The novel coronavirus has infected nearly 2 million people and killed more than 130,000 worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. As countries around the world, including the United States, grapple with how to contain COVID-19, school closings, stay-at-home orders and other restrictions have upended daily life for many.
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Kamini Wood, a certified life coach, and the PBS NewsHour’s Amna Nawaz answered your questions about time management in a shifting world of working-from-home, unemployment and school closings.
What’s the best way to structure your day?
This pandemic has forced many to face a new normal and find a new routine. That often includes working with the rest of your family or roommates.
Wood emphasizes giving yourself “an element of grace” when going through your day-to-day life. That means giving yourself time to relax or find an activity you enjoy, and keep things in perspective.
She said it’s helpful to maintain at least a broader plan for your days, which means not staying in your pajamas — in an effort to feel like you are really starting your day — but not making things so structured “where every hour is planned out.”
Finding that happy medium means you don’t overstress yourself in an already stressful moment in history, and gives you the leeway to focus on your accomplishments, rather than the things you missed during the day.
“Things may have to change, and it’s going to be okay,” Wood said.
Wood also recommends setting short-term daily schedules, rather than long-term schedules since “it’s a fluid time for us.”
Things may shift from day-to-day so it’s important to stay flexible when things need to change. Wood mentioned, as an example, that teachers are trying to figure out how to maintain classes and adapt to the changing circumstances.
Ultimately, she recommends taking things day-by-day to help prevent feeling overwhelmed.
How do I manage time with kids at home?
Just as adults are feeling stressed out by this change, kids are also feeling stressed about their regular routines being upended.
Wood said it’s important to give your children a safe space to talk about their feelings.
“They understand more than we necessarily think they do,” she said.
Children will likely not have the same stressors as you, and the best way to figure out what’s stressing them out is to communicate. That way, it’s easier to find ways to alleviate their anxiety.
For younger children in particular, they may not even know how to process the emotions they’re feeling. Wood said it’s important to acknowledge their frustrations and find a way to help them work through it.
Wood also emphasized that there’s no single right answer to this, and that the best thing to do is figure out what works for your particular family.
“There’s not a right way to do it,” she said. “But there is going to be our way of doing it.”
When working around family members in general, Wood said to practice forgiveness and to try to practice joy.
Remembering to be forgiving and to find moments of joy helps to “bring that happiness back into our lives.”
Is it a good time to start something new?
Many of us may suddenly have a lot of time to explore new skills or projects, but Wood emphasizes that it’s not necessarily the most important thing to do right now.
“We have to honor ourselves and where we’re at,” she said.
She reminds everyone not to give yourself more stress than you can manage, so while it may be a good time to learn something new, you shouldn’t start it if you don’t have the passion or energy to try it out.
“Remember you’re doing your best,” she said.
How do I maintain certain habits if I’ve lost my job?
Since the outbreak, millions of Americans have filed for unemployment, which means for so many, the routines attached to work schedules have been severely affected.
Wood said the thing to remember is that none of this was in your control.
“You did not have control over this pandemic, or this uncertainty that has happened,” she said. “What you do have control over is how you choose to move forward.”
She also said to remember that “it’s okay to be vulnerable” and to ask for help from your support group, whether that’s family or friends.
Most importantly, she said, practice self compassion.
“One of the things you can do is really evaluate and appreciate who you are as a person, what your values and your core gifts are, and when you anchor into those things, you’ll remember how valuable you are,” she said.
After reminding yourself of your support base and your self worth, then you can earnestly plan your next steps.
When it’s difficult to even get up in the morning, Wood suggests practicing self-care once you wake up, perhaps some exercise or meditation, to help you get motivated for the day. After that, laying out a plan can help keep you on track.
How should I deal with stress?
Wood said the first thing to do when you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed is to accept that those thoughts are there, but they don’t have to drive the rest of your day.
She recommends having a “brain dump” by writing your thoughts in a journal, with no particular structure. That way, the feelings have a place to go. She also said it can be helpful to rip the page up when you’re done.
“Emotions are meant to be in motion,” she said.
Wood also suggests, at the end of the day, to make a list of all your accomplishments, no matter how small. This helps with the feeling of being “stuck” or feeling like you did not accomplish enough that day.
When dealing with more immediate stress, Wood recommends acknowledging the feelings and to have a way to “get present.”
“If you’re having a sad day, recognize that it’s okay to be sad,” she said.
To stay present in the moment, it helps to tune into your five senses, thinking about what you can hear, or taste, or touch. That way, your mind focuses on that rather than all the racing thoughts and emotions swirling around.
Wood also suggests finding an anchoring thought or word that helps you settle down. Her personal anchoring word is “grace,” which she admits she repeats to herself a lot.
“It’s a reminder that you’re okay,” she said.