I think we can all agree that the world is a challenging place right now. I reflect back on the New Year’s Eve just gone and I don’t think any of us could’ve predicted what a completely unique year we all had in store and just how rapidly it would happen. A little over a month ago, I was enjoying a double whammy of Queen with Adam Lambert and Elton John live in concert and right now, those things just would not happen. Life as we know it has changed for now, and that makes what we’re experiencing feel all very surreal. Many people I’ve spoken with over the past few days are finding that they’re still at the place of just trying to make sense of all of this and struggling a little in their search for certainty.
There is no denying that there are going to be some really big challenges ahead. When I wrote this title, I didn’t want to downplay the stress and anxiety that people may be experiencing right now over their health or their jobs (or lack thereof), or the concern that they may have for their loved ones who are in a similar situation. I think most of us feel that, unless a miracle was to happen, there is going to be some hard decisions ahead and some overwhelming challenges. This is, unfortunately, outside of our control although the challenge in trying to find acceptance around this very fact is often what drives many people to experience high levels of anxiety and other mental health issues.
However I invite you to think beyond this and to consider, in some of these frightening moments, some of the positives and benefits that might come from this otherworldly situation. If you need help in discovering these, then read on.
This too shall pass: a new relationship with our thinking
Whenever I find myself in a situation that brings a high level of anxiety and is outside my control, the timeless mantra of 'this too shall pass' has always provided me with the ability to ground myself once again. It might feel too simplistic as an approach but then I have to ask you what other options do you have and how is working yourself up into a heightened state of anxiety actually serving you? At least from a place of ‘this too shall pass’, you can still feel the urgency and you can take some of that hope that comes from the belief in a better day to consider what you can do in the meantime.
We all know that anxious thinking often leads to bad decisions. It is impulsive and irrational, and often can cause people to create bigger problems for themselves. By taking a moment to tap into that agreement that there are challenges ahead but it will pass and our lives will go on, it allows us to distance ourselves a little from that current anxious feeling and to think bigger picture. If this is a skill that we can master during this time and to tap into the resilience that it offers, then what a wonderful gift to have.
Creation of new habits
The reason why so many people find this to be so surreal is not only because of the ‘doomsday-ness’ (note: definitely not a real word) of the situation but also because it is breaking out existing habits, forcing us into situations where we don’t always feel comfortable, and completely taking us out of our comfort zones. Hey, I even get cranky if I don't get to follow my morning routine let alone shift the paradigm of self-control.
As one meme has said recently, this is a war however you’re not expecting to go into battle for this. You’re just expected to be at home and to take care of yourself. On paper, this shouldn't be difficult.
For many people, sitting at home can be very, very hard and often they’re not consciously sure of the reason why. For many people with addictive behaviour, Friday night can often be a trigger for drinking, partying and letting down their hair and often when I’ve asked why they do that, they can't tell me other than the fact that there is this impulse to accept the first invitation that comes along.
Many people are going to experience discomfort from being force to slow down, to sit with their thoughts, and to embrace doing nothing. For some, this may impact on their mental health but it will force them into self-reflection and perhaps taking better care of themselves. For others, once they push through that discomfort, they may find that they have an increased ability to be innovative and creative. I’ve already started to see some people coming up with sensationally good short videos due to being in isolation that has brought a genuine laugh forward and shown that human spirit. This is a wonderful thing.
I’ve been focusing on managing my weight better in recent months. I have created a new routine that may become a habit over time that is linked to my love of coffee and hot beverages. Here it is; every time I want a hot drink, from the moment I turn on the kettle until the moment it boils, I run on the spot. This will generally get around 500 steps in. Do that a few times a day and you’ll find that your step count is really benefiting from it. This is all part of thinking differently, embracing the situation you’re in, and creating new habits to help maintain health and well being.
Better hygiene and accountability for our health
Come on, hands up - who didn’t know how to wash their hands properly. Even I have been surprised at the extra steps that I wasn’t aware of (rubbing the thumb, fingernails into the palm of the hand) and have included them into my habit. Surely we can all agree that an increased awareness of not only hygiene, but of your own health is a wonderful thing to come from this.
We live in a fast paced world where people are more likely to put their health as a secondary issues to deadlines and a healthy life work balance.
You’ll often hear spiritual types talk about how we’re all connected and all ‘one’. Well, this crisis has really highlighted this concept because the more poorly you treat your health, the more poorly you’re treating the health of the ones you love. In the past, you might have placed your health second to other commitments but in this new world, your health and the health of others are now entwined and whether you like it or not, you have to put yourself first.
Time to slow down and consider what's important
As I just mentioned, we’ve been living in a fast paced world where life work balance has often blurred. This crisis has forced everyone to slow down and to take stock. There will be self reflection. There will be insight. There will be a re-prioritising of what is important in life. Maybe we’ll be more appreciative of some of our relationships, and maybe we won’t be so stuck on social media but go back to being more present with our friends. Maybe we’ll see people recognising that the world is filled with new iPhones that they don’t always need and that they have a lot more than they realised. This slow down may also give people the courage to be more vulnerable and authentic with people about their feelings, especially during a time that can be scary, and it might just remind people about the importance of being kind and empathetic. Yes, we’ve had toilet roll dramas which has perhaps placed the darker underbelly of humanity on show, but we’ve also seen some immense kindness and compassion coming from those who need it.
Even my conversations this week with clients and freelancers have been far more philosophical and people have been more willing to drop the job title and to connect at a genuine level about what they’re experiencing right now and how they’re making sense of this rapidly changing world. This is human connection and this is a great thing.
Your time is worth money
Time is money, we’ve heard that line often. What does it actually mean? Well, if you’re lucky to have a job right now, then you can do your best to ensure that you’re providing something that is valuable in exchange for the pay you receive. If you are one of those who don’t have a job right now, or who are sole traders who can’t guarantee consistent work, it really is about ensuring that you can create a stability around you first and foremost, and then how you use that time afterwards to help improve your chances of employment when this crisis does eventually end.
Consider this; right now, digital technology is saving the world. If it wasn’t for the ability to have virtual meetings at home or to continue working from wherever, our world would be in a far greater crisis. There are companies who are being forced out of their comfort zone right now and needing to come up with processes that mobilise their workforce and have them working remotely. What we’re experiencing right now is potentially going to be going on for many months and once it is done, and people have discovered just how easily and effectively technology has been, it will become even more integrated into the workflow process when we’re allowed to come back to the worksite.
The design community has been moving more and more and more towards integration for the past few years now. If you’re a professional creative and you’re still stuck mostly in the world of print, NOW is the time to start learning After Effects, Premier and XD. The time you invest now will be paid back to you when things start to ramp up again (which they will) and you have all the skills that an employer wants.
We don’t know what we don’t know.
Of course, we don’t know where all of this is going. Yes, this could just be an optimistic piece with no substantial evidence to back anything I state. However what we do know is what you focus on is where your energy will go. If all you see is doom, gloom and the end of the world, then guess what you're going to get? There is little value in getting bogged down in negative thinking patterns. That kind of thinking won’t save you as problems come up. You’re better off thinking rationally about how to best utilise your time and resources so that when this war is over, we’ll all be ready to see a new world come forward, have the economy boom once again, and come away from this experience more resilient, wiser, and understanding than ever.