This virus crisis is a very challenging time for everyone. For many of us, probably the most challenging time ever. Many people lost their jobs, got their salaries reduced, got sick, and many lost their lives. Some have been impacted indirectly through their loved ones.
I live in Dublin, and at the moment of writing this text, we are already four weeks working from home. I am lucky enough to have work I can do from home. So I still do my five days a week. Lockdown affected most of the shops. Gyms, clubs, concerts, many parks are closed and canceled. But still, we are allowed to get out if we keep the social distance. We are allowed to go and buy groceries, and we can go for exercise up to 2km from home. Not as bad as in some places.
Not as bad indeed. But still, when all this started, I was a bit worried about how I will handle it. Most of my life, no matter what the situation was, I felt lonely. I felt like I had no actual friends, anyone who cares. I had a problem with connecting because there are so many breaks in my head. Breaks caused directly and indirectly by many childhood problems: alcoholic father and all the violence and poverty caused by it. Images of war I grew up looking at and stories I grew up hearing. No support from family and all expectations from the same. All the things I had to do during and after it to survive. To bring myself where I am today. So yes, I was worried. I was concerned about being locked in the apartment where I live alone. No family in Ireland and not a lot of friends close by. Being locked with only my thoughts. In the end, of all the people I talk to, usually grumpy negative me is among the most positive people. I am among those that handle it best. And here, I will explain why. I am not saying my methods will work for you, but they do for me.
The solution, my solution.
Drop the routine.
One of the most common pieces of advice I hear for productivity during work from home times is to have a routine. And then it evolves into making a schedule and strictly keeping it. I disagree. Some are nice, like having a coffee on the balcony and reading a book before sleep. Following a strict schedule for a bit can also be ok when you have some close end goal. But we don’t know how long this will last. Remember when you were young and dreamed of how you will grow and get up every morning at 7 am? Go to work at 8 am? Start working at 9 am and work until 5 pm? No? Of course not, because it is repetitive and boring. Most people don’t like repetitive and annoying things. We are terrible with monotony. That is why we make all these machines to eliminate repetitive and dull tasks. So why would you do it now? Surprise yourself. Make an unplanned coffee break in the middle of work where you take paper and draw stick people. Take random online courses in singing, drawing, cooking, or whatever. Mix in new things every day. I am lucky to have a piano at home that I started learning a few months ago. I am also trying to learn to draw and use Duolingo for German. Some tech courses too. I do track progress so that nothing falls behind, but like this, no day is the same, and every day has at least something entertaining.
Keep your fitness levels.
No, I am not telling you to go and run a marathon. I am not telling you to get yourself ripped. But take care of yourself. It is easy to gain weight and for muscles to lose strength. It can affect your mental health. When I was younger, I often went for a run. It was my escape from family problems. Today, that run from problems became run to the solution. I go for a run, and when I am back, my mind is calm and feels like I have an answer to all the world problems. I have that runner high that you can get from any kind of exercise. Also, a few weeks back, I was barely running 5k. Today, I run 10k daily, and I even managed to do my first half marathon distance. My stravastatistics say I already did over 100km this month. The goal is to reach 200km. It all helps me keep healthy. My energy levels are high, sleep is better, and winning those challenges keeps me being more positive. It all helps my mental health.
Do something different, something new.
I am a bit of an overachiever in general. If I am not continually improving and learning something new, I get depressed. Negative. But even regardless of that, I am locked most of the time at home. Alone. I work from home — tech guy. If I would just work most of the day, in front of my PC, and continue sitting after it in front of the same PC, watching movies or playing games, it would be repetitive. It would be boring. That is the reason why I try to play my piano every day. I am doing drawing courses, write tech posts, and try to learn another foreign language. Mixing different, non-related things, makes it more interesting. It prevents burnout. So take that paper and draw those stick people. Order yourself an adult coloring book or try some new cooking recipe. You are probably working from the kitchen, so why not?
Learn, learn, learn
Aside from new, non-work-related things, I do try to learn as much as I can. We do not know when this will be over. Some things will change, and I plan on being ready for them. So I try to learn as much without overworking myself. I try to improve my coding skills and learn new technologies. Something that gives me security. Think of tomorrow and start preparing for it. If you wanted to change your carer or improve it, now is the time to do it. I’ve done it, why couldn’t you?
This last one is not something for everyone. As already mentioned, my situation during growing up wasn’t a nice one — a very difficult one, of which I still have side effects. Every day was a crisis, and during it, I had to make many difficult decisions to handle it. But what it did, it taught me to handle a crisis. And this today is a crisis — my area of comfort. So, today, I don’t see a problem. I know a solution and steps towards it. I see the opportunity for everyone to come out of it better.
Maybe it sounds like that, but it is far from being a happy situation for me either. There are still ups and downs during the day. There are always better and worse moments. Just last week, I accidentally destroyed my laptop, which is, workwise, one of the worst things that can happen to a tech guy. I am unable to do most of my happy routines. But all those things above do help handle bad moments and keep them at some reasonable limit. I replaced reading a book in my favorite coffee shop with reading it on my balcony, and instead of commute to the office, I go for a run. Coffee breaks with piano playing and sketching. And I do believe my structure helps me get out of this better than I entered.