There has been a lot of back and forth on what people should be doing during this lockdown…
Facebook messages encouraging others to take up online classes (guilty of this one). Twitter posts about how people are struggling to grieve during this tragic time (strike two!). Instagram story push up challenges… actually no! I am innocent of this one!! For those that did it, good for you and your partner, family, roomie, or whoever you convince to work out with you on camera. It’s too bad no one asked me because I am really good saying no nowadays (lmk if you want another article on how to say no).
If you’re wondering what you should be doing during this lockdown, let me clear it up for you. Do whatever’s best for you. Whether it’s tackling your life’s to-do list, spending the day overwhelmed with feelings you can’t articulate, or doing whatever it takes to get through the day, you’re right in doing it.
However, you’re feeling, whatever you’re in the mood for, or however much pasta, tacos, or comfort food you need to eat to make yourself feel better, go for it! As long as it’s not posing a health risk, enjoy it. Don’t stress too much about being beach-ready this summer…
If you want to deep clean your entire place (can you clean my place too?), run the dishwasher for the third time this week when it’s only Thursday (how is it possible to use so many dishes?!!), or wear the same sweatpants for the 3rd day in a row, why not? There’s no judgment during a pandemic, as my friends and I like to say.
Honestly, it’s coo coo for cocoa puffs right now and we all need to give ourselves a break.
Take care of what you need to, then do what makes you feel good. Protect your energy, time, and focus. It’s hard AF, I know! Many of us are in pure survival mode, doing whatever we can to make it to another day, hoping to be one step closer to normalcy, whatever that looks like.
I’ve been spending a lot of time reflecting on my wants, needs, and future. I know, I’m one of those annoying introspective people. But hey, what do you expect from someone who launched a personal development and social impact publication?
I’ve been thinking a lot about my identity, priorities, and values lately. Some of them have shifted, like my urging desire to please others. I go back and forth with who I am without a fancy job to who cares what people think?! Some have stayed the same, including my need to connect and engage with others. My default coping mechanism is to get involved and help people but more on that later…
I find myself wanting deeper and deeper connections. I want to engage, having thought-provoking conversations, ask challenging questions and be so inspired, I wrote ferociously in my personal development journal (different PDJ :)) I want to share my time with people who make me feel fulfilled and seen, allows me to see them and we can explore the realms of our vulnerability together. I even started to let go of those who don’t have the capacity to share themselves with me (and that’s ok, they don’t have to) because I want to protect myself, my focus and energy from those who don’t appreciate it (and that’s ok too because it’s my choice who I surround myself with).
With this time, I’m learning to fall in love with myself, exploring the depths of who I am and where I want to go. I’m also discovering what I’m really made of and what I’m willing to do during times of hardship. Do I need more time to sit with my emotions? Will working on a new project help me or is it a distraction/false sense of accomplishment? Can I find a balance between embracing my emotions and setting them aside to work on something important?
I recognize I’m at a privileged place, to have the mental and emotional capacity to think about these things. Not everyone’s at a place to be productive, shove their feelings to the side and act like things are ok… because things are not ok. And if you’re not doing what you see others are doing, what I’m doing, or what you believe you should be doing, you don’t have to. You don’t need to harbor shame, guilt, or regret. We all cope in different ways.
Don’t view me sharing my experience in this article as a judgment on you. It’s not. I believe that you are doing your best to cope, manage, and work with what you have. And that’s enough. Whatever you’re doing or not doing, as long as it’s right for you, that’s what’s most important right now.
In this article, I’m going to share what I’ve been doing that has helped me. You can take them as suggestions, a friendly recommendation, or a fun escapism article, following another person’s narrative. Do not take this as a personal judgment, call out, or guilt trip. If at any point, reading this triggers guilt, shame, or self-judgment, I ask you to explore that and reflect on why you feel that way. You do not and should not hurt yourself in that way.
I hope you will be gentle and kind to yourself, as you would with someone you love.
Honestly, I would have been doing these things, even if the world wasn’t in chaos, as I’ve been learning more and more time with my own company. (It was a precursor to dating myself. Now, it’s official, I’m in a full-blown relationship with myself and I’m not seeing anyone else so you know it’s seriously lol).
All jokes aside, I am going to start with low energy and motivation level activities first and progress to higher and higher energy needs. Similar to your personal development journey (PDJ), personal development activities require exercising certain muscles and training. You start to see your results the more you practice and if done deliberately and purposefully, you start seeing yourself become the person you want to be.
#1. Allowing myself to cope
As I mentioned, whatever you need to do to get through, do it. We all cope differently. In highly stressful situations, my coping mechanism of choice is taking a hint of the goodwill drug. I become Wonder-how-I-can-help-everyone-else-so-i-can-focus-on-solving-my-own-problems-later woman. It’s like my version of the Hulk… and I can’t control it. (I know I just mixed two characters from completely different universes – The Hulk and Wonder Woman… it’s ok. There’s no judgment during a pandemic remember?!)
On the outside, I become the annoying optimistic, productive manic people hate on social media (I fully acknowledge it). I’m not ashamed that my immediate response is to think of and act on how I can help others. (I do, however, apologize, if, in any way, I made anyone, who is going through a tough time feel distressed, guilty, ashamed, or self-rejecting, because of how I appear on social media). It’s my way of regaining the control I’ve lost when shit gets really bad…
Deep down, I’m so scared and overwhelmed with fear for my own situation. I simply want to avoid it altogether and help someone else. It’s part ego (believe I can figure it out somehow) and part denial (oh, it can’t be that awful, I can’t figure it out… right?). To be honest, I’m struggling just as much, if not more, by not fully acknowledging my needs, problems, and things I need to do to fix it. The combination of internal denial and external hype-person is a hard front to keep up with sometimes…
What was reinstated during this time is please, please, please be kind to yourself. Allow yourself the care you give to others. Shit is ROUGH right now.
Try it at home: Allow yourself to feel the emotions. Sit with it, even if it’s scary, uncomfortable, and overwhelming. Whatever it is your feeling, allow it to wash over you like the water out of your showerhead (you can be dramatic, but in a fun way, and do this in the shower). Take a brain dump – write down everything that comes to mind. All the feelings, thoughts, insecurities, and so on. It doesn’t have to make sense, just let it all out. Now, if you have thoughts about hurting yourself or someone else, please speak to a mental health professional.
#2. Taking the time and space I need to feel good about myself again
I’ve learned, after returning from my Hulk form, I need to take breaks too. I’ve been feeling overwhelmed with emotions – fear, grief, confusion, frustration, displacement, and so on. We can all agree it’s traumatizing to see the world come to a stop (and not in the fun way romcoms led us to believe would happen when we fell in love).
For the first few weeks, I felt super proactive! I pumped out content, put together thoughtful content, and launched projects. All I wanted to do was engage with people, connect to learn how they’re doing and how I could help. (Damn, I’m getting exhausted typing all the shit I did and annoying my own self.)
I was looking for ways to stay relevant. I wanted to still matter in my community and show them I’m here for them. I learned what people needed the most is time and space to feel all of their feelings. They needed to sort through their transitions, professionally, personally, and most importantly, psychologically and emotionally.
As a result of me, being everywhere (virtually) and doing everything, I quickly burnt myself out from the creative high I was getting. Similar to everyone else, I had to realign myself and focus on my needs. Instead of looking everywhere else for validation, I needed to turn my attention on myself and focus on finding my own clarity, peace, and routine practices.
I stopped and listened to what my mind, body, and soul needed. I took more breaks, worked when I felt good and rested – lots of show binging, napping, eating what I could make, and doing what I felt was needed to get through the day.
#3. Deep reflection
As a person living alone, I’m enjoying the quiet time and spending it in my own company. Although it has been difficult to stay as proactive as I was before, I’ve been able to focus on exercising my mental muscles. I’m proud to say I started finding fun ways to move my body (as a person who doesn’t work out normally, that’s a huge accomplishment!).
With the highs and lows of the day, I found it necessary to stabilize my anxiety. Journaling and meditation have really helped with that! It creates a safe space for me and helps me establish some sense of clarity.
I’ve also given myself permission to sit in my feelings, whatever they may be, and ride it out. I learned it’s not healthy to label my feelings, “good feelings” or “bad feelings”. They’re simply feelings – physical, psychological, and emotional responses. Sure, some are more productive (you can say) than others but overall, they’re messages from our subconscious.
By slowing down and listening to my feelings, I’ve gained a better understanding of my needs, fears, beliefs, and desires. Deep reflection has revealed so many of my mental models, belief systems, and perspectives. This understanding has opened my eyes to what has worked, what didn’t work, and adjustments I need to make to better serve who I am now.
This combined with a better understanding of what I want to do and where I want to go, I have removed many barriers on my PDJ. It feels like now I have the cheat codes to explore exclusive levels, complete side quests to better develop my character, and bring myself closer to ultimate mission and purpose. (TBH, I stopped playing video games after 15 so this is all the references I can make on how your PDJ is like life’s video game).
How can you try this? Grab a notebook, a pen, and sit with yourself. Ask yourself hard questions (and I mean really hard questions! The kind that makes you slightly uncomfortable) and look inward for the answers. It doesn’t have to be pretty, right, or even makes sense right away. There’s no judgment. Explore it and see where it takes you.
Level up by keeping a list of hard questions you want to reflect on. Do your best to resist breaking your concentration and escaping the emotional discomfort. Pushing through those hard parts is when great breakthroughs happen!
#4. Entertaining myself
This one may be a bit easier to try at home. Whether it’s catching up on the shows that have been on your list or diving in the social media rabbit hole, just enjoy yourself!
You have society’s permission (as if we needed it) and encouragement (seriously, stay home!) to binge Netflix, Disney+ Hulu, Peacock, TikTok, and the beloved Youtube. I’ve been obsessed with cooking videos, shows, and character analysis, and videos by various professionals (and Dr. Mike is easy on the eyes too! Also, my Youtube choices haven’t really changed… I’m just trying out those recipes and cooking techniques more now).
#5. Connecting with people
As an extrovert with strong introvert tendencies, I’m at a weird place. I need to connect to people but I am not totally hating the distance sometimes. I would LOVE to meet in person, connect IRL, and hug my friends but I’m also enjoying the space. I’ve been video chatting and calling my friends and family like never before and I, sort of, love it.
It’s a blessing and a curse. At first, I was really bothered by not going out and enjoying the serendipity of engagements. That said, exploring new ways to stay connected – House party group chats, Zoom movie nights, and online workshops + virtual events have been a lot of fun.
For me, I see this as a unique opportunity to be very intentional with who we connect with. Normally in a day, whether you are extroverted or introverted, you get your fill (or drainage) from people throughout your day – those on the route to work, colleagues, service workers, strangers on the street, etc. We don’t always get to choose our interactions, they mostly just happen. Now, we get to choose who we share our time with, how you engage, and how much time we choose to dedicate to it.
This has helped me pay more attention to being proactive with my outreaches and being present during our time together. Back to the “normal day” reference, it’s easy for us to not be fully present in our interactions, whether we’re texting, thinking about the task we need to get done, or thinking of how to escape the conversation (we’ve all been guilty of this). Now we can practice being fully present and giving our conversation partner our full attention.
A good thing to try! Take a look at your current commitments and see if you are giving the person, online workshop, course, or engagement your full attention. If you’re texting, working, or zoning out on Zoom, say you have to go and leave. If you don’t need to be there, reclaim your time and leave.
If you’re not paying attention, what’s the point? There’s no need to be rude or bail on important calls/meetings. Be respectful, thank the host, and share you have other obligations (prioritizing your time and health are important obligations FYI). If you’re not going to be fully present, you might as well leave and do something more meaningful.
#6. Step away from the screens
More on reclaiming your time… close the laptop and step away from the screen. Many people are expressing frustration and disconcertment there is no work-life balance. Now, whether you’re working from home, working on a passion project, or enjoying your free time, we all can benefit from time away from our screens.
Digital detox has been reinvigorating for me. Giving my brain and eyeballs a break from screens for hours or days have been amazing (I feel like I’m getting cross-eyed from all of this). I’m not talking about a break when you go to sleep, working out or having dinner (which some of us, me, are doing while watching an exercise class, show or movie anyway!).
I’m talking about taking half the day or an entire day without looking at a laptop/monitor, TV, and/or phone (or at little as humanly possible!). I’ve done this a few times during the weekends or late at night. This is when I’m able to go in deep thinking and strategizing mode. Now if you’re anything like me, you might want to send a friendly message to the people who might reach you, a quick text or away message on your email (if you need to be THAT reachable on the weekends or whenever you choose to do this) to let them know you won’t be answering the phone, why – digital detox to deep think, unwind, whatever reason you want to give them (remember boundaries are a good thing), and you’ll get back to them when you can (again, setting boundaries can help you!) so your mother doesn’t think you have the Rona and died within 24 hours of her last call…
Similar to your emotions, you want to be mindful of how you’re doing. Manage your energy levels and boundaries. Know when to say ‘no’, mean it, and stand by it. Do what makes you feel good and allows you to be in a good place.
Say “no” to screen time and “yes” to me-time. Set a day where you will limit all screens. Prep who you need to and commit to it! Reduce distractions and the temptation by silencing all sounds, buzz, and alerts. Distance yourself from the attention bombs and do whatever you like/need to. You can journal, do a brain dump, and go into deep reflection. You can work on a strategy on how to build/grow a passion project. You can work on a hobby or look at the window the entire time.
Every time you feel the urge to check your phone (this is why you distance yourself to increase the friction), be conscious in the moment and make a decision – do you want to break up with this time away? You don’t so let it go and go back to what you were doing before. Try it for a few hours (5, if you can) and see how much better you feel being full present doing something you enjoy.
Increasing your consciousness in your behaviors helps a lot of behavior change.
#7. Learn something new
As I discussed before, you do not need to be super productive, get a graduate degree, or launch a business. But you can learn something new! It can be for fun like a new recipe technique, hobby, and TikTok Dance.
Try a new cooking technique. Heck, perfect that recipe (you got the time). Learn healthy dishes. Eat pasta until you fall asleep. Hell, make pasta from scratch (and then invite me over once this is done because I LOVE fresh pasta).
You can learn something interesting! Like did you know there’s such a thing as a tarantula hawk wasp? OH YEAH, it’s TERRIFYING! (Grew up watching Animal Planet and Food Network so I geek out on this shit once in a while).
If, ….by any chance, you’re super bored and happen to be in the mood to be productive…. You could always learn a new skill, area of expertise, or something that could help you with your personal development, entrepreneurship, or interest to help change the world (like reading more articles on Strive…). But only if you’re in the mood, no pressure or anything… 🙂
Seriously though, if you are up for it, this is a great time to learn. You can slowly build a skill that can help you with your work, bring in more money, or grow you as an individual! There are many free online courses, resources, and opportunities online, thanks to the businesses and organizations opening up their offerings during this time! Heck, launch that podcast you always wanted. Why not? The world could be ending so what’s the harm.
#8. Get to know my self better
Speaking of learning something new, you can learn about yourself and get to know yourself EVEN BETTER!! (Sometimes, I amaze/entertain myself with my transitions.) To better manage the madness that’s going on in the world, I focus on controlling the chaos I can control – what’s happening on the inside.
I’ve been using this time to learn more about myself and I highly recommend it! Learn how to appreciate yourself more. We all could be kinder, gentler, and less judgy (for yourself and other people’s sake!). Learn how to love yourself, the good, the bad, and even the parts you’re too ashamed to acknowledge. Whatever happened in the past, as long as you learned as much as you possibly could from it, it served its purpose.
Give yourself permission to let go of the pain, forgive yourself, and heal yourself.
Learn how to romance yourself, date yourself, and make love to yourself (*sexy wink*)! For those who just clenched their pearls, you need to read this). Yes, I am talking about masturbating. Learn to love your body and learn all about your own sexual pleasure. It’s the safest way to be sexually satisfied, especially if you’re by yourself. And if you’re in a relationship, practice new ways of flirting! Send sexy messages (preferably no naked phone because that’s risky, and if you’re under 18, that’s just plain illegal) or maybe even try phone sex!! (So scandalous! ;))
There are so many things I still haven’t learned about myself yet. And I’m excited to take full advantage of this time to learn about myself – mind, body, and soul. I’m discovering what makes me truly happy – seeing other people happy and achieving their goals. I’m finding out what makes me want to cry – happy tears, sad tears, and OMG I don’t even know tears, and giving myself the space to feel all the feelings.
Thanks to my deep reflection practices, I’m able to reflect and redevelop my identities, goals, and purpose. I’ve also asked myself even harder questions to better get to know myself!
- Questions like why am I attracting satisfying partners who clearly do not have the capacity to build a deeper connection with me? Oh, that’s because I need to do that on my own first! By forming a deeper connection with myself, I can learn to better love myself, take care of myself, and focus on what I need. Then, I’ll have to meet someone who has worked equally hard on their PDJ and can grow together.
- How do I continue to add value to my communities? By taking care of myself! I can take this time to optimize myself – my skills, networks and access. Then, I’ll be able to create a bigger ecosystem of opportunities, resources, and connections that will continue to my communities, and they can to, in return.
- What do I need to build that can help improve the quality of life for millions of people all over the world? A nexus of businesses, organizations, and government entities to foster social entrepreneurship and leadership in various countries.
- AMAZING! How can I make millions of dollars to support this nexus of business?! …I’m still working this one out… (bare with me)
#9. Reflect on the future
With every deep reflection session, identity crisis, and rock bottom moment allows me to get to know myself better. I can question, restructure, and strategize how I can develop myself, grow resources, manage my opportunities, and adjust my PDJ to direct it to where I need to go.
It brings me closer to a sense of clarity, self-acceptance, and personal growth. As I collect more items (resources, opportunities, and connections), learn new combo moves (strategies), and level up on my PDJ (grow my personal development), my resilience (special attack points?) and Strive points (like life points… I’m trying to stay on brand here people! Stay with me!!) goes up!
This time-period has also allowed me to think about how far I’ve come, all the things I’ve done and what I still want to do. There are so many things I still want to do and need to do to build the future I want to see.
Many of us are in survival mode and we have every right to be. Our lifestyle, security, and sense of self have been threatened. It’s natural and acceptable to feel how you’re feeling, whether it be terrified, overwhelmed, stressed AF, confused, lost, hopeless, and so on. It’s also healthy to acknowledge how we’re feeling, express and communicate what we need, and do what makes us feel better, as long as we’re not harming ourselves or damaging the lives of others.
Be gentle and don’t judge yourself harshly on how you’re reacting, struggling, or managing right now. It’s ok if you feel as if this has been a unique opportunity to slow down, focus on your priorities, reset, and reflect on how everything is for you. If you’ve been managing yourself well during this, that’s wonderful! Hopefully, you can help guide others who are struggling with what they need (ask them what they need. Don’t just give advice. It will make things worse). You can also check in with those who seem ready to feel good (ask them what they need and how you can support. If they are open to it, give them advice, guidance, or whatever kind of emotional boost they’re looking for).
I believe we all can make a difference in the world and I hope we can utilize this time to reflect on how we can do that. Before we can even get there, we need to take the time and space we need to cope and take care of ourselves. Once we’re on stable grounds, we can reflect on what the future looks like for us as a society. For those that are in the right state of mind, I hope they will be able to utilize this point in their lives to grow themselves, their capabilities, and the capacity to help others. For those who are not there yet, it’s ok. Take care of yourself and we’re here for you!
Melissa Thi Le is the Founder of Strive With Me, a business owner, and community leader. She loves learning about personal development, business, and social impact as she builds a life dedicated to combating social issues affecting millions of people. She created Strive With Me to build a community to support each other on their journey towards achieving their goals.