The Thrive Global topic of the week asks how people have been able to cope with the pandemic. This post is not for everyone but for the hard-driving types who may have gone (or are still going) crazy during COVID and want to make the best use of their time. The way I see it, there were two types of people whose actions defined the last year: those who waited for the pandemic to pass (and sometimes lost their head) and those who were able to capitalize on the opportunity.
Regardless of whether you fall into the latter or former category (and if you’re reading this, then it’s probably the former), you may have been bouncing off the walls during COVID and needed an outlet for your energy. Every day is still a challenge during the pandemic, but below are some of the ways I learned to moderate my emotions during this crazy time and continue moving forward professionally.
Philosophy and Biographies
Being at home during the pandemic gave me more time to read. During this time, I learned that many of the self-development gurus whose content I consumed didn’t really offer me any real wisdom on coping with this type of situation. So, I turned to books on philosophy and biographies, where I learned how leaders such as Marcus Aurelius dealt with the Antonine Plague or Abraham Lincoln the evils of slavery and the Civil War. When times are easy, we have the luxury of spending time on self-actualization; during times of crisis, we need true leadership.
Reading history also offered me a higher meaning and added context to the suffering we have all been going through. Many books, ranging from Viktor Frankl’s experience during the Holocaust to biographies from Walter isaacson, helped me make sense of things out of my control. This epic occurrence has fundamentally changed everything, and real wisdom, not empty platitudes, is what has helped us survive and excel despite the challenges.
Writing your own views and taking the lessons from what I read helped in creating content. This dovetails with my idea below that this energy created a lot of space to create content. Also, as this is Heathline article reports regarding research done on how reading helps relieve stress: “the study found that 30 minutes of reading lowered blood pressure, heart rate, and feelings of psychological distress just as effectively as yoga and humor did.”
Work with a bigger goal in mind
While not a pleasant idea, this has helped me organize my day. “Without labor, nothing prospers” as the philosopher Sophocles stated. Anxiety and fear create energy and have been wellsprings of motivation for creating something bigger than myself. And just focusing on the task at hand helps drown out negative thoughts due to the pandemic.
One of my biggest challenges has been that the pandemic has stunted long-term thinking. This is for a future post, but there are opportunities to create space in your mind even if you feel trapped in a closed physical space. For most of us, we look to get through the day. Like in the above, mindset is key, and work can become a way to create something positive during this tough time by throwing your energy into a meaningful endeavor.
Exercise in some form
I mention this repeatedly because it is important: while I still haven’t been in a gym, I work out intensely, five days a week. You need to press the ‘reset’ button during this time, and the act of sweating out all your anxiety enables that. A regular exercise routine as well as sleeping enough and eating right can help you keep your balance.
Many people went the opposite direction and just gained weight, drank at home, and felt that they couldn’t use this time properly. The important thing for me has been to look towards the day when things get back to normal and that I would go back out into the world at my physical peak.
Not all exercise needs to be intense. Long walks are also a good way to clear your mind, and when it gets warmer this could be another tool in your mental toolkit. It’s as if pandemic fatigue has caused us to be enclosed in this small world, and just the act of walking outside has become an act of defiance. Not defiance in not taking safety precautions, but against the challenges life has thrown at us.
We can’t control the direction the world is moving towards, but we can control our reactions and the proactive steps we take to control difficult emotions. While not turn-key solutions, my hope is the ideas above, when executed daily and with intention, offer some level of sanity during these crazy times.
Jonathan ‘Yoni’ Frenkel heads Partnerships at Tulsa-based Atento Capital. He aspires to be a high-agency type and is a self-professed performance optimization nerd. He can be reached on LinkedIn here.