The uncertainty brought up by the pandemic is affecting the mental health of so many - and it's easy to get lost in the pressures of trying to make meaningful use of this time. While some are able to do this better than others, it's always a relief to know you're not alone in the struggle. But is there really a formula for those who will come out stronger? Caroline Okello speaks to few women who offer what has worked for them so far.
1. They pick new skills or re-examine old dreams
Dr Miriam Mutebi, Consultant Breast Cancer Surgeon and Assistant Professor in the Department of Surgery at Aga Khan University Hospital
Many people say that this situation has given us an opportunity to reflect and recalibrate our existence. We have a chance to re-examine our priorities and focus on what truly matters. With the relative slowing down, there has been an opportunity to pick up new skills or re-examine old dreams. I would encourage us all to shake these out, dust them off and try them on again for size. I have found myself doing more creative writing and I hope to eventually turn these musings into something concrete one day. My epicurean tendencies have always been at the forefront and, at some point, I had dreams of acquiring a Michelin star! I am experimenting more with unusual food combinations and developing new recipes. Both these activities have been fun to do and have helped to give me a sense of grounding before getting back to my routine tasks. (Views expressed are Dr Mutebi’s and not of Aga Khan University Hospital.)
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2. They maintain a schedule
Catherine Karita, Executive Director, Brokerage at NCBA Investment Bank
I now work from home most of the time, and virtual meetings have become the new norm. I maintain a schedule to help me stay productive. I start my day with a fitness routine; I either go walking or jogging outside (yes, with a mask on) or get a routine off YouTube. Exercise is important to me and gets me ready for the day. I start working by 7.30am. It is easy to get glued to your laptop, so every two hours I’ll move away, go outside for some fresh air, hydrate, stretch and enjoy some sun then get back to my desk. By 4.30 pm, I start switching off from work-related matters. Earlier on, I realised you could still be on work mode late in the night. So, I try to consciously shut down by 5pm. For friends and family who I used to see quite often and now can’t, I make sure I get in touch with them on a weekly basis. Social interactions are equally important for well-being.
3. They prioritise family time
Prof Salome A Bukachi, Associate Professor in Anthropology at the Institute of Anthropology, Gender and African Studies, University of Nairobi
I have been very deliberate in setting quality time to bond with my family. Working from home can be very intense and engaging, and if activities are not planned and scheduled for, there is a very high likelihood that they will not be prioritised. Many times, this may lead to taking family for granted. So together with my family, we have set out various activities that enable us to spend quality time together. One includes spending about an hour each day in the morning reading and studying the Bible together. We are also currently reading and studying the book Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. We take turns trying out new things and, in the process, we discover new and exciting things about each other and about ourselves. I am also Intentionally taking time to unwind.
4. They create healthy boundaries
Cynthia Nyamai, Director at CN Communications
I’m an introvert so working from home has been easy, but I realised I was taking far too many video calls and working longer hours, sometimes until 3am. I have now created a schedule that I’m trying to enforce. It includes spending time with my niece and homeschooling her, taking a walk every afternoon, and limiting video calls to only three a day. I am watching webinars and learning something new every day. I gave myself permission to step back and reduce my work hours, and to use this disruption to take care of other areas in my life other than career. I start my day with reading the Bible for a much longer time than before. I have also increased prayer time. I check on five people every day. I cut my to-do list by half. I’m only doing the most important things. I’m resting more, reading more and watching movies. On the lighter side, I learnt how to use the app called TikTok and discovered that I have a sense of humour!
5. They maintain a positive outlook
Dr Esther Muchemi, Group CEO at Samchi Group
I have always been a private person and a bit introverted. So this season enables me to have more time to think through my business models and how to reinvent them. Negativity and fear have no place in my life. A positive mind-set gives me sanity and energy that help me deliver on important areas in my life. I have taken this period to write a new book. I have also gotten into new partnerships. People who found it difficult to get in touch with me because of time limitations are now able to discuss business ideas with me. I will probably have three new businesses to take off during or after this period. My mind is full of many possibilities. I have also created and maintained a big social media presence, and this is allowing me to do what I love most -- impacting people.
6. They prioritise self-care
Anyiko Owoko, Founder and CEO at Anyiko Public Relations
Self-care starts with taking care of your mental health and close relationships. To be in a good relationship with others starts with being in a good relationship with yourself. We sometimes forget this. Self-care to me also means finding time to do the things you like, things that are not related to work. For me, it is listening to music, creating playlists, blogging, reading books, working out or simply rewarding myself with anything I want, depending on what I am craving. These hobbies bring me great pleasure, and also enrich my mind, body and soul. To stay productive, I love to read and research what’s new and trending, especially in the entertainment world and that keeps me busy. I recently started editing my own YouTube videos so that also takes my time, especially on Sundays. Find time during this period to start something that you always wanted to do. I started working out and creating music playlists and it feels so good to put the extra time on my hands to something that I have kept pending for a long time.
7. They practice gratitude
Aulgah Nato, Fashion PR and Designer at Aulgah Nato
Sometimes, life is so fast-paced that we forget to stop and appreciate the people and things around us, even ourselves. I have learnt to always check on my friends and my family. I have adopted being more enthusiastic and determined in what I do to make it work. I listen to music a lot as I find healing in my kind of music. I go for walks and do more relaxing activities like taking a bubble bath with a glass of wine and book handy. I also love my space a lot, so I am able to have a self-check on what I enjoy doing and what I can do to help others. I am grateful to my team at work -- who I now only see once or twice a week -- for their resilience. They are always ready to take on any challenges. We managed to completely change with the season and now we are producing material face masks to donate to the less fortunate and to also sell to different institutions.