One Environmentalist's Formula For Getting Outside On Work-From-Home Days
Anyone who's ever worked from home knows the feeling: All of a sudden it's 7 p.m. and you've barely left your house—let alone your pajamas—since the morning. Here, environmentalist and integrative health coach Kamea Chayne of the Green Dreamer podcast shares how she stays active, clearheaded, and refreshed during long days of working for herself. (Hint: Her two rescue pups, Oscar and Roo, very much help.)
What does a typical workday look like for you?
Working for myself from home, I actually tend to be a workaholic, working from morning to nighttime and on the weekends as well. A typical day—though it varies depending on what projects I'm working on—looks like waking up around 6:30 a.m. (or a little later in the winter, as I align my biological clock and waking hours with daylight), go into my 15-minute morning ritual, then go on a 10- to 15-minute walk with my two dogs.
After getting back, I have a light breakfast, and then I start work right afterward at around 7:30 a.m. or 8 a.m. Around noon, I take my dogs out again—sometimes to a nearby dog park where they can run around while I listen to audiobooks or my own podcast to revisit some learning lessons I can share again or build on in future episodes—then, I get back to work. After another few hours, usually around 5 p.m., I'll take my dogs out on a longer speed walk so I can get my daily steps and cardio in, come back home to do some movement exercises on the yoga mat, then prepare dinner and start to unwind from the day.
What does productivity mean and look like for you? Has your definition changed over the years?
Productivity for me used to apply to only work-related tasks, but my view of it has evolved to include anything that helps me thrive personally or professionally. For example, taking a break from work to walk my dogs is a form of productivity for me—I'm doing something to stimulate my blood flow, rejuvenate my body, re-center my mind, and enjoy time outside. If literally doing nothing is what I need to unwind and reset, I view that as being productive, too, as it's a way for me to cultivate holistic wellness for myself, which will better enable me to do anything else I want to do.
How do you set yourself up for a productive day?
I've been working to establish a morning ritual that incorporates 3Ms: mindfulness, movement, mindset. I set four alarms in the morning spaced 5 minutes apart. After the first one rings, I sit upright and begin a mindfulness breathing practice and body scan to focus my mind and strengthen my mind-body connection.
After 5 minutes of mindfulness when the next alarm goes off, I go into 5 minutes of movement—stretching out my body slowly, stepping off the bed to do some light body resistance motions, etc. Sometimes, I'll play music along with movement and just allow my body to lead me based on the rhythms of the song playing.
Finally, when the third alarm goes off, I go into "mindset," which is where I think of and jot down three things I'm grateful for. To dive a bit deeper, I also visualize the sensory details of everything on the list and reflect on why they are important or meaningful to me. I wrap up the ritual by writing out my top priorities for the day.
Walk me through your workplace setup: What do you surround yourself with when you're working and why?
I use my round dining table as my workspace. I do everything there: When I'm recording a podcast episode, I'll even get crafty and cover the surface with a layer of towels for soundproofing. (I actually used to record while sitting on the floor of my small walk-in closet since all the fabric helped prevent echo!) It's worked out great so far, and I love being surrounded by all the plants I have in my living room as I go about my work. They automatically bring me a sense of calm, and whether it's psychological or not, I truly do feel physically more energized around them.
How often do you try to take breaks from work, and what do you do on them?
Lately, I've been scheduling my days more intuitively, allowing how I feel to dictate when or how often I need to take a break. For example, if, with self-awareness, I'm noticing the quality of my thought becoming scattered and unfocused, that's a sign for me to take a break. If I'm feeling on a roll and want to continue with the momentum I've built up, I may work for longer hours than usual before taking a break.
What I do during the breaks also depends on how I feel. If I'm hungry, I snack. If I'm cold, I make hot tea. If my body feels achy and stiff, I do some stretches and movements on my yoga mat. If I'm feeling slow and unfocused, I might take a walk outside.
What's the most unexpected thing in your workspace, and what's the story behind it?
I'm not sure this is too unexpected, but I love having my dogs around me as I work. I'm so grateful to be able to hug, play, and run around the house with them throughout the day. They also encourage me to get outside more while working from home, which has been a huge plus.
Where do you look to find inspiration for your work?
Sometimes social media is a source of stress for me, especially when I fall into the comparison trap, but when I'm intentional about it, it's also been a great place for me to learn and find inspiration. I also sign up for various newsletters from nonprofits or publications I trust and love, and receiving curated updates and information from them has been immensely helpful. Oh, and how can I forget! Every single change-making guest I get the honor of interviewing inspires me, and that is probably the best part about my work right now that I'm so grateful for.
What piece of work are you the proudest of?
Green Dreamer's audio collection of 200 podcast episodes and counting! I just celebrated this big milestone and I can't wait to continue building upon it in 2020.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Emma Loewe is the Sustainability and Health Director at mindbodygreen and the author of Return to Nature: The New Science of How Natural Landscapes Restore Us. She is also the co-author of The Spirit Almanac: A Modern Guide To Ancient Self Care, which she wrote alongside Lindsay Kellner.
Emma received her B.A. in Environmental Science & Policy with a specialty in environmental communications from Duke University. In addition to penning over 1,000 mbg articles on topics from the water crisis in California to the rise of urban beekeeping, her work has appeared on Grist, Bloomberg News, Bustle, and Forbes. She's spoken about the intersection of self-care and sustainability on podcasts and live events alongside environmental thought leaders like Marci Zaroff, Gay Browne, and Summer Rayne Oakes.