Okay, okay. You’re getting a bit sick of hearing about this dang pandemic. We know.
Ms. Rona has been terrorizing the globe for months now—and what feels like an eternity. And sometimes it feels like it’s all anyone is talking about. The “new normal”.
But how do we not talk about something that affects us all in so many ways? Especially as it becomes increasingly clear that things aren’t going back to the way they were anytime soon—if at all. We’re all learning how to navigate new waters and find solutions for not just now, but in the future.
One of the most significant ways COVID-19 has impacted us, of course, is work. Unemployment rates in the United States have reached levels that are unprecedented in the last 50 years. Canada’s employment rates have also dropped drastically. Stores, offices and factories have been shutting their doors or downsizing, leading to layoffs all around the globe. Yikes.
And these aren’t the only people who have been affected. How about those whose passions and livelihoods depend not only on accessibility, but on their ability to stay creative and motivated?
Even if you’re able to continue working throughout the pandemic, one way or another, how is the current state of the world impacting productivity?
If staying productive has been a struggle for you lately, you’re not alone. In a recent study on the impact of COVID-19 on businesses worldwide by ACCA Canada, almost 60% of the 10,000 respondents cited reductions in employee productivity. With so many distractions—from the constant outpouring of news, to the adjustment of working from home, to understandable feelings of anxiety—focusing isn’t always easy.
And then there’s the pressure to feel grateful to still be working, or—for creative entrepreneurs especially—to use this downtime productively. Then there’s the guilt trip that follows on the days when all you want to do is hide under the covers and watch Tik Tok videos until this whole pandemic thing is over with. Ugh.
Physical health has been the priority lately, as it should be. But how about mental health?
It’s a newer issue (although it sure as heck doesn’t feel like it these days), but many people and organizations are already studying the effects of the pandemic on mental health. Several mental health experts are concerned about a whole other kind of pandemic that may be looming over us.
Karestan Koenen, PhD and Professor of Psychiatric Epidemiology at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said in an online forum that they see an “emerging potential crisis”. Professor of Psychology at San Diego State University, Jean Twenge, found a surge in mental health issues since the pandemic, especially in young adults. A panel study by Gallup found similar results.
To be clear, we aren’t saying this stuff to scare you.
We just want to reinforce that if you’ve been feeling a little out of sorts lately, you’re not alone.
Your fear, your anxiety, your lack of motivation or creativity, is understandable—especially when you add on everything else that 2020 has thrown our way. It’s important to recognize these feelings, to give them some space, and to do what you need to take care of yourself. What works for one person won’t work for everyone.
So take a breather and know that the inspiration will come. It may take a bit of work to find it, but once you’re ready, it is possible.
We know this because, while for some the pandemic may feel like a major creativity block, for others it’s been the opposite.
On the flip side—there are plenty of people, teams, and organizations who are thriving under the pressure to come up with creative solutions.
From how we interact with each other (cue the virtual happy hour), to how we entertain ourselves, to how we serve our clients, to how we gather together and stay inspired—the creativity we’ve been seeing lately is impressive, to say the least.
Some people are finally trying their hand at painting, or reading that book they’ve been meaning to get to, or re-branding their business, or making sourdough bread, or trying yoga, or doing beer reviews on Instagram, or learning a new language.
The same goes for businesses and entrepreneurs. DJs are hosting virtual raves and livestreams (ntz ntz). Getty Museum asked people to recreate a famous work of art at home, and the results were pretty funny. Photographers are offering FaceTime portrait sessions. Local restaurants and shops are teaming up to create amazing take-home baskets and meals. A tour operator in Tanzania followed a new passion and started creating bespoke furniture pieces. At Pepper, we were inspired to create a virtual gathering for photographers, Conference + Chill.
We aren’t saying that this pandemic is a good thing. Heck no! And we definitely don’t want things to stay the way they are now. But we’re also notorious glass-half-full people here, and we see how some cool stuff might come out of these strange times.
So how do you stay motivated and inspired when shit hits the fan?
Once again, and we cannot stress this enough—being uninspired right now does not make you a failure. Times are weird af right now, and if you aren’t as productive or creative as usual, that doesn’t make you any less of a badass.
That being said, if you are really missing that creative energy, there are some things you can try. Here are some tips from both experts and people on our team.
Let’s talk about gratitude
We’re just going to come out and say it. You don’t have to feel grateful all the time. And you don’t have to feel guilty for that.
That being said, studies have shown that feelings of positivity and gratitude can impact performance and creativity. Some studies have shown that practicing gratitude can even change our brain activity.
We’re not saying that you need to be grateful for everything all the time in order to be creative or motivated, but incorporating some gratitude practices into your life could help. It can be as simple as keeping a daily gratitude journal. The trick is to stick with it for a few weeks until it becomes a habit. Start by listing three new things you are grateful for every day. It can be as big as the role models in your life, or as minor as the pancakes you had for breakfast.
Another method that some people use to spark gratitude is to simply look for the beauty in things. Go for a walk outside and be mindful—look at flowers, listen to insects, lay in the grass and admire the clouds. It’s a thing!
Try some breathing exercises
Our rockstar Content Lead, Jo, says that Martin Hof’s Dopamine Activation Breathing method has really helped her stay focused and creative throughout the pandemic. You may have heard about Martin Hof’s brother before—Wim Hof, also known as the Ice Man.
“It’s basically belly breathing to the rhythm of a drum and it starts slow and speeds up. It activates dopamine and floods the body with crazy energy that lasts for hours (if not all day) and also boosts creativity and efficiency.”
Jo also recommends trying the Drum Journey app—a drum beat/shamanic rattle app that lets you set the pace of a drum or rattle, close your eyes and breathe to the beat. “It instantly relaxes you and gives you a target to focus your breathing.”
The Marcel Hof Breathing Method is currently on sale for 50 bucks here!
Get inspired by others
One of our badass Project Managers, Jen, said that seeing people make the best of a difficult situation got her moving.
“Seeing people read a book they never had a chance to, or starting a side hustle, or just exercising more has been motivating for me. I also found that reading motivational books has been inspiring.”
Our Web Development Project Manager, Renata, has felt similar. “I’m finding it so motivating to watch people step away from their previous bread n’ butter operations and explore their passions.”
When we watch what other people are up to, there are two different paths we can take.
We can be happy for them, and maybe even inspired—like Jen and Renata.
Or we can start playing the comparison game, feel bad about ourselves and fall into a deep, dark pit of self-pity and despair. Dun dun dunnnn.
Be aware of which path you’ve been taking, and make adjustments if necessary.
These 4 tips for balancing social media and mental health are a great place to start!
Start with intrinsic motivation
If focusing on your creative “work” stuff just isn’t jiving for you lately, try shifting to a passion project instead.
Working on something that sparks your interest or that you find fun is likely to be more intrinsically motivating—which means the desire to improve or succeed at the task comes from within. It’s a more inspirational form of motivation than, say, a paycheque.
Forget the dollar signs and get creative just for the sake of it. Focusing on something that really interests you can be a great way to get those juices flowing, and then hopefully you can carry that momentum into your work.
Take a nature break
One of our rockstar Content Creators, Cavelle, has found that taking breaks from the grind and getting out in nature has been really beneficial.
“We head out the back roads and adventure to areas we wouldn’t normally get out to. Even if it’s just for 30 minutes, it’s still a nice break. We usually end up parking somewhere and going for a short hike with the pup.”
Collaborate with like-minded peeps
Sometimes all you need to get the creative sparks flying is a good, old-fashioned brainstorming session.
There are tons of online conferences, workshops and gatherings happening for all types of industries. See what big players in your industry are up to, find a supportive community, search out a mentor…now is the time to do it!
Pssst… if you’re a photographer, come hangout with us at Conference + Chill from July 29th – 31st!
Make a schedule that includes time for work and self care
Another one of our Content Creators, Kayleigh, says that having some kind of schedule has played a key role in staying motivated during the pandemic.
“I always thought that routine was a creativity killer for me—it’s one of the reasons why I chose this job! While I still love having the freedom to create my own schedule, I’ve realized that having some kind of plan is a key to staying productive lately. When I’m feeling unmotivated, I actually appreciate the pressure of a deadline to help me snap into it and get shit done.”
Kayleigh mentioned that she also adds self care tasks to her to-do lists. “It helps me associate self care with productivity. I’ve basically rewired my brain to feel accomplished after drinking wine in a bubble bath!”
Get excited about the challenge
Our badass CEO, Stacey, is motivated simply by the challenge.
“Seeing a problem and coming up with a solution gets me all jazzed! I’m honestly so excited to see all of the innovative things that will come out of this pandemic.”
Is there an opportunity hiding somewhere in the new challenges you’ve been facing?
What works for one person won’t work for everyone
In the end, it’s important to remember that we’re all living our own experiences, and will deal with things in different ways.
What works for one person won’t work for everyone, and no matter how you’re feeling lately—angry, grateful, tired, inspired, bored, rested, worried, optimistic, overwhelmed, energized—you’re not wrong. Even if somehow you’re feeling all those things at once.
What have you been doing to adjust to the ‘new normal’, and is there anything you’ve learned during the pandemic that you hope to carry with you in the future?