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I Just Have to Survive the Winter

I told my therapist exactly that just last Tuesday. I live in Chicago and the winter can sometimes be the darkest, most isolating time of year, even when there isn't a pandemic present. The days are short and it's basically pitch black before the end of my work day. Now add a heaping gallon of global parallelogram and now you have a recipe for despair and depression. I'm trying not to exaggerate the situation but actually, maybe I'm not emphasizing it enough. We're all living through it, so I might not need to harp on it more. Just know that however cooped up and cabin fever-ish you're feeling, I'm right there with you.

My therapist gave me some ideas based on the things I was telling her about how my work-life balance balance feels nonexistent right now, and I wanted to write them down to share because hopefully it'll help keep me accountable if the ideas are out there published in the world. Maybe you could even be my internet accountability partners, and also let me know if you'll be adopting any of these ideas for yourself.

Build a morning routine -

  • One of the joys I have of working from home is that I can literally be in bed until the minute I need to log in to work. All the commuting time I spent going into the office and all the time I took in the morning at home making myself presentable has now be converted into sleep time. This has been really awesome the first ten months of this quarantine but I've noticed something: on the days where I'm working past quitting time of 5:30pm (which is most days), when I'm finally able to log off I veg out on the couch. I don't feel up to working on any personal projects, hence why I haven't written a blog post in over two months, or reading or even pampering myself. The only energy I can muster up is to make something quick to eat, turn on the streaming service du jour, and lie on the couch. Then it's time for bed, rinse, and repeat. I feel like I lose myself during the week, I come up for air on the weekends, then I'm back to treading water for the next five days. My therapist suggested I build a morning routine and that would require me to actually be coherent before 8:30am, which sounds ludicrous to me. But it's the only way I can see getting anything done for myself. Even waking up at 7am, would give me plenty of time to read and get my mind right for the workday. It would also provide me some separation from my slumber state and when I really need to perform at work. I need some revving up time like I used to have pre-panasonic.

Start an evening commute -

  • I was able to decompress on my daily train ride home from work before this quarantine. I would subconsciously work out problems that had arisen at work in my mind or sometimes with colleagues who had the same commute. The beauty of talking through work issues on the way home was that we weren't also still working. We were being transported to another space and time where we didn't have to work or answer to anyone in a work environment. Now, if I need to work out a problem with a teammate, we're also multi-tasking by answering emails and pings from others and we can't just focus on said issue. Work is busy for me and it's bleeding into my personal life, so when I finally log off for the day, I'm still ruminating on things that came up but I have no mental outlet. That's where this makeshift "evening commute" comes in. I would put on my coat, boots, scarf, and walk around the neighborhood to separate my work day from my personal life. My mind would hopefully be subconsciously working out work issues, and by the time I've arrived back home, I'll be ready to make myself a good dinner and give myself some me time.

Indulge in good food -

  • I have been making grilled cheeses, omelets, and pouring myself bowls of cereal for dinner lately. There's nothing wrong with these meals but they don't really spark joy for me when it comes to looking forward to dinner. I'm eating just to fuel my body, and while that's precisely what food is for, I also want to enjoy it. I want to take joy in the process of making the food as well as I do when I'm eating it. Just a couple days ago I made a (Americanized, I'm sure) croque madame sandwich, pictured below. I made a béchamel sauce for the first time and it was surprisingly decent bordering on pretty good. There was too much nutmeg and I think I burned the butter a bit, but I'm looking forward to more practice. That's the type of thing that sparks joy: trying to recreate what I've had in restaurants for myself.. This will give me something to look forward to after work so I don't immediately sit on the couch with a peanut butter and jelly.

I'm starting to incorporate my therapist's ideas (I'm proud of myself for coming up with the last one) over the next couple weeks. If you think about it, check in on me with these. I would appreciate it! What are you doing to keep your days fulfilled?

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Melissa Clay
Melissa Clay
Jan 20, 2021

Brandi, I love that this inspired you! Spending that intentional time away from home and work is going to be so beneficial and a good way to reset. Especially since home and work is the same place!


I love this! You've inspired me to plan out an evening commute just to have those 20 minutes in the car or out walking to break up my day and just catch a vibe.

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