how do you turn off a crisis management mindset after finishing work each day?

A reader writes:

I am a manager deemed an “essential personnel” and have a lot of responsibility for other people. With crushingly short notice, I put together office sanitization routines, created and mandated a teleworking system for my entire group, created workflows that accommodate flexible schedules due to school closings and the like, solved logistic problems created by the sudden switch to teleworking, etc. When I say short notice, I mean having to swap from a decades-old entrenched physical paper system to a software and workflow-driven paperless system in a matter of **days**.

I think I’ve done a bang-up job at work. I have gotten supportive feedback from my boss and my staff. The problem is that I can’t get crisis response mode turned off when I am done with work each day, so it is almost impossible to do anything with my time that isn’t planning, preparation, or panic.

For example, my sister said she couldn’t find bleach so I searched online until I found some to ship to her at retail price. I spent hours figuring out and finding substitutes for items in short supply – specific concentrates of dish soap in water as a bleach alternative, what to use instead of butter in recipes, for example. I’ve catalogued various surfaces in my house that are touched frequently and added them to a daily cleaning routine. I washed and dried my shoes. I came up with a routine for how to/in what order to remove clothing and wash when returning home from a public space to minimize likelihood of virus transfer.

I have undergone a mind-bogglingly intense week setting up these procedures, keeping work moving under the new system, putting out fires as they pop up, and doing my best to ensure the physical and emotional health of my team during the COVID-19 crisis… but now I am stuck in crisis management mode every waking moment. I can’t stop. I can’t relax. Have I done enough for myself, my family, and my staff?

Do you have any suggestions on how I can wind down and turn off my crisis management mindset after finishing work each day?

There will always be more you can do, but if you use that as your measure of how much you should be doing, at some point you will burn out and be able to do nothing at all.

Any chance you’ve seen this trait in yourself before — do you deal with stress by Doing All The Things and does it distract you from from anxiety or other emotions you’d be feeling right now? There’s nothing wrong with using intense preparation and activity to soothe the nerves everyone’s having right now, but you also have to recognize when it’s no longer serving you  — and it sounds like you’re at that point.

It’s the weekend. Take the day off. Read a book. Binge watch Netflix. Take a walk. Nap. You’re allowed to take time off from thinking about what’s going on.

Do the same things tomorrow after work. Being “on this” doesn’t mean you have to be on it 24 hours a day.

The whole point of the preparations you’re making is to carve out some space that we can relax and live in. Let yourself do that.

Life is still here. It’s weird and it’s different and it’s stressful. But you still get to have space for normalcy.

{ 106 comments… read them below }

  1. Nobby Nobbs*

    In the longer term, this is probably the situation for an end-of-workday ritual, to help you draw a mental line between “work” and “not work.” Changing from work clothes to home clothes is pretty standard advice, but the rest is up to you. Bubble bath? Take a walk (far away from people)? Watch the Dumbest Possible TV Show With No Redeeming Social Value Whatsoever? A special snack? Use your brain’s tendency to form habits to get into the habit of breaking this mental loop.

    1. Laurie*

      I’ve turned my dining room into my new office and find that doing things such as closing the blinds in the dining room at the end of the day (to symbolize closing the office) and going out for a walk at the immediate end of the work day help a lot for me. I too am a “helper” but one of the lessons I have learned over time is that you cannot help others if you do not take care of yourself first. This will look different for each individual, but think back on the things that would give you peace or distance before this time of crisis evolved. Try to integrate some of those at the end of the day. You and your well-being are 100% worth it.

      1. Kristine Lynne*

        Oh my gosh, I said that to my state’s governor the other day! I told her that if she doesn’t take care of herself, she can’t take care of us.

    2. Abogado Avocado*

      Love the idea of a ritual!

      I am on a response team, too, and it’s go-go-go dawn to dusk. So, I make myself go for a walk (with social distancing) and command myself to notice nature, even though I live in a city. At the risk of boring you all to death, I was amazed at what I saw last evening as the light was leaving the sky: an agave in glorious bloom with no one around to see it, a screech owl perched a telephone wire, and a possum on a tree branch, apparently waiting for dark to fall.

      It only took 30 minutes, but I felt so much better I actually slept last night.

      1. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

        If possible, walk. I can’t emphasize that enough now. Gyms are closed, no massages or pedicures. Put on a pair of comfortable shoes, dress for the weather and walk even for 15 minutes. I walked today for an hour and the stress release was wonderful. I saw robins and for an hour I was able to forget about the world.

        1. Jackalope*

          Biking is another good physical outlet right now if it’s an option for you, and just by the nature of the exercise itself you will almost certainly remain 6+ feet from all other humans without even trying. A longish bike ride was what got me my first real night’s sleep in a couple of weeks.

        2. TechWorker*

          Try to walk somewhere near to you or somewhere off the beaten track.. there’s been problems near me where literally hundreds of people decide to go for a walk in the known ‘nice walking spots’ making them about as busy as a holiday and therefore useless for social distancing!

      2. MiddleCottage*

        This is an excellent ritual. I live in the countryside and a walk in nature always seems to melt the day away.

      3. Ace in the hole*

        Yes, this is key.

        I have a decontamination routine after work (very dirty job), and I view it as mental decon as well. I don’t want to bring work stress into my house any more than I would bring other contaminants. My personal routine is to wrap up the last of my “work ideas” during my walk home, immediately shower and change clothes, spend a few minutes talking with my family about how the day went, and then take 15 minutes by myself to read a book or listen to music while petting the cat.

    3. Oxford Comma*

      I think this is a fantastic idea. I need to figure out a ritual like this or a better routine. Or both.

    4. Alan*

      This is great advice.
      I definitely don’t have as much responsibility as the OP but as someone not used to working from home I have struggled to switch off from my job. I normally walk to and from my job and the walk has always been just what I need to switch off. I need to find a new routine that achieves the same goal.

      1. Phoenix*

        Can you still go out for a walk, even if the start and end point are both your house? Taking a walk outside is safe as long as you keep the recommended distance from other people.

    5. Why isn’t it Friday?*

      “Watch the Dumbest Possible TV Show With No Redeeming Social Value Whatsoever?”

      Yes x 10 to this piece of advice. It’s what’s getting me through. OP, I recommend watching Love is Blind if you have Netflix. It’s awful and dumb, but I end up thinking about why I hate Amber (one of the contestants) so much and who’s going to make it as a couple instead of the covid situation. It’s a good, mindless break.

    6. WantonSeedStitch*

      This always makes me think of Mr. Rogers, swapping out his work shoes for sneakers when the show starts! This is good advice. For myself, I take a walk and catch a few Pokemon, then come back home and start puttering around the kitchen, even if it’s too early to start making dinner, because when I’m in the kitchen I’m HOME, not at work, and my subconscious mind knows it!

    7. 404UsernameNotFound*

      This. I walk for half an hour at least twice a day (to simulate the non-sitting bit of my commute) and it has been a sanity and possibly lifesaver. I’ve also moved my personal laptop to my bedroom – NOT ideal, but I lived in a tiny house before it was cool and it helps demarcate work and personal time.

  2. Elle*

    I think we are going to see a lot of this, right now. 24/7 crisis reporting isn’t helping! I know I’m finding it hard to step away from my desk at the end of the day, since there is no external stimulus (bus times, co-workers leaving, after work plans) to make me stop. After I do stop work, i find myself worrying about all sorts of things to do with the crisis. I suspect that for many of us the problem is that we can’t currently control much in our lives, so we focus on controlling what we can.

  3. Bookworm*

    First off: good for you for managing to throw this all together in a matter of days. Your employees, workplace, clients, partners, etc. all probably appreciate this more than you realize.

    Agree with Alison: find whatever it is to help you blow steam and rest. A good workout, video games, binge watching, binge reading, turning off your devices (if you can), etc. It’s tough since we don’t have much of a choice on outside activities but perhaps pursing a new hobby that you’ve always wanted to try might help?

    Good luck.

    1. Jackalope*

      Also, can you find a way to safely do something social? I’m having a virtual game night tomorrow with friends, for example, which I’m really looking forward to. Can you do something like that and maybe make a time about no virus talk or something?

      1. College Career Counselor*

        Last Friday, we did a video happy hour with friends 400 miles away in another city. I don’t recommend doing that EVERY night, but it was a really nice way to connect with people and catch up with them socially that we wouldn’t have done otherwise. It was better to see their faces and have a real time conversation, rather than just text or email. TL;DR: Virtual Happy Hour was a nice break from all coronavirus all the time and a re-set for heading into the weekend.

    1. MiddleCottage*

      Being gentle with yourself is is so key. It is easy to spiral with, “i need to do this”, “I need to not think i need to do this”, “what is wrong with me that I can’t stop thinking I need to do this” style beating yourself up.

  4. Rosalita*

    When I come home i have a routine and its important. Its an off switch to stop the anxiety from a super stressful job. I come in. I put my stuff down. Scratch the dog under her chin. Empty my lunch bag. Grab the dog leash and walk her. The last part is super important. I channel my energy into walking the dog because she need the exercise and I need a distraction. So we walk and we walk and we walk til the anxiety switches off or I feel it ebbing. I go hone put my pajamas on and make dinner. Then I can relax and I cant relax until then.

  5. Soupspoon McGee*

    I’m having the same problem disengaging. I work in healthcare with immunocompromised patients. We’ve transitioned to telehealth visits but still need to treat people in clinic. Our phones are flooded with panicked calls from patients. My boss and I are constantly reading updates about COVID-19, medications, and how it affects our patients. I feel like I can’t afford to take a break.

    1. Princesa Zelda*


      If it helps, think about it this way: You can’t afford to NOT take a break. If you burn your candle at both ends, your wick will disappear and your wax will all drip away and you won’t be able to provide light to anyone, including your patients. If you are exhausted, you don’t think as well and you aren’t going to be on the top of your game. Even in a pandemic you still work a shift, right? When you clock out, seriously clock out, do your standard routine, and try to refresh yourself. If you can’t do it for yourself, then maybe you’ll be able to do it for your patients. A well-rested healthcare provider is the best kind.

    2. Wintermute*

      The way I always saw it, when I had a more health-and-safety critical job (though now I’m in insurance, mostly life and property but some health and we’re pretty busy right now) was “I can’t afford NOT to take a break”. Yes there’s a hurricane, yes it’s slamming our communication system. But if I drive myself to the point of severe fatigue, task loading oversaturation, or information saturation, I am less than useless I am dangerous. I will make mistakes, I will miss things.

      Viewing self-care as a critical part of the safety chain is a useful mindset to have. Being informed is good, being rested is also important.

      Now, our health care system does a really, really poor job of acknowledging the dangers of all of these things (especially task loading and fatigue), but acknowledging in your own mind they exist and giving yourself mental permission to sit down and take a breath, especially when you’re not on-duty, is utterly vital.

    3. Carlie*

      You can’t function properly if you aren’t getting rest. Think of it as part of your job – you must do it to work well.

      My job isn’t anything important in the way yours is, but I also have trouble turning it off. I’ve had a little success with reframing rest as a job duty. When my mind is racing with work late at night I tell myself “My only job right now is to sleep. If I sleep now I will be able to deal with (problems) in the morning.” I can’t stomach being “nice to myself” when I feel like other people are depending on me, but if I think of it as doing something that will make me do my job better, my brain lets me rest.

      All the best to you and your coworkers.

  6. PromotionalKittenBasket*

    Along with end of day rituals, it might be worth talking to a therapist or counselor; I’ve had similar behavior patterns in the past when my GAD was less controlled. Since almost everyone is feeling really anxious, it makes sense that a lot of folks are engaging in new coping mechanisms and behaviors that aren’t necessarily helpful.

    Be kind to yourself! It’s a different world right now.

    1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

      Seconded! I’m in Europe and all the stress has overtriggered my anxiety and I’m definitely operating at ALL or nothing right now and it ain’t good. But my family and I have made it a goal to have fun together. That designated time is healthy for all of us. The Netflix party extension on chrome let’s you all watch the same show together and chat (when you’re far away) and my husband and I play a lot of cards now and games requiring intense concentration. I’ve done six sudokus a night just to calm down. We’re all there!

  7. Indie*

    Sometimes I have the feeling that people don’t understand how much stress the current situation causes to people who are already struggling with anxiety. In my case I go to work to get distracted. For 8 hours a day I sit on my couch and bang on the keyboard (software developer with an amaizng WFH policy). I am lucky that when I’m working, a focus completely on what’s in front of me and nothing can distract me. When the workday is over though I fall in the exact same vortex of constant worry. Compulsively cleaning every single surface I can think of. Washing clothes 2 times on extra hot (even though I know they will be ruined after a couple more cycles like that). Washing hands every 1/2 h, just to be sure. At the end of the day I am so exhausted that my last thought is “I can’t wait to start work tomorrow”. I can’t even imagine THAT being my job and just keep doing it over and over every single waking moment. And for someone that has never experienced this it seems easy – just relax, life keeps going on. But you see, for that person (just like me) it’s not. I think that OP really needs some serious support, someone to help them get through this. Because once you’ve fallen in this vortex, you need all the help you can get to pull you out of it.
    Here in Quebec, Canada, there is an open line (211) where you can call with any psychological questions and they will try their best to help. If you don’t have a support network, try to find out if you have a similar resource where you live. Try to find online activities with like-minded people (excluding watching news). But find someone to talk to. Best of luck!

    1. CleverClara*

      Thank you for this, Indie. I’ve been feeling lately like I have to hide my true feelings, and reading this helps! I am unlike you in that I have had a really tough time trying to concentrate on work and trying to maintain professionalism when I was already struggling with not liking my work anyway. Having video calls with friends who raise their eyebrows and say “oh, work is going great for me, what’s the deal, do you have anxiety?” And then being perplexed by people I have known for more than 15 years not knowing that yes, I’m an anxious person, how have you not seen that?? I have a good support system other than the Raised Eyebrow Gang though and second the suggestion of looking into telephone and video mental health services (fellow Canadian too, hi from BC!) . My insurance benefits offer this. I get regular counselling anyway and I strongly encourage EVERYONE to look for and ask for help.

      1. Indie*

        BC is taking the biggest hit so far, no wonder you are more anxious. At some point today I’ve had enough and started calling everyone. Spoke to my sister back in Europe, called some friends I haven’t heard in a while. I only wanted to know they are alright. I know I can’t do anything for them right now, but not knowing was killing me. I can’t describe the relief after I heard their voices. They are OK, they are staying home, everything is going to be fine. I may not feel that way in a few hours, but for now this is enough. Call up your family and friends to hear their voices, they probably want to hear yours as well.

    2. Marillenbaum*

      Also struggling with a lot of anxiety here, especially as someone who works in a developing country where the local capacity to respond to this is going to be…tough. Right now, my plans are to continue working from home (I’m fortunate that I can), sleeping with my weighted blanket/forcing myself to be really good about my sleep hygiene, adding in an extra guided meditation and trying to get myself on the yoga mat daily–I genuinely hate having to do it, but unfortunately I feel so much better afterwards (especially compared to other exercise) that I just have to make myself. Good luck.

  8. West Coast Reader*

    See “taking a break” as part of your job description. You have to stay healthy and on top of your game to help as many people as possible.

    Anything that you will do to serve that purpose, like making a good meal, sleeping, resting ARE a part of your job. In fact, they are more important than ever.

    Best wishes and lots of virtual hugs to you and your colleagues!

    1. Batty Twerp*

      If it helps to fit it in to your current mindset, “plan” your relaxation. Put something in an online calendar: “7pm, read trashy novel in the bath. 8pm, organise bad karaoke session in the garden with neighbours (observing social distancing).” Make it fun (or silly) enough to distract your mind. Rope in others (like your sister) to help.

      The world isn’t on your shoulders. It’s okay to let others help with the load (/hypocrisy, because I could do with taking my own advice here!)

  9. lobsterp0t*

    Repeat after me

    I am home.

    I am safe right now.

    I have taken every reasonable step to limit the spread.

    I do not need to think about this now.

    This can be tomorrow’s problem.

    What do I need right now?

    Consider that you might need:
    A pet cuddle
    A partner cuddle
    A bit of chill – repot your plants? Yoga? Meditation? Take your meds? Drink some water? Belly breathing? Do 100 squats? Have a dance party in your sock feet like Kevin Bacon?
    An open window?
    Listen to the dawn chorus (which if you live in a city you can probably now hear)?
    Stand barefoot on some grass?

    1. Nesprin*

      My grandmother had an anxiety journal. When she woke up at 3am and started worrying about something, she wrote it down to worry about tomorrow morning, closed the book and went back to sleep. She was far wiser than I am.

    2. Glitsy Gus*

      I have a meditation app on my phone and when I have a hard time shifting gears I’ll find a quiet corner and do a 10-15 minute guided meditation. Sometimes I’ll do one specifically for anxiety, but a lot of the time a general mindfulness one does the job nicely. It’s a good way for me to just stop and break the working-mind cycle so I can mellow out a bit in the evening.

  10. Mystery Bookworm*

    Perhaps not a long-term solution, but one thing my S.O. has found helpful when he struggles to ‘turn off’ is to re-frame self-care as an act of care for others. Reminding himself that he’ll be a nicer, calmer, more enjoyable colleague and family member if he’s well-rested can be motivating in a way that doing it for himself isn’t always. And that if he’s anxious and frantic, his loved ones will worry about him.

    I also can’t recommend sleep highly enough. I realise that not everyone is in a position to get a full eight hours, but if you’re able to prioritize it – DO!!

    1. NeonFireworks*

      I work in a fast-paced, high-stress field (I love it, but it’s not easy), and this is what helps me too. I got close to burnout once and thought about quitting, in which case I wouldn’t have been able to do *any* of this work.

  11. Eleanor Shellstrop*

    So I am in a very similar situation. I work in risk in a department that looks after health and safety and facilities for a company in an industry which is deemed an essential service (sorry for lack of specificity!) It’s exhausting. I have calls up to 3 X a day just to get updates about Coronavirus in my country. All my BAU work unless required by regulators is on pause (but not going anywhere!).

    I have had to self impose a ban on checking covid-19 news outside of work hours. I am getting 40+ hours of news a week in my job, I am plenty updated. I need a break otherwise

  12. Listmaker General*

    First-you are a superhero doing super-heroic stuff. You’ve done an amazing job.

    Second-the other commenters are right—you are probably going to have a hard time shifting out of superhero mode if this is your default crisis management/anxiety position.

    Third-it might be that the gear shifting type advice might not be enough for you. I respond to crisis similarly and need task- or goal-oriented diversions to truly shift gears. Right now I’m working on walking my dog on 100% of the streets in my town. I track my mileage @ progress on Strava which sends the data to a website called Citystrides ( When I got fired a couple of years ago I started doing this (before the dog) and the quantifiable and visually trackable goal was enough to help me shift from “I need to make lists of all my lists” level anxiety to a more manageable mindset.

    1. MayLou*

      That’s a good idea! I have started (re)learning French on Duolingo and was already almost 1/4 of the way through my goal to read 100 books borrowed from the library in 2020. Thankfully my library has a good selection of ebooks so I can carry on with that. Today I did my first Down Dog yoga practice. Having more productive, less virus-related things to do on my phone in spare moments has massively helped me avoid obsessing over the news. Taking my dog for a walk is also a huge help, although I haven’t set a goal for that. I do have a step counter though, and that’s a good prompt.

  13. NYWeasel*

    I have this challenge in the best of times (I manage project managers, so the bulk of my time is addressing the escalations on their projects), and of course now it’s gone completely chaotic. And as a PM at heart, my life is assessing potential risks and then planning mitigation for them, so in a world where everything could be a potential risk, it’s super hard to disconnect from trying to solve all the problems.

    My first tip is to start considering a lack of downtime as a critical risk for your ability to respond to emergencies as well as to maintaining a strong immune system. Once you frame it like that, you are actually being responsible for shutting down the electronics and vegging out for a bit.

    My second tip is to partner with someone else at work to monitor during “off hours”. We set up an email chain for our team so they can let us know about critical problems quickly. There are 5 LT members on the chain, so we can take turns keeping an eye on it. Getting freedom to step back from the “official” responsibilities will help with allowing yourself to relax in your private life.

    Third tip is to allow the system you’ve set up in your personal life time to get up to speed. I bought about a month’s worth of groceries, had my husband get more, and yet I’m still feeling an urge to go buy more. I’m working on being comfortable that I thought through these contingencies already, and I can sit tight for a week or two to see what I actually need vs what my panic brain is trying to get me to overbuy on.

    And when it comes to others, you need to sometimes step back and let them figure it out. My parents are 86 years old and super at risk. I want them to sit inside and avoid all of humanity for the next few months. They are thankfully taking it more seriously now, but for awhile they were willing to keep going to church and the senior center bc they felt like they already spend every day at risk of dying of something or other, so why worry if it’s this instead of something else? And I realized that I couldn’t force them to share my urgency bc they weren’t in the same situation as I am. If your sister can’t find bleach today, she has the same options you had for finding it. I’m sure it was a rewarding feeling helping her out in a pinch, and if you are feeling on top of everything I’d say to keep doing it. But if you are stressing yourself out, share the process with her rather than do it for her. (“Try these sites instead of Amazon…”)

  14. Not a hippy*

    I am a disaster responder, and I 100% get this. While not really into meditation, I highly recommend the Smiling Mind app (it’s free!). In particular there’s a session which is designed to switch your mind from “doing” mode to “being” mode.

    1. Still not a hippy*

      I just double-checked at the specific session is called Switch Off and is nested under the 21 Day Sleep Program.

  15. JOANN S*

    I too suffer from the savior complex to help every one by looking up and researching their needs . What i have found out is don’t bother . Many people think out loud about what they want or need but dont really mean it , Once you give them thee info, they have no recollection of asking you to help!

  16. JSPA*

    If none of the “how to not burn out” gets through, and you do go non-stop until you crash: don’t compound that by hating on yourself for crashing.

    Sometimes you reach the point where you can’t cut in on a feedback loop (biologically speaking).

    Maybe you crash at an inconvenient time. Maybe you fall asleep under your desk, or need a couple of days off unexpectedly, mid-week, and you spend them, semi-comatose, staring at the ceiling, trying to muster the energy to make it to the bathroom (good reason to have a cup by the sink and a box of crackers by the bed). Maybe when the fog starts to lift, you make use of the telework protocols you set up, and do a few half-days, until your head stops buzzing and your eyes focus.

    You do not lose the right (or escape the occasional need) to be sick, to burn out, or otherwise be human / a biological organism, when you’ve been deemed “essential.”

  17. Sleepless*

    First of all: You are amazing. I hope your coworkers know what an incredible thing you have accomplished.

    Second of all: I have a lot of right-this-moment responsibility at work too (normally). It’s one reason I am actually thankful that I have a 30 minute commute. I use that time to shift gears. I often spend the first half of my drive home re-hashing crises from the day, then I realize I’m doing it, and do some combination of mindfulness/loud rap music/thinking calm thoughts about home for the rest of the drive.

  18. Brett*

    I used to work in emergency management and I found a few things were very important for avoiding the crisis mindset.

    First, separate your spaces. We always ate in the cafeteria and break rooms, not in the operations center. We ate as small groups, and enjoyed the food and turned off the job while we ate. I also had a separate desk for “work work” as opposed to “disaster response work”. Work work might still be for the disaster (eg I did flood modeling in my work work space), but I was doing it on my own, no extra communication, as if it was a normal work day, not at an ops floor table where logistics responses, action plans, etc are flying in and out of my hands and I am constantly communicating.

    Have a response plan. We called this an Incident Action Plan, and a large part of our job was drawing up the daily plan for the next day for everyone else. This was our goals, timeline, events that needed to happen and when they needed to happen. This can help you do just what needs to be done, and take breaks when nothing is pressing.

    Take planned breaks. This goes with separate spaces and should be schedule events in your plan. I worked 20 on 4 off during major floods, and not only was my 4 off sacrosanct, but my 4 meal breaks were always in a separate space and untouchable, and my work work “breaks” (more like normalcy moments) were behind a locked door as well as untouchable.

    Slack off. When I was doing 20 on shifts, I played a ton of phone games. I browsed a lot of silly websites that had absolutely nothing to do with the crisis at hand (hard to do now I know). We would put TV shows up on the big view screen in the op center. Slacking off kept the tension low when it did not need to be high.

    When I saw these things above break down, and I did see them break down in certain responses, we operated much worse as a group. Keeping these in place kept us in better health and vastly improved our performance.

  19. Rena*

    A bit out of the box, but I’d seriously suggest investing in a Nintendo Switch (or Switch Lite) and the new Animal Crossing: New Horizons game. Yes, even if you’ve never played a video game before, it appeals to all types – I just got my 60-year-old “hasn’t played a video game since the NES” friend completely hooked.

    It’s very intuitive and happy and peaceful. You run around a deserted island with waves and a soft breeze collecting shells and flowers and fruit and slowly building a village and decorating your house. It gives you an escape to a happy and calm place, while still giving you a place to channel your need to check things off a list and feel productive. Collect 5 shells and get a reward? I can do that! There’s no wrong way to play, and there’s something new to discover every day.

    1. Avasarala*

      I agree completely. It has just enough treadmill mechanics that you feel like you’re always doing something and making progress, but that progress is “maybe I’ll pick some fruit”. It’s very easy to get into that “flow” and kind of helps the anxious mind by letting it focus on the different tasks instead of the thing you’re trying to avoid.

    2. MassMatt*

      I’m sure it’s great, and do what works for you, but IMO Promoting a specific game and game system seems out of place here, especially in this context.

      1. Arts Akimbo*

        I disagree that this is out of place. We all recommend our unwinding methods to others at times like this, and some of those are platform-specific. We have a gaming thread in the Saturday post almost every week in which we talk about the specific games we’re playing which de-stress us. To me this seems like just an extension of that.

        1. CaVanaMana*

          Yea, it isn’t as if the poster is actually working for Nintendo….or are they? I definitely don’t and I’m not really a gamer but breath of the wild gets a recommendation from me for providing an escape.

          1. Chinook*

            Plus it is hard to find a good, relaxing game. They get lost in the noise of the shoot ’em ups and game reviewers don’t enjoy them because they are not designed for the stereotypical gamer.

            On that note, if you are looking for a relaxing game to play with someone who is in the same home as you, you can’t go wrong with the Lego series. It is cooperative but you can switch to one person on the fly (say while someone goes to get popcorn) and the violnce is literally destroying lego pieces (lik a toddler going nuts on a block tower).

  20. Cordoba*

    I found it tricky to handle the constant drumbeat of news; it’s easy to keep plugged into it and never get a break from wall-to-wall coronavirus discussion, but I also want to stay informed about what’s going on and act accordingly.

    I now have a text chat going with a few family members where we rotate taking days to be the designated news-looker-atters for the group and to text everybody if there is confirmed *actionable* new information that is sufficiently important that it might impact our near-term actions. No world news or general-interest updates; only specific information that is relevant to our circumstances and useful in making real plans. Most days we get between 0 and 1 texts that meet this criteria.

    I find this very helpful. On the days when I’m not the news-looker-atter I can 95% ignore it and live my life. As long as I don’t have an emergency text from the group and water is still coming out of the taps I can be reasonably confident that the world outside hasn’t actually ended and I don’t need to do anything new.

    The 25% of days where it’s my turn to keep an eye on the news, well, I’m just doing the same thing I was up to 100% of the time before we set up the text group. It also helps that I’m doing it with the purpose of “I am the conduit for valuable new information to my people” rather than just watching things unfold for its own sake.

  21. Garlicky*

    For me, it’s a very regular yoga practice. I’m in frazzled work mode all day until I get to the yoga studio, unfold my mat, and do my first sun salutation. You need something to switch gears, and if you’re like what you sound like, you may need something very physical and/or challenging to distract yourself from solving other people’s problems.

  22. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

    I’ve tried a few times to write something and then deleted it, so hopefully I can leave this one. I know it’s frowned on to “armchair diagnose”, rightly, so I just wanted to share my experience with what turned out to be an anxiety disorder, in case it resonates or adds anything helpful.

    In my case it wasn’t a pandemic, or even a national crisis, but just situations within the company that weren’t relevant to public health or anything as a whole, but we were full-on crisis, make-or-break-for-the-future-of-the-company situations as they happened, like having to come up with a new approach on Project X and if we don’t have a concrete plan to present in the next 10 minutes about a complete u-turn then the company will be basically shut down… sort of thing. I’m leaving the details deliberately vague but let’s just say there was a Big Huge Project X and if it fails, we’re all doomed. People will lose their jobs. Their families will be out on the street. I know it isn’t even comparable to the public health crisis that this virus is bringing on, but this was during the recession and would be an extinction-level-event for the company, putting everyone out of work if it went wrong.

    I pulled out all the stops. Worked night and day (and didn’t want to push it on to the people who reported to me, so basically took on all the burden myself). Worried and worried and worried. Lost 40 pounds (I was 150 and ended up at 110 due to just not eating and running around for 5 days and nights straight. Then when I finally got a day or two off – which I had booked as PTO – got the call to come in anyway, while I was trying to sleep it off.)

    And ultimately… we won the battle but lost the war, because all this was declared “unsustainable” by the people running the finances (surely not due to me as I “forgot” about the overtime..) and outsourced, which resulted in a similar subsequent shitshow that’s the subject of another post.

    But the outcome, that actually I’ve only just realized, is that there was something in myself waiting for, or needing, or seeking out, that kind of “crisis” opportunity. To do all the things. To shout at people that “THIS ISN’T HELPFUL **** OFF and leave me alone” when I am dealing with something.

    So sure, I took it home with me, because once that “crisis situation that needs an immediate response” is activated… now I’m in crisis mode! These aren’t normal times! Stuff like that can’t be just switched off, because the way you are viewing the world isn’t just for ‘people at work’. It’s the way the world is!

  23. Koala dreams*

    I think many people feel anxious in the current situation. If your anxiety gets out of hand, please seek medical help.

    Maybe you can ask family and friends to help you? You can ask for a virus free zone in the evening, and ask them to send you funny pictures and other light hearted messages.

    Also, decide on once a day when you watch the news (maybe in the morning before work?), and put on some music or an old TV show the rest of the time.

    Do you have a hobby you can do? A jigsaw puzzle, crafts, yoga, baking, writing haikus? Something where you already have the supplies and can start whenever. It might be difficult to sit down and do it at first, but try to do a little every day.

  24. Chaordic One*

    You can turn off the mindset, but it takes time to decompress and if you don’t have a lot of time (and I don’t), you end up having to give up something in your life. I tried giving up sleep and that didn’t work for my health. So I find myself either giving up personal relationships or else giving up the kind of normal self-care things that other people seem to be able to do without thinking about it (laundry, ironing, cooking, cleaning). Theoretically, I think it might be possible to have someone be with me when I decompress which would help on the relationship thing. I imagine having a friend who would exercise with me, but I’ve never found anyone like that in real life.

    1. Gazebo Slayer*

      Yeah, I basically gave up cleaning for a long time when I was working long hours and my apartment is still a pit of extreme clutter and grime…

  25. Analyst Editor*

    Hmm -I’ve heard that “ego depletion” has been “debunked”, but I’ve definitely never been able to sustain crisis mode for too long; eventually my will power always gives in and I kind of switch off. Maybe you’re just different by nature?
    I wonder if something like caffeine might be contributing the feeling of always being “on”, and if you were to not drink coffee or drink energy drinks (if you do) it might help relax?

  26. OP*

    Howdy all. OP here.

    I appreciate the comments and feedback. It was meaningful for me to hear that it is NORMAL for it to be hard to shift gears.

    I have an ultra supportive husband. Regardless, it is surprisingly lonely being the decision maker at work. There are no other employees at my level; I am the sole interface between big boss and the entire rest of the division. I am very friendly with staff but not “friends” because I have to maintain workplace boundaries. I can bounce some things off of my boss, but he does not want to be involved in most processes. This means that work stressors get bottled up as I have limited opportunities to vent. This is usually ok but there is SO MUCH right now that it is overwhelming.

    This week, I will work on delegating some tasks that I would normally handle to my staff.

    I will try the Smiling Mind app and planned breaks recommended above.

    I’m trying to separate my work space at home from other spaces. The problem there is that I love computer games but I would have to sit in the same office that I work in, in order to game. Someone above suggested a Switch, which sounds fun. I have been trying games on my phone. “Cook, Serve, Delicious” and “Fallout Shelter” are repetitive in a calming way.

    I’m also going to try to get a group family chat going every week in Google hangouts. We are all sheltered in place across several states.

    I am reading comments as they pop up to look for more suggestions.

    Thank you, all!

    1. Doc in a Box*

      Yes, please delegate! If your team is anything like mine, we are looking for ways to help but also unsure if we would be stepping on your toes by doing so. Match people with tasks, give them a deadline, and supervise rather than being Superwoman.

    2. Avasarala*

      I think computer games could still be good for you! Is there something you can do to your space to separate Work Computer from Gaming Computer, like wearing only PJs to game and jeans to work, putting a ritual in between those times…? I’m picturing you literally putting a decorative cardboard cutout around the monitor that is covered in stickers and ribbon to remind yourself it’s fun time.

      Also take a look at Apple Arcade for mobile, there are some good app games in there that are better than the normal store.

    3. Analyst Editor*

      For computer games…. What about good, old-fashioned mine-sweeper and hearts with the computer? I remember trying to “shoot the moon” and beat “spider solitaire” back in the day…. also Text Twist. :p

    4. Anon-a-souras*

      OP, and others – We’re struggling too. This week was the hardest so far, and it’s not going to improve for a while. We’re fortunate we have good jobs, our kids are health and parents aren’t taking risks. (We’re in the SF Bay Area)

      Sometimes we just don’t have an hour to exercise or it’s a choice between eating or checking on parents or going for walk. My recommendations:
      1) breathing. In while counting to 4, hold for 4, out counting 4, hold for 4 and so on. All you’re trying to do is lower your pulse and blood pressure for a few minutes.

      2) I really like the Calm App. I have the full paid version (which isn’t that much). There’s lots of stuff in it, but I always go back to the Emergency Calm under the anxiety category. The shortest mediation is 3 minutes. I can’t always step away for even 10 minutes, but I can usually pull off 3…. I also use it to quiet my brain at night to fall asleep, or go back to sleep when I wake up at 230 am. (There’s a specific set of timed to fall back to sleep!)

    5. Carlie*

      Are there other divisions that each have a person at your level? You could invite them all to have a once a week work lunch to talk about strategies/tips that work across all areas of the company. You’d all get some commiseration and maybe develop some friendships that way.

  27. Kathy Campbell*

    God Love You; your letter brought tears to my eyes. I feel you. I listen to my fave music when I get like that. We all appreciate you!

  28. Jay*

    OP, this stuff is *hard.* It’s a horrible time. I’m a doc not currently working in an office or hospital so I’m not on the front lines, for which I am grateful and which also makes me feel guilty.

    I’m repeating the suggestion to get outside and move. It doesn’t have to be vigorous physical exercise – just move. Even if it’s only five minutes. It’s a physical and psychological reset.

    Find someone to vent to outside of work. I bet you have a friend who would be willing to listen – I’m in that role for a few of my friends right now and I know they will be there for me when I need to do the same. Love the idea of a group family chat! We’re “hosting” a virtual Shabbat dinner via Zoom on Friday night and I’m meeting with a group of friends every weeknight evening to talk about a yoga program we’re all doing. Even though we inevitably spend some of our time talking about the pandemic, it’s lovely to see everyone and it takes some of the pressure off my husband. We don’t do well when he’s my only social outlet.

    Be gentle with yourself. Breathe. Seriously. Take three deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth – count to four for each inhale, then hold for four, then exhale for four. Do that four times. It slows the heart rate and clears the mind.


  29. Kate*

    I can’t emphasize enough the need to take analog breaks – i.e., NON-DIGITAL ACTIVITIES – during this time. I know that can seem hard when everything is going digital, but this includes everything from cooking to reading a physical book to taking walks to playing a physical board game with kids.

    1. Tau*

      My mother and I have decided to do and “review” every single jigsaw puzzle we have in the house during all this. (It’s a lot of jigsaw puzzles.)

  30. nnn*

    Anyone else see this update and think “OMG, it’s Monday and I forgot to log in to work!”?

    (Don’t worry, it’s still Sunday)

  31. not_kate_winslet*

    Thanks for this. I’m also in a response role. The last two weeks (especially the last week) have seen a lifetime of changes and I’ve been in the middle of it. I was looking forward to the weekend to be less chaotic (but still monitoring the situation), but due to a specialized skill that I possess (that I haven’t used in almost 20 years), I was called in to work over the weekend too. I’m torn between declaring and demanding ME time and throwing myself into the middle of the response because I’m one of only a handful who are qualified. I really worry about burning myself out and I’m not exactly sure what to do – especially since this is only the beginning… As my boyfriend and I were just discussing… as far as visuals go, we are nowhere near the peak. We have barely approached the foothills.

  32. Sara without an H*

    OP, you’re a hero. But now that you’ve got things worked out, I encourage you to follow through on your plan to start delegating stuff to your staff. They will probably feel better if they have something specific to do.

    And may I also say — this is the classiest commentariat on the internet. What wonderful, constructive people you all are!

    1. Koala dreams*

      If you can’t go out, you can still look at birds in the yard, from the balcony and from the window.

  33. Lara*

    Physician here so I hear you. So hard. Things that I’ve used in the past that I’m currently using:
    – self compassion. There’s tons of books/research out there but the simplest way I do it is by just speaking to myself like I would an adorable toddler. Out loud I’ll say “hey you. I know it’s been a really rough day. Let’s shut down the computer and go for a walk/cook dinner/take a bath. How does that sound? I’m really proud of you. You’ve done all you can today”. It feels goofy for the first 3 seconds and then it just feels really nice and comforting.
    – I literally stop myself from obsessing during non-work hours. If I catch myself reading the news or journals or emails I (compassionately) remind myself that now is not the time and step away. I literally shut down my computer, etc
    – last week was really bad so I recruited help. I texted the people who needed to be able to get a hold of me that I was disconnecting for the night and gave them my partner’s number to call in case of an emergency. Then I left my phone upstairs for the rest of the night.
    – I wrote down my daily mental health “to do list” for this crisis. Gratitude, exercise/movement and fresh air. Every day. Like everyone said above- I can’t afford not to.

    I hope that helps! You’re doing a great job.

  34. Bubbles McPherson*

    Any suggestions when you have young kids and can’t seem to get space to decompress?

    My spouse and I are both working from home in the PR field doing crisis communications and our toddlers are home too. Juggling work and caring for them and work and caring for them leaves me with zero time for anything else except at 10 p.m. crashing in bed while phone surfing and reading AAM.

    1. gabbet*

      OP, make a habit of asking yourself what you need at that moment. Your gut will probably supply an honest answer. Then either do it or schedule it.

      Props for the amazing job you’ve done.

  35. Elizabeth B., MSW, LCSW*

    I am a mental health therapist and I deal with this a lot personally and in helping my patients (many of which are first responders). Most of what I tell my patients has already been said; recognize the importance of breaks, setting boundaries between home/work, and having a ritual to help you break from work mode to home mode. I will add this: working in crisis mode or in crisis work leads to running on fight/flight most of the day. Fight/flight is meant to turn off non-essential parts of our brain, give us a boost of adrenaline, and give us rapid thinking (this is a little simplified but I find it is the easiest way to explain it) for coping with an imminent threat. Right now you are using fight or flight to handle a new and stressful situation that is lasting longer than your average crisis. Here are just a couple of things I would suggest:

    -Check-in with yourself on if something is a crisis or just feels like a crisis. This can help you lower your stress and feel less under pressure. Do this while doing normal and measured breathing which signals your brain that fight/flight is not needed. If it was life/death you would not be able to breathe at a normal rate.
    -Take care of basics: eating, sleeping, health, and hygiene. If these are out of whack it is hard to take care of anything else.
    -Set breaks during your day and use them. This is not only good for you but sets an example for others. We often fall into peer pressure to not take a break or do what we need because our co-workers are not. Taking care of ourselves helps others to do the same.
    – Make time for hobbies/tasks with a tangible result like cleaning, painting, cooking, repairing something, exercise, or just something creative. This helps us feel like we are accomplishing something and gives our mood a boost especially since a lot of the hard work you are doing right now does not have a tangible result.

    Hang tough, you got this! Don’t be afraid to reach out to a therapist if you need to just talk, your company might have an EAP that is already covered for short term use.

  36. Fellow Boot Fancier*

    OP, FIRST *virtual hugs* to you if you want them. Sounds like you have done a really good job of being kind, workplace nimble and just being an awesome boss. It can be hard to dial down the adrenaline your body has been pumping out to get all this rolling. Be patient. As you ease back, your body will produce less adrenaline and you will have an easier time unwinding. Rinse & repeat.
    Two: My usual job isn’t quite what you/we are dealing with right now, but there are some days when it feels pretty hard to wind down. These are things that have helped me, different things on different days!: 1)En route home, open all car windows while on freeway. Let the noise & feel of wind completely overwhelm my senses. Gives me a sensory reset & my mind resets with it. 2)Music (rock & roll, rap, country with either, etc) that has a clear beat that matches my walking stride, play it LOUD & walk. The rhythmic percussion of the music and my feet at the same time has a meditative quality that can give my brain a time out (aka one way of calming down an anxious horse, see below. Works on humans, too!) 3) Let my hair down and reprise my teenage headbanging days 4) meditate (Most libraries now have digital libraries you can borrow how to books from, audio or e-reader/phone) I like the 10% Happier app, good stuff 5) Call a friend and specifically ask if I can vent and problem solve out loud. -sometimes I just use my steering wheel instead of a coconut 6) Chop wood. Or saw something. I guess cooking has elements of that….7)kick a soccer ball against a wall, a lot. 8) this is odd but….i change my hairstyle to a non-work style. I’ve had so many jobs that were intense that my brain has learned to equate a ‘no way at work’ hairstyle with ‘off the clock.’ Some days that means pony tails a la Harley Quinn, though without the color…for now 9) Really intense audiobook on the way home. Or while prepping dinner. Did I mention your local digital libraries? (I say plural because a lot of the larger library systems will let you join as long as you reside in the same state, even if not in their municipality) 10) There is a great quote that helps me settle, can’t remember who said it but it goes “Do your best right now. When you know better, do better, but for now do your best.” That has really helped me let go and be kinder to my perfectionistic self. I hope one of those help.
    TL:DR my usual work day is teaching horseback riding lessons at a really kick a** riding school, specifically a style of riding at a high level that means both riders and horses have to communicate quickly & clearly and the horses that are best at it are extremely responsive. Sounds good right? Mostly, but that means the horses tend to be responsive to ALL stimuli, as well as that if a horse is too well trained for a certain student rider’s level of competence, the rider might accidentally ‘tell’ the horse to do something the rider can’t ride. (We own most of the horses, not the students, so we match them as their skills improve & horses are available.) So, some days we’ve had barn management decide to bulldoze & chop down trees while lessons are happening because it’s the only day they could get help-never mind that if I had advance warning I would have rescheduled lessons! So last minute coordination with another trainer to share their arena, obviously my lesson plans for the day based on our arena are scrapped, horses are unhappy in unfamiliar arena plus did I mention the bulldozer!?! Crashing trees? Or the day one of our most solid school horses was colicing (life threatening gastrointestinal issue) so interrupt/cancel current group to take vitals, check with vet, administer pain meds, keep eye on horse (can’t be left in his stall unmonitored because if he goes down in close quarters he could roll, get stuck and then you have injuries on top of the colic, we won’t even discuss how they can literally twist their intestines into a knot while rolling-REALLY not good) while teaching next group because there is nothing else to do until you can tell if the meds are helping in the next hour/8 hours, oh and reschedule/rematch students for the remainder of the day since that horse is obviously off the slate- but cancel anyone who can no longer be safely mounted & let them know before they head to the barn, and coordinate truck/trailer so I can get him to the horse hospital if things go south (we can’t keep our rig at the barn). Luckily our students are generous but if I don’t need to take advantage of their good nature, I’m going to save that grace for another day—see also, waiting game while meds help pain & gastro and sick horse stands with his head in my chest. **luckily most days are not quite like that, but that was an actual day** Still, every day throws at least one curve ball that can cascade into full blown decision fatigue by the end of the day paired with the adrenaline of being on alert because I take the safety of my students personally while I’m trying to challenge them. I love it but the wind down phase is a necessary component!

  37. LadyBoss*

    Solidarity. I’m so sorry to know that others are experiencing the same kind of feelings. Everyone I know is bored to death at home and I’m managing crisis after crisis with no end in sight. Thank you for putting it out there…

  38. Gamymede*

    I find doing something physical helps the mind eg walking. However, that may not be possible due to time, social distancing, curfew etc. But something that involves physical skill is wonderful.

    I spent some quarantine time playing cards, which was wonderfully relaxing. You really care about winning the next hand so your focus and emotions are redirected. You are handling and rearranging the cards. You can engage in outrageous banter and silliness. You might learn a new game.

    If course you need at least one other person to do this with – I’m not sure solitaire would cut it, although a couple of us did that too. Word puzzles might be an alternative. You focus on a trivial, achievable outcome.

    I knit and craft which is very absorbing and physical too. Drawing is free and you don’t have to be good at it.

    Good luck x

  39. cncx*

    My boss, who is also a division head and the front line between people and management, is WFH permanent and he gave us some top tips when this all started-
    he has strict office hours. He still picks something up frequently (almost daily) at eight or nine pm and was answering emails on sunday, but the stress of monitoring has been delegated to us. If he does something out of hours, it’s either worth it (been escalated up, business critical) or he has the time (like yesterday). But he’s taken away the anxiety of checking. Even if OP is the only person who can do something,they aren’t the only person who has to check.

    Then, not from my boss but from a coworker when i worked at a high stress law firm- when nothing is going on, nothing is going on. don’t be busy to justify your life- save that energy for when something is business critical. Its thankfully slow for me rn after fire drills all last week and i’m on aam and monitoring my email. If i stayed in fire drill mode today for no reason, i would burn out way before quarantine ends.

  40. Nee Attitude*

    You read like an extreme overachiever in your letter. One thing I’ve heard from someone I admire, who was close enough to me to observe my behavior, is that overachievers seek validation. In reading your letter, I get the strong sense that the reason why you work yourself into a frenzy might be because you get a very quick emotional return on your energy investment, and you get near immediate gratification. The effort might be very intense, but there are rewards to be had when people congratulate you on how well you do a task and on how organized you are, or on how you’re always ready (and willing) when there is a deep need for help.

    This pandemic has been Overachiever Olympics. I think as long as you continue to seemingly seek outside validation with everything you do, you’re gonna burn yourself out. That is the mode you work best in when it’s time to be efficient. When it’s time to relax and recharge, you need to create a different mode for yourself. In other words, you should not be thinking about “gamification”.

    When it’s time to do the laundry, don’t set your goal as “I’m going to do five loads of laundry and then I’m going to have a cup of coffee (or read a book…or…).” You’re going to set yourself up to want to do one more load since you’re already in the groove and, before you know it, you will have spent 3 to 4 hours doing laundry and you have forgotten to eat. I’m giving you these examples because this is how I tend to operate when I am in “efficiency mode.”

    What I suggest you do now is to start things in stages and build relaxation into the routine. So, you organize your laundry and throw a load in. Once the load has started, grab the leash and take the dog for a walk. Don’t think about the laundry. Then, afterwards, you’re done with your walk, however long it takes, and your first load of laundry is done. You get home and you release your dog and you take the laundry out and you fold it and put it away. You’ve gotten a load of laundry done and you’ve gotten at least a half an hour of a walk with your dog. Now you have a natural break, you can choose to do your second load of laundry or you can stop and make yourself a snack. Or you can decide to read a few chapters of your favorite book… or…

    It doesn’t have to be laundry, it can be any chore, or any obligation, or any thing you want to add into your day to distract you from being in “efficiency mode.” When I operate this way, I return to work refreshed, energized, creative and ready to go. If this works for you, I’d love to hear about it.

  41. LQ*

    I’m feeling this pretty hard. I work for an economic program that is getting hit really hard (yup that one). Every minute I have the brain power to think and I’m not trying to make this better I feel like there is someone who isn’t going to be able to feed their family. Typing this means that someone isn’t able to feed their family tonight because I wasn’t doing my job hard enough because I took a break. I thought about something else so they can’t pay rent. I slept too many hours so someone can’t feed their family.

    I’ve been banning my staff from working certain times to try to get them to rest. Kicking folks out and not letting them come in early. But they are all feeling the same way, that they can just do a little more, help a little more.

    I worked something like 100 hours last week and this week isn’t shaping up to be any easier. And I’m sorry but all the people who are home with nothing to do are mad at us for not doing enough. I know you’re hurting and scared, but we are hurting and scared AND showing up to work 100 hours a week to make sure that you can pay bills and buy groceries, please, please stop saying we aren’t perfect.

    I feel like people don’t understand that everyone in support roles are killing themselves and those who aren’t need to grant us a little grace to be less than perfect.

  42. something something*

    I wish I could remember where I read this, but it was years ago. So I’m sorry, I hate to share something like this without a specific link, but I’m technically supposed to be “working” rn, so I wanted to jump in an leave this here real quick!

    Reading a physical book is an excellent (and clinically proven, I swear!) stress reliever. It has to be a real book with pages, and you only have to read for 6-10 minutes to start to see/feel the benefits. I forget this a lot and binge-watch stupid TV and play things like candy crush when I start getting stressed, and then when it gets to a certain point that I’m like “oh my god, I’m stressed” I remember and I pick up a book. It resets your brain and calms it down, and mutes all the frenzied thoughts because you can’t be thinking about anything else when you’re reading.

    So I agree with the rituals. Actively decide that work is done, get comfortable, get something to drink, and read for a bit. It will help.

  43. Blisskrieg*

    I didn’t have time to read the comments above, so hopefully I’m not repeating too much. Just wanted to offer reassurances that I think for a lot of people “prep mode” has been hard to turn off. We are fully stocked as a household (not hoarded, just reasonable), but I can’t quit sweeping through websites for items I might have missed for us or friends or family members. Just hearing that other people are having trouble “turning off” is helpful to know.

  44. College Career Counselor*

    Last Friday, we did a video happy hour with friends 400 miles away in another city. I don’t recommend doing that EVERY night, but it was a really nice way to connect with people and catch up with them socially that we wouldn’t have done otherwise. It was better to see their faces and have a real time conversation, rather than just text or email. TL;DR: Virtual Happy Hour was a nice break from all coronavirus all the time and a re-set for heading into the weekend.

  45. literal desk fan*

    OP, my advice is: find a task that takes your whole brain / attention that ISN’T crisis management. A task that can transition you to a calmer state of mind. What works for me is cooking. If I don’t pay attention to what I’m doing, I either cut myself or burn something, so I have to give it 100% and not think about anything else. But by the time I’m done, my brain has moved from “All The Stress” to “Yay Food” and I’m a LOT calmer and can go about my evening and do the things I find relaxing, like watching Netflix or reading or knitting.

    Another thing that works for me is spending my commute singing along to music I love that helps get some of the ragey stress out. Some people use exercise to do this. At night, I use journaling to vent and to calm my mind so I can sleep. But the key thing is having that transition to a calmer state.

    It’s hard! You can’t just turn that crisis management part of your brain off like a switch! But if you find something as an intermediary step that helps transition your brain to a calmer state, I think you’ll be in good shape to be able to relax.

  46. Kay*

    Set up a transition time after work everyday…. Take a bath, listen to music, exercise, meditate, dance whatever works for you …. so you can have a nice transition from crisis to calm mode.

  47. Chinook*

    First, let me add to the congratulations on putting in such sweeping changes so quickly.

    Others have mentioned the ritual to let your mind and body switch to “home mode,” but you may still have guilt about doing nothing. For that, look to rol models who arevtaking time off. Up here in Canada, a number of provincial chief medical officers as well as our federal one all had their deputies give the daily press conferences on the wekend so they could spend time with family. The people who are the literal faces of managing this crisis are modelling for everyone that, to survive this marathon, you need to unplug. If Dr. Deena Henshaw an Dr. Theresa Tam can spend time away from th crisis, then you should be able to do the same as well, guilt free.

    I rememeber a quote from Canadian General Hilliard when he respnded to questions about why he wasn’t able to respond to a minor crisis while on vacation (at a beach with a few rum and cokes) – he basically said he hires people he trusts, delegates when he needs to and trusts them to do their work and to contact him if they can’t. So, if you need help feeling guilt free, list through what needs to be done, who is tasked with doing it (because you should be delegating, even if it is to your sister) and then let it go.

    As I list these people, I have come to realize that Canadians in non-elected power positions have embraced “life is a marathon, so we need to conserve energy and recharge when we can.” No we just need the general public to do the same.

  48. Joan Harris*

    Guided mediation can be very helpful for this! It gives you specific things to focus on, like breathing, which can help the other intrusive thoughts melt away. Try an app like Headspace or Calm, and think of it as a bit of your daily mental “sanitation”. Take care of yourself – you more than deserve it!

  49. Third or Nothing!*

    I’m also a person who likes to DO ALL THE THINGS and plan and prepare and get all ducks in a row before I can rest. But in times like this, there is no rest because there is always more that can be done. I suggest the following:

    1) Have a dedicated time where you turn off the news and social media and all of that. How about a couple hours before bedtime? During this time, focus on doing things that bring you joy. Read a book, have a picnic dinner in your back yard, bake something fun, do a puzzle, etc.
    2) Related to that, have a dedicated time where you are in Go Mode. Do everything you need to do during that time, and most importantly stop when the time is over. You’ll run yourself ragged if you don’t give yourself permission to stop.
    3) Exercise. Seriously. I’ve burned off a ton of nervous energy just by going for a run or lifting weights. There are plenty of great free online resources for workouts you can do with no equipment and at any level. Nerd Fitness is my personal favorite.
    4) If you find yourself worrying about getting something done but you’re not in Go Mode, write it down. Imagine the task leaving your brain and flowing through the ink onto the page. And then set it aside and do it tomorrow. Alternatively you can imagine putting the task into a box and locking it until the next day (that’s my therapist’s suggestion to me, anyway).
    5) PET ALL THE DOGS! Or cats, if they’re more your jam.

    OK number 5 is a joke but man petting animals sure is therapeutic.

  50. marshuna*

    Relaxing takes practice just like being in crisis mode does. If you can’t relax for an evening, try to relax for an hour. If you can’t make it an hour, try fifteen minutes. Set a timer. Sometimes that sense of urgent “must fix all the things now!!!” is easier to control if you tell yourself that you can…. just not right now.

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