NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – Even more adults will be working from home after the executive order Gov. Phil Murphy signed Saturday.
Aside from the few businesses deemed essential, such as gas stations, supermarkets and pharmacies, all others have been instructed to close and their employees should work from home where possible.
Thousands of moms and dads across the state will now be sharing the home office with their children, whose schools, colleges and universities were ordered closed last Monday.
Murphy has repeatedly said that social distancing is the best tool officials have to combat the spread of coronavirus COVID-19.
And while health experts hope the moves ultimately save lives, the sudden changes to life as we knew it in New Jersey come at a cost, said Sharon Coyle Saeed, a licensed social worker who also runs a grief counseling group at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital.
“A lot of people are working remotely and lose that routine of just getting up taking a shower, having breakfast and going to work getting on the Garden State Parkway or wherever,” she said.
Saeed said that while people across the state and beyond continue to monitor themselves for fever, coughing and other signs of COVID-19, they may also want to tend to their mental health.
“Changing routines and spending a lot of time indoors may not seem like a big deal in the scheme of things,” she said, “but if you don’t address the grief which is what this process is, it may manifest itself in different ways. And a lot of times unfortunately, if we don't have some adaptive skills such as mindfulness and breathing and exercise, sometimes it can manifest into maladaptive coping mechanisms like sleeping too much, overeating, depression, anxiety, substance abuse and other things.”
Saeed said these tips may help adults and children who will be spending more time at home and less time at work or school.
“I'm working remotely from home now. They sent me home on Monday and on Tuesday, I set up my desk in the basement. I kind of even made it look similar to my cubicle, and I got up, I took a shower, got dressed, got ready and sat down at 8:30 a.m. and started to work.”
“Creating a structure creates a sense of safety and control in an environment where there is no safety and we don't feel in control and there’s a lot of uncertainty. So, it creates a safe space.”
Honor when you need space
“That’s really important because, you ever hear of cabin fever? It's kind of like that. So, we have to honor the space between us. But then also don't be so distant that you don't have meals together, share thoughts together.”
TV in moderation
“People are relying on the TV, that's great. But, take those moments to turn the TV off. Maybe just play a game of Uno, turn up the music, dance around like you're silly. I am finding walking to be very therapeutic.“
Reach out to a professional
“If you are living alone, reach out. Gov. Phil Murphy just passed a bill requiring health insurance and Medicaid coverage for telemedicine and telehealth care during the COVID-19 state of emergency. So, reach out to a counselor. And if you see a counselor, ask about telehealth, and continue your care.”
Reach out to friends
“I believe that reaching out to friends can definitely help with the isolation. But you can guide that conversation. I called a friend the other day, and I said to her, ‘Hi, how you doing?’ We kind of addressed what was going on, and then it was like, ‘Le's not talk about COVID-19.’ Sometimes we have to bring it up, but sometimes, let's discuss other things.”
“Use the time to reframe things. Instead of feeling, “Oh, no, I’m under this house arrest,” reframe it to say, “Wow, this is an opportunity to reflect on my life and also perhaps do my spring cleaning early, declutter. Reconnect with my family, reconnect with your children. What music are they listening to? Who are their friends? Brush off those board games. Break out a deck of cards. Teach them how to cook.”
Be mindful of how you talk to your kids
“COVID-19 is a serious thing and these are extraordinary times. So bring it up, get it out there. How are you feeling about this? This must be really scary for you. Would you like to talk about it? You can have those conversations. Somehow, it helps to alleviate a little bit of the stress and diffuse that a little bit by holding space for that person to voice their fears.”
“Especially when you're dealing with children in the home, also consider how you’re dealing with things. Kids watch what we do and learn what we do, how are we dealing with the corona virus pandemic, is how they will deal with it. Be reassuring and remember, when it comes to the kids, if mom’s scared, I’m scared.”
Do some journaling
“Think about keeping a blog or if you want to, just get unplugged and get a notebook. Start writing out your thoughts, your feelings.”
“What we are feeling is a natural reaction to loss. This is a loss of structure to the day, loss of safety in our environment and a loss of safety in our bodies and with each other. Honor that feeling and that is the first step to processing it.”