Tag Archives: peace of mind

How to stay sane during the pandemic

It’s been a while since we had to adapt to a new reality. The reality that turned upside down for many of us. We didn’t know what to expect, but we certainly expected something transitory and short-lived. And here we are – four lockdowns after and still not knowing when everything will be back to normal. And whether it will come back to normal.

Let’s forget about ‘normal’. It looks like we have new ‘normal’ and it would be good to get used to this thought. The more we distract ourselves from thinking that something is unusual or unknown, the more likely we are to somehow fear it. 

The pandemic did not treat everyone the same. Not everyone lost their jobs, not everyone has suffered from the misfortune of losing a loved one. However, everyone had to deal with uncertainty and stress. 

So how to mind your mental health during a pandemic?

All the lockdowns I’ve been through were different. During the first one, I didn’t expect it to last long and for sure I wasn’t prepared for it. Now I understand that I had no clue how to take care of myself.

I got blurry in time, which ceased to be important because I didn’t have to get up to go somewhere. Usually, I was reading in bed all night then I was waking up in the middle of the day with a cloudy mind. I had no idea how to replace my gym training, cause I’ve never been a fan of workout at home, without equipment. So for more than a month, I didn’t do anything and my form started slightly spoil. 

It took me a while to adjust to the new reality and in this piece, I’ll share with you what helped me dealing with lockdown anxiety.

Things that help you cope with life during isolation

I. Build a healthy and pleasant routine

Do not underestimate the power of routine. Well build routine is like a pillar of life. A good routine puts your mind in a certain frame, creates a structure. By introducing valuable behaviors into our everyday life, we can shape it as we want. After all, we are what we repeatedly do.

 I don’t think I have to convince you how good routine changes everything – it is a massive thing! When I stick to my routine everything is going smoothly and everything has its place. 

What works for me? I found that a cold shower and meditation in the morning helps with starting the day in the right way. I also try to reflect on things before I go to bed and this is like an evening ritual for me. I try to have my work done right after morning coffee, and usually, I focus on writing at least a thousand words.

Of course, I don’t follow it blindly and I do have exceptions from routine, as I still want to be flexible in my life. The thing is that having a frame helps with structurize life and be more efficient.

II. Move and eat healthily

We all know that eating and moving are the keys to keep a healthy body and mind, so I will not go into the details. It is simple: plant-based diet, restriction of processed foods, and at least 30 minutes of movement every day. How apply this to a life in isolation?

First, let’s dispel myths about movement and sport. To keep a healthy body you don’t need to run a marathon every week or participate in a triathlon. Studies show that moderate, but regular movement is the best for our bodies. Moreover, we don’t need to force ourselves into activities we don’t like. 

In ‘The joy of movement’ Kelly McGonigal notes that

“movement will give you access to joy that will dramatically improve the quality of your life and help support mental health and meaning and belonging. It’s not a gimmick to get you to exercise so you and burn some calories. That’s not what it’s about.”

No matter what level of power or condition that you start with, exercise will help move you toward a more high-energy, positive state. 

We don’t need a ‘workout’ to move. We can engage our bodies in an effort based on something else, something that brings joy; gardening, walking, or simple stretching at the end of the day.

And talking food, try to make some effort and prepare something you never ate before. It’s fun and you can discover new ideas and tastes. Or prepare a gourmet dinner, even if it is just for you, or for two of you. Pour a glass of favorite wine, light candles, and voila! Life is better already.

III. Take care of how you look like

It’s so simple. If you look shitty you feel shitty. There’s nothing more demotivating than stretched sweatpants or worn pajamas that serve as your outfit during the day.

It has nothing to do with vanity. How much effort we put into everyday things, even such as ‘decent look’, reflects our whole attitude towards life. As outside so inside. 

I’m not telling you to glam up so you can sit in the living room looking like you just walked the red carpet. Just make sure you feel good about how you present yourself.

Good appearance is followed by good feelings. And good feelings towards ourselves are base to cope with mental struggles during a lockdown.

IV. Pick up a thing to do

Don’t let time go completely idle. Doing nothing and resting is important, but only when it occurs in between those things that you are doing. 

We are not the same. We all like different challenges, other things turn us on. For me, reading and writing make my life sparkle, but you can find your spark somewhere else.

We are blessed that we live in the times that so many opportunities are available at your fingertips. Find a thing that will bring a bit of inspiration to your everyday life.

It can be anything; maybe you can start practicing yoga or learn how to dance, sing or play an instrument (lots of instructional videos to find on YouTube). Maybe you will catch up and finally read the books that lie forgotten or watch movies for which you did not have time. Maybe you pick some online course and learn a new skill (have you tried Udemy? So many things to choose from), or a language, or maybe you start to draw something just for fun. Possibilities are endless. 

V. Stay connect to others

I’m the biggest introvert I known and I admit: even I need some social connection (well, except for the one with my life partner and the cat). 

As much we need solitude from time to time (some of us more often), we are social beings. Even if we are forced to this separation, we still can contact each other. That’s what social media is for ( and you thought is for silly selfies!). 

The situation varies depending on where you live. If you can’t meet someone face-to-face, install Zoom or use Messanger and stay in touch with your loved ones. Even having a coffee together in front of a screen will make you feel mentally stronger. 

Of course, these are just a few, but important, things to pay attention in order not to go crazy during a pandemic. Do you have any advices you could share with us?

Photo by Önder Örtel on Unsplash

How to want less (I)

I remember such a parable, although I do not remember it exactly – there was a man who found a beautiful, wild island. There he found a fisherman sitting thoughtfully by the seashore. “Old man, I want to buy your house and your land. I’m a rich man; I can offer as much money as you wish. Think, You can go anywhere and do whatever you want – what would you do if you have so much money?” “Well – fisherman answered slowly – I would settle on a small island and go fishing”.

What would you like if there was no one to show it off?

Too often, we strive to achieve things we don’t even need. We want newer phones, more expensive clothes, more cars, more fashionable furniture, expensive and sparkling jewelry (so that it does not hide from anyone’s eyes), the fifteenth bottle of expensive perfume, unnecessary gadgets, new headphones (because a famous rapper did not advertise the old ones). And this is only a fraction of what we can have. Why do we need all this?

It is a second lockdown for me, and if I ever learned something because of it, it’s a conviction that I don’t need much. I don’t need much stuff. I don’t need many things around me. Clear space around and clear space in my head it’s a real blessing – because everything we need is within us. If you don’t find happiness in simple things, you won’t find it anywhere.

When the world crumbles and the notion of normality changes, it’s good to find ourselves encircled by something that helps you get through these challenging times. And I’m not talking about cool stuff here – things people like to surround ourselves with because of the vanity – things that we want to collect or have because everyone else has; things that are used to express our social status.

Joy in ordinariness

Finding joy in ordinariness begins from appreciating what you have: health, food, peace, fit body and mind, free time, people and animals nearby, opportunities to come, a world waiting to discover more in it.

What I need during lockdown is a nice cup of tea drunk with my beloved one and confidence that everything will be fine. What I need it’s a good book to feed my brain and nutritious food to feed my body. All I need is a quiet moment in the evening when I can close my eyes and look inside myself.

People have too many things. It takes away your peace of mind if we have more around us than within us.

Minimalism is rebellious in a way because it means living a bit against the modern world, and declaring that our value does not depend on the amount and size of the things we have. Minimalism is a bit of contempt for contemporary values based on possession. And yet, when we are left alone in the walls of the house (if we are the lucky ones who have a house), all that surrounding, glitter, things on which we build our image, and which are not us, disappear. We are left alone with ourselves. And we only have this: ourselves and time; not even all the time, just a specific moment. Do we then think about having more things?

Instead of more things, we can have more time, space, love, friendship, peace, compassion, adventures, conversations, dreams, thoughts, emotions, ideas, walks, plans, fun. We should have plenty of this while we eliminating from life what we do not need, what is overwhelming and burdens us.

Master your focus

This is the thing that everyone want us to do, but nobody ever showed us how to do it. Nobody even explained what it is – this wonderful, almost unattainable physical state. Focus. Think about this – since early stages of our life, through school, college and work, we hear all the time that we need to focus. But how the hell, can we do it? It would be great if someone would kindly show us, right?

In simple word focus is ability to eliminate distractions. Like with many other things – it’s simple, but not easy. The question is – why we struggle so much achieving clear concentration? Is it a matter of some kind of flaw? Or maybe our brains refuse to obey? Let’s find out.

It turns out that most people can’t manage themselves in the right way. We are not aware of how our brain, mind and our attention work. One of my personal You Tube guru, Dandapani, says:

“(…) most people can’t concentrate today for two reasons; one is we’re never taught how to concentrate, and second is we don’t practice concentration. So how can you do something if you never taught how to do it? And how can you be good at something if you don’t practicing? (…) let’s say on average we are practicing a 13 hours of distractions a day, seven day a week, and then you’re wonder why you’re so good at it. That’s the law of practice (…) we become good whatever is we practice.”

Simple as it is – we become all these things to which we devote our attention. When we divide our attention to many things at once, we’re losing. Divided attention is not attention. It’s distraction. And as Dandapani saying, it’s not enough if you sit once a day for 10 minutes meditation practice, while for the rest 1440 minutes your mind is distracted! Do you see where we are going with this?

Unwavering focus is is something you need to practice.
Not for ten minutes a day, but all day. Wonder how? Let’s gets things under way.

  1. Myth of multitasking

First thing you need to remember: multitasking is bad! I mean really bad, ugly and shabby. From now on I want you to think about multitasking like you would think about your older’s brother stinky pair of socks, or pineapple on pizza, or polish disco charts. Or preferably all of them at once. I know what you want to say right now, I really hear your voice  ‘Why?Multitasking is great, it save your time!’ Keep that voice down please, cause this is not the case. Why? Here it is: multitasking forces your brain to switch your focus back and forth very quickly from one task to another. And what is wrong with that? Our brain cannot seamlessly transit from one task to another. Those switches costs you mental price. This is more harmful than you might think and have real negative impact on your productivity and creativity. What it means is that multitasking stops you from getting into a state of flow, which is the best condition for creating any work. Also, it impacts your short-term memory, even leads to increased anxiety. So do one one thing at the moment. Only one.

2. Turn notifications off

Get rid of that stimulating buzzz sound while you working on something important. Seriously, do you need to know who liked your instagram selfie, or what your bestie uploaded in her latest story? No,you don’t! All you need is do you task – that’s all matter. There will be time for all emails, texts, facebook, missed calls. But later, when you finish. Such bullshit really weakens concentration and motivation. You know yourself how much willpower requires you to concentrate, so don’t waste it because of  some stupid notification bells.

3. Try pomodoro technique

This method, developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s., uses a timer to break down work into not long (originally 25 minutes, but you can decide for yourself), timed intervals spaced out by short breaks. Pomodoro is one of the simplest and most effective productivity tools – requires only a timer and simple rules. For this 25 minutes you must really work, without bullshit. After a while you will see that it works. And there’s more – with time it can even help improve your attention span and concentration. Definitely worth a try. You can also try focus music (you can just find it on you tube) while you working on something – it will keep you into what you doing.

4. Be mindful

Learn how to be totally aware of yourself. Try to pay unwavering attention to whatever you do at the moment. Practice it.  Not for ten munutes daily, but all the times. When you speak to someone, pay all attention to that person. While eating contemplate the taste of food, notice its smell and consistency. Be attentive even with trivial activities, such as washing dishes or vacuuming – treat them as a practice of your mindfulness. Practice concentrating on every little thing you do during the day. You’ll find out how good you will be after some time.

(...) If you practice something over and over again, you become really good at it. And that's why people are so good at distraction - because it's what they practice." - Dandapani

5. Meditate

You expected that, right? What can I say, meditation is a thing! It’s the best what you can do for yourself. It can help you grow on so many levels. More or less you know what this is about. Of course this topic deserves more attention and space, and I’ll back to it in future posts. For now, I want to highlight how significant may be bringing this practice to your life. And don’t say that you can’t or you don’t know how – meditation is a process you can learn. Like any other skill.

Once I had tat silly idea about meditation. I don’t know where it came from, but I was expecting something extraordinary from meditating. And by extraordinary I mean flashes, visions, enlightenment, or I don’t know what else, maybe a journey to another dimension. I expected some extreme changes of consciousness. Like after strong joint, or something. Well, forget about it. Meditation can change your consciousness, but not in this junkie-hippie-stoner way some might think of.

Meditation clear your mind and allows you to see things on a deeper lever. It allows to look inside you and to see the connections between all things in reality. And it’s better than being ‘on high’!

There are many apps out there that might help you enter the process and learn it. I can recommend Calm or Headspace, both you can try out for free.

Instead of ending:

This is the second version of this post, the first containing about 1000 words, I ‘accidentally’ deleted. It shows how inattentive you can be when writing about focus…Ironic. I got annoyed, you can imagine, but them I remembered that once ‘accidentally’ I deleted my bachelor’s thesis written in 90 percent. Two weeks before deadline…I realized this time it’s not so bad – I just need to focus more! So I took a shower, grabbed a beer and back to my desk . And here it is. Maybe not so polished, but I wrote what I wanted to write.

Stay calm. Stay focus. Stay mindful.