Over the past number of weeks and months, we have focused our blogs around managing the effects the COVID-19 lockdown has brought. We’ve sought to give you guidance, point you towards glimmers of hope, share opportunities & resources, and acknowledge that times are tough. This week we are taking a brief look at how you can survive and thrive in a time of change and uncertainty. Continuing from the context of individual and institutional social distancing, there are 3 broad themes of development we want you to consider going forward: well-being, opportunities, and the future.
Mental and physical well-being
Last year we did a series on mental well-being and this is definitely the time to re-emphasize the importance of taking mental stock. Being isolated and house-bound for long periods of time is not ideal for the human psyche. Many people, around the globe, have reported experiencing depression and increased feelings of anxiety due to living in lockdown conditions. As much as you can, while following the law and safety precautions, remain in contact with your support structure. Social media companies have rapidly advanced their platforms to enable us to more easily have online group activities. If your own household is really getting on your last nerve, arrange for a virtual group hangout with friends, classmates, or a community you share interests or hobbies with. Participating in any number of Instagram live streams that are constantly happening can be really fun and take your mind off your stresses.
Your physical health is also very important. And yes, we are staying indoors and isolated to protect ourselves and others from a serious disease, but at the same time, your day-to-day well-being needs to be maintained. A balanced diet is crucial, which is difficult as winter upon us. Adding to that, many households have been put under financial strain which has affected their ability to buy enough food let alone healthy food. If you are in the fortunate position to have enough food daily, make sure to eat a balance of healthy meals, with only a hint of luxuries. Schedule regular short exercise intervals during the day, so that you get some muscle movement and circulation going. This also does wonders for giving you mental energy, especially if you’ve been sitting long hours doing work. Maintaining physical and mental health is always important so in the weeks and months ahead where schools, universities, and workplaces re-open continue to prioritize your student well-being.
With change comes opportunity
One of the positive outcomes of the global pandemic has been that many learning organizations have offered limited free access to educational resources. There has also been an increase in the critical discourse around the future of work and education, with podcasts, interviews, free webinars, and short online courses engaging with the question of how to prepare for a different future. More than ever, what we have learned is the desirability for individuals – whether innovators, employees, or freelancers – to have the capability to work remotely (see post on top emerging jobs). This not only means having access to equipment to work off-site but requires one to be agile, disciplined, and have excellent problem-solving skills (see post on top in-demand job skills). Developing agility and critical thinking, by regularly engaging in critical environments such as seminars, hackathons, debates, coding, gaming, and design (and sports when we do that again) are some ways to flex those solution-finding muscles. Business leaders, social commentators, and academics have been projecting what economies and places of work will be like in the near and distant future, post-COVID. The abiding opinion is that things have fundamentally and rapidly shifted, nobody quite knows what the long-term results will be, but the move towards digital and virtual capabilities is in immediate demand.
While uncertainty is often daunting, those who can identify opportunities and workable solutions will be in a strong position. For example, what we have seen in South Africa particularly, is the acute need for development in electronic data (as in information), fast and stable internet access and automated systems for service delivery. Specialists in coding, robotics, systems design and information systems are needed to identify, plan and drive these solutions.
Building skills to prepare for the future
Now is the time to get informed about how industries, global NGOs, and governments are re-aligning their planning. We are seeing investments for developing systems shifting in response to the current context. There is a limited window of opportunity for you to make the most of resources that are now more freely available for growth and development. While we are constrained by the difficulties of today, it is vital to be future-focused during the crisis and equip yourself to be an innovator. That is the type of business partner companies, institutions, and governments will be looking for in the near future. Business partners are more than employees or consultants or directors even, they are people that are driving innovation in the spaces they occupy. In your area of interest, try to identify where there are gaps in the market or industry and see how you can develop your skills to fill those gaps. Be prepared to be constantly upskilling yourself with short courses and practical on-the-project learning which will be required due to the acceleration of the need for large-scale changes across industries and markets.
As schools and universities are about to re-open, use this interruption to life as we once knew it as a springboard to re-imagine the future of how the world works and your place in it. Four months ago that may have been a dramatic approach, but now its as if a reset button was pushed and lots of things will be very different in the months and years to come.
This is also a great time to re-read some of our previous blog posts, particularly the following mental health is a balancing act, free-learning tools during COVID 19, most in-demand job skills top emerging jobs, CVs in the time of the side hustle and getting the most of our social media. We hope they continue to motivate you on your education journey.