Finding Your New Normal

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The Challenge

One virus, just like that, life as we know it has changed.

With social distancing being a key weapon to break the chain of transmission of CoVID-19 and flatten the curve, everyone, whether being ordered to by the Government or simply doing their civic duty, is staying home. Whilst it is encouraging to see early signs that the drastic measures the Government has put in place are starting to take effect, this really is just the beginning and we most certainly cannot afford to be careless and complacent! The reality is that these measures will be in place for at least the next six months if we are lucky so it’s important that we find and adjust to our new normal.

One of the biggest challenges with working from home (for those of us lucky enough to still have a job) is that we now live, play, and work all at the same place! It is important to set clear boundaries to differentiate various aspects of our lives. Here’s why:

Years ago during my first stint of working from home before I opened my clinic, I did everything on my sofa – I worked there. I ate there. I chilled there. I watched TV there. I read there. Before I knew it, everything mushed into one and it felt like I was constantly at work! It was both unpleasant and mentally unhealthy so I cleaned up our spare room and set up a proper home office, not only did my headspace improve but my productivity soared as well.

I’ve learnt my lessons then and also have some new insights since I started working from home again last year. Here’re are my choice tips for you:

Set Boundaries

Assign different spaces for different function in 3 main categories: Work, Rest, Play.

Have a designated work area – You don’t need a heap of space, even if you don’t have a spare room or are in a share house, at least assign a particular corner, a specific chair, or one end of a table and use that ONLY for work and pack it up when you’re done. Avoid working on your bed as it will most likely mess with your sleep!
Get dressed for work – You don’t have to do your full work get up, well, unless you want to! Simply put on a work shirt, wear your lanyard, do your makeup, shave… etc. Do something simple that signifies it is office hour so you can mentally clock in and out. For me, I put earrings on and put my hair up and bam, I’m ready for work.
Have set work times – One of the coolest things about working from home is the flexibility it offers, that said, it’s important to have designated work hours otherwise it will all mush into one and make it hard for you to unplug from work.
Create sacred rest areas – Create quiet spaces where you unplug from the world and do things that bring you joy and help you unwind. This is super important to help manage stress and anxiety. For me, it’s the 3M’s – Meditate, Movement, Music.
Have designated movement areas – Even though we can no longer go to the gym, take fitness classes… etc, it doesn’t meant we can’t keep up our movement habit. Many businesses have already launched online classes and there’s a plethora of exercise classes on YouTube for you to sample. Yes, there may be space and equipment restrictions but it’s nothing a little creativity can’t solve. I’ve been teaching my patients to make D.I.Y weights using canned food and drink bottles for years! Also, variety is excellent for your movement health so why not check out a new virtual class and who knows, you may just find a new favourite movement.
Do a Movement Audit

To say this pandemic has disrupted our routines is a colossal understatement! Many people incorporate exercise in their daily commute – cycle or walk to and from work, do a lunchtime workout, play sports after work… etc. All that is now out the window so make sure you schedule them back into, or find alternatives in your new normal.

We are also likely to be more static and spend more time sitting when we work from home – you are not walking to go buy lunch, not standing on the bus during your commute, not walking to the printer, not going between meetings… etc. Try to replicate these at home as much as you can so you don’t miss out on time usually spent standing, walking, and moving in general! As a fallback, do a few laps in or around your home every hour.

If you have wearable devices such as an Apple Watch, use it to review and monitor your activity levels and adjust accordingly.

Here’s how to do a movement audit:

  1. Use a piece of paper or a spreadsheet.
  1. Make a table with 7 columns, one for each day of the week.
  1. Think about a typical pre-coronavirus week and write down the following:
    1. Activity – What do you do throughout the day? Commute, work, fun things, home stuff, exercise… etc.
    2. Time – How much time do you spend doing each of these activity?
    3. Mode – How you do them? Sitting, standing, walking, various?
    4. Energetic Rating – How energetic do you rate your activity on a scale of 0 – 10? 0 = sleeping, 10 = Most energetic.

Here’s a sample day:

Monday (Activity, Time, Mode, Energetic Rating)
Morning meditation, 30 minutes, sitting, 1/10
Drive to work, 20 minutes, sitting, 2/10
At the office, 90 minutes, sitting, 2/10 
Morning tea, 15 minutes, standing, 2.5/10
Meeting, 60 minutes, sitting, 2/10 
Lunch, 20 minutes, sitting, 2/10
After lunch stroll, 20 minutes, walking, 3/10
At the office, 120 minutes, sitting, 2/10
Afternoon tea, 15 minutes, walk to buy coffee, 3/10
At the office, 90 minutes, sitting, 2/10
To and from gym, 20 minutes, walking, 3/10 
Gym, various, 60 minutes, 7/10
Drive home, sitting, 20 minutes, 2/10
Cooking, 45 minutes, standing, 3/10
Chillaxing on sofa, 60 minutes, semi-reclined, 1/10
Sleep, 8 hours, lying down, 0/10

Work out what a typical week for you is and use this table as a guide to ensure you do a similar amount of movement in terms of mode, time, and energetic level in your new normal week. As a movement advocate, I highly encourage you to take this opportunity to put more movement in your life, for example, try turning your old commute time into more movement time! Regular movement is not only beneficial to our physical health, it is essential for our mental well-being, which we can all use a little more nurturing during these complex and uncertain times.

Stay Connected

Just because we have to maintain social distance does NOT mean we are socially disconnected! In fact, staying connected is empowering and gives us strength to overcome our challenges together! We are so fortunate to have amazing technologies at our fingertips and staying connected can be as simple as one touch of a screen. Many businesses have already adapted and are successfully staying connected with their teams and customers using platforms like Zoom to hold virtual meetings and classes, why not host a virtual family dinner or have online drinkies with your friends on FaceTime, Skype, Google Hangout, WhatsApp, House Party… etc?

It is reassuring and grounding to have a routine of your own choosing as we navigate these uncertain and challenging times. This may also be the opportunity for you to establish new habits that will take you to new heights post pandemic! Stay positive and remember we are in this together and we will get through this together. I’m here to support you through this so please let me know how I can help you.

’Til next time, Be Free In Your Movement™.

B. Phty
This information is not medical advice. Got health concerns? Consult a real-life health professional.
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