful or limiting, but I have found it to be quite the opposite – it’s freeing.
Instead of defaulting to watching Netflix every night and feeling guilty for not being productive or doing enriching activities with my son, I know each week that those beneficial activities are going to happen – they’re on the schedule.
Here’s what our family schedule looks like these days – we tried to plan out the time with our son before he goes to bed, and then the time when it’s just us adults:
Pye Family Quarantine Schedule
Sunday – (8-9pm) Dean and I do a marriage check-in and plan out appointments and coordinate schedules for the week ahead
Monday – (5-6pm) Dean goes for a run and when he gets back, I get 30 minutes of alone time. (8-10pm, after Calvin is in bed) Adult t.v. or movie night.
Tuesday – Family Game Night, (8pm) Alone Time Night (a freebie to do whatever we want – sometimes I crochet, or read…)
Wednesday – Family Craft Night, (8pm) Book discussion night (Dean and I talk to each other about the books we’re reading and/or anything else interesting we want to share)
Thursday – (5-6pm) Dean workout/Erica alone time, (7-10pm) Erica Research Desk Shift – I work on Thursday nights so I try to play with Calvin during the day when I’m more available
Friday – Family Pizza/Movie Night, usually Calvin’s choice although we did get him to watch Howl’s Moving Castle last week and he didn’t hate it, (8-10) Dean and Erica board game night
Saturday – less structured, but usually plan on Zooming with a few friends and playing more with Calvin
Just making this schedule reduced my anxiety – I knew that I wouldn’t go a whole week without getting needed time to recharge, and I knew we would plan to do fun things as a family. I think it’s also helped to reduce the mental load – instead of wondering what we should do each night, it’s already planned out ahead of time.
As you might have noticed, we still have some flexibility in the schedule, and not every single minute is planned out. And we still find ourselves making minor changes as needed. This is what is working for us right now. For some, having time planned out like this might increase your stress – but for me, it’s greatly helped to reduce my anxiety.
Whenever this whole COVID-19/quarantine thing is over, I’m hopeful we will still be very purposeful about how we spend our time. Maybe it will not be quite as structured, but I’d like to keep many of the good things we are doing. After all, saying “yes” to one thing means saying “no” to another. Time is so precious, I want to say “yes” to the things that matter, and most importantly, to the people that matter to me.
Thanks for reading.