Anxious, Overwhelmed, and Working in Your Pajamas

How implementing transitions into your day supports mental health.

Posted Feb 18, 2021

Red lights are not merely intended to slow us down. They appear on the road of life so that we don't blur the lines between stop and go. Today far too many of us are blowing through the intersections of our days and nights, only to end up on a hamster wheel, exhausted and running on empty.

According to a recent Gallup poll, 60% of Americans report feeling overwhelmed most of the time. Dr. Nasiah Cirincione-Ulezi, a Board-Certified Behavior Analyst based in Illinois, believes that the increasing number of people working from home is a primary factor contributing to skyrocketing stress levels. “We are not working from home," Ulezi said, "we are living from work.”

A woman I saw in my therapy practice, a few months ago, said, "The days just blend together. It's like I'm on a conveyor belt and can't get off!" She reported feeling sad and hopeless most of the time. 

She described her typical day as waking up, grabbing a cup of coffee, and jumping online to start work. If she didn't need to venture out for errands, she generally stayed in her pajamas, through the evening.

She had not put the borders and boundary lines of her day in place. Her mornings were indistinguishable from her nights—a recipe for burnout. The transitions that are a vital part of healthy daily functioning were non-existent. We need lines of demarcation that mark the beginning, middle, and end of our days; especially in the COVID-19 era, with so many of us living and working from home simultaneously.

Without transitions, we meander into a fog of less productive states.

Transitions move us through our day with graceful purpose, in the same way an attentive host does when you enter his home for dinner.

Can you imagine arriving at someone’s door as a guest, drenched after a storm, and being seated at the dinner table immediately while still wearing your wet jacket?

Of course not.

Your host would help you comfortably transition into the dining room. Please come in and let me take your jacket. Enjoy some tea and warm up by the fireplace.

After months of moving through her days with abrupt starts and stops, my client was convinced she was falling into a depression. As it turned out, she needed transitions in her day, not treatment. She made a few minor adjustments to her daily routine and felt better within one week. Her sad mood lifted almost immediately.

Below is a list of seven simple adjustments that will help you implement transitions into your day that sustain balanced living and working.

1.     Prepare for a micro-commute daily.

It is tempting to wake-up in the morning and remain cocooned in your comfortable robe and slippers. However, doing so sends a message to your brain that half of you is still in sleep mode. Resolve to move through your morning routine as if you were going to walk out of your door and drive to the office. Little things can help provide the momentum needed to have a productive day. Pack your lunch. Put on your lipstick. Plan for your commute; even if it is only a five-second walk to your basement.

2.     Avoid using your entire home as an office.

Having a home office is a luxury these days. If you don’t have a designated workspace in your home, create one, and work in that space consistently. File folders, your computer, and scraps of paper related to work, strewn throughout your home, create clutter and a feeling that your work has taken over your life. Designated work areas are a tool to help you stay focused and on task.

3.     Select and protect special blocks of time.

Scheduling time to enjoy deep resets that help recharge your mind, body, and soul is a key to fostering balance and emotional well-being. Give yourself permission to draw firm boundary lines around your work-free time. Implementing zero and low-tech, protected time is also a refreshing new trend popping up in households across the country.

4.     Eat lunch.

Taking a break to eat lunch is a simple and effective way to jump off the merry-go-round and nourish your body. Repurpose lunch by thinking of this break as a time to refuel.

5.     Set three alarms.

Set an alarm for mid-morning, late-afternoon, and early evening, cueing yourself to take a deep breath and reflect on what you are grateful for. This exercise will help ground you during the day and create a funnel for consistent, positive renewal.

6.     End your day with a relaxing ritual.

I know a man who transitions into his evening with a hot cup of coffee and relaxing music. He said, “It’s my time to breathe and let go of the stress that builds up during the day.” Music supports transitions beautifully because it impacts our moods instantly. Try listening to the tranquil sounds of nature blended with calming music to rejuvenate your spirit.  

7.     Start "treeing."

Treeing is a technique that helps adults and children make smooth transitions, emotionally and physically. You can use a tree, your front door, the steering wheel of your car, or anything else for this exercise. Place your hand on the object, close your eyes, and repeat your own version of the following statement: Here and now I release the energy of my busy workday and I pick up the energy of my home life. When you recite the release statement it can be helpful to imagine an electrical current running throughout your body and transferring the energy to the object.

Tools are available to help you navigate and conquer today’s brand of stress. Implementing what you know and learn can make all the difference.