For sure, this will be a year to remember for all of us: a 2020 characterised by the harsh reality of the Covid-19 pandemic, an epidemic that is taking the World, Country after Country, and does not seem to be stopping anytime soon. I have never experienced a pandemic before – call me a ‘pandemic-first-timer’, if you wish – and must say it has been overwhelming so far.
With the lockdown measures in place, many people moved to working from home. I was on my final weeks of lab experiments but had to wrap up quickly and conclude, and then started my thesis writing. Everyone in a PhD programme knows that writing a PhD thesis is not a joke in ‘normal’ conditions, never mind during a pandemic: I have been struggling to keep working as usual, stay focused, being productive. Like me, many other people have experienced similar feelings.
It has been a bit upsetting acknowledging not being able to thrive as usual; however, we have to realise that we were – and still are – far away from the ‘normal’ times, with everyone having to go through some kind of struggles (family/work/health) while the world outside is falling apart. Not to mention all the scientific discoveries and Covid-related news that have been coming on a day-to-day-basis, which we cannot help but follow, with wanting to know more and more – I personally find this process very interesting and informative, but it is also mentally tiring sometimes. The journalist Matt Simon has defined this status of being overwhelmed due to outside events as ‘crisis fatigue’ .
During the past months I learned to not feel guilty if my work-related productivity dropped, because I realised that actually have been trying my best to make a good use of my time at home, in one way or another. Every time I was not in the right place to focus on the thesis, I turned into doing something else, re-discovering old passions and finding new ones, or simply just taking some time off to ease the mind and calm the soul.
(Re) Discover Your Passions
For instance, I always had a passion for illustrating, painting and all things artistic, so have been creating again much more, realising that images can lift someone else’s spirit, give hope, and also be a great form of advocacy, if used to share awareness for causes and themes you care about.
I also discovered Yoga: wanted to try it for some years, but never had the time and perseverance to join the gym. With instructors starting online lessons, after watching the first videos I soon realised how much these types of exercise ware helping me: either early in the morning or at the end of a stressful day, half an hour of yoga and a few candles lighten up are enough to put everything back in place again .
A ‘Green Space’
Lastly, I realised the importance of a green space. Apart from having some pick-me-up walks in the local parks (which by the way looked greener than usual – is it maybe just my impression?), I surrounded myself with more and more plants, and now my place is very cosy and lovely, and I am happier – especially if they keep growing healthy, yay! .
Being quite a lazy and introverted person, I have always dreamt of some prolonged cosy times at home, but with the daily frenetic rhythms, it has been almost impossible for me. By shifting to working from home, I am appreciating all the small things, which I refer to as ‘my personal perks’. What I learnt during this pandemic is that we must not feel guilty, as challenging times call for changes: we all deserve some time to rest and slow down, and give our mind the time to heal with something we love doing. In return, we gain additional strength and balance, and the motivation to keep going in our everyday life.
If you want to read more, I suggest some additional resources:
1. Crisis fatigue: https://www.wired.com/story/crisis-fatigue/
3. Mental Health Foundation & WWF campaign Thriving with Nature: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/campaigns/thriving-with-nature/guide
About the author:
I am a final-year PhD student in Cancer Sciences, focusing on the discovery and development of new compounds as possible drug and tracer candidates for the treatment and management of glioblastoma brain tumours. I am passionate about science communication, and a creator of art illustrations to share positivity and awareness, especially regarding themes like Health & medicine, Mindfullness & Mental health, and climate change.