Reflecting on the past year, it seems like the start of the pandemic was a life-time ago. I remember today, one year ago, feeling in denial of the possibility that the pandemic might cause me not to achieve my dreams and goals I had set myself for DPS. Like many others, I hoped the situation would be temporary and that life would return back to normal come autumn. Finishing my second year at UAL from my room initially didn't seem so bad. I finally was free of any distractions and had the time to produce work I was genuinely proud of. But as the situation with COVID-19 worsened, so did my mental health (and I can probably speak for many people).
My progression of thoughts over time
First lockdown: This situation isn't good, but I have time to improve my skills, learn new things, produce good quality work. I'm quite enjoying being home and having all this spare time.
Second Lockdown: Summer was a good distraction, but things are getting worse again. I feel overwhelmed with the news, and I feel less focussed. I feel like I'm trying to achieve the goals I have set myself, but my progress is plodding.
Third Lockdown: I don't feel like I have achieved anything near as much as I wanted to. I feel disconnected from other people, yet I still compare myself constantly to others and feel not good enough.
I recognise my privilege and understand that some people had a much worse time than me. However, it's important to remember to acknowledge your own feelings and take them seriously.
I found myself feeling sick of feeling sorry for myself and burning myself out. I put so much pressure on myself that I wasn't as proactive as others. Seeing other people creating more than I did, upskilling more than I did, taking part in more creative initiatives than I was.
It was so hard to get to a point where I realised that there was so much more to it.
My anxiety caused insomnia; I was so wound up in my head and letting my thoughts manifest like a disease in my head. I'm proud of myself to have taken the courage to get myself out of this zone by speaking to friends, reaching out to peers and talking to professionals in the industry I want to work in.
I finally started to realise (and I might be stating the obvious here, but by realise, I mean: truly internalise):
The people I'm comparing myself to..
..might have had not suffered from the same mental health issues as me.
..might have been in more privileged positions than me.
..might have been luckier than me.
..might have had a worse time than me, but I just got to see their highlights.
I do believe that comparing oneself to others is one of the most significant issues of our generation. With the pandemic causing everything to move online, people using social media more than ever only exacerbated this issue.
It's so easy to forget that social media serves as a platform to showcase the highlights of one's life and professional journey.
STOP COMPARING YOURSELF TO OTHERS
A Study from 2015 by Nicole E. Henniger & Christine R. Harris about envy assessed across adulthood revealed how envy shifts with age. Overall, older people reported fewer envy-incidents whereas younger same aged and the same gender reported the highest. Luck and overall better life (=priviledge) was envied consistently across the lifespan. "scholastic success, social success, looks, and romantic success were less envied with age, whereas money was more envied with age."
Design your environment to achieve your goals
According to James Clear, humans are constantly influenced by their environment in good and bad ways.
We tend to do or consume the things around us simply because they are an option; we have been biologically programmed to behave that way. In fact, many habits are shaped because our environment influences us. Luckily, nowadays, we can be the designer of our environment to help us adopt healthier habits. Stepping into the role of being the architect of my environment, these are the things I have implemented according to James Clear "Atomic Habits" Book (and have successfully maintained) to keep up and adopt healthy habits:
I wanted to read more, so I followed Clears' advice and put a book on my pillow or bedside table.
After a while, I realised I learn better by listening to audiobooks and like to doodle to keep up with my creative skills, so I set up an audible account and put headphones and pen and paper next to my bed.
I wanted to be more organised, so I ditched my 100 apps and moved everything to Notion (I highly recommend it).
After looking through many Notion templates and customising them, they have enabled me to have a clear overview of my goals, what I achieve each week, if I'm on track with my daily habits, which errands need doing, and so on. It has also allowed me to make space for a daily 5-minute reflection routine, acting as a gratitude journal and checking in with myself on my mental health. A gratitude journal is a great tool to value the things you already have and reduces the risks of comparing yourself to someone else.
I wanted to focus better and learn more. I found myself feeling uncomfortable at my desk and that I needed an ergonomic solution. Instead of buying a laptop stand, I ended up building my own from old cardboard packaging. Another quick design solution that ended up improving my WFH life significantly.
After these minor improvements in my life, I have started to read into the book "Nudge Theory by R. Thaler and C. Sunstein" which goes a little further into the small nudges designers can use to positively (and negatively) influence peoples behaviours. Additionally, I have enrolled in the coursera course "Introduction to psychology" to broaden my knowledge in the field and become a more efficient designer.
James Clear, Atomic Habits
Nicole E. Henniger & Christine R. Harris (2015) Envy Across Adulthood: The What and the Who, Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 37:6, 303-318, DOI: 10.1080/01973533.2015.1088440
Atlana Puntigam DMC