As the pandemic shifts from shock-and-awe to ‘The New Norm’, 6 women share their coping strategies…from meditation to new businesses
I saw a meme today where number 13 goes, “I am the worst number.” 666 follows up with, “No, I am the worst number.” 2020 goes, “Bitches, please.”
In March, we were scared for every single breath that left our body; by August, many have become desensitized. We are infusing fear with humor. COVID hit us all so hard and took away any iota of normalcy, leading us to rethink so much of what we’ve taken for granted in our lives and work in the past few decades.
“Unprecedented” has become the word of the year repeated on loop at every meeting. We have lost lives, loved ones, livelihood, sanity, health, and so much more. The pandemic has compelled us all to pause and make notice of what we’ve tolerated and accepted that needs revision and change.
It has also been found that COVID-19 has had a greater impact on the mental health of women than men. Some women have had to choose between going to work and being a caregiver. The fact is that in New York City, healthcare, social work, education services, retail, and restaurants and bars reported some of the greatest job losses. Many of these professions employ more women than men.
I have also seen women in my universe — personal and professional circles — lose work, shut down, battle anxiety/depression, rise from the ashes, and keep it real. Some have relied on routine while others on to-do lists. Daily dose of inspiration and journaling got some out of bed and a few looked to meditation and movement to find their center. Some pivoted their business model while others went on to launch a new business during the pandemic. You get it, right? There is no one “right” way of coping, surviving, and thriving. We are all doing our best on a daily basis—I hope you know that.
It takes time to become whole. It takes time to handle grief and process what we are dealing with currently. We have all suffered loss on some level. We have all felt stuck and overwhelmed.
Traumas and healing and surviving shouldn’t be compared, justified, criticized, or judged. But reading stories of how some women navigated the mother of all examinations, aka 2020, and crossed emotional hurdles…can be inspiring and reassuring. Stories build communities. Communities make us feel less alone in our struggles. They remind us this too shall pass.
One of my biggest learnings from the pandemic has been: not everything is a priority. I don’t need to jump on every Zoom or phone call. I don’t need to sign up for every webinar. I don’t need to attend every online yoga class. Less is more and self-compassion is key. This mindset shift has helped me both stay productive and sane in these turbulent times.
I had the honor of asking six women across different industries and spaces how they have found the motivation to continue during this crisis. Our beloved city, NYC, where all of them either live or have an office, isn’t available right now in many ways because of the pandemic. But instead of falling into a permanent rut and losing focus, somehow these ladies have created new rhythm. They share what’s kept them productive, centered, and creative.
“Getting back to my routine of food safety business productivity has required patience and literally working on projects, one at a time, to allow myself to have a consistent mindset and focus so to complete a project before moving forward. This is a new concept for me while I am taking care of my three kids and octogenarian, live-in parents. Keeping up with the science of this pandemic, effectiveness and use of PPE and how to create a new safe ‘normal’ requires time. Not having solutions or answers for my clients is uncomfortable but being in that uncomfortable space is giving me the inspiration to create systems for my clients that already leverage their procedures and give them confidence to ensure safety for all.”
—Laurel Cudden, Founder and CEO, Grade A Safety
“I guess what I’ve tried to do is make the best use of the cooler summer morning hours to get things done before it gets too hot outside. My work-from-home schedule tends to be fairly flexible. I take the morning to get some personal business done, get outside for coffee or to run some early errands, back for a healthy lunch, and work in the afternoon. I’m not going out much in the evening so it’s early to bed and early to rise the next day.”
—Carol Marie Tuite, Co-founder, Franklin Street Policy Group
“Here’s what’s kept me productive and helped me get my creativity back:
- Create a ‘Win-Wall’ either weekly or monthly — where I stick Post-it notes on the wall of my accomplishments. This could be anything from sleeping for 8 hours, to going for a walk or finishing something on my to-do list.
- Catch-ups with friends, with actual phone calls. Talking to friends who don’t know what I’m actually doing, gave me a chance to think about other things I could be doing.
- Meditation & Gratitude practice has helped me stand grounded. When I was producing the insane Inkwell event that was super stressful and fast — meditation for 5 minutes before I started my day was immensely helpful to get me to focus.”
—Laura Mignott, CEO of DFlash and creator/host of The Reset Podcast
“Community has been so important to my sanity and productivity these last 5 months. I’ve found much needed inspiration, compassion and strength while connecting with the women in my personal and professional circles. And having the opportunity to be a sounding board or to offer encouragement and advice makes me feel useful. Turning inward, my TM (Transcendental Meditation) practice, which I started in January, has helped to ease my growing anxiety and has started to create space in my brain and in my heart. Lastly, as the warmer weather started in May, a daily early morning 3-4 mile walk while listening to podcasts like Brene Brown’s Unlocking Us has helped to clear my head and keep me going for the day.”
—Felicia Stingone, co-founder of Chief Marketing Partners
“I started baking and perfecting an Oat Bite recipe a few months before quarantine started. When the stay-at-home orders went into effect, I decided to turn my hobby into a business — and launched Baked by Nature. During quarantine I developed a brand, built a website and officially registered as a corporation. I spent countless hours building a social media presence, taking my own product photos and connecting with my network to sell my new creation. I found the dedication, the constant drive, goal setting and challenge of starting a business extremely helpful and powerful during this time. I feel accomplished and proud of each task I checked off my “business to-do” list.
I got in touch with a different side of feeling successful — a side I only touched when I worked toward a goal and accomplished something for my business, for me. I found productivity to be the only way to move through the tough times of quarantine. The empty moments, the hours I did not focus on something or left for nothingness were more challenging than the hours I focused on being productive. That is not to say that I did not need time to relax, breath, workout, read a book, get lost in a TV series, etc. because I did, but looking back on the weeks and months that have passed since March, it was productivity that allowed me to thrive.”
—Kara Freedman, CEO-Founder of Baked by Nature
“Things that have kept me going the past few months are laughter, creativity, good food (mostly cooked by my husband), and a steadfast journaling practice. I have a 6-year-old and while entertaining an only child within the confines of a NYC apartment has at times been maddening, it’s also stretched my imagination and added a lot of laughter and joy. Creativity is a huge part of my personal and professional life. What that’s meant during the pandemic is saying yes to more play requests and finding creative practices that I can do with my kiddo. I’ve spent many hours coloring, painting, building Lego towers, and constructing cars and creatures with cardboard boxes and glue. It’s been excellent practice in staying present and removing adult expectations of what things are supposed to look like and doing them for the pure joy of using my hands.”
—Madeline Schwarz, Career and Communication Coach
I think the bottom line is we have all had to re-imagine productivity and priority. Do what works for you — If you want to scale back and spend some time with the family, by all means do that. If you prefer to buckle down and work on new ideas, nothing wrong with that choice. If I may make a friendly suggestion, give meditation a chance to build mental resilience. It teaches you to focus on what matters. Now more than ever, you really need to rethink your priorities so you’re working smarter, not harder.
You may also enjoy reading 8 Tips for Managing Change and Thriving During Life Transitions, by Dr. Bojana Jankovic Weatherly