It’s no secret that we’ve all been stretched thin during this pandemic. Healthcare workers, parents, those who have lost their jobs, living alone during lockdown—everyone has been impacted in some way by COVID-19. But as we approach a year of this pandemic, more and more attention has turned toward the impact the pandemic is having on working women, and rightfully so. There’s plenty of evidence that women are juggling not just their work responsibilities and a disproportionate share of domestic responsibilities. At a time when home and office are one in the same—all while experiencing an unprecedented global crisis—it’s easy to understand why working women are feeling over extended.
If just reading that paragraph made you blood pressure rise a little, you’re not alone. Many a Zoom happy hour with my female friends and colleagues has turned from cheerful catch up to serious discussion about how we’re coping. We’re all in our own little mini pressure cookers, juggling work, relationships and home commitments. When I ask what they’ve been doing to unwind, unplug or just decompress a little from the pressure, here are some tips they shared.
Prioritizing yourself during the work week
You don’t have to take the day off of work to practice a little self-care, it’s all about finding a little “you” time every day: Carve out 30 minutes for a walk and some fresh air as a midday break; swap a night of Netflix for a good book; if you cook every night support a local restaurant with a takeout order—or if you live on takeout try a new recipe! Small changes in your routine can provide some variety and help you recharge as the week goes along.
Sometimes even these small changes are easier said than done—so, it’s time to get creative! Find meetings that can be done over the phone while walking instead of over Zoom; invite co-workers or friends to a virtual happy hour to re-establish personal connections and swap easy recipes or good books. And, of course, remember to speak up if you are overloaded. Your manager doesn’t see your day-to-day efforts firsthand anymore so it’s important to advocate for yourself to avoid burnout
Coping with “The New Normal”
I don’t have children, but I have a partner who is also working remotely. I hold myself to a high professional standard and also feel the responsibility for looking after laundry, grocery shopping and cooking. After a few weeks (months?) of feeling like I could barely keep it all afloat we had a great conversation about sharing responsibilities. And it turns out that he was willing and able to help the whole time, he just “didn’t want to get in my way.”
This was a big lesson for me— communication is key! I still do most of the cooking, but he’s great about dishes and has taken over laundry. It’s important to tell your loved ones when you are struggling and where you need help.
I have also learned that it’s important to put my “office” away nights and weekends if you can. We can’t drive away from the office to mark the end of the workday anymore, so it’s important to walk away as best we can. Like many women, I am guilty of constant multi-tasking and have been known to have my laptop out on the counter “just finishing up” while pulling dinner together.
If you don’t have the option to convert a spare bedroom to an office try to clear your computer and files off the kitchen table as often as you can—and, definitely on Friday night! That way you can truly “unplug” and recharge when the week is done.
Finally, my biggest lesson through this crazy year is to focus on what I DO have. “I wish we could travel, I wish we could go to a restaurant, the new job I expected to start was eliminated before I got there.” The list of wishes is such an easy trap to fall in to—especially for working women who are expected to “have it all” (which is just another way of saying “doing it all.”) Instead, try actively focusing on what you do have: I’m grateful to be healthy, have a home to stay safe in, and a rewarding job that I can do remotely.
The takeaway from this all, for me, is this: You don’t have to be in a good place all the time, but check in with yourself and know where you are. Celebrate the wins, learn from the losses and make time for yourself to just BE. And, of course, make sure to schedule that Happy Hour with your girlfriends to talk about it all.