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The corona pandemic is the most severe catastrophe that humanity has faced in many decades. The impact of the pandemic can't be fully grasped currently, but it's posing a major threat to our health and economy. The universal fear of getting infected (with a low, but not an improbable risk of a difficult progression or death) along with the fear of losing one's job or business due to a heavy regression is making it difficult for us all to keep a positive mindset.

However, I want to point out that in any crisis, there is a chance to overcome, thrive, and step out of it as an improved person. I'm understanding the crisis as a chance to develop and I want to share how in this post.

My Situation

To avoid the risk of getting infected, I'm strictly following the recommendations and laws in my country. I mostly spend my time at home. Luckily, my employer is encouraging home office, and therefore I only leave the house once a week for grocery shopping or occasional walks or outdoor sports activities. I have not met with my friends or family for many weeks now. Since I'm living alone, that means my social interactions almost exclusively take place via digital channels. Since I'm working in the automotive industry, which is heavily affected by the crisis, I'm currently in short-time work. On average, I work two days a week. However, I'm very grateful that because of strict employment laws in Germany and a strong labor union in my company, none of my colleagues has been laid-off so far.

The result of all this is, that I am more often at home, and I have much more free time than before the crisis. This is a great base for leveraging this situation and overcome it successfully.

How to leverage the Crisis

Maintaining mental health is one of my top priorities during this time. Besides that, I try to spend my time improving on things by an amount that I couldn't have done when working full-time.

Social Interaction

I reckon social interaction is one of the major things contributing to mental health. While I don't see my friends in person, I try to continuously stay in contact via instant messaging and occasional video chats. This helps me not feeling alone and isolated, and reminds me that we all share the same experience during this time.

Physical Health

This is one point I have drastically improved since last year. I went from about 3 hours of gym training per week to about 7-10 hours of cardio and home gym training each week, mainly since time allows for it. The threshold of doing a workout is much lower since I do everything at home and don't need to prepare and travel to exercise. Also, besides physical health, I'm convinced regular physical activity further contributes to mental health.

Since it's not possible to visit the gym anymore, I ordered some gym equipment to maintain my strength during my time at home. I do not intend to make gains currently. I bought the following items helping me to realize my home gym:

  • A TRX clone
  • A variable 20 kg dumbbell
  • A pull-up bar
  • A yoga mat
  • Two rubber bands
  • Push Up handles

I came up with a home workout, that I do for 60 minutes each 2nd day with the following exercises:

  • Stretch and Warmup
  • Pull-Ups
  • Push-Ups
  • Push-Ups on TRX (inclined)
  • Bodyweight rows on TRX
  • One-sided overhead press with dumbbell
  • Concentration curls with dumbbell
  • Tricep dips/extensions on TV bank or TRX

I'm convinced that I can maintain a fair amount of strength with this workout and can bridge the time until the gyms reopen.

Besides my strength training, I have extended my cardio training. Last year, I bought a Wahoo Kickr Core smart turbo trainer for my road bike and currently I use it each day for cycling on an online game named Zwift. On the days I do strength training, I do a low-intensity session on the turbo trainer remaining in heart rate zone two. On the days without strength training (each 2nd day), I can go for a more intense cardio session, either on the trainer or outside with a run or a longer cycling tour. Generally, I try to balance my low-/high-intensity cardio workouts with an 80/20 ratio.

This way, I manage up to ten exercise hours a week which really helps to stay healthy physically and mentally.

Meditation and Yoga

I have practiced mindfulness in the past, however, I dropped the habit somewhen in the last year. The pandemic provided me with enough motivation to pick it up again. I have a ten-minute session incorporated in my mourning routine, directly after drinking a large glass of water and getting ready in the bathroom. For meditation, I currently use the app Headspace on a free trial. They offer guided meditations in particular with topics around the pandemic.

As one amongst many, I picked up Yoga when I began to stay at home and I am still practicing regularly. I try to do a thirty-minute session each second day as part of my morning routine after my meditation. I was a bit shocked when I noticed how inflexible my body was and I reckon I can benefit from the gained flexibility in my other physical training sessions.

Read and Learn

Another rather obvious recommendation is to pick up a non-fiction book and learn from it. I have a list of books-to-read on, that I'm working through currently. Because I have much more free time, I have no trouble in making much faster progress.

Besides books, I try to learn by other means. I took an online class on Udacity to compensate for the time I'm not spending solving challenging problems at work (which I consider learning time as well). Also, side projects or challenges are a great way to improve one's skillset: For instance, Google Kickstart is an ongoing competitive programming challenge.

When I'm doing "dull" work, like doing the dishes, I like listening to a podcast. It's a good way of getting work done while educating yourself. A list of podcasts I listen to regularly:

  • Bits und so [GER]: Nerds talk about digital topics from the last weeks, very Apple-focused, but no fanboy praising.
  • Das Coronavirus-Update mit Christian Drosten [GER]: NDR is interviewing virologist Christian Drosten on the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
  • TED Radio Hour: Talks from TED condensed into radio shows.
  • Simplify: Blinkist employees talk about nonfiction books.
  • Flash Forward: A fictive future scenario is being played through with all its consequences.
  • Mal angenommen [GER]: Similar to Flash Forward, but not as far-fetched, mostly focuses on Germany.
  • Command Line Heros: Excursions into the history of computing.

Cook Food

I have been cooking all my meals since 2020 because I switched to a plant-based diet. During my week, on Saturday and Sunday, I prepare all meals for the following week. I cook two different meals that I eat in an alternating fashion. Of course, the more different meals someone wants, the more cooking overhead is necessary (which isn't a bad thing). Cooking takes up several hours of my weekends and it's great to have a healthy meal each day by just defrosting it in the microwave.

Revive or pick up Hobbies

I have played the piano for over ten years, however, dropped this hobby some years ago. Since I still own a small electric piano, I started playing again and try to practice a few hours each week.

Like that, you can revive an old hobby that you maybe wanted to practice for a long time, but never found the time to do so. Of course, starting a new hobby is always an option as well!

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