Productivity in the time of Coronavirus: Making the most of a difficult situation

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With the global spread of Covid-19, many of us find ourselves following orders to stay home. With constant frightening headlines being thrown in our faces, it is hard to find inner peace. We worry about our loved ones, about humanity, and about ourselves. Many face unemployment or cut hours, worry about falling ill, or are simply overcome with uncertainty. It comes as no surprise that stress takes a toll on the body. According to psychology experts, stress can disrupt the communication between the brain and the immune system – which means that ongoing stress makes us more susceptible to illness and disease.

Right now is the time we need to be physically and mentally stronger than ever to fight through this.

Whether you are in quarantine, on lock down, working from home, or practicing social distancing, it is easy to find yourself feeling bored, lonely, or stir crazy. The healthiest way to combat this is to change your mindset. View this moment in history as a rare opportunity for quiet reflection. See this as a chance to reconnect with the people and things you care about. Take this as a moment to analyze what truly matters in your life. You will benefit greatly if you alter your mindset to view this as an opportunity rather than a prison sentence.

Here are 10 ways you can make the most of the current Coronavirus situation.

 

1. Check in and connect with family and friends.

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When we’re juggling our busy professional and personal lives, being in touch with those we care about sometimes falls by the wayside. With this newfound time on your hands, make the effort to pick up the phone and call.

“FaceTime dates” are a great way to have lunch, dinner, or tea “together” with friends or family via videochat and engage in conversation. For those of us who are used to eating in the company of others, this helps combat loneliness. You can also enjoy movie nights with friends online by watching a film or show on streaming services like Netflix Party or Amazon Prime Video and discussing your reactions in a group chat. Something I’ve found helpful is exchanging Whatsapp calls and voice notes with my friends from around the world in order to learn more about the current situation in their countries.

Whichever medium you choose, check in on those you care about and have a (probably long overdue!) catch up session.

2. Self reflect.

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I can’t remember the last time I sat down and took a moment to look inward. This week, however, I’ve been doing it almost every day. Check in with yourself. Take a deep breath and think of all that you’re grateful for. Analyze the patterns in your life. You might uncover some deeper questions, such as “Why do I allow toxic people in my life?” “Did I ever fully heal from this experience?” or “How do I break the chain of unhealthy behavior?” Without the excuse of having to be out somewhere and doing something, we now have the opportunity to look deep within and ask ourselves the things we may have been suppressing for a long time.

If you’re unsure of where to get started on your introspection journey, try these questions and exercises. Self reflection is essential to personal growth. Perhaps these realizations will guide you into better habits once life returns to a normal pace.

3. cook and learn new recipes.

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With many restaurants and dining establishments closed, you are bound to spend a lot of time in your kitchen. Rather than viewing cooking as a chore, find ways to fall in love with it. Get creative with recipes and experiment with different types of cuisines. You might discover a new favorite dish you want to cook for guests once this all blows over.

Cooking is also highly therapeutic. As you are chopping vegetables or kneading dough, your mind is simply focused on the task at hand rather than going down the rabbit hole of dark thoughts. According to this Movement Counselor, “Cooking helps mental health in that it can be a creative outlet. It’s a way to channel energy, can be used as a distraction, help build mastery in a skill, and a way to express emotions through a different medium.”

You don’t want to feel like you’re eating the same five things over and over again, so now is the time to experiment with new recipes. Not sure where to begin? Check out some online recipes and discover delicious yet easy to make meals to see how it’s done.

Allow cooking to become a highlight of your day. Take pride in the rewards of your efforts that went into making yourself a good homemade meal rather than ordering off a menu.

4. Start a home workout routine.

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If your local gym is closed, you can still find ways to exercise. Movement is important to keep your body strong during these trying times. Exercise has long been proven to improve your mood. According to Mayo Clinic, physical activity helps bump up the production of endorphins which are your brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters. Regular exercise can increase self-confidence, aid in sleep patterns, and lower symptoms associated with mild depression and anxiety.

You don’t need an entire fitness studio to be able to work out. Even if you have a small apartment like me, you can move some furniture around and set aside a designated space to be your “home gym.” I turned my living room into a mini fitness area with three yoga mats, weights, and other small exercise equipment. If you don’t have these items, you can order online on Amazon or with fitness retailers.

If you are a yogi or wanting to learn yoga, there is a variety of at-home yoga videos available for free online. Fitness company Down Dog is making their popular exercise apps Down Dog, Yoga for Beginners, HIIT, Barre, and 7 Minute Workout – which usually require purchasing – completely free until April 1st. In light of school closures, they are also offering free access until July 1st for all K-12 and college students and teachers.

Plenty of free fitness tutorials and workout videos can also be found on the account pages of fitness gurus posting on Snapchat, Youtube, and Instagram. For example, trainer Katie Austin is sharing a daily series of home workouts you can do using less than five feet of space. 

If you are working from a computer for long hours, consider getting a standing desk. Otherwise, periodically take ten minute breaks to get up from your seat to stretch and move your muscles.

5. Take up those hobbies you’ve been putting off.

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I have a bookshelf filled with books I haven’t touched in years. Guess who rediscovered the joys of reading this week? I bet you have at least one interest you’ve been neglecting simply because you are too busy with work and your outside life. Reconnect with your hobbies and rediscover the gratification they bring you. For me, this means writing poetry, editing my photography, organizing the hundreds of videos from my travels, updating my website, practicing salsa, drawing, discovering new music… the list goes on.

Until now, I didn’t realize how many personal hobbies I let go by the wayside and all the small joys I was robbing myself of. Hobbies can also be healthy distractions from the daunting 24-hour news cycle. Take a break from the statistics and focus your mind on an activity you haven’t done in a while. You are bound to feel more productive as a result. 

6. Organize your home.

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You know those chores that only take 15 minutes to do but you’ve been putting off for two months? Yeah.. it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get to them! Since you are in your home all hours now, you might as well make it a space you feel good in.

Reorganize your closet and sort your dresser drawers. Rearrange your furniture and try out new decor. Tidy your space by doing simple things like wiping down counter tops and making your bed every morning. Perhaps become a “plant parent” and adopt plants to breathe some life into your home. You now have time for those more mundane tasks like vacuuming, mopping, shampooing the carpet, doing the dishes, and tackling that mountain of laundry, so take advantage. If your home is messy and cluttered, your life will feel like it, too.

Remember the Danish concept of hygge and do things that make your home feel cozy – like lighting candles, using soft fuzzy blankets, and hanging twinkling lights . You’re going to be here for a while, so create a clean and tidy space you’re proud to call home.

7. Give back.

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No matter how difficult your situation is, there are always others out there that need help. This is the time when humanity needs to come together and support one another. Everyone is affected by this virus in one way or another; some of us more than others. Do research and uncover how you can help your local community.

For example, I found an organization in Los Angeles that will come to your home and pick up supplies and redistribute the materials to those who need them. So far I have donated shampoo, soap, conditioner, disinfectant/sanitizer, face masks, toiletries, pet supplies, and other household items to those in need without having to leave my apartment building. Money is the fastest way to help. If you are financially able to, make donations to organizations who are aiding those affected. Consider directly donating to individual fundraisers.

Being in isolation doesn’t have to mean cutting yourself off and adopting an “every man for himself” mentality. See if there are any elderly people in your building or neighborhood who need help getting things like groceries or medicine. Check in on your neighbors and let them know how you can be of help. Compassion and care are how we will get through this. In dark times, the most beautiful aspects of humanity can shine through.

8. stay informed of policy updates and assistance.

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There are forms of assistance for those who are struggling. Read up on the latest policies in your area that help protect citizens financially affected by the pandemic.

The Trump administration is suspending all foreclosures and evictions until the end of April to help those affected by the virus. The Treasury Department and IRS announced that the federal income tax filing due date is extended from April 15th to July 15th. Here in Los Angeles, drivers will rejoice to discover that parking tickets are being suspended. Utility suppliers such as conEdison have announced electricity will not be shut off if you are unable to pay. Additionally, late payment fees will be waived, there will be no fees for payments made with credit/debit cards, and customers can arrange for payment extensions online.

New policies are being put in place, so stay up to date on the ways you can be aided. If you need food, supplies or household items, research local organizations that are donating to those in need. In Los Angeles, Ground Game is accepting both donors and recipients for funding and materials. Reach out to see if your friends know of resources or look online on Google and Facebook. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. These are trying times and there should be no shame in getting the help you need.

9. Evaluate your career path.

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We are usually too occupied by the day-to-day motions to reflect on the larger goals. Are you happy with your career path?

If you unfortunately lost your job as a result of the pandemic, evaluate what your next steps are. What kind of jobs do you see yourself doing? What type of careers will be needed in the years to come versus which ones will likely dissolve due to automation and artificial intelligence? Read up on the Emerging Jobs Report. You can start your job search by visiting your state’s career service website, reaching out to recruiters on LinkedIn, and browsing job listings on websites such as Indeed, CareerBuilder, LinkedIn Jobs, and Monster

During times of crisis, people and companies reveal their true colors. If you are still employed, how did your employer react to the virus outbreak? Did your manager callously ignore health concerns and still force you to come into work? Did your company’s board step up to the plate and show that they truly care about the safety and well-being of their employees? Would you say you are in an encouraging work environment or a toxic one? Do you see a path for growth? Ponder these questions and make a plan for the near future. Really think about what your goals are in advancing your career. If your career path is no longer serving you entirely, think of what type of job would bring you fulfillment.

Now is also a great time to take online courses to sharpen your skills and watch digital tutorials to help build new ones.

10. Practice healthy habits.

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If you’re following the news cycle all hours of the day, you’re going to psych yourself out. While it is important to stay up-to-date and informed, do not drown yourself in headlines.

Limit your social media consumption by giving yourself an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening to check your feeds. Keep your body fueled with nutritious foods such as vegetables, legumes, and fruits: save the packaged non-perishables for down the line. Keep water by your side at all times and stay hydrated. If weather permits, keep your windows open to allow air circulation. Have fun with your beauty routine and pamper your skin – this means getting around to trying those facial masks and exfoliating scrubs that have been sitting in your bathroom for months! Most importantly, catch up on all that sleep you’ve been missing. Take advantage of not having to commute by sleeping in an extra hour.

While some will succumb to heavy snacking and couch potato habits, make a conscious decision to nurture your body/mind/spirit. It needs all the extra love it can get right now.

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Thank you for reading. I wish that you and your family will remain safe, healthy, and well. Take necessary precautions such as avoiding social contact and staying home. Visit the CDC website for official Covid-19 guidelines and information. If you are experiencing symptoms of the Coronavirus, seek immediate medical attention.