Thriving Through A Pandemic and Recession UPDATE

Two months ago, I wrote a post describing how I planned to Thrive Through A Pandemic and Recession. Despite all the uncertainty and fear that came with the coronavirus spreading throughout the world, and the anxiety that came with the economy shutting down throughout the United States, I felt it was possible to look at this situation as an opportunity for growth. As hard as that may seem in such a difficult time, I’ve done my best to embody that mindset over the past couple months. During that time, I’ve been able to progress in a number of areas but struggled with one in particular. In this post, I’ll detail how I’ve spent my time during the pandemic in an effort to grow and thrive.

Fitness

In the fitness space, the first thing I focused on during the pandemic was to create a full-body fitness program which doesn’t require weights, resistance bands or equipment since gyms are closed. This means I could perform the program anytime or anywhere without having to worry about access to a fitness center. I accomplished this by developing a 5 day workout program made up entirely of bodyweight moves that target strength, endurance, mobility and stability training. After 6 weeks of performing the program which includes variations of push-ups, squats, lunges, planks, sit-ups and cardio moves, I feel great. I’ve lost 5lbs and am probably at my record low for body fat percentage. I’m looking forward to continuing this program next week and hope to share more of the details with you soon!

As the weather has gotten nicer, I’ve started to get back into running as well. A few times a week I’ll run a warm-up mile, followed by six to eight 100m sprints and then end with another one mile cool-down run. I’ve liked this sequence a lot too because of it’s combination of endurance and speed training.

But, the one fitness area I’ve struggled with is staying active throughout the day. I have to say that without my treadmill desk for work, my average daily step count has dropped from 25,000/day to around 4,000/day. I’ve tried to mitigate this by taking mini exercise breaks or going for daily walks within the past few weeks but I’m still only averaging about 6,000/day which is far from ideal. This is one area I’m still working on improving.

Nutrition

I’ve gone a little crazy in the nutrition space by cooking over 75 new recipes within the past two months. With so much time at home and many restaurants closed, I figured now was the time to sharpen my cooking skills. I’ve focused on developing whole foods plant-based recipes while avoiding any added salt, oil or sugar. This has been interesting because I’ve had to find completely new ways of bringing flavor to dishes. Instead of refined sugar, I’m using fruits which include tons of fiber and vitamins. Instead of added oils, I’m using nuts and seeds to get the healthy fats. And instead of artery clogging salt, I’m cooking with lemons, limes and vinegars to provide an extra depth of flavor. I’ve also gotten into a great routine of eating a healthy oatmeal breakfast, raw salad lunch, and home cooked dinner everyday. Not only am I saving a lot of money by cooking at home all the time, but I’m probably eating the healthiest I’ve ever eaten. This is definitely helping contribute to my lower body fat percentage and small weight loss. I’ll be sharing these recipes soon too!

Sleep

In regards to sleep, I don’t think a lot has changed for me. I’ve always made sleep a priority in my life which means I follow a fairly strict sleep schedule. I go to bed around 10:30-11:00pm every night and wake up at about 6:30-7:00am each morning. The only difference I’ve seen is that I tend to wake up closer to 7am now that I don’t need to get up early to get dressed and commute to work. So I may be averaging about 20 more minutes of sleep now but it hasn’t been that noticeable.

Financial Independence

I’ve been lucky to work in the Information Technology field which hasn’t been hit as hard with the economic downturn. In fact, many companies and jobs within the IT space have been thriving during this time because more companies are attempting to use technology to work from home. This has been great for me as I’ve been able to continue working from home without many disruptions financially. While still having my source of income, I’ve been able to spend more time learning about financial independence and executing my financial plan.

About a month ago, I completed Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University course. This was a 9 course program consisting of 9 one-hour video lessons, homework assignments and classroom takeaways. This program taught me a lot more about budgeting, the importance of insurance, the dangers of debt and the value of giving back to society. It even inspired me to make one lump sum payment to clear my auto loan. Finally, I’m happy and proud to be debt free for the second time (I was debt-free after paying off my student loans a couple years ago but soon after I bought a car). This situation of maintaining my income, adding knowledge from Dave Ramsey’s course and spending less money because of the economy has actually helped me thrive during the pandemic. I really didn’t see this coming and feel quite odd to be doing well in this kind of environment. But, as Dave Ramsey recently said, no one should feel bad for doing well in these situations if they’ve been planning for it all along. Ideally, if you’re doing your best to be financially responsible by having an emergency fund, eliminating debt and investing in your future, it allows you to not suffer as much during tough times like these. I’ve found this to be very true recently.

Cognitive Health

By not having to commute, get dressed up for work or attend extracurricular activities, I’ve definitely had more time on my hands. This has been great as I was falling behind on my yearly goal of reading 12 books a month. But within the past two months, I’ve completed three books and am onto my fourth! I’ve definitely used my time well in this aspect. Here are the books I’ve read recently: The Little Book of Common Sense Investing, The Ride of a Lifetime, Eat for Life.

In regards to being social, I’ve done my best to FaceTime at least one family member a day and we’ve scheduled weekly family game nights for the past month or so. During these family game nights, we’ll all join a video conference line and play an online game. Check out the 3 Free Games We’ve Played on Zoom recently! These have been fun and despite the stay-at-home orders, I don’t think I’ve been suffering socially because of my constant contact with my close social network.

Minimalism

This is the one area I’ve struggled with within the past month. For some reason, I started playing Clash Royale again on my iPhone. What started out as a quick way to play a 2-3 minute game to past the time, turned into hour long mobile tournaments. I found my screen time rising from week to week and last week I averaged about 1.5 hours/day playing it. One day I almost hit four hours alone. It was clear that this was eating away at my time in very unproductive ways.

With mobile gaming, it’s like a quick dopamine boost for the brain. The rush of competing against someone online to win a quick game is instant gratification. And with the monotony of everyday life due to the pandemic, it was a quick way for me to sprinkle in a little more joy throughout the day. But what I noticed was that every time I was required to perform deep work, to solve tough problems or to think through difficult situations, my brain began to crave mobile gaming. Why spend a couple hours, or 45 minutes, or even 10 minutes focused on a tough problem when I could spend 2-3 minutes playing a game that brought me instant joy? Every time I was faced with something difficult, I kept giving in to the instant gratification and gaming more.

That’s why I’ve since deleted Clash Royale from my phone. I saw how addicting these things can become, and how they dwindle my desire and ability to solve the real problems. I love my job, myHealthSciences, my friends and family but none of these can consistently provide me with that same instant gratification anytime, anywhere like mobile gaming can. Now that I’ve deleted the game, I notice my brain is still wired to crave gaming. Every time I have a few minutes throughout the day, my brain still triggers me to open my phone and look for the game. But now that the instant gratification isn’t within reach, I take a few extra seconds to think about what I’m really craving and pick a better alternative. I now decide to focus on my job, myHealthSciences, friends or family instead which provides longer-term satisfaction. Despite the instant joy that mobile gaming provides, I know not gaming will ultimately provide me with greater health and happiness in the short and long-term. This is just another reason why I feel digital minimalism is so important to consistently practice.

Final Thoughts

Two months into the pandemic and I feel I’ve done pretty well at staying productive. I’ve developed my own fitness program, created dozens of new recipes, paid off my auto loan, read a number of books and stayed social virtually. Despite that, I still got caught up in mobile gaming and allowed it to become a habit that consumed many hours of my days. I never was expecting that. What started out as a way to pass a few minutes of the day started to consume hours. But, I’m one week into the gaming detox and I’m already feeling the benefits. So as the pandemic stay-at-home orders lift and the economy reboots, I’m excited to keep this momentum going. I’m excited to continue growing and thriving no matter what the future holds.

I’m curious to hear how you’ve handled the pandemic and recession in the comments below. Where have you grown and where have you struggled?

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Hey, I am Brandon Zerbe

Welcome to myHealthSciences! My goal has always been to increase quality-of-life with healthy habits that are sustainable, efficient and effective. I do this by covering topics like Fitness, Nutrition, Sleep, Cognitive Health, Financial Independence and Minimalism. You can read more about me here.


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