Having a goal during all the uncertainties of Covid-19 could be great for our mental health, experts say.
“Goal setting is always useful, but especially during this time,” says Reem Shaheen, counseling psychologist and director of BE Psychology Center for Emotional Wellbeing.
“It is a time of uncertainty and unpredictability. Finding a goal to focus on can give individuals a sense of control over their lives and it helps distract from the difficult time we’re in.”
Across the UAE, residents are setting and achieving goals big and small, ranging from shifting into entirely new careers to improving fitness. We’ve highlighted some of our favorite stories below. And if you’re left feeling inspired to start your own isolation transformation challenge, remember Dr Shaheen’s advice: do it gradually.
“Start small. For example, if you want to start exercising, begin with two days a week, even if your end goal is to exercise several times a week.”
Starting slowly makes the process much sustainable and therefore more likely to last beyond this period of isolation imposed on us by Covid-19.
From living room workouts to backyard marathons, activity is dominating social media feeds and health transformations are all the rage right now.
Payal Mirchandani, founder and chief executive of kid-focused company Pinca, understands why: the activity helps people feel a bit better.
“My stress levels are at an all-time high, so I’m trying to keep myself positive and focus on my health,” she says.
Mirchandani has started doing 30 minutes of online HIIT classes and added in a cleanse to help become more mindful of her food.
“All this helps me deal with my daily stresses, like homeschooling my two kids and working from home,” she explains. “Before, I was juggling a lot of things and felt that mentally I couldn’t focus on ‘me,’ but we definitely need it now more than ever, don’t we?”
If fitness is on your mind, Mirchandani recommends starting with just 15 minutes but keeping to a consistent schedule.
“You’ll automatically notice a change in how you feel, which will keep you going.”
Cooking is another comforting homebound activity and Rachael Lynn, Dubai-based author of At Home Anywhere, has taken it up with enthusiasm.
“I want to embrace the creativity so many talk about,” she says.
Lynn signed up to Alice Water’s masterclass. The Art of Home Cooking. and began scouring Pinterest for clever recipes using at-home ingredients. She’s determined to never feel intimidated by cooking again – a big change for her.
“I was lucky if I cooked a few times a week before this,” she says.
Before diving into creative at-home recipes, forget what everyone else says is the perfect meal prep and focus on what excites you, Lynn. Ask yourself what feels fun and what intrigues you. Then go online and find information about it.
Taking business online
Covid-19 forced textile artist Aditi Patwari to rethink her entire business. And in doing so she feels she is making it stronger overall.
“The pandemic came and suddenly within a week, everything slowed down,” says Patwari, the founder of Dea Dubai, a textile art and design company. “Now I had to reinvent my business, and most of all, my mind.”
All this led Patwari to enroll in several online courses and webinars to learn how to embrace social media and the online world. Now she is experimenting with online consultations, a textile blog and artist coaching.
“Through the internet, my reach can be bigger and I can collaborate and work with more people around the world,” she says. “I see this time as an opportunity to keep growing and discovering new things about myself and my work.”
Oana Titica, founder of Baby Sensory UAE, which provides activities for babies and children, has also taken things online.
“This is to help mums and children better survive social distancing times and also to allow my business to survive,” she explains.
Make a career shift
A few weeks ago Jana Belugina lost her job as an executive in fintech – a job that she admits made her feel “quite miserable.”
“This has been a good kick for me and has made me realise that my old career is not serving me any more,” she says. “The relief of losing a job for the first time has been far greater than the fear of being jobless, so now I’ve promised myself to focus on things that make me happy.”
That means she has been using her Covid-19 social isolation as a space to explore personal interests.
“This time has been the most productive for me actually,” she says. “I’ve revisited my passion for food photography and created my creative portfolio to take it to a professional level.”
She has also gone online to finish a meditation course she had abandoned, adding it to a yoga degree she got back in India. And that’s just the start.
“I’m creating my own free meditation series and developing my blend of dance and breathing techniques that I plan to teach later on,” she says.
For anyone looking to enter a new career during this time, Belugina recommends finding a coach or mentor online.
“Unfortunately, often we are so busy that our understanding of self is cloudy,” she says. “So find someone neutral who is able to hold that space for your self discovery.”
When two of her businesses shut down due to coronavirus, Shakeela Sagheer, owner and founder of Maysah, viewed it as a catalyst to make positive changes.
“I was on pause for a couple of days with all doors closed,” she admits. “But I slowly came out of it with the thought of taking this as an opportunity to calibrate my life, businesses and relationships.”
Now Sagheer is exploring digital media, watching what other businesses are doing to tackle the situation and constantly searching for new ideas.
Keeping the faith
Having time to think and privacy for reflection has led Laurat Titilola Ogunjobi, principal writer at Cush Consulting Group, to make the leap she has long wanted to.
“I’ve become fully veiled,” she says. “It’s a goal I’ve worked on for seven years.”
She had tried it years ago in the US but the attention she received was too uncomfortable for her. It was partly why she moved to a cosmopolitan Islamic country like the UAE.
“I’m not alone here, so I don’t get so many questions and stares,” she explains.
If exploring your faith is on your self-isolation ‘to do’ list, Ogunjobi recommends some active self-examination first. Understanding why we want to do something makes the path of our progress easier, she says.
“Examine your whys and look at your intentions behind doing something.”
Danae Mercer is a freelance health and travel journalist and globally recognized influencer and leader in the body acceptance movement.