One of my good friends came over for lunch one time and asked out of the blue, “Mitzi, how are you feeling with the lockdown?”
It took me a while to reply. How do I really feel about it? “I’m okay” I replied. Even if at times I get bored, I am at peace and okay. My answer would have varied if she asked me at the onset of the pandemic. There were a lot of things I had to process ever since March 15, 2020, the ECQ Day 1.
How about you, how are you during the pandemic? How is the state of your mental and emotional well-being? If you are undergoing any struggle, read on, perhaps this article can be of help.
Here are some tips I learned and applied in the past year and a half that have helped me cope in these stressful times:
1. Acknowledge the loss if there is any
Like many of you, I had to say goodbye abruptly to a number of significant things in my life due to the pandemic. One of these was to let go of a vision I had worked towards for nine years. You see, my dream for Mori was to be available in all leading retail channels all over the world. But because of the pandemic, retail has undergone some sort of an apocalyptic phenomenon that made my vision, strategies, and plans suddenly become irrelevant. I felt everything I had accomplished was demolished and left in rubbles. When that happened, I realized I had to acknowledge that there was a tremendous loss. I then took a moment to grieve. Once you acknowledge the loss, it is okay to cry over it. This is completely healthy and you would feel much better afterwards. After grieving is the start of a new beginning.
2. Shift the focus
Not many people can enjoy Netflix, delightful midnight snacks, and a comfortable bed to sleep in during the pandemic. If we are able to enjoy these simple pleasures, we somehow still have the abundance to help those who are in need. As we give ourselves to others, we get to experience deep joy and discover more of ourselves and our purpose. Jesus once said, “Whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” Moreover, I believe in this tried and tested truth, that when we use what we have to bless others, God would enlarge and multiply it.
When I didn’t know what to do for my business or for my future last year, I stumbled upon an opportunity (organized by my batchmates) to help the frontliners. Since I had all the time at home, I decided to help by making face shields. God multiplied this opportunity by enabling businesses and banks to message Mori Notes for the face shields. Soon, it became part of the product line that provided the Mori Moms work.
3. Analyze the implications and opportunities brought about by the changes
As humans it is perfectly normal to not like change. Change would entail us to learn and unavoidably embrace a new piece of reality, and this takes more effort than going through a comfortable routine. What’s nice about change though is it always, always brings new opportunities.
What would it mean if people had to stay at home for a long time? What services or products would they need? I’ve observed that the pandemic has brought both the big and small businesses to ground zero, where everyone now has equal footing with the same opportunity of starting something new, and equal chances of success. This ignites hope within me, and I hope it gives you hope too.
4. Determine your most favorite type of exercise
Prior to the pandemic, I had always placed “to exercise” as part of my new year’s resolutions. However, the only exercises I knew were to either go to the gym or to swim. It was not sustainable for me as we didn’t have a nearby gym or pool. Thankfully, during the pandemic I discovered some HIIT, Zumba, cardio exercises on Youtube. I absolutely enjoyed them and I could do them everyday. Not only is it healthy, but it is also a whole lot of fun specially when you get to burn calories to the beat of your favorite music. Moreover, nowadays you can also exercise with your exercise buddies through Facebook video calls. You just need two devices side by side, one to play the exercise video and the other for the video chat. The endorphins can definitely uplift your mood.
5. Invest in something you enjoy doing
Show some love to yourself by allowing yourself to try something you’ve always wanted to try, or do something you find most enjoyable. There is no need to feel guilty when you invest a bit of resources to do some good, clean fun. Life is short. Collect as much fun memories as you can.
If you enjoy playing games, why not try online escape rooms. If you suddenly started liking BTS because of their song “Permission to Dance”, it’s okay to watch more of their video clips on Youtube and join Army fan groups. If you’ve always wanted to learn how to play musical instruments, feel free to take online classes. There are so many fun things that can be done in the comfort and safety of your home.
6. Keep a one-line journal
A one-line journal can be a pursebook or any other notebook where you can write a line or two of thanksgiving each day. The discipline of logging your thanksgiving, even if it were as simple as "The weather is beautiful today," would develop in you a joyful heart and a grateful mind. I am currently in my 4th year of doing my one-line thanksgiving journal, and it never fails to brighten up my day when I reread the previous logs. It reminds me of how God has led me, what I had accomplished in the past, and all the simple joys in between.
7. Fix your bed
There are days that are so colorless and mundane, that it would be difficult to get out of bed. When that happens, do not procrastinate. Get up as soon as you can and fix your bed. Once you fix your bed, you’d feel better and more ready to face the new day. I know this sounds very simple, but it works. When you find your day has no purpose and lacks meaning, create a to-do list with some simple tasks for the day. You would feel more confident after you tick a few things off your daily to-do list. This would also add color to your day as you have more reasons to celebrate.
8. Stay social
Try to do the activities you had done with friends prior to the pandemic online. Although it is still not as intimate as actual face-to-face meetings, many things can still be shifted online. You may still have coffee dates and heart to heart talks with your bestfriend over FB video call. Just last Saturday I had Korean Fried Chicken date with a friend where both of us ordered chicken from the same store and enjoyed it during our video call hangout. I’ve also had wine and cheese birthday party celebration with a couple of girl friends. Online games with relatives were also fun. There’s one thing that I’ve been wanting to try though, online karaoke with friends. If you have tried this, please teach me. Thank you. :)
9. Pray and trust God
I stumbled upon a verse recently that reminds me a lot of the Covid-19 outbreak. Psalm 46:8-9 talks about how God has brought desolations to the earth and how He can make wars cease. I notice that in this war against Covid-19, the virus is just as innovative as the leading pharmaceutical companies in the world. As new vaccines are being rolled out, new Covid variants spring up. I realize that only God can kill Covid-19 and all its variants. One day He will, but for now we need to trust that His will be done.
At least eight years before the Covid-19 lockdown, I was also at home experiencing my personal version of the lockdown. It was at the time when I had no work, no school, no volunteer work (except church) and had to think hard of what I really wanted to do in my life. During that time, I was mostly at home not because of any impending danger outside, but simply because I had no reason and no means to be out. And so, when ECQ happened, it was not completely new to me.
I remember back then I had set a goal of having at least one new project per week. In some weeks I was baking carrot cakes and banana cakes. In other weeks I was making greeting cards, and then later on I started making journals out of recycled plastic bottles and cereal boxes. Work with your hands to explore different possibilities. You will only know where you are good at or what you enjoy unless you try it. The goal is to try and fail at least once a week.
5. Pilot Test
Once you are able to draw new ideas and create mock-ups from your weekly exploratory projects, there might be one particular product that you find interesting. Show it to family and trusted friends for feedback. If they deem that it has potential, do not invest all your money to build up inventory just yet. Run a pilot-test. Meaning, create a small scale shop to test the marketability of the product idea. It can be a simple Facebook post where your FB friends can see the photos, comment on it, and even purchase the product. With the current social media, you can pilot test in several platforms such as Shopee, Etsy, Instagram, etc. at no cost.
6. Determine what is the purpose of your product
Why should your product exist? If the answer is because a particular market finds a need for it and believes that your product is better than what is existing in the market then your business has a potential to thrive. Then dig deeper, in what specific way is it better — is it because of its novelty, the design, the convenience, the emotional connection, the empowerment it provides? Creating a product with a clear purpose would allow you to communicate with an impact and rise above the online clutter.
7. Use your business to solve other people’s problems
One mentor shared with me that we are given gifts to bless others. Like a flowing river, the gifts (capabilities, strengths, skills) flow to us to be passed on to others. If we choose to keep these gifts to ourselves, we would be stagnant like the Dead Sea. Mori Notes was the response when God called me to use my gift in creativity to help marginalized women. I realized through the years that God blesses us as we bless others. He helped build the network and expand the horizons of Mori all the while when I was just at home. Be surprised how God would lead you too when you offer all of your abilities for His purpose.
8. Leverage: share your hats to enlarge the business
As an entrepreneur, it is no surprise that you can do all the tasks by yourself. You can be your own purchaser, producer, marketer, financier, delivery person, after sales service, customer support, and so much more. However, you can only do so much. It will be impossible to scale and go far on your own. As an African proverb goes, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” If you want to scale your business, it is more important to work smart than work hard. Tap other people or companies that are better or more efficient than you in doing a particular task. In Mori, we implement operational leveraging by having the Mori communities do the production, and marketing leveraging by partnering with sales advocates who believe in the brand and do the marketing to the best of their abilities.