There’s no denying it, the world is a radically different place right now and we have no idea when or if life will ever be quite normal again. It’s that feeling of unknown futures, which Kessler has articulated as anticipatory grief. For some, our world has been shifted upside down, inside out, and we’re left wondering what now? The precariousness of our current reality has led some to lose their jobs and businesses, optimism, or loved ones. The uncertainty of this whole experience is paralyzing. During these unprecedented times, anxiety can be all consuming and crippling.
So what do we do? How can we stay focused on anything at this time? Well, the truth is that we can’t. Well that may not be entirely true, but I think we’ve all experienced moments where it’s challenging to focus or perform at 100%. I recently joined a discussion with the creators of the Growth Equation. Brad Stulberg pointed out that, as high achievers, we simply can’t be at 100% everyday given the circumstances. We may be more at like 60-70% and we need to be okay with that.
Accept What Is
I think it’s important to listen and acknowledge how you’re feeling during this time. It’s hard to shift your current mentality when there are so many uncertainties, but strength is found in accepting the things you can’t control. Focus on the present and take things one step at a time.
There are of course actions we can perform to help flatten the curve, such as social distancing and frequent handwashing, but there are also strides we can take to make sure our wellbeing doesn’t fall to the wayside. We’re all experiencing this collective sense of ambivalence – when will this end? Will my loved ones be harmed? What will the world look like once we get past this pandemic? These unknowns can cause us to forecast the worst, but it’s important to breathe and recenter our minds. Try to balance any feelings of discomfort or grief with things that make you happy; just remember, this is temporary. I’m extremely grateful that I’m able to be with family during quarantine and fully acknowledge how difficult it may be for others – especially those who may be self-isolating alone. No matter your current living situation, I hope this article finds you well. I wanted to share some of the ways that I’ve been trying to adapt to our current situation, and hope that you can take a sliver of positivity from this.
We’re not on full lockdown here in Canada and can still go for walks and runs outside, so long as we respect social distancing. I’ve been taking full advantage of this and trying to get outside as much as possible. I’ve been running more mileage than usual both indoor (my parents have a treadmill in the basement) and outdoor. Long afternoon walks with the dog have also been a relaxing way to unwind after a workday or even as a great mid-day work break refresher. I’ve also been trying to stick with my same training split using adjustable dumbbells. I don’t have access to the machinery at gyms, but I’m still able to achieve progressive overload with the weights I have.
If you don’t have equipment, perhaps look at buying some online or renting from your gym (if they have that option). If you have access to the internet which I hope everyone reading this does, there are some AMAZING home workout videos out there. One of the best in my opinion is Anabolic Aliens. I’ve learned an abundance of new exercises for every muscle group that I incorporate into my routine on a weekly basis. Mike Rosa has hundreds of dumbbell and at home workouts (for those that don’t have any equipment). I highly recommend starting here.
Pen to Paper
I think we can all agree that this is a crazy time in our life. Keeping a journal of how we’re feeling and what’s going on in the world is not only cathartic, but also keeps a log for us to refer to years down the road. We can revisit in vivid detail our experiences or share with our children, the state of the world and our emotions during this time. The free journaling app I use is Day One.
Stay Connected Online
I don’t know about you, but I need to see the lovely faces of my friends in order to lift my spirits. Scheduling video chat dates with my friends has been the highlight of most of my days. It’s interesting, but what I’ve found is that my conversations seem much deeper than they were before. I’m finding that as we’re all longing for connection, there’s this hyper-presence when we’re engaging in virtual conversations; an attentiveness we should always grant our friends, but may have slipped up on prior to our current situation. Gratitude can surface at unexpected times, but trust me, it’s important to exercise compassion during this time – schedule video chats with friends, listen to how they’re feeling.
Some of the ways I’m staying connected is through Zoom, which is currently offering free memberships for conversations under 40 minutes with less than 3 people. Although I’ve never used it before (as even the title makes me feel old), I’ve heard good things about the Houseparty app, which allows you to chat with one or multiple friends at a time (depending on who’s online).
Daily meditation has been part of my routine for a few years now and there’s no better time to practice mindfulness than at the present moment. I’m not an expert on meditation, but I know first hand the powerful benefits of training the mind. The ability to train your mind and find productive ways of registering your emotions is such a wonderful capability to possess.
Even allowing yourself 10 minutes a day to practice a breathing meditation or listening to relaxing music can help bring about a sense of calmness and ease anxiety. Have 15 minutes to spare after lunch? Great – there are tons of free meditation tutorials available at your fingertips.
Escape in a Good Book
Books have always been a great distraction and way of getting out of your head. Indulge in some new reads or old favourites. Audiobooks are also a great option during this time, since the accessibility of libraries and retail shops and lag in ordering books online can provide a wee bit of a barrier.
If you’re looking for a reading list mashup, here are some of my personal favourites spanning across a number of genres:
The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle
Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat-Zin
The Surrender Experiment by Michael A. Singer
The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer
Letting Go: The Pathway of Surrender by David R. Hawkins
Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach
Stillness is the Key by Ryan Holiday
The 5 Second Rule by Mel Robbins
Choose Yourself by James Altucher
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
The Passion Paradox by Brad Stulberg & Steve Magness
The Productivity Project by Chris Bailey
The Success Principles by Jack Canfield & Janet Switzer
The Happiness of Pursuit by Chris Guillebeau
Atomic Habits by James Clear
Peak Performance by Brad Stulberg & Steve Magness
Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds by David Goggins
Shoe Dog by Phil Knight
Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson
Daily Rituals, How Artists Work by Mason Currey
Finding Ultra by Rich Roll
Eat and Run by Scott Jurek
Born to Run by Christopher McDougall
The E-Myth by Michael E. Gerber
Creativity Inc. by Ed Catmull & Amy Wallace
Quiet by Susan Cain
The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau
Rejection Proof by Jia Jiang
Good to Great by Jim Collins
Side Hustle: From Idea to Income in 27 Days by Chris Guillebeau
Psychological Thrillers (my personal fave fiction)
Some of us that are currently out of work may be feeling this period of uncertainty quite considerably. Our careers, which can bring us so much meaning and joy, is no longer present in our day-to-day. A lot of people have been feeling the stress and anxiety that this pandemic is carrying, which can lead us to questions of what our current purpose is. My partner is an elementary school teacher and she’s feeling the blow a lot. What I really respect and admire is her drive to do what she can to help others. She volunteered for Kid’s Help Line, is creating learning resources for her kids (ie. videos) that are sitting at home, and having ongoing conversations with parents to help in whatever way she can.
If there’s one thing positive to come out of COVID-19, it’s the generosity, kindness and sense of community the human species is capable of. Hockey companies such as Bauer and Sparx pivoted from making hockey equipment to making medical face shields. Local breweries and distilleries are now making hand sanitizer.
There are also influential people, such as Sarah Blakey who started the Red Backpack Fund and is giving $5 million dollars to 1,000 female entrepreneurs ($5k USD each) during COVID.
Then there’s the people in our communities who are going on grocery runs for the elderly, those that are high risk, or those that are quarantined with the virus.
There are gyms and yoga studios that are releasing free classes over video chat.
There are even restaurants with famous dishes that are giving out the recipes for free – I’m looking at you, Mildred’s Temple Kitchen (THANK YOU).
The kindness is something for us all to be grateful for and to try to replicate as much as we can. For me, I like to do something kind once a day. Do personal training sessions with my mom or sister, donate money to someone in need, help edit someone else’s blog post, or order takeout for my partner. These small gestures not only make the other person feel good, but you as well.
Now is the perfect time to try learning that new skill you’ve been wanting to learn for years. It seems to always make it on your yearly goal list, but always gets pushed to the bottom of the priority pile. Based on my own interests, here are some interesting hobbies to take up or skills to finetune:
- Learn Spanish with Duolingo and practice with your cat
- Write a story or article on Medium and share your experience on anything
- Sign-up for Masterclass, split the cost of a friend and binge-watch lessons on everything
- Start a free blog with WordPress and just start writing
- Take a free online course from Harvard University
Limit Your News Consumption
This is probably the most important point to takeaway. Try to avoid overconsuming the news. That includes TV, publishers, Facebook, Twitter, etc., etc. While it’s good to be informed, try to limit how much you look through the news on a daily basis. Being a Canadian and living in Toronto, I do always try to catch addresses from the government, but I also try to stay balanced in that I’m not letting it engulf my entire day. Engage in other activities (as mentioned above) and take it day by day.
Check-In on Yourself
Take the time to sit and just listen to how you’re currently feeling. Maybe you need to rest and relax with some Netflix or a bath. Maybe you need to replenish your body with some dark leafy greens. Maybe you need to take on something new and start a DIY project. Self-care is essential during this time; engage in activities that make you feel good. Check-in on yourself – what’s going on inside? Are you feeling calm most of the time or anxious and scared? If the latter, re-evaluate how you can shift the ratio.
Humans have gone through this before and we will again; coming out stronger and more resilient on the other side.
We will learn to be more grateful for small gestures like hugging and hanging out with friends. We will appreciate the luxuries of going out for dinner that much more.
We will realize that the most important thing in this life is human connection and not taking our relationships for granted.
I’ve contemplated the brevity of life and how precious each moment is. Be grateful.
Use this as an opportunity to appreciate what you have, the people you have in your life, and for the opportunity to slow down and focus on you.