The COVID-19 pandemic has caused not only economic, environmental and health impacts on the world; but emotional impacts as well.
In this episode of Teal Talk originally recorded in April 2020, Litsa Williams and Eleanor Haley from What’s Your Grief discussed the different ways people grieved the worldwide shutdown, and provided evergreen practices for how to cope.
We were also joined by then Head of People Operations TQ Evans. Since this recording, TQ passed away after a long battle with colon cancer in April 2021.
Her light shines bright in this episode as she relayed how her family and her coped with the problems of the world — and her spirit shines through Mediavine as we cope with her loss, and continue to honor her memory.
We love you TQ.
- What’s Your Grief?
- Eleanor and Litsa’s Blogs on Grieving…
- Remembering Chief Diversity Officer Tonquise “TQ” Evans
- Announcing the Tonquise “TQ” Evans ’03 Endowed Scholarship…
- MBU Empowers Campaign
- “Leading with Heart” Blog Post
[MUSIC PLAYING] JENNY GUY: Hey, y’all. It is Thursday, April 23. It is approximately day 473 of quarantine, for those keeping track. This is Teal Talk, and I’m your host Jenny Guy. I’m the director of marketing at Mediavine, and, more importantly, I have finally fulfilled my childhood dream in this quarantine and become a carbohydrate. And that’s when I’m not getting really emotional over all the new COVID-19 quarantine commercials, so that’s fun.
So welcome. Say hi to us in the comments if you’re hanging out.
Oh, and good, the lawn service is starting, so that’s perfect. And we said not to come today, so good good good. Tell us how you’re holding up at this point because it is not an easy time right now. I also wanted to– I told all these awesome ladies before, I am wearing a dress on the top, and then I am wearing lizard pajama bottoms on the bottom. So I am the definition of a mullet, I am business on the top, party on the bottom.
So now that we’ve gotten all of that out of the way, we have people working from home and teaching their kids for the first time. We’re cooking all of our own meals and producing more dirty dishes– than, I mean, I never even thought– it’s unbelievable how many dishes there are. It’s insane. And we’re reconfiguring milestone celebrations, and missing family, and worrying about the state of our wallets and the world, and in light of all these bizarre firsts and struggles, we brought on some experts to help with work-from-home wellness and mental wellness in general. And I’m so glad they’re here, I’m going to introduce them.
First, I’m with Mediavine’s Director of People Operations, TQ Evans. TQ joins us live from her home in Richmond, Virginia. She has been the director of People Operations with Mediavine for nearly two years. She’s got a master’s degree, along with several other professional certifications in HR management and leadership, and that means a lot of initials behind her name. Her background specialty entails partnering with small to mid-sized startups and successfully building and teaching their people-ops team from the ground up. She also is a birth doula, a wife, a mom of four human kids, and a new mom to three backyard hens, fondly named Aretha, Gladys, and Patti. She is an avid urban gardener, has a passion for health and wellness, and, most recently, is the recipient of the unofficial Neighborhood Quarantine double-Dutch Award. What is that? Hi TQ, welcome.
TQ EVANS: Hi Jenny. I look forward to getting into that– oh, do you want me to tell you now?
JENNY GUY: Yeah please, what is that?
TQ EVANS: Oh yeah. So I started just doing different activities with my neighbors, like virtual activities. And we’re taking it back to– we’re all 80s babies, and we did jump rope, double-Dutch. So my neighbors and I started– we bought hula hoops and all these things, and we do virtual backyard competitions, and so far I’m the winner of the double-Dutch category.
JENNY GUY: That’s pretty incredible and impressive. We’re so glad you’re here, I can’t believe it’s your first episode.
And then our other two ladies are Litsa Williams and Eleanor Haley. They are the Baltimore-based mental health professionals and co-authors of the site, What’s Your Grief, where their mission is to promote grief education, exploration, and expression in both practical and creative ways. Their work has been featured in the US News and World Report and the Huffington Post, among others.
Ladies, welcome. Thank you for joining us.
ELEANOR HALEY: Hi. Thank you for having us.
LITSA WILLIAMS: Yeah, thanks for having us.
JENNY GUY: OK. So guys, if you’re out there and you have questions on working from home, coping with it all, if your thoughts and fears are normal, whatever you want, whatever is going on right now, post them in the comments. If you don’t have a question just say hi, tell us how you’re doing, we are here to help.
OK. Let’s start out with what the three of you do on a regular basis, and then hear a little bit about how that’s changed during COVID times. And we’ll start out with TQ because I think a lot of people have no idea what People Ops is, because it’s not a common term.
TQ EVANS: OK. So as Jenny mentioned, I am the Director of People Operations with Mediavine. And basically what that is, it’s a little bit human resources, a little bit therapy, a little bit employee relations, organizational development. So, basically, my job is to make sure that employees have everything that they need to feel motivated, to feel engaged. So I’m constantly touching bases with them and really creating a culture around what works for employees, as opposed to the organization creating it the other way around. So that’s what I do on a day to day basis.
As you guys know, we are a 100% remote team at Mediavine. So all the challenges that many People Ops and HR professionals are facing right now, and managers, with people, the people issues, have been kind of my wheelhouse for a while now. So I’m really excited to dive into this today.
JENNY GUY: And we love having you at Mediavine, and we love you. And talk a little bit, before we move on, about what’s changed. You were telling us a little bit about a survey– What’s going on that’s different during this very different time?
TQ EVANS: Yes. So basically, one of the main things that’s changed for organizations is that Human Resources and People Operations professionals are really having to step up. It’s really our time to shine here because the focus is really on the people. Yes, organizations have goals and there are things that need to be accomplished, but none of that works if the people are stressed, if the people are overworked, if the people are having challenges. So one main thing that has really changed is that we are needing to dedicate more time, more resources, look at tools and platforms to help manage our people. But not just manage them, to provide an outlet for them to express concerns.
So we recently launched a employee engagement and survey platform because we wanted a really easy way for employees to let us know– We’re not, we don’t have a brick and mortar, so employees can’t just pop into their manager’s office and say, hey, I’m having an issue. And honestly, because we’re remote, we may never– people are really isolated and sometimes suffering in silence. And so by adopting certain platforms, we’re able to easily throw out questions. We recently did a “checking in on you” survey, and literally the only goal of that survey was to say, hey, how are you? How can we help? How can we support you? We’re here, we care about you, we’re happy you’re part of the Mediavine family. How can we help? And then really trying to listen and understand what employees are saying, and try to provide solutions along with managers and employees of how to help create a more, just a better experience during this time.
JENNY GUY: Love that, we appreciate it.
OK, same question to Eleanor and Lisa, what do– and you’ve got some fans already posting and some fans internally from Mediavine that are talking about what your site has meant to them. So we’re so glad you’re here. So can one of you, or both of you, whoever wants to start, talk about what you guys do on a day to day basis, and then how you’re adapting that in our unique times.
LITSA WILLIAMS: Sure. So I think what we do on a day to day basis, it varies a lot, so it’s hard to easily really sum it up. But What’s Your Grief, in general, is an online grief and bereavement support community, but one that also does some things in person as well.
So our background was working with people in person who are grieving. We moved that into the online space when we founded What’s Your Grief, and a lot of that is through articles, social media support, podcasts, e-courses, webinars. And then we print and sell grief materials to hospitals, hospices, funeral homes, grief centers, anyone who could use grief and bereavement support print materials. Is that, did I miss anything?
ELEANOR HALEY: The only thing I would add is that we do a lot of training for people who work in any field who may come into contact with people who are grieving. And we are really passionate about that, and that’s why we’re so thankful that you’re letting us talk today a little bit about what we do, and about grief, and about mental health because I think there’s just so much misinformation out there. And so any time we have the opportunity sit down in front of people and sort of set the record straight, we really want to seize that and take advantage of it. So thank you for having us.
LITSA WILLIAMS: Yeah, absolutely.
JENNY GUY: We’re thrilled to have you. And it’s such an important topic, and I’m sure I’m preaching to the choir, but we don’t talk about it really at all, talk about how to grieve or how to help people. And I think also, grief gets placed into a really specific box that means death, and it doesn’t necessarily mean that. And actually, in this time, when you look at what people are going through, and it is a whole lot. We’re grieving the loss of jobs, our social interactions, all of these non-death losses. And you wrote a great post on your site about that, and I would love for you guys to go into that a little bit more, talking about these non-death losses and how to cope with them. That would be really helpful.
ELEANOR HALEY: Yeah absolutely. I think right now especially, as you said, I think so many people are coping with non-death losses. And so, as you said, we often think that you can only grieve when someone we love dies, but really anything that you value, if it’s gone, if you lose it, if that changes, there’s an element of loss that comes with it. And I think some of these losses might seem smaller and more easier to cope with and integrate, but they’re losses nonetheless. And one of the things that we just always want to really emphasize is that anything that you feel grief over, any loss that has caused you any sort of distress in any way, is something worthy of being acknowledged and grieved.
And that’s something that our society doesn’t really do well. Oftentimes we say, oh you can only grieve certain losses, and other losses you just need to kind of buck up and move forward. And I think right now, especially, people are grappling with this a little bit because some people are facing such significant losses that relate to death and illness. And so other losses we feel like, oh gosh, do we really even have the right to grieve? Is it selfish for us to grieve? And we just want to emphasize that, no, it’s not selfish to grieve. Your grief doesn’t take away from the fact that other people who are grieving– –it doesn’t take away from their grief. We all are facing big and small losses right now. And so we want to emphasize that people absolutely should name their grief and feel it and express it.
JENNY GUY: Anything to add to that, Litsa?
LITSA WILLIAMS: No, I think that that– I mean, I think right now one of the things that we’ve been amazed to see how comforting and reassuring it is to people just when we say, it’s OK to label it grief. It’s OK to call it grief. Grief is literally defined as our normal and natural reaction to loss. And so I think part of it, it’s amazing how sometimes, just when we know it’s OK to say that and name that feeling, that it really is helpful for people.
And then looking for, what does it mean to cope with that? How do we name it, how do we give space for it individually, as a family? And then figuring out from there, what does it look like to actually cope with it during these times?
ELEANOR HALEY: Yeah.
JENNY GUY: It is weird how, and I do this personally, it’s so hard, it turns into a competition. And not in a way that like, my grief is bigger than your grief, but in a way of, my grief is not significant. What I’m experiencing is nothing compared to what they’re experiencing, so I should shut up, and get on with my life, and stop being a big baby about it. But that’s really giving space to it, I love that. How do you recommend giving space to it? And, TQ, I’m going to have you weigh in on that too, giving space to your feelings and your emotions, especially when maybe you don’t have physical space. I think a lot of us are in that circumstance right now where we don’t actually have physical space to do anything. So talk a little bit about that, please. And, ladies, we’ll start with you, and then I’ll have TQ go.
LITSA WILLIAMS: Oh, OK.
JENNY GUY: Sorry, that was unclear.
ELEANOR HALEY: I think just being able to, like what you just said, is being able to own it, and label it, and call it that, is the most important step for many people. And I think beyond that, it’s just acknowledging that there’s loss there, right? And we can put those things into perspective. We can find ways to cope, we can find ways to try and make the situation a little bit better. But there is that element of loss, and it’s something that’s going to stay with us, in a way, and that we have a right to feel. And I think that’s the biggest hurdle for so many people. There are so many different ways to cope with your losses and with grief. And that’s something that’s really important for people to know, is that coping with grief doesn’t look one certain way. Grief never looks the same from person to person. And so we just encourage people to find the things that help them to feel better and to process what they’re feeling. Some people it’s journaling, some people it’s creating art, for other people it’s reaching out and talking. And so whatever it is that you know works for you, we encourage you to really lean into that and do it.
LITSA WILLIAMS: Yeah. And I would add, that those moments where it comes up for you, just the act of noticing it’s coming up, and the act of then realizing that comparison thing, catching it in ourselves. A lot of that is that little voice in our heads that we feel, and thinking about, how is that affecting our behavior?
So maybe it’s in a moment where you were planning to have, whatever, like a girls weekend that didn’t get to happen because of this, and you’re having feelings but you’re like, I don’t want to say that when there’s all these other, bigger things going on in the world. And it’s going, you know what, no, it’s OK. It’s OK for me to reach out to those people who I was supposed to be with and say, this is really sad. I was really looking forward to this, and this was going to be a great time away or moment to connect.
And if it makes you feel better to say, I know this isn’t the worst thing happening in the world, you can say that to make yourself feel better. But you don’t have to say it, it’s OK to just say, this is a feeling I’m having, and I want to be able to express it and share it with you. And we all have the right to do that even when it’s not the worst feeling. In all moments in life, there’s always someone going through something worse than you. I promise. It doesn’t mean that we can’t still talk about the things that we’re going through.
JENNY GUY: Love that. TQ, same to you, talk a little bit about making space for emotions and all of the things even when you might not have space.
TQ EVANS: Yes. So I think for me, the thing that helps me is exercising gratitude and practicing that everyday. Just opening up a little bit personally, I think one of you just mentioned that sometimes people– like, grief becomes a competition. So for me personally, last year I was diagnosed with terminal cancer, which was really, really hard. And then a week ago, I lost two of my neighbors within 48 hours to COVID, like actually lost my neighbors. And there are the these horrible, horrible, or seemingly horrible, things that happen. And I think the best way to do it is to practice gratitude. And also to go inside because there are a lot of things that are continuing to happen that are beyond our control, there are things that will continue to happen that are beyond our control. And the only thing that we can control is how we internalize those things. So I’ve been putting a lot of work and a lot of effort in doing the work, the internal work inside of my myself, to be able to control the things that I can.
So I’m in a house with four kids and a husband, we’re both working full time. And so I carved out my own little space in the bathroom, and I kind of created a, just like a table that has candles on it. And it has different crystals and things that make me feel happy, different pictures, different sheets of paper to write gratitude things on. And I go into that space as a routine every morning, and even in times where I’m stressed. And I close out from everything else, and even if it’s just 15 minutes, I have this little space inside of my house where I’m able to go inside of myself to help to heal myself so that I can come out better and more prepared. So–
ELEANOR HALEY: Yeah.
JENNY GUY: Love that. Ladies, you’re both nodding. Do you have anything to add to the private, making a space where you don’t have a space, anything to add to that?
LITSA WILLIAMS: Well, what I love about what you just said is you described the two kinds of space. Because there’s literally physical space, but then there’s time, and that’s its own version of space. And so I think, right now, one of the things that we are all collectively struggling with is, for different reasons, routines have been upended. The way that our time is being spent looks very, very different. And so I think creating that physical space is so important. And then saying, my time of might be completely chaotic right now, or suddenly I haven’t been working from home, and I am and time is spilling into different areas in different ways.
And so it’s especially important that I carve out space that’s dedicated to tending to myself, self-care, whether introspection. Or it might be on the other end, it might be what I’m missing is connection, and I need to carve out time for connection. We’ve had a lot of people on our social media talking about how their coping was very much based on finding and seeking support from others grieving, and that that now has to be a lot more deliberate. You have to really create the time and space for that. So I think both aspects of that are so important.
JENNY GUY: Wanted to share that Lori Bostrik made a comment here. She said, “What’s Your Grief has been very helpful to me over the past almost three years since my 17-year-old daughter was killed in a car crash. I am very transparent about my grief and have had several people tell me that it’s a glimpse into grief. There is such a need to show grief as it really is.” And she also said, “Even within the child loss community people tend to rank their grief. Grief is grief, and it’s all hard.”
ELEANOR HALEY: Yeah. Oh, thank you. I love that.
JENNY GUY: Thank you for sharing that. So from all of you, because all of us have different experiences, do you guys have any tips for parents going through– dealing with this with their kids who are experiencing their own levels of loss but maybe don’t have the words or the ability to do the things that adults do, sometimes do? I mean, I’m listening to you, TQ, talk about carving out the space, and I want to do that. I’m not doing it, so I need to start doing it. But I’m an adult. I’m responsible for my own damn self. But for kids who cannot express themselves, how do you help them?
ELEANOR HALEY: Yeah. I think that, going back to a lot of what we just said, because I think a lot of times there are a lot of special considerations for kids, but then a lot of it is pretty similar to what we say to adults as well. First of all, just helping them to name that this is sad, that this is a big loss for you. Many kids are going through all sorts of different losses right now. And so allowing that to exist because I think, a lot of times, some parents might be tempted to be like, oh it could be much worse, or, we’re all making sacrifices right now. So rather than doing that, allowing them to name it and to express what they’re actually feeling without minimizing that can be really important.
And then leading them to do the coping that works for them, just like we said with adults. Whatever it is that works for them, whether it’s finding that gratitude, whether it’s carving out their own personal space or reaching out to other people. Maybe they want to journal. Maybe they’re spending a lot of time on their phone, and we normally would say, oh screen time is over, phone time is over. But maybe giving them a little bit of extra time to connect with their friends would be helpful.
So I think just validating what they’re going through. A lot of things that we’ve seen, and because we’re all on social media and watching the television, many of us, I think we’ve seen how people have tried to help find alternative ways to have these experiences and those next best things to having a graduation, or a birthday party, or a prom. They’re finding other ways to connect people and to have certain experiences, and I think that’s wonderful. And when that is an option, finding those alternatives. But also recognizing that it’s not going to fill that loss completely, it’s not going to totally make up for that loss, but it is a way to cope and make it a little bit better.
JENNY GUY: Same question to you, TQ. Talk about that for us. You have four right?
TQ EVANS: Yeah, I have four. So they’re two, five, seven, and 16, and we do a lot of talking in my family because each of them are handling it differently. My– and very surprisingly. You know, they’re little people, they’re a little humans, they all have different personalities. And prior to this, my five-year-old was having tantrums in school and just really having a difficult time dealing with other things that were happening. And so this time for him has been amazing. He’s wanted nothing but to have individual time with Mommy and lots of love and kisses, and every hour or so– he may even come in during this live today. But he comes to get mommy love. And so for him, I don’t necessarily– I think that it’s a very positive experience. And so my 7-year-old has expressed that he misses his friends. My two-year-old, she’s kind of too little to really say. And my sixteen-year-old has his own set of challenges as well.
So I think, as we become more intentional about self care practices that work for us, I think it would be a disservice not to share those same practices with your children. So I’ve introduced journaling to my kids. The older kids are able to actually write, and we try to write every day or every other day. And the little kids are encouraged to draw. Let’s draw out our feelings, let’s draw a picture of how we feel today. [INAUDIBLE]
Also, we’ll find someone on YouTube and do a 15 minute yoga in the morning to get things started. I’ve introduced breathing and meditating with them. So all of those little things on a level that they understand, and then I’m able to share those experiences with them and not necessarily have it as something mommy is doing by herself. It’s like, this is what mommy is doing, and you guys, let’s do it together for a few minutes. So.
ELEANOR HALEY: I think that’s so great. You’re introducing so many different ways to cope to them. And so it’s not always going to resonate with every child. But it’s important that we introduce these things, and hopefully it does resonate. But it’s helpful for them to look at all these different outlets and say, what is working for me and what doesn’t. What do I love to do, what don’t I love to do. And so it’s so great to give them these opportunities young because these are tools that they can carry with them forever into adulthood.
JENNY GUY: Litsa, anything to add on that?
LITSA WILLIAMS: I mean, seeing as there is someone with three children and someone with four children who have already spoken to this, and I only have a fur-legged child–
JENNY GUY: I feel you.
LITSA WILLIAMS: –I will not speak on this.
JENNY GUY: I am also in a similar boat. OK. So let’s shift a little bit away from that, the parenting, and let’s talk about employees, people that are trying to work from home for the first time, or they’re used to working from home, like we are at Mediavine, but now have a lot of other people that are working from home that were not there before. Can you talk about– what tips can you give for this overwhelming feeling? Also, I mean, not to discount the fact that there is a global pandemic, which it’s weighing heavily on most people’s minds right now. TQ, any tips on that?
TQ EVANS: Yes. So one of the main– I fall in that category where people think just because you were in a position where you were working from home, whether it was full time, or part time, or so many days a week, that this should be easier for those people. But that is really not necessarily the case. One main thing is that you– I know in my household, having my husband now working from home also, we didn’t really have two designated spaces of where to work. We also work very differently, he almost needs to be behind closed doors, and I like to work in a well lit areas of my home. So I like working in the kitchen or working in the living room, I’m more of that kind of remote worker.
But I think one of the main things that are important is schedules. So my husband and I talk about what our schedules are, when does he have conference calls, when do I have conference calls, because that’s going to be times where someone needs to be around where the kids are. We also try to do routines with the kids as well. So basically, every day, every morning, I wake up really early. So that’s been a strategy that’s helping, is to try to, if you can, steal time early in the morning before the rest of the household gets up if you live with others in your home. But even if not, routines and schedules are going to be important. And really trying to stick to those because the days really seem to get eaten up, especially nowadays. And you realize at the end of the day, what did I do? What were my goals? So really writing things down is going to be huge.
Another thing that I found helpful in doing so is I ordered a laptop desk, and it’s like $30 from Amazon, and it has wheels on it. And basically, you make your space wherever you are. So you don’t have to be in your home office or in– basically, wherever you are, if you’re– I bring this table, I have it right now. I bring it outside on the porch. I take it to the backyard. And my workspace becomes– however I’m feeling at that time, whatever space is giving me energy in my home or outside of my home, it becomes my office at that time. So that’s the strategy that I think works, is trying to make sure that you have access to things that are– to tech equipment or tools that are flexible. And for Mediavine employees, we actually give a reimbursement for employees to buy things like that to help with their office space. So–
JENNY GUY: We love it. Litsa or Eleanor, talking about working from home, I know that you’ve probably had some of your audience or clients come and talk to you about it. So give us a little bit on that. Litsa I’ll start with you please.
LITSA WILLIAMS: Sure. So I think working from home, for me personally, I find working from home very, very difficult. And when we first started what’s your grief we were both working from home, and it was a big and a hard transition for me. I have ADD that is no joke, and I am a person who really– structuring time for me is really, really difficult. And so I think one of the things that having an office does, is it really clearly delineates the start and the end of the day. It allows you to have that feeling of, OK here are the lines. And when you’re working from home, you’re always at work and never at work. And that bleed that happens for me is really complicated because, all of a sudden, my workday might suddenly span from 8:00 AM till midnight. Not that I’ve worked consistently all that time, but I just kind of am going in and out of it. And I think that, for me, it becomes really important when we think about, how do we still maintain work/life balance? And how do we still look at dedicated work time, dedicated personal time, finding ways, whether it is taking a shower at the end of the day, changing your clothes– Doing something that delineates, this is the end of my workday, or this is when it’s starting, is something that is helpful for me, even though I don’t practice it nearly as much as I should. I know it’s– but–
And the other thing for me, I think, that’s been important is getting creative with where you are in your house. I live in a little teeny, tiny nine foot wide house, and there are not a lot of work spaces, there’s not a lot of rooms. And so for me, realizing that sitting in one place all of the time was really, really starting to be problematic. But all I can sometimes do is literally move from one side of a room to another, but even that helps. Even just a change in view in the same nine foot wide room can just help to stimulate and move my brain a little bit. So it’s just little things that for me have been helpful. I don’t know.
ELEANOR HALEY: Just one thing to add. I think, less in terms of logistics, but in just mindset, I think practicing a little self-compassion for ourselves. One thing that we always say to people who are grieving because they have so much going on, they’re grieving, they have regular life to deal with, they have the secondary losses and stressors they’re dealing with, is to just recognize that this is not normal. This is not the way you’re used to, right? Everything has been flipped on its head. And so we have to adjust our expectations a little bit.
And we always encourage people to be careful how they measure themselves because if they are measuring themselves against some impossible standards, they’re going to get really frustrated and discouraged. And so we always tell people, don’t compare yourself to who you were before all this happened because that was a person living in a different world, under different circumstances. And don’t compare yourself to who you think you should be or would be or could be, this idealized future self. Just compare yourself to where you began in all of this.
And, in translating it to this, just compare yourself to, maybe, if you set a couple of goals at the beginning of the day, did you meet those goals? Yes, congratulate yourself for each one that you met. Congratulate yourself for each of those smaller sub-goals. For every single win that you have, give yourself credit. Because I think when we don’t measure up to some impossible standard, we feel like we failed instead of recognizing all the progress that we have made. So that’s just the last thing I would add to that.
TQ EVANS: And, Jenny, can I add to that?
JENNY GUY: Of Course.
TQ EVANS: I absolutely love, I love what you just said because I saw a quote on Instagram about, you should be upset with yourself if, during this time, you haven’t written the book you’ve always wanted to write, lost the weight you’ve always wanted to lose, started that business you’ve always wanted to start. It wasn’t a matter of time, it was a matter of motivation. And I thought, that is just horrible, that is just horrible. Like, I call bullshit because I just can’t imagine– Literally that is the type of stressors that we’re carrying, of expectations that we’re carrying for ourselves.
And I remember looking at all of these moms doing these awesome home-school schedules for their kids, and they wake up, and at 9 o’clock they’re doing this. My kids literally have recess, like, six hours a day. And I started to really think about how– all the things I’m not doing, and all the things I could be doing better and more of. And then I stop, and I look at them smile. I look at how beautiful the day is. And it’s like, you know what guys, this is what it’s all about. So absolutely having self-forgiveness and just giving yourself grace, I think it’s huge.
LITSA WILLIAMS: I saw all that same post. And on Saturday, I literally, on What’s Your Grief’s Instagram, posted something that I wrote in response to that exact–
TQ EVANS: Yes. That is insane.
LITSA WILLIAMS: And it filled me with rage. I was like, no no, we are all doing the best that we can, and whether you’ve written your novel or whether you’ve just been binging TV shows, none of us is more valuable. We’re all doing the best that we can do.
TQ EVANS: Or binging Oreos. It’s all good.
LITSA WILLIAMS: Exactly.
JENNY GUY: And also, you are– those actors and that crew that created that television show need their work to be respected. You are doing a service by watching Netflix, so please realize that and understand that.
Ray Ransom called and said, “Smart TQ heads to Amazon to order a laptop desk. “
Yes. So OK, on this topic, and I just want to get a little more specific about how not to feel this way. Because with the additional responsibilities, plus the distractions of family being home, plus stress from the general situation, and depression, and loss, many people have been really reporting a loss of that productivity. That’s just pretty much across the board we’re hearing that.
And then, of course, comes our very favorite friend, guilt, over not getting enough done or not being productive enough or, like you said, not writing a novel or starting their third website or whatever, learning Portuguese, whatever that is. What are some of the ways that people can cope with these guilty feelings? Because I know for myself, that’s a rabbit hole. When I start there, and I’m not– to talk about productivity loss. If I’m sitting here beating the crap out of myself for not getting stuff done, I’m not getting anything else done. So, Eleanor, can you start with that, please?
ELEANOR HALEY: Yeah. I think– I mean, I can certainly relate to this. I think the hardest thing about, for me personally, I’m working and parenting. And before, I could kind of compartmentalize those two. I could work and forget about what I’m not doing as a parent, and I could parent and forget about what I’m not doing at work. And now I’m trying to work, and I have a 10-year-old standing there staring at me wondering where her lunch is.
So it’s hard. You can’t really escape the sense that you’re not doing enough, or you’re not doing good enough, or you’re failing certain people at certain times. And so I can certainly relate to this. I think for me it is, I don’t know, just trying to let go a little bit. And that’s not really very good, concrete advice, but I– You mentioned, TQ, the schedules that everybody was posting in the first week, that everybody was doing school remotely. And, you know, I was tempted to feel bad, but then I was like, no. This is just not how we operate. And we’ve had so many moments of joy and togetherness and happiness, and those were not scheduled, they were just moments that happened.
And I think we need to keep sight of our overarching goals. Maybe our overarching values, as long as we’re sticking together as a family, as long as we’re trying to be good community members, as long as we’re handing in the work that we feel like we need to get done, we’re doing what we need to do and we’re staying in line with what we care about, and with what we value.
In terms of productivity, it may not feel all that helpful, those things. But I don’t know. I think I’m going to look back on this time and think more about the time I spent doing those things with my family or maybe doing things for our What’s Your Grief community that felt really meaningful. I think I’m going to remember those more than all the different spreadsheets I finish. So that’s just– it’s a little abstract but how I try to look at it.
JENNY GUY: Very true. Litsa, same to you.
LITSA WILLIAMS: So Eleanor sort of referenced it, but for me, I think so much of it is about values and how we look at our time and how it connects to our values. And if there is one mantra, I think, for anybody to stick on their mirror or wherever if they’re struggling with the productivity thing it is that, my worth is not my productivity. My value is not my productivity. Who I am as a human being is more than that. And I think when we look at our values, and we ask people about what their values are– values like family, values like the time that we spend doing things to support people that we love and that we care about and the things in the world that are important to us, are often the things that bubble to the surface when we’re talking about how we spend our time.
So I think being really concrete about that, even not in these times, is helpful. It’s saying, you know what, what are my top five values and what am I doing every day that connects to those values? And, in many ways, you’re going to find that productivity it’s maybe part of some of that, but it’s certainly usually very far from the whole. I think in the moment it’s very easy for us to get wrapped up in this idea that we need to do do do, create create create, and that’s the most important thing. When we take a step back, and we actually look at those values, look at the time we’re spending, spending as much time as we can connected to those values, research shows that’s what’s going to help our mood and our well-being and help us to stay really grounded. So that’s where I would encourage people to start.
JENNY GUY: I’m loving that, and I’m also– a lot of the, what are you going to take out of this time? What changes, what’s been happening that you’re going to walk out of this making a permanent part of your life even when you have the option to do a lot of different things? And I’m loving that. I’m trying to keep a self-inventory of the things that I want to keep doing and keep making happen in my life once I’m able to do all the things I could do before. TQ, same question to you.
TQ EVANS: What was the question, Jenny?
JENNY GUY: So yes, it was a while ago, and I’m circling too. We’ve kind of evolved. Ladies, we were talking about how to help feel better, to assuage that guilt when you’re not being productive enough, when you feel like you’re not getting enough done.
TQ EVANS: So I have just learned to release. And so I try to think back on, when was the last time that I really remembered how to have fun. And, as an adult, if it doesn’t contain a Margarita or a trip to the beach, I just feel like it’s not fun. And so it’s like, huh. So I basically, I go back to my child self, to my childhood, and think about the things that I did that were meaningful to me and fun to me. And that’s why we ordered a bunch of hula hoops, and jump ropes, and all kinds of just things that I remember. I’m teaching my kids hopscotch. And just, just playing, I learned to play again during this time.
And that has really helped to center me, and to balance me, and to, really, for us to evoke our– just the innocence of childhood a little bit more. It allows you, it’s kind of a gateway to forgiveness. It’s helpful to being able to release because you’re able to just enjoy life, and kind of forget about it in a way. So–
JENNY GUY: I love that.
ELEANOR HALEY: I just, I think we should be able to allow ourselves to change how we define our priorities, too, when everything’s kind of turned on its head and changed. I think all three of us just spoke to a shift in priorities, and what we’re really focusing on as being important in this time looks a little bit different. So I think we should be able to look at what we’ve accomplished in different terms as well on a day to day basis.
It might not be that our productivity is that we completed three work tasks, it might be that we completed one and then had two moments that we feel like wins were in a parenting way or in a self care way. So this is just not our normal, right? And so I think we should be able to redefine a little bit of how we define our priorities.
TQ EVANS: And I also think, continuing with some of the coping mechanisms that we had before this pandemic or before this time, such as continuing to keep those therapy appointments. You know, all of the– so many therapists now, so quickly were able to transition to virtual meetings. And I know that that has helped me, is that I didn’t miss a beat in my weekly therapy sessions. It’s turned to virtual meetings, which are still really– they’re just as good to me. And if there are things that we can anchor to, that worked for us prior to this, if we’re able to continue with some of those things, even if they look different, to continue with those. I think that that helps as well.
ELEANOR HALEY: Yeah.
JENNY GUY: I also think that we’re going to have to redefine, like you said redefine normal, but also we’ve kind of been living in a free-for-all time, it feels like a little bit for the last six weeks or so where we’re all just like, whatever. I’m going to eat and sleep– And that’s good, and you have to do what you have to do to get through it, and I completely get that. But we’re going to be moving into a time where it’s not going to be normal, but it’s not going to be free-for-all either.
So we’re going to have to, like TQ said, clinging to things that are going to help us establish some sort of a structure in our lives, that will help us, because we’re not going to go back to normal for a while, unfortunately. But we also probably don’t want to live into the place where I am, where I was saying I jokingly have become a carb because I’m baking like, 7,000 times a week. So I think that finding something that is an intermediate area between those things will be helpful.
Amber Bracegirdle, our co-founder, said, “Yes. The days where I’ve said, forget school, let’s just have fun, we’ve had the best time. I baked cookies with my boys yesterday afternoon, and we all felt so much happier after.”
And then we have a comment from Sara Volk, who is the office manager here. She said, “I’m in a bit of a different situation than a lot of people in that I’m spending this quarantine alone. I don’t think two cats count.”
I mean, depends on your perspective. Sara, we know how you feel about those cats.
“Rather than with family or a significant other, what are some ways you think, for those of us quarantining alone or with limited other people, can really help fill that human need of socialization and connection?”
LITSA WILLIAMS: Well, I’m also quarantining and distancing alone, so I absolutely feel, I feel very deeply. And I, as Eleanor and I often say, of the two of us, I am certainly the extrovert of What’s Your Grief. And so I am somebody who really recharges, and a lot of my ways of coping normally are getting out of the house. Before this happened, I’ve lived in my house about a year, and I think that I have spent more hours in my house during this than cumulatively in the year up to this. And so I’ve been thinking about that a lot.
And so I have really been trying to use all the screen tools that are available. So House Party and Jackbox are fantastic for being able to connect with people and play games and get together with friends online, I’ve been doing a lot of that. I’m a huge, huge advocate of Marco Polo, as Eleanor knows. It’s my favorite, and it allows that really amazing– because obviously, of course, things like Zoom, Happy Hour, Jackbox, House Party is great when you can get people together at a scheduled time.
I think one of the things that’s really nice about Marco Polo is you can drop in and record and watch other people on your time, and they can do it on their time. But you’re still getting to see people’s faces, they can show you their dog or their kids, or what’s going on. And so you get more than you’re getting in just text messaging. And so I think really, not that all the tools are going to work for everybody, but testing out the different ones, being open to it. I’ve heard a lot of people who are like, oh no that’s not my thing. I’m not into– And then when they try they’re like, oh wait, this was actually really fun.
So I think, going back to what Eleanor said earlier, which is sometimes where we go, this isn’t a replacement. It’s not going to be the same. It’s not going to feel as great as going to happy hour in real life or as playing a board game around a table together. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be good, and it doesn’t mean that it can’t be fun. So I think that can be good.
I think looking, I’ve been doing some of the live yoga classes online, and I really like that. Normally I never do that. So normally I’ll do a yoga video or I’ll go to yoga class. But I think the live yoga classes give you more of a feeling of, oh this is happening in real time. There is that person who is doing yoga at the same time. And it just adds a little more connection than doing a generic YouTube video. So I think that can help with the people connection piece.
And then I think the other part, for me, has been really channeling– If you’re someone like me who maybe doesn’t normally spend a lot of time at home, it’s motivated me to be more deliberate about thinking about, how do I make my space a space that I really want to be in? I think if you’re someone who is out in about a lot, it’s easy to not always tend to your personal space in the same way. So I think this can be a good opportunity to do that as well.
JENNY GUY: Love that. OK, anything TQ or Eleanor?
TQ EVANS: No, I’m just listening.
JENNY GUY: OK. Eleanor did you have anything on that one?
ELEANOR HALEY: No. The only thing I would add is just, I think sometimes we might have a tendency to say, it’s not the same, so I’m not going to do it at all. Or, oh I’ll do that later, or I’ll just reconnect with people when all this ends, right? But I think that that can really get us caught up in a rut, and we actually don’t know how long, necessarily, this is going to last.
And so we encourage people not to get caught up in that thinking, I’ll do it later, or it’s not as good so I’m not going to do it at all. And to just give it a try. “Just do it” is often our motto in terms of things that involve coping. Just try it, and we think that it’ll probably get easier and feel better as you continue to do it.
JENNY GUY: I say that too about when people are talking about doing lives or not doing lives. I’m like, I mean, you really just kind of got to go live. And then–
ELEANOR HALEY: Just do it.
JENNY GUY: –let the poop hit the fan, and then see what happens. So, from what we were talking about earlier, there’s a flip side to the coin of that productivity conversation that we were having which is, yes we want to be graceful with ourselves, and yes we want to allow for new priorities, but at the same time food is good, and having a job and paying our bills. And there are people that need things from us.
So is there a way– And I think that part of the beauty of this work from home situation that we’re finding out is that you don’t have to sit there for eight hours straight to get something accomplished. So how can you adapt to become productive in the time that you do have to maximize your productivity when you can get that little bit of time? And, TQ, I’m going to start with you on that one if that’s OK.
TQ EVANS: OK, Jenny. I had a headset issue. Am I– Can you hear me the same, or am I a little lower?
JENNY GUY: You’re in a different– and it’s a little more echoey, which is why we have people use headphones. But we’re good, we’re rolling along. I like your plant. Let’s go.
TQ EVANS: OK. You know, I’m going to just try it one more time to see if it–
JENNY GUY: That’s much better, yes.
TQ EVANS: It was just doing something weird. Let’s see. OK.
JENNY GUY: You sound great.
ELEANOR HALEY: Yeah.
TQ EVANS: Do I?
JENNY GUY: I mean, you really do.
ELEANOR HALEY: You do.
TQ EVANS: OK. I don’t know what happened to these. I don’t know. OK. I don’t know. OK. If I don’t, just give me a signal, and I’m–
JENNY GUY: Oh, I will.
TQ EVANS: OK.
JENNY GUY: I’ll interrupt you.
TQ EVANS: –the headset while we do it. So the question was how do we–
JENNY GUY: How can we maximize productivity because we do have demands on our time, and we do have people that need things from us even though we’re trying to be graceful and we don’t necessarily have the time that we had before. So how can you maximize productivity with the time that you do have?
TQ EVANS: So one suggestion is to have almost like a commitment to yourself, where you carve out a certain block of time, and that is your appointment to yourself that you cannot break. And so that’s something that’s really worked here in our house where we will have designated times of work, but then also designated break times. Sometimes working from home you don’t take lunches. You are eating in virtual meetings and that sort of thing. And so by just really having dedicated work hours. And then also having everything that you need in the space so that you can be successful is one that can be really good as well. So those are just a couple of things that helped me to remain focused.
ELEANOR HALEY: I most definitely agree with what you shared. I have a baby at home, so if I try and just say, all right I’m just going to get up and do work while the kids are all doing their thing, I will fail all day long. I’ll become very unproductive. So I think, like you said, carving out that time and choosing the time that makes the most sense as well. So when are the kids napping or busy can be so helpful.
And I think, one thing Litsa and I’ve talked about a lot and really struggle with is we’re both night people. We’re more productive at night than in the morning, and though I think sometimes it’s bad when things bleed together a lot, I think for me personally, being able to say, you know what, after my youngest goes down, that’s when I’m going to have the most time to be productive. I’m just going to do the kid thing right now, and I’ll do my work at this time later on in the day. So I think being more deliberate about what you’re doing in each time block can be really helpful, for me personally.
JENNY GUY: Litsa, same to you.
LITSA WILLIAMS: So I think when, this is actually an ADD productivity tip, but I think it might work for people at this time. One thing often they recommend for people with ADD or ADHD is, when you make your list for the day or for the week or however you make your list, is to estimate how much time do you think each item will take. So that in a particular moment, if you know you have 30 minutes, you can scan your list for what’s a 30 minute item. Because with ADHD, it’s really hard to stop and start. Usually people can, once they get going, they can focus. But then, if they take a break, it’s really hard to get back. So it’s a tip for that.
But I think for this, when our time is maybe being interrupted by kids, or different things are happening, or we’re going to have to adjust things around, having your list really quickly and easily just being able to go, OK. I only have 15 minutes, but here are three 15 minute– let me grab one of these three 15 minute things and do it. We can start to maximize the time we do have and use it a little bit differently.
ELEANOR HALEY: Yeah.
JENNY GUY: I love that. And also it sounds like a really great way to figure out how much time you actually are taking on things because I don’t think I have an idea. When I’m writing something, I’m gone. And then it’s two hours later and I’m like, well what happened? Well, I got derailed 47 times.
ELEANOR HALEY: Yeah.
LITSA WILLIAMS: So it’s actually– Part of the reason they recommend it for ADHD and ADD is that people with ADHD and ADD often have a hard time guessing how long things are going to take, they think it’s going to usually take way less time than it’s actually going to take. So when you first start doing it, part of the reason they recommend it is not just for time management, but it actually helps you to get better at learning to estimate how long tasks take you because we’re often not great at doing that.
JENNY GUY: I love that. And I also love, yeah, the ability– We live in Slack in our work from home at Mediavine. That is our lives, we are there all the time, that’s what we do. But having the ability to say, I’m going on DND for the next 45 minutes because I need to not be disturbed, because otherwise– because there’s fires constantly in the world that we live in. So you’re always just like, ugh, and you never get anything done. So that’s very helpful.
Ladies, we’re coming to the end of our time, but I have one more question that’s kind of a refrain that I’ve gotten from different people and some from me too. I always give you a little bit of time to think while I make announcements. So the last thing I want to hear from you guys, please, is how can we show up for other people right now? People that might be grieving that we can’t be with, that we can’t physically touch. People that are alone in the quarantine that are feeling very isolated. What are some easy ways that we can show up for them and make them feel a little bit less alone? So think about that, I will come right back.
Guys, we are continuing on our trail of lives, that we’re “live-ing” through, we’re living through this quarantine together. And we’re “live-ing” through this quarantine together, and that is what we are here for. Next week, next Thursday, I have our CEO coming back again, Eric Hochberger. He always brings goodies, he’s like Santa, and he brings goodies with him when he comes to Live, and we have some more things we want to talk to you about that we’re working on behind the scenes. So we’re going to give you a look behind the scenes, what we’re doing, what we’re working on, and how we are getting through this time and getting ready for the future where we’re going to come out stronger and profitable on the other side. So hold on for that, that will be next week.
I’m sure we’ll talk about Trellis because we always do. We can’t not talk about Trellis when he’s here. So come by, we’ll be back here 3:00 PM eastern time, next Thursday, which is the 30th of April. Again, I don’t know how that happened. And finally, I want to find out how we can show up for other people, and I’m going to start with Eleanor from What’s Your Grief. Will you please give us your final thoughts on that, Eleanor?
ELEANOR HALEY: I think this is another one of those areas where it feels like, oh, I don’t know how I can possibly bridge the gap, the physical gap between us, so I’m just not going to. And so Litsa and I have talked a lot about this and about just the need to at least do something, right? And so Litsa just mentioned a number of different platforms we can use. If we’re talking about somebody who’s grieving, just relying on some of those old tried and true things, sending something in the mail, send a card, send a gift of some sort in the mail to them to let you know you’re just thinking about them.
One of the things, when we ask people who are grieving what has been the most helpful to them in their grief, one of the things people have said time and time again is just the people who continue to check in. So not just checking in once and thinking I’m done, I’m checking that box off, I’ve done that, checking in again and again and taking the person’s cues. If it seems like they want a little space, but you don’t have to do much, you don’t have to be pushy, you don’t invade their virtual space. Just saying, hey, I’m thinking about you. I love you, and I can’t wait till I can see you again, can really do a lot to let somebody know that you’re just you’re thinking of them and they’re not alone.
JENNY GUY: Love that. Thank you, Eleanor. OK Lisa, from you, please.
LITSA WILLIAMS: I think one of the things that for right now, very specific to people who are grieving, is that one thing we don’t do as often as we could is share memories and photos of loved ones if we have them. And I think this is a time where a lot of us have some time. And if you know people in your life who’ve lost someone, and maybe you have some photos they might not have, or you have a story or a memory or something, anything, a way that you think about their loved one, taking this time to just say, hey, I was thinking about your mom and I loved this thing about her, I remember this thing about her, I’m just using this moment as a time to reach out. I don’t think we do that enough in general, but I think this is a time where things like that are especially meaningful.
JENNY GUY: Love that too. OK, TQ, finally to you. We can’t hear you, you’re muted. Yay!
TQ EVANS: OK am I muted? Can you hear me?
JENNY GUY: We can hear you.
TQ EVANS: Oh good. OK. I felt bad. Thanks to the Geek Squad, they taught me a couple of things about when technical issues happen, I know how to save myself and recover now.
JENNY GUY: Excellent.
TQ EVANS: So one of the things I would suggest is being a good neighbor. I think it’s really helpful. I have elderly neighbors who are not able to get out. And if you are having to go out and make a run to the grocery store, obviously protect yourself, utilize social distancing, and so on and so forth. I would actually call my neighbor and ask, hey Miss such and such, is there anything that you need from the store? I know you’re not really able to go, can I pick up some things for you? And dropping those off to a neighbor.
As you mentioned, you can send a gift. Amazon, Etsy, there are lots of care packages that are already made up that really creative folks have put together that you could pay for and have sent to someone. I would also suggest starting pen-palling again. That’s kind of a vintage thing that I think is awesome. I mean, how awesome is it to get a handwritten letter, two, three page letter from someone just telling you how they feel, or how they care about you, or what you mean to them.
And lastly, I would recommend to be transparent and honest in your social media spaces and not being a person to contribute to the “everything is perfect image anymore. And really committing to showing up in your social media spaces as your authentic self, the good, the bad, and the ugly. And by being your authentic self, you give others permission to express when they are stressed and when it’s not the picture perfect, everything’s scheduled, my kids are– like, this picture perfect life. So those are some suggestions I would give.
[JENNY AND ELEANOR]: (TOGETHER) Love that.
LITSA WILLIAMS: Can I just throw in real quick, I know you were sharing resources, but there’s a great place in terms of sending care packages called Here For You. And they send really, really great grief and self-care care packages. So other than Etsy and Amazon, they’re another great resource that we love.
JENNY GUY: And I would contribute in there too, there is also no better time to send people something local or something made by a local artisan, a local jeweler, a local scarf, a small business owner, send somebody local restaurant food. Anything that can support people that are struggling right now, I think you can kill two birds with one very happy stone. So I think that that’s–
Guys, this has been wonderful. Thank you so much for being here, and I appreciate it. Ladies, stay safe and be well. And we will see you again next Thursday everyone. And subscribe to our YouTube channel, and follow Mediavine on all our social media accounts so you can not miss an episode. Thank you guys.
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