These past few weeks of social distancing have involved heart-warming video calls with friends discussing our sentiments about this period. One theme which stood out for me from the chats is the importance of being real and authentic about how we are feeling. We consume information online on how to best spend this time: from 21-day fitness challenges, to writing books, starting Youtube channels, and completing DIY projects, etc. These activities are great, but how do we stick to them in a global environment of panic?
In an effort to answer this question, I’ve listed 7 tips to thrive amidst a global pandemic.
Firstly, acknowledge your craving for certainty. It is human nature to want answers. We seek information about the future through expert’s modelling projections, conspiracy theories, and maybe even superstition. However, even experts’ predictions can fail: they offer scenarios 1, 2 and 3, but we’ll probably end up experiencing scenario 6!
Uncertainty is frustrating; yet it builds resilience – the ability to bounce back from adversity. Granted, even resilient people feel sad, anxious and hopeless at times: resilience is an on-going journey.
Secondly, it’s okay not to be okay. Some people are currently mourning losses of loved ones; others have had to cancel/postpone weddings, honeymoon plans, company/product launches, graduation ceremonies and other milestone celebrations. Your feelings are valid.
Thirdly, remember that your mere existence is a blessing to the world. I once posted back in 2018 that we are human beings, not human doings. Most people are wrestling with issues of purpose and identity in this time. What you do is an extension of who you are: your presence as a parent, friend, sibling, partner or spouse matters more. Lean into that.
Fourth, look ‘beyond the means’. This is a concept I learned during my Economics masters year. Our professors warned us against only considering the average statistics when analyzing development challenges (e.g. poverty inequality and unemployment). We were taught to consider the other indicators of progress as well. In this time, focus on areas that are actually doing well – some sectors are thriving, new ideas are rising. Perhaps you can strengthen relationships with loved ones, colleagues and others.
Fifth, play your part. People are suffering immensely across the globe in this time. We are constantly hearing updates about burdened hospitals; the vulnerable in need of food, rising rates of gender based violence, etc. Particularly if you’re not a health, government or other essential worker, it can be so easy to feel helpless. Helplessness easily leads to hopelessness.
What you can do is help where you can.
For example, South Africa’s fiscal capacity to manage this pandemic on a large scale is very constrained: a clear response is to contribute towards the Solidarity Fund. You can also donate food; or even volunteer your skills virtually. As a personal case, a 3rd year university student from Port Harcourt, Nigeria reached out to me via social media asking if I could help her and her classmates with a 2-hour Public Economics tutoring session. I am encouraged by her initiative and will do my best to assist where I can.
Sixth, find ways to work from home efficiently. I asked friends on Instagram and they shared these tricks: (1) Have a designated work space; (2) Meal and outfit prep on the night before; (3) Limit news consumption (put your phone away if you can); (4) Create a daily to do list; (5) Use the Pomodoro technique to achieve your tasks; (6) Check in regularly with colleagues; (7) Get some sunlight during your short breaks; (8) If you can’t squeeze in a workout for the day (or just don’t feel like it), try the 7-10 min Blogilates stretches – great for breathing & loosening neck, back & shoulders!
Lastly, keep in mind that things will get better. The Bubonic plague, 1918 influenza pandemic, 2002-2004 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak, 2007-2008 financial crisis, 2014 Ebola crisis all left indelible marks in history; yet the world moved forward. Likewise, the Coronavirus is not the end of the world; it’s a rebirth of a new one.
In a recent Wall Street Journal article, 2002 Nobel Laureate in economics Prof. Vernon Smith explains how disruptions are, of course, costly, but “we must at least learn new lessons and seek new opportunities while simultaneously adapting where we need to do so… While there are challenges ahead, the economy will eventually reach new levels of prosperity.”
This house will be even greater than it was before,’ says the Lord of All. ‘And in this place I will give peace,’ says the Lord of All. Haggai 2:9
To thrive means to grow vigorously; to flourish. Beautiful plants can grow in the dark. Similarly, we can still grow in perspective and insight during this strange time…
I hope these pointers help you in this season. I am certainly not minimizing the problem(s); just maximizing the realities of change and transition; and the opportunities thereof.
Comment below to share how you’re coping in this season.