Reset and recalibrate
Take stock of what really matters in wake of pandemic upheaval
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 27/06/2022 (340 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
After two years, many of us are finding our passion and purpose again.
Some of us are busier than ever as our life plans have been uprooted, while others are taking on less and prioritizing themselves. Either way, you’re either embracing this ongoing period of transition or doing your best to tread water.
What’s unique about this moment in history is that we all experienced this major life transition at the same time. Who has lived through the last two years without experiencing some form of major change?
Michael Linton owns Centric Productions, a Winnipeg video production company that primarily produces corporate videos. He lost almost all of his business during the pandemic.
“(When COVID first hit in 2020), we lost about $150,000 worth of work in two days — all of our clients basically called or emailed within that 48-hour period,” Linton says. “I literally saw a whole year or a good chunk of our year’s worth of production work just literally evaporate.”
Linton was forced to stop, reset and evaluate his thoughts. He was overworked and exhausted.
“In 2020, like a lot of people, I was in a really horrible mental health state. I’ve always kind of struggled with depression throughout my life. And in that particular period, you wake up in the morning and literally stare in the face of your mental health for 12 hours a day,” he says. “COVID really gave me no choice. There were days where I thought ‘what am I going to do to pay my bills?’”
The global crisis — and its personal ramifications — have presented us all a unique opportunity to recalibrate and reinvent. For Linton, it gave him time to think about what’s important in his life.
“I used to be huge into mountain biking and didn’t do it for 20 years, and then I grabbed my bike and started riding again with a good friend of mine,” he says. “I kind of came to the realization of ‘oh, I stopped doing this because I literally didn’t have two hours every day to hop on a bike and go for a ride.’”
Over the last two years, Linton started mountain biking on a regular basis. He’d go upwards of five times a week for two or three hours at a time. He also had an opportunity to go camping, something he’s always enjoyed. Prior to COVID-19, he never really made a plan to take time off because he always assumed something would come up.
“(Previously), if there was something that I had planned on a Friday, I would cancel it to help a client or get a project done,” he says. “Now, I prioritize my time in those instances. If I’ve made a plan to go somewhere or do something, I just say, ‘hey, I’m not available.’ And that’s that.”
He says some clients adapt their schedule if he’s unavailable but if they can’t do that, he may need to let the project go.
“I’m realizing that my time has value that’s more than just the paycheque and I never really valued it like that before. The business was always the priority — and it still is. I’m just thinking about work in a different way,” he says.
Linton realized that the simple things — relaxing at a campsite, cooking breakfast over a fire, looking at the stars — were missing from his life.
“(Relaxing) was a headspace that I didn’t really have prior to COVID because it was never on my radar. I could never disconnect from work in a way that would really allow me to just chill out,” he says. “And now I realize that I need that because I work in a creative field and you can’t just be creative from nine to five.”
Many of the things we spent time pursuing and concerning ourselves with before the pandemic no longer resonate with the importance they once did.
“We often have these kinds of anchors in our planning that give us something to look forward to and give us a sense that time is passing,” says Dr. Jo Ann Unger, clinical psychologist and president of the Manitoba Psychological Association. “But because of our need to physically distance ourselves and not travel, we didn’t have those upcoming events. That’s one thing that’s really thrown out our passage of time.”
Dr. Unger encourages people to look at doing things that align with their values and are consistent with “filling up their tank” and being conscious about those kinds of activities and behaviours.
“Some of the things that we need to make sure we have in our life, and to keep us out of a depressed place, are joy and pleasure, and a sense of mastery and accomplishment,” she says.
Once production work started to pick up again, Linton knew he wanted to approach things differently. At any given time, he could be working on between five and eight projects simultaneously, all with different demands. Previously, he may have gone back and forth from project A to project B but he now prefers to take it one step at a time.
“Now, I compartmentalize and just think about project one in whatever context that it’s in. And it’s a great feeling to be able to do that,” he says. “Having a bit more time to think about those things allows me to either fully cook up an idea or come up with a solution. And it kind of refreshed and reinvigorated me to work again.
When it comes to change, Unger says, if the qualities of it have a negative impact on us and it’s outside of our control or unplanned, it will end up being stressful and tax more of our energy.
“It’s classic COVID changes, right? It’s often those spur-of-the-moment, unplanned changes — those (are the ones that) really tax our resources significantly,” she says.
For Linton, resetting his priorities has transpired into some of his finest work.
“The work I’ve done in the last year or so, I think, is some of the best work I’ve ever done in 17 years,” Linton says. “Because I actually have had time to sit and think about it, really work through it, be creative and come up with cool ideas and solutions to problems. It’s about being able to set boundaries with people.”
Linton compares the constant stress he felt to being on a treadmill — at some point, you have to get off to rest and take a break.
“It’s like when you go to the gym and do it five, six times a week. Your body’s just tired. And you have to take time to rest and have your muscles recoup. It’s the same with your brain.”
Re-evaluating his personal time as well as how he wants to work and who he wants to work with is paying off. Even though the last three months have been the busiest for his business in over three years, Linton is also the most relaxed he’s been in a long time. He attributes this change in perspective and attitude to two things: great clients and being fully transparent.
“Those conversations I had with people about aligning expectations paid off. And ultimately, everyone was on the same page,” he says. “So, as a result, the work that we did in those three months, despite it being lots of long days and working weekends, didn’t feel like work. It felt amazing. And I think that’s partly because of that different approach of not overburdening ourselves.”
In the end, Linton says he’s grateful, in a way, for his “work reset” because it likely wouldn’t have happened otherwise.
“I think it would have probably only ever happened if I totally cracked at some point,” he says.
Pandemic pain, loss and collective disruption has taught us several lessons — who we are, what we value and how fragile our lives are. Through this time of uncertainty, Linton learned to let go of what was out of his control and grasp onto the things that filled his cup.
“Once I started to really embrace that kind of mentality, I felt a little bit of freedom.”
Sabrina Carnevale is a freelance writer and communications specialist, and former reporter and broadcaster who is a health enthusiast. She writes a twice-monthly column focusing on wellness and fitness.