Staying productive in the time of Coronavirus

I hope you are all doing well and staying safe during the coronavirus pandemic. Just a few months ago, who would have thought we’d be hunkered down fearing a microscopic organism with the potential to burrow into our lungs. I live in a region under lockdown so I’m staying at home, at most going to the grocery store. It’s only been a week of this and I already feel like a hibernating sloth. I don’t know what I’ll feel like by the end.

Home officeAlthough these are unprecedented times, it’s important to keep some sense of normalcy and structure in daily life to be in optimal shape when regular life returns. For anyone not infected, the worse that can happen is to lose all drive, sense of urgency, and daily discipline at this time in waiting. All the positive habits we’ve practiced over time like punctuality, self-regulation and routine exercise are at risk of eroding. I for one am going to do my best to stay positive, structured, and healthy so I can fully step back into the game once the pandemic eases.

I’ve done some research on what doctors, psychologists, and trainers recommend and combined them with my own learnings. Here are my key takeaways for how we can stay our best during the pandemic:

  1. Stay calm. People get anxious when they feel out of control. Learn and practice relaxation techniques like mindfulness, meditation, slow and deep breathing, and muscle relaxation. There are also many online wellness classes that will provide interaction and guide people through these exercises if needed. If practiced regularly, these techniques will help you feel calm and more in control.
  2. If you are working from home, put boundaries in place. Although remote working appears to be a dream come true at first (being able to do laundry and cook in between meetings seems uber-efficient), the downside will eventually set in. There’s a temptation to work into the evening because work is accessible, and you want to display productivity. Family or roommates may interrupt your work when you are trying to focus. Blurred lines between home and work life can create more stress.

    One way to deal with this is to create a physical space that is work-only where you won’t be interrupted with personal requests. Having a separate space will allow you to get into the right headspace to dedicate to work so you don’t get overwhelmed between personal and work tasks. Have a talk with your family or roommates about setting and adhering to these boundaries. You may also find that it helps them to know what to expect.
  3. Keep socializing and stay in communication with people in your life. Keep attending all meetings through phone and video calls, respond to emails, and make social phone calls. Remember, you can still go on walks, runs, bike rides with others as long as you stay 6 feet or more apart. Socialization will make you feel more tied into the community, and prevent feelings of loneliness and depression.
  4. Keep regular eating times. Grazing on snacks is easy when one is home all day. Fasting is still important to reset insulin levels in between meals and control appetite.  Eat at regular intervals and keep healthy foods around.  The good part of being home is that you have more time to cook and control the ingredients in what you eat. It’s actually a good time to reset your diet to more healthful foods and even lose weight. It will also help your mental health to stay in control.
  5. Maintain good sleep. It’s easy to relax and go off our timetable, but interfering with our circadian rhythms affects our sleep quality, metabolism, mood, and hormone levels. Stay on schedule to be ready to pop back into your regular routine once everything returns to normal.
  6. For those who live alone, this period is very isolating. Keep yourself occupied with projects you always wanted to do but didn’t have time for. Which books did you want to read, art projects or home improvement tasks did you want to do? Staying busy will keep your mind occupied and prevent anxiety and loneliness.

If you are feeling down and having trouble getting through this pandemic, consider these steps and how you can make them work for you. Keep a log of how you feel at different times and apply any of the above to see if it alleviates the problem. If we learned anything from the 2009 recession, all of this is temporary and the world will return to normal. Stay safe and well.

Best to you all.

Sylvia Tara

About the Author

Sylvia Tara holds a Ph.D. in biochemistry from The University of California, San Diego and an MBA from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. She was a healthcare management consultant with McKinsey & Company and has worked for the world’s largest biotechnology companies. After an extended battle with fat, Dr. Tara became fascinated with its resiliency and embarked on a mission to better understand it. This book is the culmination of years of research and interviews with physicians, patients, and leading scientists. The Secret Life of Fat will forever change how you think about this misunderstood organ.

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