At this point, the fall semester is in full swing for many of us. For me, I’ve just wrapped up the third week of the semester and I’m gearing up for the fourth. This time last year, I was settling into my classes, beginning to turn in some preliminary assignments; and beginning to make some friends as I began my first year of my MLIS program.
This year, I’m doing much of the same: settling into classes, turning in some preliminary assignments, messaging those same friends in our GroupMe chat; but this time I’m doing it all from my laptop while sitting in the same chair at the table in my apartment. For folks who were always online students, this may not be a new sight, but for those who were primarily face-to-face students, like myself, it’s a change. Especially since I also work 3-4 days a week and eat many of my meals in the same spot. My yoga ball desk chair and I have become very good friends over the past few months.
So, why am I writing about this? Working and taking classes from home has become the new normal for many of us, but I think we need to keep talking about how it is affecting us, mentally, physically, and emotionally. I hope that by sharing some of my experiences, those who are in a similar situation might know that they are not the only people dealing with this. However, I’m very lucky to have a private space to dedicate to working, but I also recognize that many folks also working/going to school at home do not have that luxury. Even so, it’s good to check in with yourself every once and a while, and maybe this can be that reminder for you.
I’ve taken some of the advice from the recent post about physical health, including ergonomics and eye strain (if you work on a laptop, prop it up to eye level and filter out the blue light–it really does make a world of difference). One thing that I am still working on, and haven’t quite been able to find a routine that works for me, is exercise. I used to get at least a 30 minute walk in every day pre-pandemic by walking to campus, but that obviously isn’t happening as much anymore. I try to get up and walk around my apartment as much as I can, but I tend to get sucked into my work to the point where I look up and it’s been four hours. And, by the end of the day, I’m usually exhausted from a full day of work and school and really find it difficult to find the motivation to be active. And, because I’m not as active, my sleeping has really been affected.
Those full days of work and school have really been taking a toll on me, mentally. With the absence of coffee breaks, chatting with coworkers, or walking from building to building for work or class on campus, I’m suddenly working a lot more in the same amount of time. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to be productive and to stay focused, but I find I’m mentally exhausted at the end of the day. I spend my mornings doing virtual work for my graduate assistantship, I transition to working on classwork or my thesis in the afternoon, and, while I try to wrap it all up between 5 pm and 7 pm every day, that’s still a very full day. Because all of my energy has been focused on work and school, it’s also been difficult to prioritize chores! Dishes pile up before my eyes and I need to force myself to wake up early if I even hope to do a load of laundry.
All this to say, if you feel like you’ve been living at work more than you’ve been working from home, I feel you and I’m right there with you. For those in a similar situation, how have you been faring? (Please tell me I’m not the only one who has been ignoring their dishes.) What has worked for you and what hasn’t? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter @JaneBehre.
Just a reminder: “We are not all in the same boat…[but] we are all in the same storm.” And, please, register to vote.
(P.S. For all of my fellow musical theater nerds, here is the song I’m referencing in the title)
Jane Behre is a second-year MLIS student at the University of Maryland. At UMD, she is the coordinator for the First Year Book Program and a Research & Teaching Fellow. Her academic and professional interests include information literacy instruction and health literacy.