The rain drizzles slowly outside my window. The lights are dimmed in my room and a cool cup of tea sits beside me – English Breakfast mixed with vanilla coffee creamer. The trees slowly shed their leaves and the rain touches their branches. It is a Sunday afternoon and the air is chilly. I am in a big sweater (thanks Dad!) and I feel free. Free from the burden of my to do list tomorrow. Free from the productivity cycle. Free to drink tea and type away and look outside my window.
In my first year of college, I used to be really bad at this. Cultivating boundaries. Relaxing when I needed to. Doing work when I was supposed to. Having time to eat and take walks and chat with friends and study. We are all really bad at this. Cultivating boundaries.
When was the last time you didn’t feel guilty for sitting on the couch? For watching TV without the looming fear of your work week? When was the last time you didn’t dread Sunday? You didn’t frantically check your email to get ahead? You didn’t wish your weekend was longer?
Since living in a pandemic, I think we’ve forgotten that it’s okay to be tired. It’s okay to be worn out. I’m not sure there’s any specific way we should be feeling. You may feel like you are dragging yourself to your computer daily. You may feel your work-life balance blurring the more this goes on. It’s okay. I would like to offer you a chance to get into a new rhythm. One that could help. And if it doesn’t, you can always try something else.
Let’s start cultivating boundaries!
Phone app time limits
I feel like this is something everyone should do – whether or not you feel like you use your phone excessively. Set your email up so you can only open it up during work hours. NO OUTSIDE WORK USE. Do this for social media as well. Maybe you want to only use Instagram or Twitter for an hour a day. Set your apps to help you achieve goals, not to prevent you.
If you do one thing, give your apps time limits so that you can go to sleep when you’re supposed to. You may not feel like you’re getting quality sleep – but at the very least, make sure you are getting 8 hours. For the sake of your mental and physical health, get some sleep. Setting time limits on your phone app will enhance your life. You will be more productive and get more rest.
Separate work time + friend time
This is INCREDIBLY DIFFICULT given the state of the world. But try to see your friends socially distanced in a park or at an outdoor restaurant. Seeing people in person, even from afar is a nice way to remind yourself to get outside for some fresh air and a different pace. If you can’t see friends socially distanced and all you’ve got is Zoom, you need to get creative. Maybe that means everyone is cooking in the kitchen and making the same recipe. Maybe you’re watching a movie together via Netflix party on your couch. Whatever you do, I highly recommend that it’s a space separate from where you work. If you are confined to one room, your desk is for work and your bed is for friend time. If you live in a house/apartment, use the living room for friends and the desk in your room for work.
You will be tired if you blur the lines between work and friends. You will never turn off work. You will never feel rested or that you’ve accomplished enough. You need to be able to say “Enough. It’s time to stop working.” A break is one thing, but some time with friends is necessary in these times.
Check in with yourself emotionally
On a moody day like today, it’s easy to feel down. It’s easy to take the rain outside and the tiny bit of sadness in my heart and conflate the two. Make sure you’re checking in with yourself. Make sure you don’t let days go by without really stopping and asking yourself if you’re okay. Have you eaten 3 meals? Have you spent time away from a screen? Did you practice a hobby or play a game? Did you text or hang out with a friend? Is there something you’re looking forward to? Ask yourself questions and be honest.
Being alone doesn’t always mean loneliness and being busy isn’t always linked to burnout. Perhaps you need a nap. Or a funny tv show. Or a new hobby. Or just to sit and feel the weight of all that is in your heart. Just make sure you’re okay. And if you’re not, I’m always here to talk to!
Find something new
The seeming endlessness of our new reality means that for the most part there isn’t anything big to look forward to. No one is going to big concerts. No one is taking international trips. No one is meeting new people. Still, we’ve got to find a way to add some novelty in our lives.
It could be time to rearrange your room. You could foster a pet (just get a cat. You’ll fall in love 💘). Maybe you start a new workout routine at home. Or you get a new hobby – knitting, photography, gardening, graphic design, etc. If you have any new suggestions, comment down below! I’d love to get into a new hobby. Although, blogging is definitely a great one!
These days it’s so darn easy to find ways to explore who you are and learn more about the personalities of those you love around you. There’s the Myers-Briggs test, the Enneagram, the Love Languages test, the DISC profile, and the Strengthsfinder test. The more you learn about yourself, the better you are to implement systems in your life and cultivate boundaries that keep you happy.
If you tend towards extraversion, you’re going to make sure that you’ve got plans with friends on the horizons. After a busy week, if you’re a morning person, you’re going to want to get to bed early and rise early to have morning for yourself. If you’re an enneagram 3 (let me know because I am too!), you need strict work boundaries so you don’t fall into the hole of accomplishment. If you’re an enneagram 6, you need to let go of your need to plan out life and enjoy the present moment. Understanding yourself will help you make the most of cultivating boundaries that help you thrive (even in the worst of times).
Even though it may be the last thing you want to do because you have no energy to do anything else, please build your life in a way to support yourself, your family and your friends through this hard time. You deserve to be your best self and that involves being strict about cultivating the boundaries and maintaining them that lead to your flourishing.
I hope you are all safe, healthy, and loved!