Monday, March 16, 2020

How to thrive at life and work in the age of COVID-19

You can hardly look anywhere these days without being inundated with news about COVID-19. I wrote one more article related to the virus, but not to spread fear or tell you “what my business is doing to ‘keep you safe’”. I wanted to share a few tips for keeping your head up in the age of COVID-19.

1. Manage your headspace. Do you really need to know right away that one more person in South Africa has been diagnosed with COVID-19 within the past hour? Except you work in Infectious Diseases or were planning to holiday in South Africa, the answer is likely no. So why are you glued to Twitter or CNN gorging on the latest updates? If you find that you’re constantly stressed as a result of all the news, consider taking a step back. Mute certain keywords and accounts on Twitter, snooze people for 30 days on Facebook, and limit your ‘COVID-19 news’ consumption to key programs and reputable sources for a limited time everyday. Do other fun things that are good for your mind: watch your favorite TV show, read a good book, or play some games!

2. Look after your body. If you’re self-isolating or working from home, chances are you’re not getting as much physical exercise as you usually would. This isn’t the time to practice for the Couch Potato Olympics. While many of us cannot directly contribute to finding a vaccine or drug, we can keep our own immune systems well. Eat healthy, use your vitamins, and take walks in nature if you’re still allowed to leave your house. Follow the latest medical advice, such as washing your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds and not touching your face.

3. Don’t spread rumors. Someone tweeted this morning that Ghana had 200 cases - not true (the linked article reports they have six cases as of today). Dozens of people sent me messages saying gargling with warm water kills the virus - not true. While 8 Nigerians died of Ebola during the 2014 outbreak, at least 7 people died from consuming too much salt after receiving messages telling them salt would protect them from the virus (source 1, source 2). Before you retweet, share, or send a broadcast - stop to think whether what you’re sharing is from a reputable source and represents the latest scientific or medical advice.

4. Reach out to others. Having put on your own ‘oxygen mask’, reach out to help others around you with theirs. Times of crises like this remind us of what really matters - our lives in relation to the ones we love. This is especially important if you have friends or family in at-risk groups, people working on the front-lines, or loved ones who are self-isolating or quarantined. Hold their hands virtually, help them stay upbeat, and let them know you are thinking of them. Send them thoughtful notes, call, walk their pets, and arrange for delivery of food and other essentials.

5. Keep working. There will be significant implications for business and society, but life will eventually return to normal. Don’t drop the ball. Continue to do high quality work, prepare for exams, and study whatever you were studying before COVID-19 took over the airways. If you’re not going into the office, make sure your manager and team know exactly what you’re up to. Some ideas include sending daily emails listing what you’re working on and updates from the previous day, or setting up daily team calls. Do whatever works for you, but make sure you’re adding value and seen to be doing it.

6. Pray. If you believe in God, you know prayer has therapeutic and cathartic effects. Prayer also offers a useful opportunity to meditate, find other things to be grateful for in a world that seems to be going off the rails, and remind yourself of the values you hold dear. In James 5:16 (NIV), the Bible says “The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.”

7. If you or your loved ones test positive for the virus, try not to panic too much and follow the latest medical advice in your country. Anyone would probably panic in this situation, so the point is trying not to panic too much. Given how quickly this virus spreads [relative to other viruses such as Ebola], the odds are many more people will contract COVID-19 before this is over. While we will unfortunately lose many people to this disease, contracting it is not an immediate death sentence. As of yesterday, 93% of cases were reportedly mild conditions and 92% of cases that have been resolved were recoveries (Source: Worldometers). Stay as calm as is possible under the circumstances, take steps to ensure you don’t infect others, and follow medical advice from local authorities.

There - that’s my list of tips for keeping your head up during these trying times. I’m sure there’s more and please feel free to share… Stay safe and healthy. May the force be with you!



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