Coping It Real: Habits To Cultivate During A Pandemic

by Kelly Madera

Let’s get real, motivating yourself to be productive and maintain habits during a pandemic can feel complicated on the easiest day, and paralyzing on the hardest. According to Malcolm Gladwell, 

Practice isn’t the thing you do once you’re good. Practice is the thing that makes you good. 

Aristotle was the first to assert that through the repetition of actions, we create character. I’ve found that sticking to daily habits has allowed me to step into a better version of myself. This version of me is not only more productive, but happier with everyday life. While the Groundhog Day effect we are all currently experiencing could be viewed as boring, it doesn’t have to be. In fact, habitual consistency can provide a unique and balanced perspective. Not only that, it can help you structure your day which will ultimately leave you feeling more fulfilled.

The thing with habitual consistency is that we aren’t accountable to anyone but ourselves, and when that’s the case, it’s easy to let things slide. Keeping the promises we make to ourselves is a challenging thing to do, but it is also empowering. When we commit to ourselves and follow through regularly, we feel a sense of power and pride in the present moment. I know, bad habits are tough to break and empowering habits, challenging to form. But isn’t life supposed to be about doing the hard thing? It’s challenging to grow as a person if you’re never uncomfortable or refuse to hold yourself to a higher standard. 

So, what does it all mean?

A 2015 article in The Atlantic explains that every two minutes, humans take more photos than ever existed in total 150 years ago. Fast forward to 2020, the average human on earth is exposed to anywhere between 6,000 to 10,000 ads in a single day. What do all of these numbers add up to? A very busy mind. Unfortunately, the pandemic has allowed for digital consumption to be ostensibly high. Therefore, the ability to create and rely on habits that allow our minds to just go with it, relieves a unique kind of pressure most of us don’t even realize we’re experiencing. In the below section I’ve offered my daily habits as suggestions that can be used by anyone, anywhere.

1. It’s never too late to learn meditation.

The bottomless well of images we are exposed to on a daily basis is exhausting us. Do you have a hard time concentrating during meetings? Maybe you experience some challenge in actively listening to your loved ones? Or maybe it’s just tough to figure out what you want in any given situation? Multi-tasking does not exist, there is only the overworking of an already cluttered mind. In order to get clear and precise with yourself (and as a by-product, everyone else) you must first get in touch with your mind. The best way I’ve found to do this is through meditation. Do you want to be more present in everyday life? To start making decisions that better serve you? Meditation can help with this and more. Initially, I began meditating for 10 minutes daily, and after six months, I bumped myself up to 20. Meditation serves as a constant reminder that we are not our thoughts.

When we are spending so much of our day alone, at home, or digitally connecting to others, it is easy for us to become absorbed in our own thoughts. But thoughts are temporary and fleeting, just like feelings. Want to get started? I recommend using Headspace for beginners. But if you’d like, feel free to reach out with any questions!

2. Yoga makes the heart and mind grow stronger.

Exercise is a crucial part of not only your physical, but mental health. I understand that during a pandemic, exercise can be a confusing practice to start cultivating. Which is why I recommend getting clear about the change you want to see in your life. For example, I wanted to improve my flexibility, tone my muscles and at the same time find more peace in the everyday. Starting April 2019, I began taking weekly yoga classes. While my flexibility didn’t improve immediately, it eventually did progress to a point I never thought possible. This practice, combined with my meditation, resulted in a much calmer everyday Kelly. This isn’t to say I no longer become anxious, worried or upset, I definitely do. The difference is that now I am no longer overwhelmed by my emotions. I found a grounding reassurance in the daily habits I had cultivated to better myself, and as a by-product everyone around me. 

Yet, when all the yoga studios closed due to COVID-19, I was forced to look for other solutions. Through YouTube, I found Yoga with Kassandra and continued practicing alongside her. To further hone my craft, I have started teaching others. Some of my students have no prior yoga experience, while others were once diligent practitioners but lost track of it somehow. The key with exercise (whatever kind it may be), is the consistency with which you do it. The more you do something, the easier it is to keep doing it.

3. Self reflection through journaling.

Forming habits varies greatly on the habit in question and the person attempting to solidify it. According to Healthline, this process can take anywhere from 18-254 days, with an average of 66. While this might sound daunting, it doesn’t have to be. I started journaling daily because I wanted to remember something about every day of my life. At first, this was excruciatingly difficult. I was only able to coax myself into journaling once a month, and then at most every 2 weeks. I was thinking too big; expecting too much of myself. So I switched up my approach. I started telling myself that I would journal once this week, twice the next, and you can see how I’ve now worked myself up to everyday. My tip: start a timer and write the entire time. You’ll be amazed at how fast 10, 15 or 20 minutes of journaling per day go. 

Why do it?

I’ve found that daily self-reflection in this manner allows me to connect more deeply with myself and thoughts. As a writer, I often don’t know how I feel until I write about it. COVID-19 has given me the space, and more importantly the time to enact this habit on a daily basis. With the Black Lives Matter protests in the U.S., now gone global during the first pandemic in 100 years, we are living in a historically relevant time; wouldn’t it be cool to look back and remember your thoughts during it?

Patience is key.When it comes to acquiring new habits, you must ascertain a small and simple start. Instead of rushing results, first make the habit attainable. Attainability = sustainability. Attempting too many new habits, or one habit at too high of frequency will end in burn out. Patience is a habit we’ve all been forced to develop as a result of COVID-19’s mysterious nature. That being said, developing new habits takes time, willpower and self-motivation. Time, something we usually never seem to have enough of, is offered to us in abundance during the present moment. Why not cultivate a habit or two that will outlast this pandemic? Consistency is key, pushing yourself is necessary and the result will be a happier, healthier more productive you.

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