Unconventional (But Useful) Ways to Stay Calm During Lockdown
Tired of remote work "tips"? Read this instead.
Welcome to Remotely Inclined, a newsletter about remote work and remote entrepreneurship. If you’d like to sign up, you can do so here. Or just read on…
I started this newsletter to explore remote work and remote entrepreneurship, but it’s also worth reiterating that COVID lockdown is not remote work. That said, we are all trying to get some work done remotely, whether that’s doing our job, finding a job, running our businesses, or just trying to run our lives.
So when I sat down to think about this newsletter edition, I was a bit stumped. I knew I didn’t want to do a “best practices for remote work during COVID” kind of article. I have a google alert set up for remote work and it’s clear we’re all getting slapped in the face with those “tips and tricks.”
But I was, admittedly, lost for a topic. So on social media I asked what folks were concerned about when it came to remote work. I got some fun responses (I’m paraphrasing):
I don’t know what I’m doing when it comes to remote work.
Regular remote work advice doesn’t apply to COVID.
I feel guilty about not feeling guilty about not getting things done.
I can’t concentrate.
I need to communicate better and I hate emojis.
It got me thinking: same, friend.
Which then prompted the second thought: what are the ways I like to stay calm when everything feels like it’s crumbling to pieces around me? I’ve been working remotely for a year, but had to throw out my usual routines for a slightly altered version in response to COVID.
And so I’d like to share the 9 unconventional ways to stay calm during lockdown, as per my own experience. Disclaimer: I mean this in a lighthearted, half-joking way. I believe each suggestion has merit, but also know that everyone’s circumstances are unique. However, I hope you find one or more of these suggestions helpful.
Now let’s get on with it, shall we…
“Lonely” is a word expressing the pain of being alone. “Solitude” expresses the joy of being alone.
If you’re forced to distance, choose solitude. Loneliness creeps up on you. You don’t have to choose it to feel it, unfortunately. Solitude - and the ensuing peace and joy of being alone - is a choice that’s reinforced by actions.
Want some ideas? Here’s my post on escapism for people stuck at home.
Side note: If you are struggling with loneliness or depression, ignore this advice if you’d like to and connect to your heart’s content.
Whatever you’ve been depriving yourself of lately, give it to yourself. Whether that’s a pie (or the self-control to not eat the pie), more time on technology (or less), or something else entirely, you deserve it.
Treats don’t have to be unhealthy, whether for wallet or waist line. In fact, I believe they specifically shouldn’t be. The idea of treating yourself is to provide what you need, not put you in a worse spot than you were before.
Side note: As someone who has struggled with self-control (and spent over a year losing 70 lbs to make up for those years of lacking self-control) I understand the danger of a carte-blanche “treat yourself” note. I really do mean when I say treat yourself to something amazing for you. In many cases, that’s just forgiving yourself for some perceived shortcoming or giving yourself permission to be pissed at the world right now.
Continue demanding excellence* from yourself and others
We’re in a crappy situation, some more than others. What I’ve found regardless of position is that there is always an opportunity to do a bit better. Even if the thing you’re doing a bit better at is allowing yourself to not be fully ok at this moment.
*Don’t be an ass about this, to yourself or others. Empathy is a big part of demanding excellence - you can’t cultivate the best in yourself or others without deeply understanding capabilities, triggers, fears, motivations, and external factors. Demand excellence in context.
Tell yourself stories
We as humans are blessed with imagination and the ability to create whole worlds in our heads (insert witty joke here about arguing with a difficult person!). Use that to your advantage.
I personally love writing, so I journal about any and everything that’s on my mind:
Dreams and / or goals
Writing “I don’t know what to write about” over and over until I think of something else to write about (it’s a useful technique to open up the mind)
Side note: you don’t have to be a writer to write, especially when it’s just for you. But if you hate writing a lot, you could try talking to yourself or just visualizing in your head.
Keep collecting for delivering
You deserve to be paid for your work and value delivered.
If you’re a freelancer or entrepreneur, keep billing for work delivered or along contract terms.*
If you’re an employee, continue working to the best of your ability and collect your payche(ck/que) with pride.*
If you’re furloughed / on government assistance, the government is basically paying you to 1) Survive, and 2) Look for your next step.
In each case, you have work to do. It’s not a free-for-all. But as long as you’re doing the job, you deserve to collect.
*Circumstances might require your flexibility or patience, since payments may not be precisely on time as you’re used to. Be as flexible, kind, and empathetic as you can - a lot of people don’t have a lot of money right now.
Only do your best
I am SO happy that #CareMongering has taken hold. Seeing people come together is heartwarming, no matter how small. I heard this quote once (I totally forget who said it) that I think applies well in this situation: “Small acts of kindness are never small to the people they help.”
But I also want to say two things:
If you are in a position to help and are, you’re amazing. But don’t let it take you off a cliff to the point where you harm yourself or become in need of help yourself. That helps no one in the long run.
If you’re not able to help right now but are able to keep yourself afloat, you’re also amazing. Don’t put yourself into overdraft and don’t feel guilty about keeping your own head above water. Help when you can down the road.
Pay yourself first and last
Whether you’re making money from work or from government assistance during this time, pay yourself first. Everything else - generosity, fun, little luxuries, etc. - comes after you put a little bit away for yourself.
In keeping with the previous tip: find out the maximum amount you can save (even if it’s $10 a month right now. Seriously), and save it. In the future, when your capability to save more increases, so should your savings. If things go from bad to worse, decrease it if need be - as long as you’re doing your best and paying yourself first.
Oh, and if you realize at the end of your necessary spending you have a bit left over, pay yourself again.
As the heading suggests, create something. Anything. It can be practical (a DIY job, a new resume, or a new personal website) or more soul-feeding (abstract painting, a poem, or an amateur video clip).
Already a creator by trade or profession? Create something different. If you’re a writer, try video or visual medium. If you’re a coder, try drawing or songwriting.
It’s not about what you create (or how good / bad it is). It’s just about creating. Oh, and if you hate it, throw it out if you want to. You don’t need to turn a hobby into a side hustle and publish it for the world.
Consider a disclaimer
If you’re used to talking in person and are now dealing with Slack messages, Zoom calls, and emails, I feel you. It can be incredibly difficult to portray your tone and body language through writing.
Taking into account the fact that I’m not entirely sure how to fully portray tone and body language in writing (with the notable and useful exception of “write like you talk”), I recommend considering a disclaimer. Spell out the emotion and tone with which you write the note - and how you hope folks will take it - and go from there.
How are you staying calm during lockdown? Leave a comment!