When lockdown was announced in March 2020, mine and my husband’s usual working routines were thrown into flux as we had to adapt to working from home. It was a shock for everyone and we, like many other families, weren’t sure how we were going to manage. As a full-time journalist, with a self-employed husband and three children to home school, we suddenly had an enormous amount to fit into our days. Speaking to friends, it’s clear that a common struggle for lots of families has been deciphering how to maintain a work and home life balance. Now that we’re living and working in the same space, with the same people around us, the boundaries between the two have become blurred. I know re-building those boundaries can sometimes feel like an impossible task, particularly as the nights draw in and get colder, so I thought I’d share some top tips that have helped my family through this strange time.
- ‘You have to put your own lifejacket on first’
A huge trend in the world of ‘wellness’ this year has been the importance of self-care. I think we’ve realised that we can’t get through the big problems the world has thrown at us in 2020 unless we look after ourselves. And my best advice for doing this is to turn to the phrase you’re used to only hearing on an aeroplane - ‘you have to put your lifejacket on first’. As parents, we’re used to looking after everyone else before ourselves, and when you’re working from home your own needs are likely to drop even further down the list of priorities. But now, more than ever, taking the time to look after yourself first is essential to being able to help those around you. For those of you who, like me, are worried you don’t have time, don’t worry. Even five minutes to yourself can be the necessary grounding needed to bring you back down to earth. Whether that’s going for a run, taking a hot bath, reading a book or making your favourite soup, taking some time to yourself will ultimately mean you can look after those around you better too.
My husband and I tend to have busy workdays, so we know sometimes it feels easier to just let any sense of routine disappear. But I’d urge you to set clear boundaries that structure your working day, making it easier to distinguish between work and home life. We’ve made little changes, like getting properly dressed every day and eating our lunch away from our desks. And perhaps the most important structure for us has been taking the dog out every day as part of our ‘end of day’ routine to wind down. When you don’t have your evening commute, often this time is crucial to transitioning your mood after a stressful day. I know a lot of people’s workspace and living space are the same right now, so I cannot stress enough the importance of having a routine that works for your family to prevent boundaries from getting blurred.
- Make time to get outdoors
We all know the countless benefits of being out in nature, from our health, to our mood and outlook. This year, nature and outside space have taken on an unprecedented level of importance, proving the need we all have for this simple pleasure. I know it’s not always easy to force yourself outside on a cold, misty dark morning, but I can assure you you’ll feel better for it. Set yourself the goal of making time to go outside at least once a day, and you won’t regret it. Even if you live in the city, to be able to go outside and look up at the sky and feel the wind on your face – there is something incredibly rewarding in that. Particularly on those very stressful days, having the opportunity to get some fresh air can really take the attention away from your woes and worries. You don’t have to run a 5k, just a simple amble around the block can really switch your mindset.
- Keep moving
It’s not just being outside that transforms your attitude and makes you forget about work, but also the exercise that comes with it. For me, going out for a run around our local field gives me a double whammy wellbeing hit of being outside and also getting some fitness in. I rely on exercise to help my mindset and provide structure to my day. But don’t worry, there are lots of options for those of you who don’t want to run outside in the dark like me. We’ve tried loads of things as a family, from virtual pilates, to cycling, walking and even yoga – Willow, our youngest is quite the downward dog expert it seems! And if those still don’t sound like your cup of tea, even just making sure you stand up and walk around your house can have an impact. An immunologist I’ve worked with told me that if we’re sat at our desks working all day, we should get up every hour to keep our immune system firing. Unless we keep active, our lymphatic system, which carries our white blood cells around, can’t function properly. This makes movement and exercise the catch-all solution to not only your mindset and separation of work and home life, but also to your health at this vital time.
Susannah is the wellbeing columnist at the Mail on Sunday’s YOU magazine. She started her career on the launch team of Glamour magazine over twenty years ago before becoming the beauty and health editor of Vogue where she worked with some of the leading photographers, experts and models in the world.
Susannah went freelance when she had her first two children before starting up the health and beauty website getthegloss.com. After having her third child she wrote a column called Healthyish in Grazia before starting at YOU magazine earlier this year.
Follow Susannah on Instagram here @susannahtaylor_
This article was written by Susannah Taylor in December 2020.