Everything is collectively canceled for most of this year. It can be frustrating, especially if your dream holiday got canned and you may not get your money back, as is the case with my Greece holiday.
But it’s not all bad. There is an upside. You have a calendar that has been forced by outside circumstances to be made blank. You now have an opportunity to fill your daily calendar with something brand spanking new.
It’s easy right now to waste all of your time and I actually think doing so can be helpful. You need an escape and wasting time is a perfect one. The trick is you don’t want to waste all of your time.
You want to come out the other side of this darkness with at least 1–2 tangible benefits. There are habits you can adopt and implement in the coming months that can help you. Your habits will be different from mine based on your current goals in life. There are three ways to look at your habits during this downtime:
1. What bad habits do you know you need to remove?
2. What habits are a must for you to keep?
3. What are a few new habits you would like to adopt?
As inspiration for your list, here’s what mine looks like.
1. Bad habits to remove
Going to the fridge hourly
Food helps you deal with chaos. The food you love can be a reward for a hard day’s work. But during a crisis, the need to reward yourself with food can become an hourly visit to the fridge that causes you to pack on the pounds. This has been a recent bad habit for me that started small and got out of control.
Constant email checking
Checking your email too many times a day is unproductive. It forces you to become reactive rather than proactive. You can’t create when you are constantly distracted by email. I have found myself checking my email during this crisis way too much. Limiting that temptation to twice a day has helped.
Binge-watching finance news
When the economy is burning to the ground and the news is telling you there are going to be bank runs, your survival brain tells you that you need to over-consume this information to be protected.
I found myself over the last month watching too much financial news. All of the opinions contradicted each other and even if the expert was one I didn’t trust, I still found myself being influenced by their content.
Now is not the time to be making huge decisions anyway with all the fear in the air. Perhaps the best thing to do is nothing or very little with your finances. Wait for the dust to settle perhaps.
One other revelation from this bad habit was this: over-consuming finance news can be disguised as the temptation to get rich or die trying. I found this to be true in my case.
I wanted the recession and pandemic to be a shortcut to working less and earning more. The old adage is true: there are no massive shortcuts to financial wealth. Be patient.
Ignoring phone calls
I found myself not answering phone calls. The lie was “I’m busy” when the reality was “I need space.” Especially during home isolation, we need human contact.
I found that when I started taking phone calls again, it got me out of my head and transferred my thoughts to someone else’s situation. The insight that followed was “my situation is nowhere near as bad as this person’s.”
Hating people who don’t social distance
This one is not easy to admit. I found myself hating people who didn’t social distance and a few nasty comments left my potty mouth. Not everybody responds to a crisis with the same speed or understanding.
I found that the anger generated was unhelpful and when I returned home, I found myself annoyed at being incongruent with my desire to be kind. Thankfully I was able to drop this bad habit and social distance or politely signal to people to do so.
Kindness is always a helpful strategy in a crisis.
Leaving dirty dishes around
Washing dishes can be a meditative practice. Except during this pandemic, I found myself leaving dirty dishes around. The lie I told was it was helping me touch the bin less and stay away from germs. The truth was this bad habit developed because I was struggling with the gravity of the situation.
You won’t be perfect during a crisis and a bad habit like this can form.
2. Habits to keep
Noticing the truly bizarre
A habit I’ve always had is to ask these two questions daily:
- Why is it that way?
- What’s the story behind that?
This habit has allowed me to discover and notice the truly bizarre. I find myself wanting to know the backstories of everything.
Rather than binge on how Bill Gates became rich or what Oprah did on the weekend, I asked questions and became curious about old houses, strange cars, weird people in the street, odd businesses, and interesting pets (my high school friend owns a pet crocodile).
The obvious is easy to spot; what would happen if you paid attention to everything else?
My secret to getting out of a bad mood during this crisis is exercise. It works every time. If I find myself getting frustrated then I usually jump on my trampoline and get the blood flowing.
It’s fun and I can multi-task while doing it. I’ll often get on work calls, turn off the video, mute my voice, and start jumping on the trampoline. Even when I need to speak, I can still do so while jumping softly.
Writing twice a week
This habit has shaped my entire life. I owe everything I have to my writing and its therapeutic effect. It has allowed me to help other people too which has squashed a lot of my millennial selfishness that came with growing up in the early 2000s.
- Writing has been an escape.
- Writing has helped me make sense of the crisis.
- Writing has connected me to something bigger than myself.
Whether it’s a blog or a journal, consider writing yourself.
Looking for hidden books to read
Finding a book to read can be a lot of fun. The cliche books everyone recommends like “The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A ***” and “Get Rich or Die Trying” can be exhausting to read after a while.
Sometimes it is nice to read a book few people are reading. To find these gems you have to go hunting on Amazon. I find looking deep into smaller categories can help you find awesome books.
Go with what your heart desires to read and you’ll be surprised what you find. Books equal chillaxing.
Short social media posts
Getting my thoughts out into the world has helped me make sense of them.
I don’t always have time to be Peter Pan and write 10,000 words a day and so short 1400 character social media posts have been my savior during this crisis. It has given me an avenue to ask questions like “Am I the only person who feels lonely because of quarantine?”
Start small with short social media posts and you might find yourself later on filming Youtube videos, or writing long blog posts, or even writing a book.
When I’m not learning I feel dead inside. Something feels off. I have found that learning a new skill helps me experience that childlike curiosity again. Often, the skills I learn are computer-related.
About five years ago I learned how to write eBooks. I learned at the end of last year how to properly manage an email list. During this crisis, I have learned how money works and gone all-in on understanding the world of finance and the potential misconceptions I believed about Wall Street.
Learning is how you can grow into your next opportunity.
A call with family brings me home again to warm roast dinners and fresh pumpkin soup. But my family live far away so it’s not always possible to see them all the time.
The habit of making phone calls to them helps me get up to date with family life and to reminisce about childhood. Since the crisis, I have tripled the number of calls.
3. New habits to adopt
Speaking to distant relatives
A new habit I have adopted is to reconnect with distant relatives. In doing so, I have unlocked a whole new understanding of where I am from. Seeing history through my distant relative’s eyes has helped me make sense of the present.
For example, while talking to my Nanna, I learned that in World War 2 my grandpa was called “Doc.” He wasn’t a doctor but after he was injured he was given the job of patching up the wounded and had to learn fast. I also got to learn about what it was like for him to live through The Great Depression which is highly relative during this economic crash.
You feel connected when you reengage with family members you’ve lost touch with. Your past helps shape your future and learn from your family’s mistakes, and discover what they have achieved.
30 minutes of extra sleep
This one was an accident. I have started sleeping for 30 minutes more and it has done wonders for my energy. If it doesn’t quite produce the desired effect, I add in a short nap at lunchtime.
You need energy to survive this crisis and a little more sleep could help.
Mapping out the neighborhood
Out of sheer boredom, I have begun mapping out my local neighborhood. I have taken up daily walking and made it a goal to always walk to a new area of the neighborhood. I have discovered new parks, hidden cafes, loving puppy dogs, new people and a whole different view of where I live.
Explore your neighborhood during your daily exercise outside and discover where you really live as opposed to where you think you live.
Walks with loved ones
Those walks have been amplified by bringing my girlfriend with me. We talk about our days in so much more depth and that has brought us closer together.
Couch potato time
Sitting on the couch is a new habit for me. It has become a survival mechanism after seeing so much devastation.
Silly movies like the ones Disney makes for adults have become a way to turn off and forget about what is going on.
To be always productive can be destructive during a crisis.
We’re not done, yet
There is one habit that has helped me above everything else during this crisis: to help others.
Being in service of others has made me feel connected to the world and what is going on. It has been my goal each day to be helpful to at least one person and try to assist anyone who needs it.
Whether it’s giving a few face masks away, sending out a couple of free books to readers, answering a few messages, or posting a blog post like this — doing my bit to help has changed my perspective and forced me to look beyond my own survival and desire to hoard and panic.
Feeling connected to others is a habit you can develop yourself by choosing to be helpful.
This article originally appeared on Medium.
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