Putting Boundaries: Maintaining Mental Health Amid the Crisis

by Chad Andaya | August 3, 2021

Employee Journals

I have been working as an Onboarding Coach in RareJob Philippines, Inc. for almost three years now. My job requires me to conduct coaching sessions with tutors and ensure that they are fully equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills before they conduct general and premium lessons. With the rest of my teammates in the Onboarding Team, I also answer tutors’ queries about teaching strategies and standard procedures, among others.

Sounds fun? Yes, it’s fun, challenging, and fulfilling all at the same time. But of course, given that I have to transition from working in the comfort of my “condominium” (as we lovingly called our workstations) to a work-from-home setup after the community quarantine was declared, the challenge was amplified – especially in terms of mental health.

As someone who has been struggling with mental health issues, I thought it would be super great to be working at home: no traffic, fewer worries, more time to relax and have fun. But I was wrong. At the start of the lockdown, I found it exhausting to simply change routines and schedules. The lines were blurred between my personal and professional life. Sometimes, looking at the makeshift workstation a few meters away from me felt like a glaring reminder that I’m living to work instead of the other way around.

Gone were the days that I would just simply fall in line for the sumptuous free food at the office pantry – now, I have to cook my own meal or order via food delivery apps. Aside from the usual coaching-related issues that I encounter every day, I also had to deal with things that I didn’t encounter when I was working at the office: slow internet connection, the noise from outside, gadget issues, the blazing heat of summer minus the office air conditioning… you get the picture.

In short, I was pushed out of my comfort zone.

Moreover, I was afflicted by how tutors and applicants were also struggling with the crisis. To this day, it’s common that I hear tutors canceling their sessions with me because of health issues brought about by COVID-19. Sometimes, they would tell me briefly about their personal journeys in coping mentally and economically with the onslaught of the pandemic. I try to shake it off at the end of the day, but most of the time, it really affects me.  What they’re experiencing is a global phenomenon – it’s something that most of us, especially me, are also struggling with.

With these in mind, I had to devise certain measures in order to cope with the drastic changes and release the stress brought by the current situation. Professionally, I started to live by an idea that my supervisor has taught me:

“Think of this as our way of giving opportunities for those who are greatly affected by the pandemic.”

Personally, I started to learn skills that I was too afraid to dabble into, such as watercolor painting and cooking. I reached out to friends and virtually hung out with them. More importantly, I learned to channel my energy via continuous advocacy for issues that I am passionate about, such as human rights, mental health, and genuine social change. I was also lucky that I was able to organize a donation drive for a vendors’ community that was greatly affected by the lockdown.

Chad's new found hobby: painting
Organizing a donation drive
Channeling his energy through personal advocacies

Also, I’m glad that RareJob Philippines recently conducted a series of webinars regarding mental health. I feel lucky that I am in a company that tries its best to encourage work-life balance among its employees. In these trying times, especially at work, it’s very important that employees like me are reminded of ways that we can do in order to cope with stress and other mental health issues.

The thing that struck me the most from the webinars is about building boundaries. I often thought before that in the workplace, being productive and passionate about what one does are the only ways to go. However, the webinar has taught me that it is very important to set boundaries and recognize that I am human after all, and am bound to feel exhausted. As someone who has the tendency to be a workaholic at times, it’s great to be reminded that there’s more to life than just work. I am also reminded to breathe – literally and figuratively – so that I can fine-tune my emotions and organize my ideas. Now, I can say that I am on my way to setting healthy boundaries between my professional and personal life.

Amidst the ongoing crisis, maintaining good mental health while working at home might feel unattainable, but it is definitely not impossible.

We definitely need a gentle reminder that we should work to live, not live to work. Let’s set healthy boundaries personally and professionally. And while we’re waiting for things to be better, let’s also use the time to be better and do better.