None of us will ever forget what we are going through right now – I know I won’t. It so happens that my birthday dinner plans fell on the same Friday that “shelter in place” orders were declared in California. As I sat on my couch by myself watching the movie Contagion (might as well get in the spirit) and eating popcorn, I began reflecting on how the shutdown would impact our daily lives.
We are experiencing a global event that has changed the ways we work, socialize, commute and collaborate – nearly every facet of our lives will be impacted. This is in addition to the economic and financial challenges presented before us. It has been over 2 months since shelter in place orders were announced in California. The term “new normal” has become a common phrase we have grown accustomed to as many of us have been relegated to working from home or working remotely in some form or fashion.
Most of us have a friend or family member who has always worked from home. You have probably thought to yourself, “How awesome would that be? I wouldn’t have to deal with traffic, would save money on gas and eating out, and have more personal time in my life. While rolling out of bed at 8:55 AM and showing up for your 9:00 AM conference call in a polo shirt with pajama bottoms on sounds amazing, it can take some getting used to.
In a normal environment, you would still have outlets such as the gym, getting outdoors or dining out to break the monotony. But this is entirely different and I’ll be the first to admit that that first few weeks were difficult for me. I love going to the gym and practicing yoga, which of course I could no longer do. Instead of immediately figuring out a new routine, I stopped working out almost entirely. I also became inconsistent with my usual morning practice that includes meditation.
The next thing to go was my diet – with grocery delivery temporarily unavailable and limited trips to the grocery store, I stocked up frozen foods and guilty pleasures like ice cream. If I’m going to be home all the time, might as well get cozy, right? With the world on pause, my subconscious decided to take the wheel and put my life on pause. Where was the drive, discipline and energy that had become so interwoven into everything I do? As a matter of fact, I had MORE time now to dedicate towards these positive behaviors. So what was wrong with me?
In October of 2019, I attended financial life planning training for a week at the Kinder Institute of Life Planning. It was a profound experience and gave me fresh insights on how to truly help people plan out their lives prior to putting together a financial plan. One prominent lesson I learned was that most of what we want in life is attainable. Certainly, financial resources can be limiting in some situations, but everyone can live a life they desire within their own means. The problem is that most of us have energy blocks. However, there are a lot of things under our control that can really help during times like these. Three things that I have found to improve my energy and focus are mindfulness, creativity and maintaining social interactions.
Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us. Being mindful can reduce stress, enhance performance and help you gain insight by observing your own mind. So how do you cultivate mindfulness? There are many practices that you can incorporate into your routine, but if you were going to start with one, I believe a daily meditation practice is extremely effective.
Meditation involves taking the time to pay attention to where we are and what’s going on with our bodies and minds. In this day and age, we are constantly bombarded with information and our brains are frantically processing thousands of thoughts per day. Cultivating a meditation practice helps give your mind a break from the constant thinking. Over time, you will begin to develop a deeper awareness of your thousands of thoughts and be able to filter unwanted/negative thoughts out. Why? Because thoughts lead to feelings and any negative feelings such as stress, anxiety and worry are mostly unnecessary and DRAIN YOUR MENTAL ENERGY, which leads to decreased focus. This is why many CEOs and entrepreneurs meditate. Some of our favorite resources to learn the practice of meditation are:
The benefits of getting back to my morning practice of meditation after a 2-week hiatus had an immediate positive effect on my mood and energy levels. I no longer felt lethargic and having structure back in my daily routine was extremely helpful when spending most of the day at home. If you already meditate, a few other mindful practices that I incorporate into my morning routine to help with mindfulness are gratitude and journaling.
Channel Your Creative Side
Another area of our lives that can help us to be more mindful is increased creativity. Unless you have a career in the arts, many of us lose touch with creative outlets to get the right side of our brains working. If you feel distant from your creative side and want to develop a practice that’s right for you, it’s important to reflect on what inspires you and evokes an emotional reaction.
Many people connect with their creative side by revisiting their childhood and remembering what forms of art they were drawn to. It’s possible that even as a child, you experienced emotional benefits from painting, drawing or coloring that you can reflect on today. In my case, I loved to draw as a child and even took graphic design classes in high school. About a month ago, I decided to pick up sketching and it feels amazing and therapeutic to get back in touch with an activity I once loved so much.
It’s a common misconception that some people are just born creative and others aren’t, as if creativity were a prize in the genetic lottery. But the truth is everyone is creative, it’s just a matter of taking chances and trying new things to discover the creative medium that fits you. This presents a great time to do so! There are so many creative activities for adults in addition to some more common ones:
If you have never had a creative hobby, there are literally thousands of tutorials on Youtube and other websites and many of them are free!
Staying Socially Connected
Isolation from colleagues, friends and family can certainly take its toll on your mood. But can you imagine if we were faced with this pandemic before video conferencing? Today there are all sorts of options to stay in touch with our loved ones. Social media offers a variety of platforms to communicate with friends and even make new ones! Have a common interest/hobby but no one to share it with? Join a Facebook or Meetup group or even start your own group. It’s invigorating to share passionate interests with others.
Another common trend that has gained popularity recently is virtual happy hours. Software like Zoom or Facetime on your iPhone are great ways to get as close to in-person as possible. If you aren’t tech-savvy, then think outside the box. You can have social distancing get-togethers with neighbors outdoors. One friend of mine gets together with neighbors twice a week for a boot camp. They place some cones along their street with each cone represents a different exercise and move through all the cones a number of times. Also many fitness coaches, gyms and studios are doing are virtual classes to continue the sense of community we are all missing.
There are still so many unknowns as we continue our fight against the Coronavirus. As our country slowly tries to return to some state of semi-normalcy, it’s important to take care of our mental well being during this time. Maybe this is an opportunity for us – an opportunity to step away from the technology and constant business in our lives and take some time to pause and reflect on what’s missing in your life. While mindfulness and creativity are great starting points, there could be different aspects of your life that may be currently unfulfilled. One of my favorite evaluation tools to help determine areas of life that could use improvement is the Wheel of Life.
Maybe you are already mindful but are looking for ways to improve the aspects of your life such as health, having a larger social circle or maybe spirituality. Whatever is missing in your life, this is a great time to identify what it is and start developing habits to incorporate it into your routine. So if you’ve gotten in a quarantine funk, push pause and reflect on how you can use this time for more positive growth and enrichment.