The COVID-19 global pandemic is affecting all of us. I know these are hard times for everybody: we have definitely changed our ways of working, buying, socializing, and living in general. No one has the answer to managing such an unprecedented event, we are all trying our best to get through it.
As a freelancer, I have to admit that I was already accustomed to unpredictability, but that doesn’t mean this whole situation is not affecting me as well. On the contrary, it can add to the feeling of uncertainty that I experience from time to time.
Luckily, this virus has not directly impacted the physical health of everybody, but what is certainly doing is affecting the mental health of people, and that is equally important and something that we shouldn’t underestimate.
The lockdown(s) and this global situation have reshaped my way of thinking about life and work, but most of all have reset my priorities. One thing I enjoy most about freelancing is that “there is no such day as today”, I wouldn’t be able to do it if I am stuck in a Groundhog Day scheme.
Even so, I quickly realized that I needed some routine to avoid falling apart and losing focus. I made up a list of 10 things that I constantly do to take care of myself and of my mental health during these uncertain times.
1- Practicing yoga. The first time I took a yoga lesson was years ago, and I didn’t like it. I found it overly tiring for my muscles (I have never been a sports person) and I dropped it immediately. In March 2020, during the very first phase of the lockdown, I downloaded some apps and gave yoga a second chance. Now yoga is one of my favorite free-time activities because it helps me strengthen my balance, eliminate back pain caused by sitting long hours in front of a screen and release tension.
2- Practising meditation. Despite not being a sports person, I am hyperactive and there’s always something on my mind. Here’s why at first I thought meditation was not my cup of tea, I didn’t think I would have been able to spend 10-15 minutes at a time doing nothing. But once I tried I realized that not only I could do this, but I also couldn’t do without it. Meditation is a blessing with anxiety and tension and helps to stay focused tremendously.
3- Watching trash TV shows. Being a series binge-watcher, I don’t watch television very much. Also, my favorite genres are drama and dystopia, so it’s hard to find these kinds of shows on cable television. But all this time spent at home made me over-analyze everything about me, my future, and the world so it didn’t take me long to realize that my mind needed a break. A small amount of trash shows doesn’t make you a silly or empty person.
4- Devoting time to not work-related stuff. You work to live. If you live to work, there’s something wrong. This is a basic rule for me, all the more in this specific period. Continuous development is important, but since we have so much time to spend at home why not learning something new just for the fun of it? At least you’re spending time on something you enjoy and avoid getting stuck in bad thoughts.
5- Limiting social media usage. I know, social media are addictive, scrolling down for hours can be fun. This is what I thought until I try limiting my daily usage of them. I set a daily limit of 40 minutes on social media and realized that not only I am spending more time on valuable activities, plus my mood is benefitting from it.
6- Speaking out. I am an introvert, so I don’t share often my feelings and thoughts when I am not asked to (this blog is helping me going out of my comfort zone). In the past few months, I realized that speaking out and sharing my thoughts with others is not that bad, and has become essential during these times of forced distancing.
7- Taking care of yourself (even if it seems worthless). Being stuck at home may induce you to rethink your priorities. This can be a good thing, but can also lead you to neglect important matters, like your personal care. I know it can sound useless since we are going to parties, events, or meetings. But taking care of yourself is good for you, and that’s what counts more than anything.
8- Giving your mind some extra rest. Forced isolation and long hours at home, maybe alone, may lead you to overthink and to force yourself into being 100% productive all the time. Just because you are experiencing such an unusual situation, you need to give your mind space to process.
9- Finding distractions to take the edge off. Each of us has our own way to relieve stress. Now more than ever finding ways to distract can make a difference in the time's quality. I am not a skilled cook but during the second phase of the lockdown I began experimenting in the kitchen and now I am learning to bake a different pie each week. Attending MasterChef is not in my plans, but at least I’m having fun.
10- Avoiding comparisons with others. This mainly relates to social media usage. Spending a lot of time looking at other people’s profiles (on LinkedIn and Instagram in particular) and seeing all their goals and success may turn stressful, especially if you are at the beginning of your career or are in a slump. Each journey is unique, every person is unique, avoid thinking you’re lagging compared to others.