How to keep yourself motivated and positive during the pandemic

As South Africans, we are currently starting our third week of a nationwide lockdown. This is a time that has caused a lot of uncertainty, anxiety and panic for the vast amount of our population and the whole world at large.

When we first started working from home, I found myself lacking in motivation. I would fixate on things that I could not change, and this, in turn, would leave me feeling frustrated and anxious. I felt that I was not performing optimally, and decided to make some changes.

Here are four tips on how to keep yourself motivated and positive during these unprecedented times.

1. Create a working space for yourself

Many of us have now made the shift from working full time in an office or at clients, to being permanently based at home. The fact that this shift has coincided with a countrywide lockdown means that most of us are living our entire life in one space consistently. We are used to having different contexts, and different spaces for those different contexts. The office was for work, the gym was for working out, the park was for walking the dog etc. Now all of a sudden, home is the context in which all these activities occur.

The first thing to do is to create a dedicated workspace for yourself, away from where you sleep and where you relax. This will allow you to separate your work context from your home context. You can now go to work when you sit down in this space and leave work when you leave this space. This small trick can make the world of difference and allows you to enter work mode relatively easily, as your brain will begin to associate that space with work.

2. Adapt your routine to suit your needs

I have seen many articles insisting that you should stick to your usual routine. It is okay to change your routine to suit your needs because you are functioning in a new context. That does not, however, mean that you shouldn’t have a routine.

Set up a routine that you feel comfortable with. Set time aside for things like working out, cleaning the house and cooking, as well as time for relaxing and just watching your favourite series. Here is my daily routine that has really helped me settle into life at home.

06:00 Get up
06:15 30-minute workout
06:45 Shower and get dressed for the day
07:15 Make breakfast & drink coffee
07:45 Go to work
08:00 Work
12:00 Lunch
12:30 Clean the kitchen
I sometimes use the lunch hour to head to the shops, for the essentials.
13:00 Work
17:00 Leave work
17:15 Clean the house
18:00 Cook dinner
18:30 Relax
21:30 Get ready for bed
22:00 Sleep

3. Communicate and have fun

While we are living in isolation it is easy to get caught up in your thoughts. Now more than ever it is important to communicate.
Work-wise, ensure to check in on your colleagues. Chances are they are experiencing similar feelings to yourself. Have quick catch-ups daily with your colleagues if possible, just to hear what they are up to and how they are feeling. We adopted daily check-ins with the entire team, and it’s great to hear what everyone is doing and to be reminded that you are not alone.

Socially, arrange catch-ups with your friends and family over weekends. Have braais where you and some friends all light fires and have a good chat over Zoom or Google Hangouts. Another great application is available called House Party. On this app, you can play games with your friends and have a great virtual time.

Finally, I would also encourage you to take part in some virtual gym sessions. There are plenty of free online Pilates, Yoga and Bootcamp style classes that you can take part in. We underestimate how important human contact is, and it is sometimes fun to have a class that you can take part in where you feel you are not exercising alone.

4. Don’t be too hard on yourself

We are living in unprecedented times where most of us are dealing with issues and concerns that had never crossed our minds before. We need to stop underestimating the gravity of what we are dealing with. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves that it is okay to not always feel 100%.

What is important is to focus on the things we can control. If we consistently ask ourselves questions like “when is this going to end” or “when will everything be normal again”, we are allowing ourselves to become anxious and less motivated. Instead, focus on what you can control. This includes things like your routine, communicating with friends and family and setting up your workplace at your home. This is our current reality, so instead of wishing for it to be over, we can focus on making the best out of what we do have right now.

Megan Carey-Wessels
Registered Industrial and Organisational Psychologist

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