Whether we like it or not, we’re all becoming used to the new lexicon that defines our ‘pre-COVID’ and ‘post-COVID’ lives. Sadly, for those of us in the creative sectors, the commercial and psychological impacts have been devastatingly disproportionate and will reverberate for months, even years, to come.
Like me, you may have enjoyed returning back to cinemas and galleries recently, to experience again the communal wonders of creative output. But the resumption of lockdowns in Melbourne, and the spectre of similar restrictions in NSW, reinforces the fragility of the screen and arts industries.
Although we might not go looking for them, life’s toughest challenges often provide the opportunity to shake up our lives and realise what matters most. Here, we have an opportunity to use this global fault line, to create some positive intention and motivation around what our personal COVID refocus and refresh plan could look like.
Life’s toughest challenges often provide the opportunity to shake up our lives and realise what matters most.
First, we need to focus on the basics of our psychological safety and wellbeing. A wonderful thing I’ve observed in the screen sector since the start of COVID-19, is the way individuals, companies, guilds and agencies have stepped up to the plate to provide this support to one another. It’s a testament to our resilience and collegiality and a defining reason why Australian talent is so highly regarded internationally.
Here are some key concepts and areas of focus to help you stay engaged and positive. There’s also a video excerpt below from my weekly webinars, expanding these ideas with more practical tips and strategies. Having been a producer for 25 years now, being ‘solutions focused’ is my default position, and I trust you’ll find these of use!
Ellenor Cox Coaching – Productivity and Positivity Tips from Firelight Productions on Vimeo.
CONTROL YOUR CONTROLABLES
When we’re surrounded by so much anxiety-inducing uncertainty, a key antidote is to focus on the areas of your life that you can control.
Humans find comfort and safety in the predictability of the routines. When we’re mid-production, we often lament the all-consuming nature of our work, but we also find solace in its structure and schedules. With much of this security unavailable at the moment, we can turn our focus instead to creating non-negotiable daily practices around self-care, sleep patterns, diet and exercise.
A power plant doesn’t generate power simply by virtue of its existence. Instead it needs the catalyst of fuel. The same goes for our body and mind. Controlling our intakes, along with minimising the mood-numbing crutches like alcohol, sugar and drugs, gives us a much stronger chance of remaining positive and motivated.
Being aware of the amount of media we’re consuming is also an important factor for mental wellbeing during these times, and it’s particularly challenging for writers, filmmakers and communicators in general as we’re hardwired to engage with it!
Remember that the news is designed to capture our attention by startling us.
Remember that the news is designed to capture our attention by startling us. Our overtaxed minds are already so stretched, so why exacerbate this further? Consciously limit your news intake, or actively counter this by seeking comedy or light entertainment to balance your mood. Head to #AustralianMade to explore some locally created shows designed to give you a laugh.
The same can be said for technology in general. Working from home or being restricted with social engagements means we’re now more connected to our devices than ever. Simple hacks to give us breathing space include intentionally switching off your phone and computer at a certain time each night; not having devices charging in your bedroom, and leaving your phone behind when going for short walks or errands.
Notice how refreshing it is to disconnect from technology, even for small moments in time, and instead increase your awareness and appreciation for nature.
ITS ALL IN THE ATTITUDE
An oft-overlooked area that we can control, is our attitude towards situations and circumstances. If you catch yourself early enough, you can choose more positive emotional reactions and thought processes towards events. Switch out the spiralling negativity with affirmations and mantras such as: ‘I am enough, and I’m doing my best right now.’ Observe how quickly your mental state can change.
Another tip for getting yourself out of the hamster wheel of worrying thoughts is to choose one small task or activity that you can not only control, but also complete. Go for something simple like clearing out your in-tray and filing some papers. The small sense of achievement does wonders for your confidence and reminds you that you’re capable of tackling larger and more complex situations.
THE IMPORTANCE OF CONNECTION
Humans are hardwired to need connection and belonging. Many of us have sought out creative industries because of the sense of camaraderie that we experience working on projects together. COVID-19 has seen isolation resulting not just from job cancellations and delays, but from the reality of lockdown restrictions.
Now more than ever, we need to stay connected with others and focus on our industry tribes, and being active members of them. There’s no shortage of Facebook groups and webinars to engage with, as well as a plethora of industry guilds and agency newsletters and newsfeeds to connect with.
There’s always the opportunity to call someone, particularly someone who might be feeling even more isolated or flat than you are. When we focus on serving and helping others, we shift our mental state from introspection to reflection, and in doing so open our minds to thoughts that are more expansive and whole hearted.
Next week, we’ll look more closely at the power of the mind and how to best prepare for the ‘next normal’. In the meantime, if you do find yourself with time on your hands, ask how many of the above practises and disciplines you’re currently adhering to. None of them require anything other than time and awareness. Both of these things are available to you right now.
COVID-19 is turning into a marathon, not a sprint. It’s going to take a commitment first to self-care and self-compassion, and to have our personal houses in order, so we can then later engage successfully with others in our work. When we do finally look back on this period, we want to be able to say that we’re proud of the people we were during this time of hardship.
Next week: The power of the mind and how to prepare for ‘the next normal’.
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The Wellness and Recovery Resource is supported by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas.