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How to Keep Mental Health and Entrepreneurial Drive in the Time of Pandemic Tips to help you slow down, save your energy, and stay positive in the time of crisis.

By Julia Skupchenko Edited by Jason Fell

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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Remember when you were a schoolchild wishing every day that some miracle would happen and you would not need to go to school? In warmer places, a simple snowfall would have been enough. I grew up in the North of Russia where that miracle was called quarantine. In the wintertime, if three students from the same class got flu, everyone in that class could stay home for a week. If more than three classes at the school were at home, the school would get closed, too. For me, it meant two or three weeks of unplanned vacation!

Back then I could not have imagined that 20 years later the whole world would be on quarantine and it would not be fun at all.

Even in late-joining countries, such as the Netherlands where I live now, it has already been going for over a month. That means 40 days of being at home, in the same environment with the same people. Under normal circumstances when it's business as usual, it can be a bit much. What is there to say about a situation like this when the pandemic keeps spreading across the world. Besides, after 40 days of quarantine, you really start questioning the choice of neighbours.

But now it is more important than ever to "keep calm and carry on."

The question for many businesses is how to carry on? If the meetings are prohibited, clients are cancelling, travelling is not possible, the economy is entering a new recession, and, unfortunately, there is no end at sight. According to the report of the United Nations about the impact of COVID-19, self-employed people and SMEs are taking a hard hit and require a lot of support from the governments.

Beginning last year, my friend and I co-founded a think tank for sustainable development. For 2020, we had massive plans: ready to change the world and really counting on business successes it might bring. I'm sure that many of you reading this found yourself in a similar situation. But what do we do now?

In reality, we don't know how long this will go on for or what to do about it. But one thing for sure, it is vital to keep positive and mentally healthy. Here are a few things that you can try.

Start your day from doing what makes you happy.

Whether you get up early or late, begin your day with a smile. Don't let other people through news, phones, messengers, emails, etc., dictate how you will feel for the rest of the day.

Decide the night before what you'd like to accomplish the following morning and start from it. Once it's done and you feel good about the result, you can check in with the outside world (if it is really that necessary).

Only trust reliable sources of information.

There is a lot of noise in the world of news. Unfortunately, the news media often flourishes on our fears. If you have to check on how the world is dealing with the pandemic, make sure you read the trusted sources. For example, the World Health Organization. Every day there are situation reports updated on their website.

Don't try to attend all the free webinars.

There is a temptation to keep appearances of being busy and productive. It is more common to the corporate world but if you are not used to working from home as an entrepreneur you might feel something similar. In turn, it can push you to say "yes" to an unmangeable number of free webinars and trainings or calls with your peers.

You will get tired and it is possible that you will not gain much from it. There are too many offers at the moment and a lot of them are brand new, so it is hard to tell which ones are high quality and which ones are not.

Learn and update your skills.

Having extra time on your hands could be an excellent opportunity to update your knowledge. This will allow you to keep your brain trained and get new ideas. Courses, professional certifications, micro masters from the leading universities are available on a few platforms.

My personal favorite is It allows you to do the courses completely for free (unless you need a certificate). It is a great way to find out what students are learning at Harvard, MIT, and many other world-class institutions.

Remove distractions and reflect.

We are living a unique moment in history. It is clear that the health sector, food, logistics, education will continue being important. Everything else is in question. So if your business falls under the category "in question," it is a good time to rest. Turn off the sound on your phone and unsubscribe from newsletters you never open.

You have accomplished many things in your life. Usually, we are all in such a rush that we have no time to appreciate it. Now we are given a chance to reflect on them. So maybe instead of working hard on social media for your business brand, you can build your own personal portfolio as a professional or an expert. If anything will be valid after this crisis, it's you yourself.

I recommend a recent video where Anirvan Sen, one of the Experts of the think tank AlterContacts I co-founded, shares his insights on how to build a "You" brand.

Don't do it just because everyone else does.

As entrepreneurs, we always try to look for opportunities. We see others being active despite the difficult situation and ask ourselves "Why aren't we?" If you look around, you will notice a trend of urgency to do something just for the sake of doing: multiple webinars, trainings, meditations, coaching. That does not mean that you have to do it too.

Simply converting a proposition into an online service might be harder than you think. It is true that there are more people at home who would use online services. But that alone does not guarantee many new customers. Online has always attracted people who wanted to create passive income. But the percentage of success was quite modest. Now that everyone is there, the chances are even less.

Let go of the idea that business can continue as usual.

Be wise and pace your energy. If you feel that your business offer is not valid right now, maybe it is a good time to take a break and observe what will happen next. Let go of the feeling of guilt of not pushing through with your current business.

This generation has not seen anything like this pandemic before so maybe you too can cut yourself slack and take a home vacation.

Julia Skupchenko

Head of SDG Partnerships and Reporting

Julia Skupchenko is an award-winning entrepreneur and sustainability leader with over a decade of experience in the field. She is the co-founder of the Think Tank AlterContacts, leading SDG Acceleration Actions recognized by the United Nations and awarded by the European Parliament.
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