Attaining inner peace during the COVID-19 pandemic has been everyone’s challenge as it has taken everyone by surprise and none of us are really prepared for its onslaught. A Movement Control Order (MCO) was implemented by the Malaysian government to curb the spread of the pathogen causing this disease. This MCO has little effect on us physically but causes tremendous stress on our psychological health. Previously home was a place to de-stress whereas everyone puts their best foot forward in the workplace. With this MCO, working from home suddenly becomes the new normal. Psychologically it suffocates us by disrupting our personal time. Pushing us to the edge all the time. In actual fact, my daily routine in digital marketing agency involves coordinating my team members’ deliverables to a few clients.
What MCO Did To Me…
Like many young adults working in offices, there is a work and play balance and this has kept me psychologically and physically in good shape. I always allocate sufficient time for exercise and light entertainment to reduce stress. This has been my routine for the last five years. Though I might vary the activities from time to time, the purpose remains the same.
The novelty of working from home seemed like playing truant in the first two weeks of MCO, mainly because I thought that I can work unsupervised at my own pace and time. Unfortunately, this novelty was short lived. With technology and the Internet, there is actually no personal time. My colleagues and clients can engage me at any time of the day, thus making my working hours endless.
Achieving Inner Peace
Like all other middle managers, I need to juggle between satisfying the stressed out, moody and cooped up clients and at the same time maintain the motivation of the equally charged team members. This requires a lot effort, strategy and patience especially when mitigating grievances between the parties. At the end of the day, it gives me the feeling of being the sardine in the sandwich. On a scale of one to ten, my stress level usually reaches a nine by five in the evening and a ten by seven at night especially when I’m tired and hungry. To maintain my sanity throughout this MCO and avoid snapping off anyone’s head, I included a few stress-relieving activities into my routine.
1. Start Your Day Right By Exercising
I choose to start my day with a positive mindset. I do simple stretching exercises when I wake up. This refreshes me and I don’t feel lethargic. After trying various exercises from YouTube, I found one exercise that doesn’t tire me out. This cardio exercise enhances my blood circulation. It has kept me in the right frame of mind and prepares me physically to face the challenges of the day.
Pent-up frustrations that have accumulated throughout the day, especially those that I cannot release on my superiors, team members and clients, can be released through a quick intense ten-minute workout. These workouts, although short, keep my abs, lower body as well as upper body in shape and well toned. They also relieve my built-up frustration at the end of each session.
2. Set Boundaries
The uncertain working hours to suit client’s preferred online video chats timing during MCO has impacted me tremendously. After a week into this madness, my stress levels shot through the roof. This was when I realised that I desperately needed to draw boundaries so I could recharge and rest. I improved my time management by leveraging on ‘in-between breaks’ to make it count and choose stress relieving activities that can be stopped abruptly and resumed at a later unscheduled break with the same effect. One of the reasons I was on the verge of a burnout was because I work insane number of hours. No thanks to technology! Thus, begins the chaos where every client tries their best to leverage on this.
One of such remedies are taking deep breaths periodically throughout the day. It keeps me calm and alert by helping me mentally draw boundaries between work and leisure. Computer and mobile apps such as UnblockMe or MindJolt break me away from being engrossed and relieve me of the stress by distracting my mind from work. This has become the new norm for me.
3. Explore The Unknown
With boundaries set and priorities realigned, I have more time and can be more adventurous within the confines of my home. These are the few things I have tried and they have given me a little spark of joy! They also motivate me by giving me a sense of achievement that I can do things that I never thought I could do before.
3.1 Non-Caffeinated Lattes
Like all other latte fans, the cravings for non-caffeinated latte has driven me to experiment and make my own latte. This would be a good alternative for caffeine intolerant drinkers. Tea concentrates are used as a substitute for espresso and these lattes can be acquired from online platforms like Shopee. Green Tea Latte is one of the few that I had successfully made and eased my cravings. It is a type of non-caffeinated latte which uses green tea extract as a base. This takes me back to the times when I would enjoy it in a quiet corner of a cafè with a book or by the window where I could watch people go about their day. These little things are the baby steps in my quest of finding inner peace. These lattes are also really easy to make and you can make it at home too!
3.2 Scented Candles
Making scented candles has always been something I yearn to do. Candle making is a quick, fairly inexpensive project with tons of room for your own preferences and creativity to show. The ingredients you need are soy wax, essential oils of your choice, wicks, candle containers and candle colouring powder if you want different coloured candles. You also need a double boiler, or a heatproof bowl and a saucepan works too, a thermometer and a hairdryer. A little tip, use soy wax because it’s not toxic and is also better for the environment. I also prefer wooden wicks because they burn lower, smoulders and gives off a crackling sound which gives a better scent throw when lit and makes you feel as though you have your very own fireplace. Although I’ve researched on this, it is yet to be done.
3.3 Brush Lettering
Brush lettering is the art of illustrating writing while calligraphy is the art of beautiful writing. Brush lettering has always piqued my interest since I was a little girl. I don’t have the opportunity to do this till today, although I can’t practise pure brush lettering techniques but I have improvised brush lettering with my normal note taking in my work. This is easy to do but practice makes perfect. Believe me the notes now appears more interesting and less boring plus it gives me a sense of satisfaction and achievement. This is also a good distraction from my normal boring routine and brings my inner peace to a higher threshold.
4. Take A Break From Reality Towards Your Inner Peace
I love reading, I remember spending afternoons reading and losing myself in a book. I’d lose track of time as I immersed myself in a book that I hardly realise what’s going on around me. Due to time constraint because of work, I now rely on audiobooks as I can do it concurrently with chores. As most of us are very auditory, these audiobooks enable us to multitask while doing chores. This helps me on my quest of finding inner peace as I am able to take a break from reality for a couple of hours a day and also reduces my exposure to blue light as I will not be on any mobile devices which will in-turn interrupt my sleep cycle.
5. Don’t Forget Your Loved Ones
Despite all the setbacks of MCO and all the gloomy pictures painted by those in lockdown, it actually gave us the opportunity to know our family members and ourselves much better in terms of our liking, temperament, tolerance, etc. Due to the extended time spent in close proximity where pretense is not an option. For your loved ones, you go the extra mile to be patient, understanding and sympathetic to their sensitivities. This is what spending quality time with your loved ones is all about. Emerging from the MCO, I strongly believe we will have better family bonding and understanding within the household. This will certainly avert divorce cases and family feuds!
Wondering How You Can Achieve Inner Peace?
The gist of this story is that we must rise to the challenge and make the best of the situation to avoid being all stressed up and unhappy about the situation. In my case, I’ve adapted to the new norm of working from home seamlessly by achieving inner peace although it’s gloomy at the beginning. I’m sure each individual is capable of overcoming the challenges they face if they would embrace the change and make the best of it. They should make a happy list and follow their heart to attain inner peace.
“If you’re going to be unhappy throughout the journey there, what makes you think you’ll be happy when you get there?”Chloe Lee, a great friend and an inspiring teacher who always gives her best in anything she does
This article is part of Espoletta’s CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) initiatives.