Silen Audio’s Marketing Director, Leah Sletzion, shares how she’s managing remote work and boosting mental health.
When the COVID-19 Pandemic started, I could never have guessed how the timeline was unfolding, that we’d be entering 2022 still struggling with the complicated virus. I began adapting to the “new normal” and work-from home lifestyle for the first time with several others globally, not knowing how long it would last. It definitely was a sudden change and a scramble to adjust in the beginning as I had to become more self-reliant.
I have compiled, in my “Work From Home Survival Guide”, my perspective and lifestyle decisions to optimize work-life balance to share ideas and motivate others during this time.
I’m open to discussing and sharing so if you’re reading this and have any questions, ideas, or just want to talk it out please contact me here: email@example.com.
- Create a Clean, Quiet Workspace (Set the Mood)
I already had my quiet study space set up in my bedroom, so this became the most convenient place for me to upscale a work and study space that’s efficient and stress-free. Knowing that I’d be spending more time in this space, it needed to be as inviting as possible so I could increase my concentration.
A clear space is a clear mind! So that means a clean, uncluttered desk, organized stationary placeholder, relaxing candles, natural lighting and a view of outside nature. Trees inspire us to persevere and stay rooted, giving us hope in the harshest conditions. One of the best things I did was moving my desk to the best possible position for me to view and hear the outdoors, inviting calmness into my mind. It’s also really important to take vision breaks looking at far away objects every now and then to tackle any eye fatigue from long, close screen use.
Some other ways I elevate my workspace is by playing chill lofi beats in the background, while I’m sipping on a warm cup of tea or coffee by my side. Keeping the window cracked open for fresh air keeps me alert and ventilates the apartment to reduce viral infections.
- Have An Organized and Clear Schedule
I think I’ve kind of become obsessed with scheduling my entire life. My google calendar has become a beautiful, not intimidating rainbow of allocated time blocks. This is something I got better at doing over time with experimenting and testing. I used to think that people who schedule everything are rigid, but it really has become a key to my success allowing freedom through structure.
First, I make sure all the essentials are down. Each week I start with all the “cement” a clear work schedule, class meetings, events… and add my other activities around those times.
I put down when I’m waking up, sleeping, working out, cleaning, having lunch, studying/learning, practicing, personal projects, etc… Pretty much everything that happens in the 24 hour cycle, each in their own color per category, keeping the titles simple and to the point. With each time block I add notes on the overall tasks happening in that time, easy to view when selecting the time block.
Digital calendars like Google Calendar have won my heart over because of the ease and portability. I don’t have to start from scratch each week, I just adjust and edit based on the recurring previous weeks. I reassess my schedule each quarter, week, and mid-week for any changes and conflictions. It allows me to get into each day composed and knowing what I’m doing. It won’t be 100% accurate or perfect because I can’t control what happens everyday. What’s key for my sanity is not being too stiff or too loose and having structure with flexibility.
- Morning and Evening Routines
Thanks to my schedule, I know when I’m going to have time to ease into and out of the day. I need a fresh start and time to unwind from a busy day incorporated into my routine. I’m just going to list my personalized, current morning and evening routine below.
6:00-6:30 Wake Up, Brush Teeth, Drink Water, Gym Gear.
6:30-8:00 Workout, Shower, Get Dressed.
8:00-8:30 5 Minute Journaling, Check the Day’s Schedule, Get tea.
8:30-9:00 Prep Workspace, Emails, View Work Task Checklist.
9:00 Start Work and “Eat the Frog”
- Avoid using the phone right after waking up for at least 30 minutes.
- Light up the room to wake up, open up the window blinds and turn on the lights.
- “Eat the Frog” and start with the hard tasks when you have the most alertness and energy.
- Journal: 3 things I’m grateful for, 3 things that would make today great, and an affirmation.
4:30-5:00 Shutdown Ritual= wrap up and review completed tasks, save my work, list and plan the next work day’s tasks.
5:00-7:00 Cleaning, Studying, Practicing, or Personal Projects.
7:00-9:00 Cook and Eat Dinner, Family Time.
9:00-9:30 Take A Walk.
9:30-10:00 Journal, Meditate, Stretch, Go To Bed.
- Reduce bright and blue lights as you unwind. Schedule nighttime functions on computers and phones.
- Journal: 3 amazing things from today, 3 things that could have been better/need improvement, and a prayer for someone else.
- Take Breaks and Stay Active
I schedule in break times to refresh my brain and muscles from consistent sitting. Breaks increase my performance, focus, quality of work and overall productivity. I take 5 minute movement snacks for every 2 hours of work/sitting. I’ll roughly do 5 exercises for a minute each (jumping jacks, pushups, burpees, air boxing, high knees, squats…). I also have a foam roller right next to my desk so if I’m ever feeling cranky or stiff I do a deep tissue back massage for a minute. This helps my posture and reduces neck pain.
During lunch, I’ll take a sunshine walk to get vitamin D exposure, refresh my mind, reflect and focus on the next part of the day. This also helps if I’m feeling any post lunch fatigue. I’ll usually just use my whole lunch time to move or take a 20 minute power nap and eat while I’m working instead, optimizing my break time depending on my energy levels that day. I make sure rest and work don’t overlap with these methods.
- Adequate Nutrition, Hydration, and Sleep
Besides taking breaks and movement snacks throughout the day there’s more ways I bring my energy up with healthy nutrition, frequent hydration and sleep hygiene. Since the outbreak, my father and I have focused on what’s in our power to stay healthy. I prepare my work lunches each week so I’m not scrambling in a rush for the right food.
For nutrition, it’s the low carbohydrate diet, adequate protein, healthy fats, lots of deep leafy greens, avocados, avoiding processed foods and sugars, avoiding all seed oils, taking multivitamins combined with intermittent fasting that has helped my body reduce inflammation, bloating, fatigue, and illness. (I used to get the flu very often before these changes.) We’ve revamped the kitchen supply so that there’s less unhealthy temptations, making good habits easy and bad habits hard. These changes have also helped my pre-diabetic father lower his blood sugar and reduce joint pain.
Paired with an active lifestyle, hydrating throughout the day, and getting my 7-8 hours of sleep I’ve felt a large boost in my energy and mood. Part of my sleep hygiene, besides getting enough hours of rest for recovery, are: mediation before bed, keeping a dark and cool room, earplugs, going to bed and waking up at the same time, no caffeine or large meals close to bedtime, chamomile tea. If my mind is racing I just dump everything down on a note pad for the next day.
Nutrition, exercise, and sleep are the foundations of good mental health, treating/avoiding depression and many diseases. And it’s so empowering to know that these are changes I can make.
“The last of human freedoms: to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way. And there were always choices to make.” – Viktor E. Frankl
- Don’t Get Consumed By the News and Social Media
News can increase unnecessary anxiety, stress, and panic. I don’t actually watch regular TV, but when I do get on social media or see the news occasionally playing in the house I try not to get sucked in. These days there’s a lot of fearful and negative reporting that could be harmful to your well-being.
I can back off and relax from being too worried about staying consistently informed because nowadays it’s just too easy for a story to reach me (family, friends, coworkers, school, radio, social media, tv, etc…). As long as I’m informed, I don’t need it to be a constant daily reminder.
I also find it valuable to listen to different, less well-known perspectives other than those in traditional news/media through podcasts and books that have helped my mind open up. If something I read or heard is upsetting, I try to focus on the positive, reach out to others (family,
relationships, therapy), choose healthy coping mechanisms, and reduce my consumption.
- Practice Communication and Adaptability
As remote work and schooling trended upwards, we had to find ways to increase productivity and workflow in the new work from home model. Tools like Slack, Zoom, Discord, Google Suite, plain old texting and calling have been the largest forms of keeping communication and breaking the feeling of social isolation. I’d say it’s working smoothly due to forming clear expectations for communication, meetings/check-ins, emails, and work hours.
This is a new situation for everyone so sometimes there will be unique problems, but so far it’s been manageable. I’ve also found myself reaching out to more professionals and mentors during this time when I needed help and to ask questions. Despite the lack of in-person communication, working from home has suited my current situation.
Focusing on the positives, there’s less time and money spent on the road, less sickness, and more work-life balance. My cousin, with 3 children, has enjoyed being able to be near her kids all day compared to when she was away for work all week. For working mothers, this is definitely a highlight and something I look forward to experiencing.
- Socialize Safely and Reach Out for Help
I mentioned Therapy earlier because I’m on the hunt for remote therapy at the moment. The pandemic has increased and pushed institutions to be more aware and active about mental health. I believe it starts with me, my family and my community… and then the world if we each do our part. As much as I work on my physical health through my lifestyle and doing yearly check ups, I need to do the same for my mental health with an educated therapist. Along with the stigma around mental health, I’ve been uncomfortable with leaving it till only when there is a serious problem. Preventative measures save money, time, medications and further health issues by increasing personal responsibility one day at a time.
Other than professional help, safe socializing and reaching out to family, coworkers, and peers have been essential check-ins during isolation. So I’ll hop on a call, actually Facetime my mom and sister who are in South Africa, stream and screen share TV shows/movies, get on Clubhouse or Twitter Spaces, or do group meditation online. We can forget to be around others when it seems difficult to do so, and I’m slowly trying to encourage myself to reach out in creative ways.
Leah Sletzion is Silen Audio’s marketing director and incredibly talented musician. You can contact her with any questions here: firstname.lastname@example.org