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We’re all in a pandemic lock-down – that is, if we’re lucky enough not to be working for essential front-line services.
It is quite tough being unable to socialize, meet friends, get out into the fresh air and have fun…
Instead we have to stay indoors and deal with the endlessly worrying news.
Like many people you might be going through a range of emotions during this lock-down…
Fear, anxiety, boredom, hopelessness.
Sometimes you might get a feeling of total blankness.
Like you don’t really know what to think or do.
This can be the worst sensation of all.
The bad news is, we could have 30, 60, 90 days of this… or even more… before things get even close to going back to normal, (whatever normal will be in the future.)
One of the biggest battles people will face during this time is an ongoing struggle with their mental well-being.
This will be particularly true of those with existing mental health issues but I doubt that anybody will be unaffected by this long period of Covid19 lock-down.
That’s because we’re not built for isolation.
We’re social animals.
We still have hunter gatherer brains that evolved to live in communities, with close human contact and plenty of exercise outdoors.
Without these needs being fulfilled, we can become listless and depressed.
This can have a knock-on effect for your health, as constant anxiety lowers your immune system response, making you more vulnerable to infections just when you need to be strong.
But I’m not here to bring you even more bad news.
I want to give you a piece of advice that might help.
And this is really something that’s working for me, as I’ll explain in a moment.
A cure for boredom, listlessness and worry
When you carry out an action that delivers a rewarding result, your brain releases a dose of the chemical, dopamine.
That’s your body’s natural ‘feelgood’ drug.
Scientists say that even the prospect of a future reward can give you a buzz.
For instance, I’ve seen research which shows that the happiest part of a holiday actually comes during the planning stage, not the holiday itself.
It’s a little bit like entering a competition to win a prize, then enjoying the weeks of anticipation, fantasizing about the outcome.
It’s all about hope.
The thrill of the chase.
A belief that something good will happen in the future has the effect of lowering your anxiety and stress.
One powerful way that you can activate your brain’s feelgood systems while being confined to your home is to embark upon a challenging project.
It needs to be something that properly engages your brain, draws your focus, and helps you fixate on a rewarding outcome.
Examples include learning a new language, taking up a new musical instrument, studying for a qualification, doing an online course in a practical skill, or trying a completely new challenge like designing a house or writing a novel.
Each time you get a little better… see a significant result… or hit a new target… you get another dose of the happiness drug.
Now I understand if this idea might seem daunting right now.
You might feel too anxious or distracted by the news to concentrate…
You might just feel so listless and hopeless that you can’t get yourself motivated.
Or you might have too much on your plate trying to sort food out for your family, home school kids and keep peace in the home.
But your project doesn’t have to be something that takes more than 30-60 minutes a day, and it can be done anywhere you can sit with a tablet, laptop or even a phone.
And I promise you, when you get stuck into something exciting and new, you’ll find that remarkable things start to happen.
For one thing, your brain will begin to change…
How to feel younger
As we age, our brains lose mass and their synaptic connections become weaker.
This can lead to foggy thinking, poor concentration and memory – all the stuff that makes you feel old and like your best days are behind you.
But you can keep those synaptic connections alive with regular mental activity.
As the saying goes, “use it or lose it”.
A challenging project forces you to absorb new information, try new thought processes and develop new skills.
This will engage your mind, keeping your neural pathways open – and even creating fresh ones.
As a result you feel younger, with more purpose, and a sense you’re moving ahead in your life, even if you’re stuck indoors.
I tell you all this from experience, because I’ve been totally engrossed in a new project for the past few weeks.
Yes, I might be stuck indoors with my partner… but I’m so rewarded by my research and writing that all the outside distraction disappears for that hour or two.
And okay, so I can’t go to a cafe or restaurants to catch up with my friends… visit art galleries or go to the cinema…
But I’m thinking about what my life could be like in four or five months’ time if this project of mine turns out like I hope.
It feels pretty good to think ahead, despite everything.
So if I have any advice about coping with lock-down, it’s this – do something new, that engages your brain and develops your skills.
One such project I’ve suggested recently is to plan and set up a side hustle, either for during the lock-down or to get ready for after the crisis subsides.
Aside from the money aspect, there are so many other benefits to it.
- It will require you to set goals and thinking about what kind of life you could enjoy in the future…
- It will absorb your attention and focus, even if it’s for only an hour a day.
- It will require you to learn new skills, knowledge and processes that fire up your brain.
- It will give you little rewards of dopamine as you complete each small step along the way to your goal.
While you’re confined to the house, losing so much of what you enjoy, this could give you great pleasure and hope for a better life on the other side.
To get you started I collected a list of free online courses and training for you, so you can get motivated by exploring what’s out there, what may interest you, what could ignite your passion…and potentially be developed into a profitable side-hustle for you.
Check out the list below:
FREE Online Courses
If you’re stuck at home during the Covid-19 pandemic and want to spend time honing your marketing capabilities for your new side-hustle, there is a ton of free marketing software available.
And if you want to brush up on your knowledge about particular areas of interest, then the following FREE online courses might help – many from some of the world’s best institutions of learning…
Open Culture brings together high-quality cultural and educational media for the worldwide ‘lifelong learning’ community. And it’s all free. It’s a curated site that links to other places, providing movies, audio books, eBooks, language-learning resource, educational tools, for kids, and – most importantly – 1,500 free online courses from some of the world’s top universities in every subject imaginable.
Futurelearn is a UK-based platform that provides short online courses for free. Choose from hundreds of online courses from top universities and specialist organizations, in subjects including business & management, creative arts & media, healthcare & medicine, history, IT & computer, science, language, law, literature, nature & environment, politics & society, psychology & mental health, science, engineering and maths.
You can join Coursera for free, to build skills with courses online from world-class universities and companies, including Ivy Leagues. For a fee you can study towards certificates and even degrees.
edX was founded by Harvard and MIT as a global non-profit. It provides high-quality learning experiences on topics ranging from data and computer science to leadership and communications, many for free. There are courses in multiple languages as well.
Yale’s answer to edX is Open Yale Courses, which provides free and open access to a selection of introductory courses taught by distinguished teachers and scholars at Yale University. The aim of the project is to expand access to educational materials for all who wish to learn.
Class Central lists a plethora of free MOOCs – which is a generic term that stands for ‘massive open online course’: massive because enrollments are unlimited and can run into hundreds of thousands; open because anyone can enrol with no admission process; online because they are delivered via the internet; course because their goal is to teach a specific subject. They currently offer additional resources on Free or heavily discounted prices for Online Learning by many other providers on a dedicated page due to the Coronavirus pandemic, which is updated continuously, you can check it out here: Class Central Coronavirus Offers
The Khan Academy provides education for anyone, anywhere, 100% free. As well as the wealth of online courses, articles and study aids, you can get personalised help with what you’re studying.
With so many options to choose from, I am sure you will find something to spark your interest, and keep you occupied and excited for quite some time. I encourage you to check them out – and then take action and commit to pursuing a course. I guarantee you’ll love it!