“Sometimes, yet, I still pretend”
For the last 15 years, I have spent my professional life working remotely while logging hundreds of thousands of miles as a hardcore business traveler. A couple of days at home here, a week on the road there, back home for a day, and then back on the road for two weeks. You name it I’ve done it and I love every bit of it. I don’t know where the desire to travel originates. Perhaps it comes from growing up as a military brat. Being constantly forced into new environments (let the record show I went to three different high schools) followed by then joining the military myself and deploying all over the world. Whatever the case I find myself adept at handling the variety of travel and welcome the changing environments.
Working as a business traveler just fits my personality and demeanor like a glove. With that backstory and knowing the level of travel restrictions we are living under you can probably guess where this story goes next.
One day last week, my daughter’s mental health back on the mend, I was sitting at my desk when the lyrics of the song rang out clearly in my head.
“Every day is exactly the same”
That’s when I had a realization. I’m not doing OK with the sudden changes. I was feeling very down. I’m normally a carefree person with an optimistic outlook on life, so I think that’s why the realization came late. Or maybe I just didn’t want to accept it. “I’m always OK,” or so I thought.
I’m here to tell you I’m struggling with some things. I’m struggling with being home every day. I’m struggling with not waking up in a hotel room in a different city every so often. I’m struggling with, “what’s for dinner tonight?” I’m struggling with not sitting on a plane for two hours at a time unplugged from everything and reading a book. I’m struggling with being around my family full time.
I’m sure the last paragraph sounds bizarre to most people. How could I have a hard time being at home with my family? That doesn’t compute. I get it. I felt sheepish even typing it out. Of course, I love my family dearly and I treasure the time I’m able to spend with them. At the same time, it’s been clear being home all the time was negatively affecting my mental well being. I would feel good enough ‘at work’ but at the end of the day sometimes I was completely shutting down and not engaging the world around me.
I was having a hard time reconciling my state of mind but I knew one thing. It was time to make a change.
I came up with an approach to confront my feelings and practice some self-care. First, any time I feel down or frustrated with being “stuck at home” I stop myself. I take the time to recognize what it is I am feeling and why. Then I remind myself why I’m in this situation (no travel due to Covid-19) and the fact it’s completely out of my control. I can’t do anything to change or influence the problem but I can control my reaction to it. The reaction is where I focus my energy. To gain control of my feelings I run through a mental list of things for which I am grateful. I particularly focus on the things I wouldn’t get to experience if I was on the road and away from my family.
So far it’s working well. I’ve found gratitude to be a powerful weapon. I’m feeling better but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t constantly itching to pack a bag and hit the road. It’s a process.
How about you? How are you handling the “new normal”? Are you like me and unable to do business travel? Maybe you’re adjusting to working from home every day. How’s that going? How do you feel? What do you miss about going to the office? Maybe you went from consistent face to face interaction to only Zoom. How has that affected your day to day mental health?