This COVID shit sucks.
For the first time in, like, a decade I overdrew an account. Sure, it was a "fun money" account, but still. Over-f*cking*-drawn. In my quest for minimalism and right-sizing I neglected to remove the myriad of electronic funds transfers off that account. Idiot subscription services. My car payments. And, like, 6 other monthly charges I clearly wasn't aware enough of to warrant even a slightly discerning review of that account. As a result of my lack of attention and intention, I ended up getting dinged $28 by my bank for each transaction...a grand total of almost $300!
I only mention this to make a point. We're ALL human. And COVID has really humanized us in a way we've never been humanized and equalized before. Even billionaires are having to play by the same rules as us common folk. Still gotta attend that plethora of Zoom calls, tech issues and all. Still gotta don that mask if you're trying to get anything done in your town. No line jumping or preferential treatment during Coronapocalyse.
Many of us have lost jobs and are scrambling to make ends meet. My revenue has dropped over 74% because I can no longer travel to teach my workshops around the world. And as much as I've embraced virtual education, nothing compares to face-to-face, staring people in their eyeballs, witnessing their body language, and interpreting their every syllable to reveal truths, fears, and blockers. It's just not the same. Life is just not the same. Can I get an amen?
One of my superpowers is resilience. I've lived through some pretty F'd up shit in my 51 years on this planet and have cheated death numerous times in pursuit of what I've always deemed to be something "better." Being a creative has definitely helped me a ton with regard to perseverance and finding a different path to very linear solutions. But it has also led to some of the deepest disappointments of my life, for instance when my heartfelt expressions simply don't land with the same impact as intended. That's the bane of being "an analog girl in a digital world" as Erykah Badu sang so eloquently.
Our individual and collective mental health is taking a beating during this pandemic. This feels endless, uncomfortable, and annoying AF, and especially brutal as it came with no warning and snatched all of our lunches right off the table and flipped it over. Managing your personal mental health is challenging, especially under the pressure of making a living, supporting your family, keeping your business afloat, or just being able to see far enough into the future with hopes of brighter days ahead.
There are no perfect answers or theories or magic bullets to share because no one in the history of ever has gone through exactly what we're going through right now. So be encouraged and kudos for making it even this far without completely losing your shit. As someone whom others turn to for guidance, I'm happy to offer up a few things that are working for me on a personal level. I'm no expert and each person has unique challenges to navigate. But I'm hoping that some of the following can be of help to anyone who's struggling right now.
I walk every morning, without fail. I set my alarm, wake up, throw on my shoes, clothes, tracker watch, my earphones and hit it. The long, empty, early morning streets of Downtown Los Angeles have become my gym, my challenge, my friend, and my solace. For 1.5 hours I dedicate that time to listening to my favorite music, thinking through anything that comes to mind, and planning what I hope to accomplish that day. I've actually included a 15-minute AMRAP (as many reps as possible) session into the mix to help achieve some body goals I've set for myself and burn off most of the calories I plan to consume that day. My 1.5 hour walk/run/AMRAP usually burns about 1,750 calories. I typically consume around 2,000 calories per day (unless champagne) so I'm able to keep my weight under control without much effort beyond what I do during my morning walk. The benefit is that I've knocked out my exercise for the day. The 7,500+ steps I get in have dramatically leaned out my lower extremities. I think with more clarity and focus. And I'm able to get enough of an endorphine rush to make it feel effortless without the big crash, say, from running several miles and then logging on to sit on 3-5 Zoom calls per day. Walking may not be as glamourous or sexy as running, but let me tell you, it produces some pretty fantastic physiological (and mental) results and leaves you far less sore and beat up than running...especially at 51 years old.
People still find the very analog act of writing in a journal to feel foreign or far too OG to be taken seriously. I was a singer/songwriter in my previous life so journaling was about as common as breathing for me, so I'm biased. However, as a coach, I encourage my clients to just suck it up, buy a blank book of some sort, and start writing. But let me take that one step further. Don't just journal to journal. Write your emotions down. Put how you feel on the page. Many of us have very few avenues to truly express how we feel. Like, how we truly feel. Journaling your emotions allows you a private space where you can express exactly how you feel without any fear of judgment. That pen on those pages is a free-for-all and an opportunity for you to get it out of your head and onto a page. It allows for real clarity and focus in what you're doing once you relieve yourself of the emotions that often block what it is you're trying to accomplish. If you're upset or hurt, write it down. That way when you approach that person or situation, you can now focus on the objective vs. the emotion because you've already blown them to smithereens on several pages of your journal. Even better, you can go back over time and see how certain people or situations triggered certain emotions and find ways around or clearer paths to resolutions in the future. Seriously, get on Amazon, buy yourself a cute one, and a really nice pen, and get to writing your emotions down. It will kinda change your life. Thank me later.
In our quest for adulting, we've completely forgotten that we are simply big-ass kids who think too much, listened too hard, took on too much responsibility, and are now stuck in a life we're not even sure we like all that much. (Gimme that amen, again.) So, I'm not going to be that asshole who encourages you to divorce your spouse, sell everything, send your kids to go live with their grandparents, and you run off to join an Indian monastery or convent to magically find yourself. However, I will be that guy who encourages you to dust off that dream you had as a kid or reconnect with something physical requiring eye-hand coordination, concentration, and repetition. What this does is create a bit of a SELFish moment, something you do solely for you and no one else. It allows you to reconnect with your inner child and continue the story that was abruptly ended at the end of high school and shit got real.
For me, it's skateboarding. I used to skate everywhere when I was a kid. I loved the freedom it presented, a little danger, a little subversion, all human-powered and hella fun. Yes, a 51-year old, Black, gay man on a skateboard learning how to kickflip may raise a few eyebrows. But it's likely from people who aren't having near as much fun in their lives as I'm having. And we're in a time when cheap thrills are at a premium, so skating aligns perfectly with my sense of wonder, (self) competitiveness, middle-finger-to-the-world attitude, and belonging to a community many people revile simply because they don't understand it.
Not to digress, but here's the one thing about skateboarding that I love. It's a community that is one of the most encouraging, loving, and accepting than any I've ever been a part of. Your race doesn't matter. Your gender doesn't matter. Your sexuality doesn't matter. As long as you skate, are trying to improve your skills, and reciprocate the same respect given you're automatically welcomed into the tribe. We should all look a bit more closely at skaters and learn a few lessons about humanity, humility, acceptance, and perseverance from them instead of shewing them off our streets and out of public spaces because of the "destruction" they're creating. Trust me, we're all creating far more destruction to our planet than any skater ever has. Get your perspective right, please.
Notice the conspicuous lack of any business advice in this article? It's by design. I believe much of the advice being shared these days tacitly neglects the fact that we need to focus on our internal selves far more than being a better this or that. Especially if it's something that's externally facing vs. internally healing or challenging. The reason why many of you reading this are struggling is because you've lost touch with WHO YOU ARE. I coach many of you so I can say this with much certainty. Now is the time to really rediscover who you are. What do you actually like to do? What's the first thing that pops into your head in the morning, and are you doing that at any point in your day? If no one were watching or judging what would you like to do with all of your might?
Don't let all of this isolation and sequester go to waste. It's okay (and encouraged) to carve out some ME TIME and do exactly WTF you want without a single opinion other than yours being taken into consideration. Do anything from the list above and do it consistently. You'll quickly find that it's a pathway to rediscovery. It will allow you to reconnect with those dormant synapses that convention, responsibility, and expectation forced into slumber so that you could be one of the Joneses only to discover the Joneses kinda suck. You now have an opportunity to flip the script on your life and get back to putting yourself first, as uncomfortable as that may sound. Remember: you only get one life. And every day is an opportunity to change it and its trajectory in a way that allows you to live it to the best of your ability. No one can make that decision for you, but you. So, choose well.
Phoenix is coaching and supporting American billionaires, CEOs and executive teams in tech, retail and banking for over 25 years. He also founded and created MEGA Assistant University, a revolutionary skills and mindset “boot camp” for top Executive and Personal Assistants who want to level up quickly and begin forging a mutually successful business partnership with their executives and teams. Phoenix holds a Bachelors of Arts in European Studies/Civilisation from Trinity College Dublin.