“It doesn’t matter where you are now in your life, it only matters where you want to be”
– John Carlton
Little is known about COVID-19. This might sound surprising. Here’s for 3 reasons for that:
- so many people have been affected (as of 5:45 p.m. BST on Friday, May 15th, there are 4,498,579 confirmed cases of coronavirus globally and there have been 303,825 deaths according to John Hopkins University);
- everyone and their mother are writing an article about coronavirus;
- and we’ve been locked up for so long!
I know, I seem to be writing a coronavirus article too. And I am, but this post was originally meant to be a Mother’s Day article, which didn’t happen (these things have a life of their own). You can however, inspired by mothers, be compassionate with this blog post, because it is my first.
So back to COVID-19. Browsing the internet for most common coronavirus questions, there’s all these pages answering, “what is coronavirus?”, “can I get coronavirus from my dog or cat?”, “is it contagious?” (seriously? Yes, seriously). But what people are really wondering is: When will I go back to work? When will my kid go back to school? Will my company or business go bankrupt? Why are people not respecting Government guidelines? Why do so many governments adopt the wrong policies?
This is our natural reaction to big threats: we get stressed and anxious and in severe cases have a fight-or-flight response (Breggin, 1964), aka panic. It is also unambiguously the worst way to approach this: it does not use the rational part of your brain, it blocks action and degrades your health (Harvard Health, 2011).
But keep reading and you’ll get a new superpower: reframing – which means looking at a situation differently, but there’s ways to do this productively (Morin, 2020).
I’ll offer three different frames that will alter your perspective and boost your outcomes, without minimising the pandemic in any way. To keep this post from being too long, I’ll write the first (and most important one) now, and the next two in a separate post. This is all about you. Coronavirus is many bad things, but it is also a great equaliser. This is your best chance to create systems that will ensure your strongest come-back after all this is over – and your success makes the whole world better off. Here’s the “Health Angle”:
The Health Angle
“Everyone” is getting fatter. So, the first “High Energy” way to look at the crisis is that it’s an opportunity to boost your health. Being healthier means you’ll be smarter, happier and live longer (start with Scott Adams’ “mental hacks” and “happiness formula” videos). It will also improve your chances if you get COVID-19. This frame is all about thinking of this pandemic as an opportunity to improve your health – more control over your schedule, more time, less distractions. Health has 2 complementary parts: physical and mental.
Physical health isn’t about looking better – although that is a good by-product. One of the most toxic mental prisons out there is that you need to “look good” (be fit, like the models on the covers of magazines). That is not what this is about. In fact, the first step to being healthy is to love yourself as you are and believe me, I took a long while to realise this. It’s a huge topic, but this article (Connell, 2012) might help get your started.
We are looking to boost your immune system and increase your energy levels. You don’t need to start the perfect routine today, instead take incremental steps. If you do any one of these, you’re already at a better place than you were yesterday (Harvard Health, 2020):
- Don’t smoke: if you haven’t picked up smoking yet, this is not the time to start. If you’re a smoker and want to quit, this is a good time to do it. The method you pick doesn’t matter – success in leaving a bad habit is all about whether you’ve decided to quit or not, all the method does is give you a starting point and ticks your brain (in a good way).
- Eat well, eat lots of fruits and vegetables, keep sugars and carbohydrates down – for example, avoiding sodas (yes, even the Diet ones). For extra motivation, watch this.
- Exercise regularly: there are so many free online resources, some of them made free because of this pandemic, that can get you and your family moving. You can find routines to do outside or at home, with or without equipment, and as long or as short as you can fit into your routine (Tabata training can take as little as 8 minutes!). Start with this list by Good Housekeeping. Or check out these daily kid-friendly workouts at P.E. with Joe.
- Work towards a healthy weight, through diet and exercise. This does not mean try some extreme weight-loss programs, which could damage your health (Joshi & Mohan, 2018) – incremental steps!
- If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation.
- Get enough sleep (read about what sleep deprivation does to your body).
- Avoid infection by washing your hands often.
- Wear a face mask when you go outside and follow your Government’s guidance.
- Keep an eye on your mental health, stay motivated.
Staying mentally healthy has a lot to do with staying physically healthy. Eating lots of sugars and carbohydrates will make you feel sluggish and you’ll feel guilty for putting on weight (Winderl, 2016). Exercising, on the other hand, improves your mood and energises you (Medline Plus, 2019) and all you need is to take at least 15 minutes out of your day to feel these benefits.
Other ways to stay healthy mentally during the pandemic (BBC, 2020):
- Avoid getting stuck to the news and any content (fact or fiction) that upsets you – did you know that your nervous system reacts to what you see on TV? (Heid, 2018) Museums, theatres and concert halls have made their content available online, singers are producing free online concerts. To get started, look at Neil Botten’s Twitter account, he keeps a running list updated daily of online resources that will feed your mind and soul.
- Take breaks from social media and avoid triggering content.
- Don’t obsess about washing your hands. Washing your hands is good, but if it becomes and obsession, it hurts your mental health.
- Stay connected. Take this time to reconnect with family & friends you haven’t spoken with lately.
- Get some rest, declutter your life (get through that to-do list you’ve been putting off), create a routine, add something new each day.
- Avoid burnout! Without regular office hours, we lose track of days and time. Get some sun and fresh air whenever possible, take breaks, stay hydrated.
- Use the “Apple” technique (Anxiety UK, 2020) to keep anxiety at bay:
- Acknowledge uncertainty as it comes to mind.
- Pause and take a breath.
- Pull back, this is the worry talking, don’t believe everything you think.
- Let go of the thought or feeling, it will pass.
- Explore the present moment, because right now all is well.
- Meditate, you don’t need to follow any technique, here is a really good way to think about meditation by Naval Ravikant
Notice how this frame empowers you to act instead of just worrying. If you liked this, keep reading about the other two frames here.
This isn’t a “best fit” type of thing, it’s a “use this and/or create your own” (and share it with us in the comments) type of thing. Make sure you keep things fun! Write down what you aim to accomplish and repeat it 15 times a day (Here’s a video from Scott Adams about the power of affirmations). Share this article with family and friends and get them to join you in this journey – remember to be smart about convincing people: romance them, ignite their passions and lead by example!
Finally, and I didn’t find another place to fit this, if you’re into books, here are 2 reading lists:
What I’ve recently read and am reading:
- Persuasion, by Robert Cialdini
- Art of the Deal, by Donald Trump (don’t get bogged down by politics, but if you prefer to read Obama’s book, it’s very good too I’ve heard)
- Think and Grow Rich, by Napoleon Hill
- How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big, by Scott Adams
- Loserthink, by Scott Adams
- The Obstacle is the Way, by Ryan Holiday
- Money, by Tony Robbins
- Overcoming Organisational Defenses, by Chris Argyris
- How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie
I reference Scott Adams so much in this post, it’s only fair to reference Scott Adams’ Persuasion Reading List too!
I hope you found this helpful and wish everyone has a tremendous week. Stay safe and take back power from this pandemic!