Staying on Track in Uncertain Times

We are living in some very uncertain times right now, like nothing any of us have ever experienced.  Covid-19 has become the most discussed topic anywhere; every table in every restaurant, in every classroom of every school, around the coffee pot in every office and on every news network, website or podcast.  Even the sports world, a place where many people go for an escape has completely shut down. The NBA, NHL, MLB, PGA and NCAA have all completely suspended action, not to mention all the overseas leagues and events. And now school is closed for the next three weeks. So what do we do now? 

Let me start by saying, I don’t have all the answers…sorry!  However, I’ve got some ideas about what we can be doing during this and other times of uncertainty.  I’ve been watching the Covid-19 outbreak closely. As you may know, I lived in China for four years and Italy for three years.  I still have many friends who live and work in those places and I’ve been in touch with many of them over the last two months. Based on some of the conversations I’ve had with them, as well as what I’ve learned through my own research, I’d like to share some thoughts.  Please keep in mind, I’m not a medical professional so I’m not going to go too deep into any medical measures…these are just my thoughts!

We don’t know what is going to happen in the coming weeks.  Everything may continue on as usual or not, it is a time of uncertainty.  If we end up in a situation where our lives are thrown into complete turmoil, it’s easy to get off track.  

Here are 10 things I’ve learned by watching, listening and talking with friends and former colleagues that may help you to stay on track:

  1. Stock up, but you probably don’t need to panic:  The run on toilet paper started months ago with a rumor in China.  The rumor was that they were going to stop manufacturing TP in favor of making more masks, it was a rumor and didn’t happen.  People in China who panicked and bought tons of TP are starting to see it mold over and cause other problems…plus, how much TP do you need?!  Similarly, consider how many cleaning wipes, hand sanitizer or other important items you purchase. Buy what you need for you and your family; if other people don’t have these supplies then we won’t be able to slow the spread of any disease.  We all need supplies…don’t be greedy!  
  2. Create routine:  We thrive on routines.  Keep waking up at a normal(ish) time.  Set yourself a to-do list that includes chores, required professional duties, ways to relax and other things you want to achieve.  If you have kids, this is even more important for them…routine, routine, routine!
  3. Exercise:  Find a way to build exercise into your routine.  Go outside for a walk or find a yoga routine on youtube and do it in your living room.  Pretty much everything I’ve seen recommends avoiding the gym, you never know who touched those weights, machines or exercise mats before you got there…sorry!  
  4. Focus on what you can control:  There’s lots of uncertainty which can easily lead to fear.  Try to keep the majority of your focus and energy on those things that you can control.  Ensure that you and your family are doing everything you can to stay safe and healthy, both physically and mentally.  
  5. Mindfulness:  Speaking of mental health, take this opportunity to explore some mindfulness apps.  One of the most common things I’ve heard from those who’ve been at this for a while is that being home for so long is very difficult mentally.  Many schools are recommending daily mindfulness for students and I’m recommending it for you! I tried Headspace a few years ago (I wrote about it too) and really liked it, the app has changed a bit since I first tried it but you can still explore for free before deciding if you’d like to purchase.  There are also lots of other free options out there!
  6. Be creative and active:  It’s almost time to get those gardens started for the year, maybe start by potting some plants.  While you’re at it, grab some paint and decorate the pots too! Also, there are lots of painting tutorials online, get yourself some blank canvases and cheap paints and let the creativity flow.  If painting isn’t your thing, look to Pinterest for inspiration!! Once the craziness dies down in the grocery stores you should still be able to find most everything you need to try a new recipe or two.  Search online for “easy dinner recipes” or “top recipes of 2019”…maybe you’ll find your new favorite dish.
  7. Do the things you’ve been putting off:  Have you done your taxes? Maybe you’re like me and you have a pile of clothes that need some buttons sewed on or stitching fixed.  Perhaps it’s time to pack away your winter clothes and get the summer gear ready. Find some tasks that need to get done anyway and check them off your list…my wife and I have already made a “Covid-19 To-Do List”.
  8. Read and listen wisely:  There is a lot of “information” floating around in the “news” and on social media.  Take care to carefully consider the source when you’re collecting information. I’ve relied heavily on NPR lately as I trust their reporting but I never rely on just one source.  
  9. Find ways to stay connected to others:  Facetime is a great tool and talking on the phone is a lost art, don’t be afraid to revive it.  Going for a walk in the park with your healthy friend/sibling/children would be a great way to connect and get out of the house.  Be smart about who and where you’re socializing but don’t completely cut yourself off from the world. 
  10. Find fun away from the screen:  Look for ways to have fun that don’t involve that evil blue light.  I’d be insane to think people aren’t going to binge a few shows during this time but there are other things too.  Read the books you have in your house before you buy new ones on your Kindle, then donate them once you’ve finished.  Dust off those old board games and decks of cards instead of playing those games on your phone. Play Spoons with your kids, draw on the sidewalk with chalk or try some origami.    

No one knows what to expect for the next few weeks, let alone beyond that.  Take this time as an opportunity but also make sure that you’re doing what you need to take care of yourself.  If you or someone you know is struggling, then please reach out and find support. The number one thing I’ve heard from my friends and former colleagues who are going through this experience is that it is hard.  I don’t want to be a fear monger but I think it is important that we are informed. Hopefully, as a community and as a Country, we are able to move past Covid-19 quickly and safely but there’s no reason we shouldn’t start with our eyes open.

I hope these ideas give you a starting point as you ponder the next three weeks and beyond.  Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me at any point, for anything!

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