Success despite social distancing

We’re halfway through the year and if you’re like me, it may seem like the longest and shortest year ever. Longest because it seems like we have been cooped up so long working from home and shortest because it has almost been like a black hole sucking all of our days with little to show for it.

This is a good time to re-assess goals and how we define success in this new environment. Even though many of the goals we set at the beginning of the year may not be achievable (for example, my goal of three international trips), it doesn’t mean that the year is a lost cause. Just the contrary — there is half a year left to accomplish amazing things! So it’s time to focus.

In April, I came up with some ideas to help keep focused in these times, but never managed to get them down into a blog. Better late than never and I think they’re just as applicable today.

Fortify your body

Now more than ever, your body’s strength and immune system need to be in top shape in case you may catch COVID or need to help family or friends who are impacted from it and the other changes in our lives that require us to adjust. In particular, it is important to:

  • Get the right quantity and quality of sleep
  • Stay hydrated, focusing on water rather than sugary sodas or those containing a lot of caffeine which dehydrate
  • Eat quality foods, favoring fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains over processed foods or things laden with sugar
  • Find ways to move your body, even if your gym may not be open (e.g. yoga, walks, isometric exercises)

Fuel your mind

Science continues to show the strength of your mind/body connection, so it’s important to not undermine care for you body by letting your mind go unchecked with negativity, unchecked fear or simply atrophy by not introducing new, challenging material.

  • Plan your day. If you don’t plan your day and block out all the time on your calendar (even if it’s blocking out time for a break), you’re leaving your day opened to be wasted or hijacked by the demands of someone else. Yes, we need to be flexible, but if we don’t at least start with what we want to accomplish, we can almost guarantee those desires and achievements won’t magically materialize.
  • Learn something new. Challenge your mind with something new and, hopefully, fun. Perhaps a new language or, like me, something random like learning to play the ukulele. Or just pick up a book on a new topic. Did I mention my new book, enCharge: Transform your life from within through your life success factors, is now out? 😉
  • Stay connected with others. Certainly there is a social aspect to this, but connecting with others is also key to exposing us to new ideas and to challenge our thinking.
  • Pay attention to your habits and triggers (and create new ones based on new situations, if necessary). For example, if your trigger to work out was driving by your gym on the way to work, you may need to create another trigger to exercise, like leaving a pair of running shoes out the night before.
  • Journal about what’s going on. Journals are helpful in working through what you’re experiencing (especially if you may not be able to share with friends like you may have in the past, in which case they can be a safe outlet). They also create a record that you can look back on and see how much you have progressed through tough times and learned.
  • Close your “office” at the end of the day. The act of leaving the office is not as well defined as it may have been in the past, especially if your office is also your kitchen or living room. Creating a way of closing down for the day will help you create space for yourself and your family to recharge. The work will still be there tomorrow as usual.
  • Stay informed, but stay positive. It’s good to know what the latest COVID requirements and statistics are, but you probably don’t need to read or listen to that for hours on end. Doing so, especially when there is so much negative news, may increase your anxiety and stress. If you really need to be checking the news or internet, this might be an excellent time to distract yourself with something positive like cute kittens and puppies. And it’s okay to turn off the news and social media to give yourself a break.
  • Engage all of your senses. Working from home may seem to limit your environment, but it doesn’t limit how you experience that environment. Taking time to appreciate different textures, smells, views and the like and make an old environment take on new notes.

Nourish your spirit

Your spirit is often your “why” in life — why do you get up in the morning, take on new challenges, keep pressing on even when things get tough? Often this relates to either our purpose and vision or to setting a good example or creating a good life for our families. Whatever that is to you, if you don’t take care of your spirit, you can’t take care of others who depend on you. As they say in the pre-flight safety briefing (back when a lot more of us were flying), “Place your oxygen mask on before helping others.”

  • Practice gratitude. As our lives have been turned upside down, many of the things that we took for granted are no longer available to us. But it allows us to appreciate how much we still do have that really matters. Taking time to be grateful helps outweigh the sense of loss and has also been shown to improve one’s immunity. How about that?
  • Take time to reflect and focus. The world may seem full of chaos and if we are constantly in the midst of that chaos, we cannot helped but be pulled in and our mood and spirit dragged down. Taking as little as 5-10 minutes each day to be still and to reflect and focus can help provide a sense of calm that lasts through the day. Whether that is meditation, mindfulness, prayer, time in nature, a daily ritual or whatever works for you, it will be one of the best investments of your time.
  • Stay connected. Sound familiar? I won’t repeat myself other than to underscore that staying connected is critical to maintaining a sense of belonging and perspective and keep loneliness at bay (more on that in an upcoming blog).

Taking time to fortify your body, fuel your mind and nourish your spirit can help you both deal with the changes to our work and personal lives, while also providing you with the energy and stamina necessary to reframe your goals for the year and press on.

I’d love to hear what’s working for you during these times and what you’ve learned about yourself or others, so please feel free to add a comment.

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Maeva Shoup

This is excellent – I would like to share it with my staff at the hospital