Be Kind and Creative with Yourself
It was my fourth day working remotely. I had showered, eaten breakfast, and made tea. Nothing could get in the way of my day! I had my schedule and my to-do list, determined to be productive and a good employee.
In the past few days, I had been more productive than I normally am when I go into the office. I work at Eden House in New Orleans, a long-term residential program for survivors of human trafficking, as the Program Assistant. My job entails a lot of tasks around the house, responding to our residents’ needs, and assisting undergraduate interns with their projects. Without those regular interruptions, I was quickly able to finish my to-do list and start working on projects that I don’t normally get around to, like organizing my Google Drive.
That day, my task was to do some research on human trafficking, aftercare services, and secondary trauma to send to our interns. I took a sip of tea and began to read. After about 20 minutes, I realized I was cold and got a blanket. Then after another 20 minutes I switched to the couch because I no longer wanted to be in the wooden chair. Then after another 20 minutes, I fell asleep.
This happened throughout the day for the next couple days as I was going through these journal articles. I would read for an hour and then need a nap. No matter what I did, I couldn’t seem to stay awake!
Where was that productivity from the first few days?
When I was a sophomore in college, I took a lot of reading intensive courses (because that’s what Religious Studies classes are) and all my days were filled with trying to get my reading done. I took mini-naps about four times per day. My family had me tested for narcolepsy because I simply could not stay awake throughout a day. No, it wasn’t narcolepsy. It was simply stress.
My junior and senior years of college, I conducted research and wrote my Honor’s Thesis. I read article after article and interview after interview for hours at a time. Again with the naps. Any time I had an extensive amount of academic reading to do, my body responded by insisting that I sleep.
I’m no longer a student. I love the fact that I’m no longer a student. Yet working from home and constantly falling asleep when trying to read feels like I’m in exactly the same place I was this time last year.
Maybe this time of self-isolation and online learning is bringing up stuff for you. Many people in New Orleans are remarking that they feel similar feelings to Hurricane Katrina, when seemingly nothing was in their control. Maybe going back home makes you feel like you’re in high school again and you have unpleasant memories from then. Maybe you find yourself falling back into habits that you thought you had overcome or outgrown.
My friend gave me some great advice that has two parts.
First, have grace with yourself. Watch your self-talk. Be kind. For me, this means that I don’t call myself lazy. I’m not a bad employee. Rather, I’m processing information. I’m doing work that I don’t normally do anymore in an environment that I don’t normally work in. That’s an adjustment and it’s okay if I don’t meet all of my expectations immediately. I’m trying my best to be productive in a crazy time.
Second, use this experience as a laboratory. What happens if I do the reading in the morning? What happens if I read with a full stomach? What happens if I go for a walk instead of napping? What happens if I read outside? Use your imagination to find which methods of working fit with your mind and body. If at first you don’t succeed, try another way.
I don’t know about you, but it took me a while to get adjusted to a routine at college and again a while to get adjusted when I moved to New Orleans.
We’re adjusting again. It’s okay if it doesn’t come easily at first.
Kristina Meyer currently works at Eden House in New Orleans, LA. She earned a B.A. in Religious Studies from Elon University ('19). As an Honors Fellow and a member of the inaugural cohort of Multi-faith Scholars, she conducted a multi- year research project on faith-based community organizing. Kristina is completing a year of service with Eden House as a member of the Young Adult Volunteer Program with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A). Afterwards, she would like to earn a Master’s of Divinity to become a higher-education chaplain. In her spare time, Kristina likes to dance to relieve stress.