Recharging Your Space Mentally and Physically
By Boyuan Gao
I really hate this idea of the “new normal”. It assumes that we were all settled into a mutual agreement about how things were working in the first place, and have now shifted into another mutually agreed-upon set of conditions. That’s in complete opposition to how I’m experiencing this – which is that new expectations are being created each and every single day of this pandemic due to our new remote reality. There’s no settling. We’re being hurriedly rushed into new expectations every day, and one of those expectations is just keeping up with new expectations.
The New Normal
Several weeks ago, everybody was leading online webinars on how to do remote work better. Now that remote working is the “new normal”, and we’ve oversaturated that topic, it’s onto the next thing. Get with the program! That can lead to crazy-making, and Zoom-fatigue, which is now officially a real-ass thing, because of science. With our now digital lives ever-accelerating, so are our burnout rates, and that ain’t cute.
If you find yourself precariously balancing the line of extreme productivity and burnout, unless you create an intervention now, burnout will undoubtedly win. So how do you get ahead of this? Or if you’ve already reached burnout, how do you course correct?
Let’s talk about recharging both our mental and physical space in 5 parts. This week we’re kicking off one doable/tangible/simple daily task that will help you with personal boundary-making. Try these on, and we promise you’ll see results. Check-in with us on IG this week for a new drop each day. You’ll be happy you did it!
Day 1 – Reclaim Your Workspace
Not all work is deep work. Most work that a busy modern person is doing is busy work. Emailing, while filing your nails, while texting a colleague, while writing a report is not conducive to deep thinking and flow happening. It also mixes up personal time with work time. As Cal Newport, author of Deep Work writes, “Deep work is the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task.” This is tricky as hell when there’s suddenly no distinction between your place of work and your personal space.
Let’s create a sacred space for deep work:
- Designate an area. No matter the size, this will now be designated as the only space where you do this type of deep thinking related work. For me, it’s the corner left wall in my bedroom where I’ve propped up a tiny desk. My desk is the only place that I write or do tasks that require deep thinking, like strategy or anything high-level organizational tasks.
- Label this YOUR space. Part of creating this sacred workspace is to indicate it as such. Create a sign above it, or decorate it if that helps you make the mental shift on how to relate to this space.
- Create some rules for yourself. No clutter in your workspace. Have it as bare as possible with only the tools that you need to get this type of work done. For me, I have a few candles, and reference books that I need for inspiration.
- Make sure that everyone knows. If you are living with roommates, a partner, or family, let them know that this space is off-limits to them.
- Actually use it. The most important step is to make sure that you are only doing the designated tasks for this space, in the space.
Day 2 – Marie Kondo-ing Your Clutter
A cluttered space is a cluttered mind. Whether you’re a Marie Kondo evangelist or a feng shui enthusiast, you’ll understand the general idea that energy flow in space is the set up for good mental health and well-being. If you’ve got a mound of clothes on the floor, piled up dirty dishes with the food still caked onto them, and lots of mail yet to be opened or filed away, it’s safe to say that you’re probably dealing with some sense of overwhelm, which has led to furthered procrastination.
Though that’s common, especially if you’re cooped up at home for months during a pandemic, you can cut yourself some slack. Forgive yourself first, but also get yourself mentally ready to start taking care of this unmanageability. Because trust me, it will only become more unmanageable. You do not have to get to that point! Also decluttering can be annoyingly stressful as hell – add a drop of CHILL or two before you take on the task of figuring out which item still brings you joy.
Let’s Marie Kondo-lite in this one day challenge:
- Create a list. This list will be all the areas that you desire to reorg or declutter in the form of a checklist.
- Pick just one thing to tackle. Part of overwhelm is the pressure of feeling like everything needs to be addressed all at once. It doesn’t, and also, you can’t. Pick the one area that is most low-hanging-fruit for you, and commit to completing it today. For me, I’m going to reorganize my socks and underwear in the right drawers. Currently, it’s all jumbled and mixed up together, my bras are squished and mangled, and it’s driving me a little bit nuts. All I’m going to do today is to reorg this: throw out holey socks, refold everything. BAM, a little bit more mental bandwidth as a result.
- Check that bad boy off on your to-do list, and pat yourself on the back. A little sense of completion goes a long way.
Day 3 – Taking Stock of What Matters Most
We give attention to what we value. If you look at your bank statement from the past few cycles, your browser history from April, the material possessions in your home, you’ll get the real raw truth of what you have been valuing lately vs. what you’re curating on IG. That may very well be why I never want to look at these things. It’s too confronting. But it can also be very illuminating and helpful. I already know that watching dozens of hours of “Married at First Sight” and purchasing a used designer sweatshirt on Poshmark is not very aligned with what I value at this time.
I’d like for folks to think that I’m contributing my limited funds to healthcare workers, and spending my time researching organizations to volunteer. However, that’s not what the majority of my time and money is being used for. That doesn’t feel great to admit, but I can be real with myself. Now seeing the real data gives me an objective look at the gap between what I want to be doing, and what I am doing, and that’s very powerful. It readjusts my focus and puts me on the right path.
- Write down your top 3 values.
- Write down the top 3 issues/topics that mean the most to you.
- Take inventory. Choose your bank statement, your web browser history, or take a look at your physical space (or do all if you’re bold). Are your activities aligned with values and topics that you care most about? Write down how they are or how they are not
- Identify the gap. If you are aligned keep going! If not, make note of what the gap is, and commit to only one action today that closes that gap.
- Don’t just think about it, now take that action!
Day 4 – Stimulating the Senses
Part of going against the mad rush to nowhere, which is what sped up work looks like during the pandemic, is to create some rituals that will help you center, slow down, and really align with what is most meaningful (see the previous challenges). A great way to do that is by creating a 3-dimensional environment that honors all of your senses, not just over-indexing on the cognitive ones. Being on screens for 16 hours a day will most definitely have unwanted and unforeseen consequences, so how can we begin to balance our mind, body, and spirit? Aromatherapy is a simple and accessible option.
Aromatherapy isn’t just about nice smells but can be traced to Chinese and Indian medicinal systems from thousands of years ago as treatments to heal all types of physical and mental ailments. That lineage is finding a resurgence today, and surfacing into popular culture. There are wonderful aromatherapists who can provide consults, assess your imbalances, and create concoctions that are unique to your needs. In the absence of that, one of the most commonplace and accessible ways to begin using aromatherapy is through a diffuser, aromatic spritzers, or bathing salts.
Here’s all you need to get started:
- Locate what you are looking to balance. Are you feeling anxious, low energy, sad? Look up what aromatherapy oils and scents best address them.
- Find an ethical and quality supplier. Here is a site with one of my personal favorite essential oil brands. A little goes a long way, and just like anything, the quality, and source of the product matter.
- Get the tools. A simple oil diffuser or a steam-based electric diffuser will do the trick. But here are many other ways you can use them.
Day 5 – Beautifying Your Space for Free
It’s important that we’re living and working in environments that are soothing and supportive of our wellbeing. That includes making your space aesthetically pleasing to you otherwise you’re probably going to experience some spiritual or emotional dissonance. It’s not just about pretty for pretty’s sake, but what a beautified space does for your spirit. You can seriously do this all for meager cost or no cost with what you already have. Since earlier in the challenge, you’ve already done some decluttering and tidying up, now’s time to also spruce up:
- Rearrange your space. Making some small adjustments to where things are will make a big difference. At the very base, play around with repositioning things. This doesn’t have to include big-ticket items like furniture, but even shifting where your books are, where your plants are sitting, will create tectonic shifts.
- Repurpose items. Now’s not the time to go to TJ Maxx and pick up a household and decorative items, but it’s likely that you have things in your house that can be repurposed. Find an old picture frame, and refresh the image in it. Reorganize the bulk items in your kitchen into mason jars that you have lying around. Find a shoebox and cut it so it’s only a few inches deep, and reorganize your unruly makeup bag into it, and place it on top of your dresser.
- Make it all pretty. It’s all about the finishing touches. Do you have a bunch of candles, palo santo, or sage sticks sitting around in all corners of the house? Let’s put intention into where things are placed. I found an unused tray and placed my crystal collection on top of it, and now it’s looking pretty damn official.
Maybe you have an unused mug that you can put all of your makeup brushes, eyeliners, and mascara inside of. Maybe there are postcards wedged in your filing cabinet that can actually be decorated around your vanity mirror? Perhaps a dedicated wall by your sacred workspace for inspiration.