How to Work From Home for the First Time

A lot of us are working from home for the foreseeable future, some for the first time. It’s a big change to routine and it makes everything feel a little bit off. 

I’m used to working from home a couple days a week, but this feels different for me too.

Because it’s not really “working from home.” It’s being at home while big global events are happening and it’s not safe to do things you normally do…and trying to do your normal work.

It’s hard to focus, because you just want to go check the news all the time. But when it’s time for the show to go on, here are some tips for making work from home during this time feel a little more normal: 

  1. Shower and get dressed. It’s tempting to work all day in your PJs, but freshening up in the morning and getting some clean undies on will help you start the day in a good mood. This does not mean uncomfortable work clothes, just something clean and fresh. Stay comfy!
  2. Make a ritual. Normally we have a commute to mark the transition into and out of “work mode.” Create a morning and evening ritual to mark the start and end to your work day. This could mean making a cup of coffee and listening to your usual morning podcast or audiobook on the couch, taking an evening walk, or anything that helps you separate your day for work life balance when you work from home.
  3. Turn off your email. Just because you work from home and you’re home 24/7 doesn’t mean work is now 24/7. Separate work time and personal time by turning off your work computer or email program when it’s quitting time.
  4. Take breaks. Take your full lunch break and go outside if the weather is nice. Walk around the block for some fresh air. Take regular water and bathroom breaks, and give your eyes a break from screens at least once an hour for a few minutes.
  5. Make a shiny object list. When you’re working from home, you might be tempted to put in a load of laundry, quickly do the dishes, or take out the trash. These are fine to work into your breaks, but if you try to keep them in your brain you’ll get distracted. Keep a notepad nearby so you can write down the things you want to handle during break times. It’s also perfectly fine to save the household stuff for after the workday is complete; you don’t have to be the world’s most efficient person.
  6. Downtime is sacred. When you work from home, all the days can run together and Saturday might not feel any different. Make sure to plan relaxing, restorative, and creative time for your downtime so that you aren’t stressing over being productive all the time.

Any other advice for our work from home friends? Drop it in the comments. 

PS. I’m teaching folks how to improve their boundaries after trauma in a six week class. We start April 13, so there’s still time to reserve your spot. Shoot me an email and we’ll get you on the list.

Mindfulness Meditation for Healing

It’s okay to be having a hard time right now. 

I want to feel normal, but things aren’t normal. The world is in chaos and people are scared, stressed, and looking for hope. 

It’s okay to feel weird. It’s okay to feel worried. It’s okay to feel like you’ve done everything you can and you’re going to hunker down for a while and wait. 

It’s okay not to know what the next step is. 

For the time it takes to read this blog, let’s do a mindfulness meditation for healing.

Just for right now, while you read this, I want you to take deep belly breaths and let them out slowly. You can count to four and hold or just breathe deeply, letting your natural rhythm tell you when to breathe in and out. 

As you inhale, think about bringing healing and recovery to yourself. You can imagine a warm light around you, keeping you in a safe space, or any other visualization that feels good (including none at all). 

As you exhale, send that healing energy out into the world. Send that warm light out through your neighborhood, your city, your state, and outward. 

Inhale, heal yourself. 

Exhale, heal the world. 

Imagine if everyone found a tiny bit of peace for themselves and then sent it onward.

PS. I’m teaching folks how to improve their boundaries after trauma in a six week class. We start April 13, so there’s still time to reserve your spot. Just shoot me an email.

How to Be the Best at What You Do

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Photo by Ian Schneider on Unsplash

What if you could wake up and live life as if you’re one of the best at what you do?

One of the best teachers, writers, parents? One of the best vet techs? One of the best coaches? One of the best gardeners?

It’s hard at first, because it’s so common to downplay our accomplishments and dreams. We want to be humble. 

Stop being humble. Be one of the best.

The Top Ten Percent

If you were in the top 10% of what you do, whether it’s your day job, your life’s work, a hobby, or just showing up in your life, what would you do differently?

How would you show up? How would you manage your time? What would you let go of and what would you focus on? 

If I was in the top 10% of content marketers, I’d be regularly learning new things about marketing – because that field is always changing. So I’ve started taking online courses to support the work I do in my day job, and it’s paying off. I’ve been able to hire someone new for my content team because I’m driving a great strategy.

If I was in the top 10% of authors, I’d never stop talking about my book. I’d be talking to local bookstores about putting on events (when we can gather again) and I’d be on podcasts and doing interviews for other blogs and magazines. I started putting myself out there even though it’s scary, but I’ve sold my book at a convention, been featured as a source in a magazine, been booked to speak at my local library, and I’ve started booking podcast interviews.

But I still hesitate sometimes. 

What’s holding me back?

Fighting Imposter Syndrome

I’m scared people will think badly of me for speaking highly of myself and my work. Imposter syndrome is so noisy sometimes. I see other writers and think they’re the real deal and I must just be pretending. 

But if I want to be a top 10% author, I need to act like one. 

To beat imposter syndrome, try these tips:

  • Find the evidence that you’re already the best
    • What are the super cool “unbelievable” successes you dance about in the moment and then conveniently forget when you’re trying to think about them? Make a real list on real paper.
  • Keep a record of positive feedback
    • Copy and paste your positive reviews, client testimonials, and anything else that makes you feel amazing about the work you do
  • Use negative feedback to find constructive criticism
    • If someone’s just being a jerk, ignore/block them, but if a negative opinion of your work has the potential to improve your work, use it as an opportunity to become better, closer to that top 10%

I’m the real deal, even when I don’t feel like it. And so are you!

PS. If you’re tired of the ways society tells you you’re part of the problem, please buy my book (it’s less than the cost of a pizza) and leave a five star review so others can find it. It’s definitely one of my top ten accomplishments and I’d love for you to read it. 

How to Improve Your Boundaries After Trauma [VIDEO]

After a lifetime of not knowing how to enforce my boundaries (or even what they were in the first place), one of the toughest things I had to learn after leaving an abusive marriage was how I expected to be treated and how I communicated that to other people. 

Boundaries can feel scary when you’ve never had them before. In the past, maybe standing up for yourself felt dangerous. 

A New Approach to Boundaries

When I was starting a D&D campaign a few months ago, I realized I loved making the character more than I actually liked playing.

I could make my character strong in ways I aspired to be. Which is how I made this course – we treat your brain like a character, and you fill that character up with strengths and defenses and skills that help you rethink how you approach traumatic moments. 

So I turned this idea into a workshop that I taught at Midwinter Gaming Convention in Milwaukee this January, and spent the next couple months adapting it into a six week online coaching course to teach the framework to other people.

The video below introduces the Level Up framework we’ll use to build stronger boundaries, honor your strengths and inherent skills, and make a plan to continue improving for the future.

If you just want the basics on the course, the first half covers everything you need to know! The second half of the video has grounding techniques we use during the course in case the conversation gets heavy.

 

Six Weeks to Better Boundaries

Here’s the basics of the course and what you can expect from participating. 

  • Level Up provides a new way to look at trauma that interrupts the negative feedback loop in your brain
  • By the end of the course, you will have a concrete list of your resources for a “leveled up” approach to your own trauma, triggers, and boundaries
  • Level Up is a six week course, and you should expect to devote about 2-3 hours a week to lessons, assignments/journaling, and video calls
  • Video calls will be followed by a debrief to make sure any negative feelings are worked through and safely grounded
  • This is not a clinical therapy and you may want to work through what you learn here with your regular therapist

Want to get started? I still have a few reserved spots for the session starting April 13 at 50% off list price. Email me to reserve a spot!

Why Can’t We Stay The F*ck Home? Why We Need Social Distancing

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Photo by Erik Mclean on Unsplash

We all know someone who is struggling with social distancing. Someone who is going from store to store, sort of understanding the risk but unable to help themselves and just sit down.

It’s annoying, it’s frustrating, it’s even understandable. Staying at home when you want to is one thing, but being made to do it makes you feel stressed and, well, isolated.

But let’s be totally clear: it’s dangerous.

What is Social Distancing?

Social distancing, or physical distancing, is the practice of maintaining a physical distance to prevent the spread of contagious disease. It’s not the same as quarantine, which is a complete lack of contact with the outside world, but people are using the terms somewhat interchangeably. 

Basically, stay in your home as much as possible, and when you leave your home, stay a minimum of six feet away from people. At the grocery store. On a walk. Wherever you go, there should be a six foot radius around you.

Social distancing in practice is a set of individual behaviors. For some, it means not leaving their house at all. For others, it means only going to work.

But some seem to think it means to carry on like normal but use hand sanitizer. 

Social distancing is how we buy time.

Time for our hospitals to treat those currently sick before more get sick. Time for the science to catch up. Time for better treatments to be found. Social distancing is the only thing that can buy us that time.

Social Distancing Makes a Difference

At CV-19’s minimum case fatality rate (CFR), 3.8% of cases will die.

Some people are on board with the idea that these people are going to die anyway, so why not just “save the economy” and stop social distancing?

Besides the obvious moral and ethical issues with sacrificing human lives for the good of the economy (I’m judging you), there are two scientific reasons.

1) Those people may not die if we can flatten the curve to allow time for more consistent treatments and preventive measures to be developed 

2) The CFR can increase 

Flatten the Curve

Every person has about 300 people in their network. At 3.8%, that’s about 11.4 people you know who will die if CV-19 continues to spread widely without any controlling measures. 

Eleven people in your life that some would say are an acceptable cost for the sake of the economy.

As hospitals fill up and ventilators are in short supply for breathing complications, the best thing we can do is make sure the virus spreads as slowly as possible and keep our vulnerable populations as protected as possible.

We can limit how fast it spreads with social distancing measures to buy those people that time. 

COVID-19 Fatalities By the Numbers

Number two tells us about maximum fatalities. Minimum case fatality rate has a maximum counterpart. Approximately 18-22% of confirmed cases have needed hospitalization. Globally, the rate is 20.2%, so that’s roughly the maximum CFR.

Ideally, we never determine the max CFR by experience, only by calculation. 

CFR? Percentages? It’s all technical language and calculation driven math. 

Remember those 11.4 people you know that some are okay with sacrificing to lift the economically impacting measures? If we lift the measures and overwhelm our hospital systems, that number jumps to 60.6 people you know that could die.

The minimum of 3.8% is IDEAL, meaning everyone has access to medical care. The maximum of 20.2% is what happens when our hospitals are overrun.

Right now, we’re trending up. 4.01% a few days ago, then 4.31%. 4.64%. 4.72% as of March 29.

That means among those you know, that 11.4 is already 12.6. 

The Psychology of Capitalism

We have trouble staying home because we feel like “staying home” means being useless and not contributing. The political blustering about the economy’s trouble due to social distancing hits this home.

We’re taught from a young age that our value lies in how much value we add to society. 

Productivity means we are valuable. We contribute. We have a real job. 

Anyone who can’t participate at the average level of productivity is shamed and made to feel guilty and less-than. Disabled people. Underemployed people. People who work minimum wage jobs – which, I may point out, are now being highlighted as the essential roles that are keeping our society running at all.

In times of stress and crisis, we feel helpless we want to feel helpful. We want to do something so we’re not just sitting at home feeling useless. 

Because productivity is intrinsically associated with our personal worth in a capitalist society. We can’t just sit at home when there are productive things to be done. Like grocery shopping, for example.

In times of stress and crisis (say, a global pandemic), once a few people start to panic and stock up a surplus of goods, it cascades and causes more and more people to hoard and compete for resources.

Those who can stock up are immensely privileged if they can afford to buy weeks’ worth of food at a time. Parents on WIC assistance can’t get the food they need when people have cleaned out the shelves in a blind panic. People who need to wait until their SNAP benefits renew so they can get their usual groceries may also face empty shelves due to the people with liquid cash coming through to fill their bunker with canned peaches.

It’s biological. The stress of an oncoming crisis, and the uncertainty that comes with it, increases cortisol production which causes an impulse to hoard resources. Prehistorically speaking, stress means you’re going to run out of food, so you have to go get the food before anyone else can.

But we’re in 2020, and despite the global pandemic going on, we need to remember that the stores are staying open and we will not run out of food.

We need less “every man for himself” and more community support and resource sharing. Even if that sharing just means leaving groceries for your neighbors.

Capitalism encourages competition over cooperation. We can consciously choose otherwise.

How to Social Distance Like a Pro

  • Cancel gatherings, outings, and social situations
  • Visit virtually, play games online, and meet your social needs as much as possible to reduce feeling isolated
  • Restrict grocery shopping to one time per week or less.
    • When shopping:
      • Shop via pickup or delivery, if possible
      • Take a list
      • Be flexible and prepared to make substitutions – you don’t need a specific brand of toilet paper or to go to 5 stores looking for it
      • Maintain 6 feet of distance from others
      • Avoid touching your face (you can wear a cloth mask to help re-train yourself away from frequent face touching – be sure to wash it frequently)
      • Be patient and give people space 
      • Avoid going to multiple stores (one store is enough exposure, get what you need and go home in one trip)
      • Bring along disinfecting wipes for your cart
      • Wash your hands thoroughly when you get home for 20 seconds with soap and water
      • Disinfect your phone and phone case when you get home, because you probably touched it a lot without realizing
  • Only go into public for groceries, necessary medical care.
  • Focus on mental health before productivity
    • Use telehealth appointments with your therapist
    • Free therapy is available at 7cups.com
    • Practice basic self-care like making sure you drink water, shower/wash your hair regularly, try to get some fresh air outside or open the windows, and eat regularly 
  • Don’t freak out about stress/comfort eating or snacking
  • Realize risk of infection increases exponentially each day, as cases increase, so if you’re going to need it, it’s better to get it today than tomorrow (prescriptions, food)
  • Tip your delivery drivers like your life depends on them

Choose Community 

Social distancing is hard because many of us are feeling isolated, helpless, and afraid right now. But it works, and it’s necessary.

Social distancing works, but only if you act based on the idea that YOU are infectious. Assume you are. Act accordingly. Keep those numbers down and help flatten the curve.

If you need to be productive, you can by helping others not feel isolated, not by running around. If you want to be productive right now, do something helpful from your home. 

  • Donate to charities helping support front-line healthcare workers
  • Share news stories about worker strikes for hazard pay and benefits
  • Create art and share it with others
  • Lead an online class in something you’re an expert on (people are learning all kinds of things right now)
  • Check in with friends to give them someone to talk to
  • Add joy to the world however you can

Data for this article was provided by Ash Roulston.

Easy Ways to Check In With Your Friends

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Photo by Michael Sum on Unsplash

I’m in Ohio, and we’re pretty much shut down. School’s out, people are working from home, and it’s stressful. To minimize the spread of the COVID-19 virus and flatten the curve, we’re supposed to isolate ourselves as much as possible from other people. 

Luckily, we live in the age of the internet, which means we can still socialize and connect with others, even though we can’t see them in person. 

Everyone’s stressed right now and a check-in would go a long way toward feeling connected. And for those of us with mental illness like anxiety and depression, reaching out for support can be especially difficult. 

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to reach out to five friends to check in on them. See if anyone wants to be regular check-in buddies, and you can have a quick (or not so quick) chat every day to connect and have some social interaction.

It doesn’t have to be a heavy check-in. Try any of these ideas:

  • Send each other a funny meme or a picture of your pet
  • Play an online game together
  • Hop on Skype while you cook dinner and act like you’re on a cooking show
  • FaceTime after work hours to chat about your day
  • Watch a movie together and text about it or video chat while you watch

Offering to check in with a friend is an easy way to help support the people in your life during a stressful time.

Consider this your check-in from me. How are you doing today? Follow me on Instagram and I’ll send cat pics whenever you need them!

PS. My group coaching course to reframe the way you look at your boundaries after trauma starts on Monday 4/13 and I have a few spots left. Shoot me an email to get on the roster at 50% off list price!

Social Isolation Doesn’t Have to Be Monotonous

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Photo by Noah Silliman on Unsplash

It’s a scary time in the world right now. The experts advise us to stay inside, self-isolate, in order to protect others from the spread of COVID-19. But we are social creatures, and even as someone who loves to stay home, I am feeling like I’m in the early scenes of a movie where shit is about to get very real. 

There’s a line between panic and caution, and I want you to be cautious. Wash your hands frequently, avoid touching your face, and disinfect frequently touched surfaces like doorknobs, phones, and your steering wheel and gearshift in your car. Stay inside as much as you can, and if you do go out, stay away from crowded places. 

There’s also a line between social distancing and solitary confinement.

Now is the time to recover and rest from the constant to-do list of your life. If you can work from home, do it. Use the time you used to commute to get extra sleep. Make sure you turn off your work email after quitting time. Honor that boundary between your personal time and work time.

Water and wipe down all of your houseplants. Pour care into yourself too. Remember to hydrate. 

Break out your stash of “for a rainy day” spa items and do a face mask or have a bubble bath. Paint your nails. Experiment with bold, fun makeup looks. 

Grab your yarn and needles and finally learn to master a knitting stitch. Teach your kids how to crochet. Paint something. Write poetry. Journal. You may be stuck at home, but it doesn’t mean you’re stuck doing nothing. 

Get online and video chat your friends while you watch a movie together. 

Remember that you are not alone. 

Looking for something to read while you’re home? “The Gaslighting of the Millennial Generation” is available on Kindle, Audible, and Google Books!