Photo by STIL on Unsplash

I’ve been working from home for 15 years, but even I’m having a tough time with the current quarantine. With the added distractions of a wife and two daughters at home, not to mention all that’s happening in the world outside, things are different. It’s harder to focus; it’s harder to be productive! With the chaos all around us, every day can feel emotionally draining. So much so that for many of us, it takes a tremendous amount of work just to keep ourselves on task.

This doesn’t just make work harder — it makes professional development feel impossible. If you’re like me, giving up on professional development can feel a bit like giving up on hope. Growing and learning and developing ourselves are some of the ways we bring joy into our life; it makes us feel accomplished to know we are working towards something. That feeling of accomplishment feeds into and inspires everything else we do. I know for me, when I’m not working towards something? Everything feels heavier, harder, less exciting.

Which is why, even now (especially now!) it’s important to not give up on that personal and professional development. Of course, everyone’s different; for some of us, letting go of that pressure might be exactly what you need to feel more at peace. That is completely valid. But for many of us that might just feed into a vicious cycle: we feel stressed and overwhelmed, so we don’t do the work of growing or learning. But the lack of learning and growing only adds to our stress and overwhelm! 

Be creative. Finding — and taking — focused time for yourself, no matter what your current work situation is, can give you hope and vigor for the future, in a time when those feelings can be very difficult to come by. It doesn’t have to be related to your current job. Maybe the growth comes from learning a new language, practicing guitar, starting yoga or restarting an exercise program. Growth and learning is growth and learning whether professional, personal, spiritual, task-oriented, skill-driven, or just plain fun. If you’re working from home, how can you use your time to learn something new? 5 mins a day? 20 mins a day? 60 mins a day? How can you innovate your new schedule to do something different, better, or maybe more strategic? Many of us hit the pause button in March patiently waiting for quarantine and COVID to pass. It didn’t. It got worse, and some of us forgot to hit the play button again. Play.

If you are unemployed, it’s okay to be stressed, worried, grieving, and overwhelmed. It’s easy to feel out of control when so very much is, well, out of your control. But everything isn’t. My heart is with you. It’s scary, I know. During the recession, we nearly lost it all. Play anyway. Taking time to pursue growth and professional development could help energize you through the slog of job hunting. What have you always wanted to do — but didn’t have the time? How could you pursue that now? And during it all take time for self-care. Do something just for you, even if it’s just 5 minutes a day.

Take one step today. Just one, small step towards a new goal. Tomorrow, you can take another. Then another. As you continue on, each small step will serve to inspire and invigorate you in new ways, and before you know it you’ve learned something new.

Prove to yourself you can do this, and break out of the cycle.