With Covid-19 impacting everything from our cleaning habits, dreams, and office locations to our finances, mental health, and what school looks like for our children, the idea of work-life balance is even more ridiculous now than ever before.
For most of us, thanks to Covid-19, everything not only looks different today; it feels different. We feel different. Our routines, habits, workplaces have changed or disappeared altogether. We’ve adapted to the increased amount of time with our loved ones and continue to mourn the closeness we’ve lost with others. We’re beginning to accept that things will never look the way they did, and we remain frustrated with our inability to plan for the future.
Those with children in school have the added weight of hybrid or home-based education and the associated time requirements. At the same time, those of us with college students stress about potential outbreaks in the campus housing where our children reside.
It’s no surprise that all of this is taking a toll on our physical and mental well-being. Finding a balance eats away at us because we realize we’re not even close. When we focus on work, we feel we should be tending to our children; when we devote our time to our children, our work gets left behind.
There are no easy answers, but by implementing the following three strategies, a healthy work-life balance becomes more realistic.
1. Create contingency plans
Even though we can’t predict the future, we know a few things to be true. Earning an income is essential, educating our children is necessary, and flu season, the presidential election, and major holidays will be upon us before we know it.
Have the discussions now with spouses, employers, educators and family members. Seek clarity on work schedules and work locations, at least through the end of the year. If you’re already back in the office, develop a contingency plan for working remotely again. If you plan to continue working at home, prepare for school breaks or if your students return home from college or to continue their education full-time earlier than anticipated.
2. Adhere to a schedule
Equally valuable as planning for contingencies is following a schedule. We’ve long known the powerful effect that regular exercise, healthy eating and consistent bedtimes have on our health, and they are even more critical today. Whether we’re following work or family schedules, adherence to a daily routine is proven to have a positive impact on our mental and physical health and well-being.
Additionally, with the chaos happening in the world around us, we must take care of our mental health on top of our physical well-being. Having a personal routine and the following of family and work schedules allow us to do precisely that. Setting aside 60 minutes every morning to read, meditate, pray and write is a routine I use for my mental and emotional well-being. Figure out what feeds your soul and set aside time each day for yourself.
3. Be flexible
Heraclitus of Ephesus (c. 500 BCE) is famous for his assertion “Life is flux,” asking us to understand that the only constant in life is change. And while this has always been true, it’s an especially important reminder today.
Be prepared for the chaos of 2020 to continue. Anticipate adjustments to how and where our children receive their education and be flexible with your schedules. Pay attention to what’s happening around you and within you.
Don’t set yourself up for physical or mental health breakdowns by believing you’ll achieve an ideal work-life balance. Instead, strive for a meaningful balance that fits your unique family and work circumstances.