As Day 4 of mandatory work from home came to an end, I marveled how things have moved at a dramatic pace in the last few days. One week ago, I had absolutely no inkling that I would be writing this blog, sitting in India, next to my gurgling baby. Ten weeks ago, I was watching news coming in from China with mild concern, removed from the actual panic. It seemed far away and localised. What I and most of the world didn’t realise that it was like a huge meteor approaching at accelerating speed and about to crash into us.
Concerns grew as it started spreading across Italy and rest of Europe and then came nearer home when one of the first few people who tested positive for COVID 19 turned out to be a parent of the school Arnav was attending in India. My work country Kazakhstan still seemed unaffected with no cases to show. Some relief. But I watched with anxiety as cases in India slowly rose. My husband, toddler twins and my mother and parents in law were all in India – the latter being the most vulnerable to the disease. Arnav and I were due to go to India end of March and I waited anxiously to be reunited with everyone. At uncertain times like this one wants to be with family.
Come week of March 9 and things started heating up in Kazakhstan and Central Asia too. My organization started to discourage travel and postpone or cancel events. Arnav’s school started preparing students for home based learning. I woke up on the morning of 12th to messages about India closing its borders to all non Indians starting 13th March. Even though Arnav and I could still fly, this could lead to flight cancellations. Within a few hours there was news of schools closing down for at least 3 weeks. The situation was changing very fast and I needed to take some quick decisions. I consulted with my manager who perfectly understood the situation and encouraged me to go home and be with family. I quickly pre-poned our travel to India by a week and within a day of landing, our offices across the globe advised complete work from home and Kazakhstan closed its borders for non citizens till mid April. Almaty, the city where I live has gone into a lock down from today. Armed forces and police personnel have been deployed across the city at important checkposts.
The situation is unbelievable. It is unprecedented. And things are not expected to get much better any time soon. The only thing to do is to tighten our seat belts and brace ourselves for the next few days, weeks and months (hopefully not). No one knows how and when will we emerge from this and whether the world will still be the same.
But the best quality we humans possess is resilience. Learning to live with what is thrown at us. And as more and more of us get ready to self isolate, to work from home, let’s look at some strategies that will help us cope.
Do you feel stressed all the time?
Stress is the one common denominator across the globe today – every single person is facing a disruption of their normal lifestyle. Apart from concerns about the well being of our loved ones, the ongoing or impending lockdown of our cities, self isolation and social distancing, and the overall uncertainty around the corona virus are causes for enormous stress. People who freelance or with businesses are understandably even more concerned about financial stress. Crash of stock markets has every investor worried. How does one deal with it?
- Share your anxieties. Talk to people around you. Some people even share their stress in Facebook groups. I am sharing mine through this blog! Keep your channels of communication open. Some countries even have helplines in place to help people deal with stress.
- Don’t overload yourself with (mis)information. Constant news about the pandemic will be upsetting. I have pretty much stopped reading or even opening messages about the virus. You should too. And I suggest you stop forwarding as well. Most of what is circulating out there is fake news. Only go to WHO, CDC and other verified sources of information if you want to know more. Trash everything else.
- Divert your mind. Get busy with other things you like. Read that book you have been meaning to but couldn’t get the time. Catch a movie on Netflix. Bake that cake or prepare that salad. Start your masterpiece! Have a heart to heart with your child. Or well you could attend to that dripping tap or the toilet that doesn’t flush properly or those cockroaches that have infested your house!
- Take some time out for love. If you are working from home, you are definitely saving some time from your daily commute. Use these precious extra hours as a gift. Spend some quality time with your significant other. Do your chores together – exchange a secret glance – plant a quick kiss!
Unable to manage children 24/7?
With three of my own, I absolutely know what you are going through! This is like summer holidays, except that there are no camps and no hobby classes! Thankfully my older son’s school is taking online classes so he is occupied for a few hours everyday. My younger one hasn’t gone to his pre-school for a week and has no place to channel his energy! We bear the brunt of it! Anyway, I am planning to put a few strategies in place this weekend. Sharing some thoughts with you.
- Explain about the pandemic – at least to the older ones. It is important to educate them so that they can keep themselves safe and also understand why we are not letting them out. Tell them that even though they may be strong – they need to think about their grandparents who are weak and at highest risk. Here is a link to a great comic that you can use and another one called Kids, Vayu and Corona released by the Govt. of India.
- It would be prudent not to stop learning for your older kids during these times. Dedicate at least 3-4 hours everyday for self learning. There are a number of online learning apps and websites that you can look at (Byju, Learnhive, KhanAcademy. Here is a list). There are many practice sheets and exercises you can help your child work on. Most of these have been designed to be fun for kids. You can also take a leaf from the homeschooler’s parent.
- If you child loves reading (and I hope they do), this is a great time to become a book worm. Revisit books already read and perhaps but a few new ones. There are e-books as well. And good news Amar Chitra Katha and Tinkle have made their catalogues free for a month! Go sign up!
- Give them age appropriate chores in the house. They may already have some and you could increase their responsibilities – after all you have increased house work to do too these days. (Psst – one of the chores could be keeping the younger ones occupied – 2 birds with 1 stone!)
- Remember the board games you played in your childhood? Time to get them back. I loved Scrabble, Monopoly, Chinese Checkers and many more. Pictionary and Taboo are some amazing family games. And how could I forget playing cards and UNO.
- For the younger ones (like my little brat!) one will need to have a mix of activities planned – given shorter attention spans. And these will need to be a mix high energy and sedentary activities. Most activities with younger kids need supervision and I am sharing a list of 30+ activities here.
- But for those you working from home and do not have much help, you may need some activities with minimal supervision. One activity I like is playing with pillows and sheets and whatever they can get their hands on. Give them a pile of stuff to jump on or to arrange as they please or make little tents for themselves and you can easily knock off a few hours. Building blocks are another activity that my brat gets immersed in. you can even ask them to sort their toy box. You can look up some other good ideas here.
- Visit commonsense media they have some good ideas and suggestions on books and videos your child can watch and also have an entire section on resources for children during the pandemic.
Hopefully some of these will work for you. Let me know.
Going crazy working from home?
Oh dear, work from home has just begun. You can’t be going crazy already??? But yeah, I totally get you. For the last four days, I have had to have multiple conference calls with a toddler in tow, fervently hoping he doesn’t start screaming while I am not on mute! Also since I am yet to set up a proper work area – I have been working from my bed, at the dining table, at the living room sofa – basically everywhere except the toilet seat (might not be a bad idea to go there for my next phone call though – will hopefully get some silence there!). Anyway, as badly as I may be handling it right now, I am still trying to give you some suggestions – and hoping that I will be able to follow some of them myself!
- Set a schedule – of course you will perhaps be doing some chores in the house (and that damn doorbell keeps ringing) – but set a broad schedule and daily tasks. Decide your priorities with your boss or set priorities for your team. Otherwise you may end up working longer hours and still feeling guilty. (as I do sometimes)
- Set up a workplace. Find a corner that can fit a table, has charging points nearby (for your phones and laptops and whatever else you may need) and has good wifi network. Find a good chair.
- Try and have a nice view from your set up or put something nice that you can look at – like a nice flower pot or maybe your goldfish.
- Ensure you have all the hardware and software you need to be effective. Will be good to have some good earphones if you take a lot of calls
- Stay in regular touch with your team/ colleagues – through calls, chats and webcams. Not only is it important to track progress, it is also important to ward off the sense of isolation that will come with extended work from home.
And finally, let’s try to focus on the positives of this situation – we have been handed lemons, let’s try to make some lemonade. Live life, find love and try to work stress free in these times of Corona. And stay safe.
Hope you liked reading this blog. Please share and comment. Would be keen to hear how you are coping with these stressful times.
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