Chances are that your company didn’t weather the coronavirus storm without suffering considerable losses. If only you had a contingency plan for unprecedented global pandemics…
Of course, nobody did. So, lest we dwell on how we could have prepared for the crisis. What matters now is your response to the challenges that lie ahead. Getting back into business and re-opening smoothly requires tackling unfamiliar problems. It’s crucial that you take the necessary precautions. Read on to learn more.
Facilitate Remote Work
Are any team members capable of performing their duties from home? The option may not be available to everyone. But for employees who can work remotely, minimizing their on-site presence is a smart move. You’ll need to draw up a policy with procedures and guidelines for working from home. Keep the following best practices in mind:
- Set clear rules and expectations
- Provide the correct hardware and software
- Use encryption and VPN tools to improve security
- Identify and implement suitable communication software
- Perform check-ins to assess the wellbeing of external workers
Stay in Touch
Make sure to send out regular updates on where your business currently stands. Routinely informing staff via emails and company meetings will reduce panic and relieve uncertainty. Discuss the precautions you’re taking to ensure their safety. Keeping employees up-to-speed with rule changes and policies can cut down on training times.
Depending on your industry, there are likely certain regulations that you need to follow when it comes to sanitization. Regardless, you’ll want to set aside a budget for cleaning products – you’ll be using them a lot. Here are some basic steps for every business to take:
- Increase how often and thoroughly you clean
- Stock up on sanitizers and disinfectants
- Ask employees to follow cleaning procedures
- Request that staff who feel ill stay at home
- Encourage more frequent hand washing
Don’t forget about masks and gloves. Customer-facing businesses may have to invest in temperature sensors, as well as products such as the Sneeze Guard EZ to protect employees and give them peace of mind that they’re safe.
Look into Federal Relief
Have you explored your options for government assistance? Numerous initiatives are in place to help small businesses stay afloat. This includes low-interest disaster loans, employer tax credit and income tax deferment. Economic Injury Disaster Loans can be taken out to cover important expenses such as payroll and fixed debts.
Shift Your Strategy
Now is an ideal time to reconsider how you spend your marketing dollars. If you previously relied on traditional channels, taking a more digital approach can help you save money and expose your business to a larger audience. Aim to cover the basics, including:
- Setting up social media profiles
- Building a newsletter mailing list
- Creating listings on review platforms
- Optimizing and refining your own website
The end appears closer than ever, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be prepared. Contact your suppliers, investors, partners and other key stakeholders to learn how you can safeguard your business and stay afloat while COVID-19 makes its way out. Rest-assured that your efforts will pay off in due course.
Top Online Journal Tools That Help You Journal Every Day
When’s the first time someone told you to journal? Our guess is that it was probably middle school. Journaling every day can have incredible benefits, and that’s why it’s often encouraged that you develop the habit early on! Journal writing every day can make you feel better. It’s a great way to put your thoughts together, confide secrets on paper that you can’t tell anyone.
Journaling can also help with your productivity, especially if you’re a writer. Productivity is a mildly addictive entity — we want to accomplish more and more once we start. Often the morning slips away in errands and routine, but starting the day with writing a few pages can set the tone for the rest of the day. It’s a form of braindump — helping you declutter the floating thoughts in your head so you can focus on the present.
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This is my favorite tool on the list. An incredible way to start your day — this online tool is very simplistically designed. The idea is to write about 750 words everyday, about 3 pages of writing, and then go about the rest of your day. It’s ideally supposed to be done the first thing when you wake up, but you can incorporate it into your daily schedule in the way that it fits best.
The tool follows the stream of consciousness technique, where you type away without worrying about the spellings or how coherent you’re being, just trying to get out all your thoughts as quickly as possible. Most of the time, writing 750 words doesn’t come naturally to you. You can go about 300 without any effort, but as you finish writing 750, you’ll realise that you ended up writing things you didn’t even know that were bothering you. The subconscious mind ‘leaks in’ in this technique, helping you gain some clarity and insight into what’s on your mind. ‘Better than therapy’ is what the tool’s creator claims, and while we’re not confirming that, the tool is still one not to be missed.
After you enter your writing, the site uses a tool called Regressive Imagery Dictionary that will analyse your mood, mindset and feelings according to the words and language you used most often. This is a bonus for those looking for some external analysis. There is also a streak system to motivate you to go back everyday and write!
Penzu is a very neatly designed online journal site as well as mobile app. It is made to be the perfect online alternative to actually writing with pen and paper. The interface is very convenient and easy to use. You get to make separate daily entries, as well as multiple ones in a day if you wish. You can even make Penzu as much of a scrapbook as you’d like, inserting images in between your writing or even audio notes. You can also add comments or tags to the entries you’ve made. It’s also incredibly easy to search for your old entries, which is a big improvement from flipping through pages to search for something you wrote ages ago.
This gives you the traditional diary experience while also letting you customize certain things to your liking. Penzu helps you stick to your daily diary entries by giving you constant reminders to enter in a daily write-up. You can upgrade to Premium with Penzu if you like, to get the additional syncing of data as well as military grade-encryption! Safety might be a concern for you, and this is the perfect solution.
There’s also a feature where Penzu tells you what you wrote on this day, one year ago. This is a particularly nice feature since it’s always insightful to look at where you were exactly a year ago. You get to see how far you’ve come, how you’ve grown and it always creates a sense of pride in yourself!
There are many other online journals but we’ve selected the ones with the most unique and useful features. Both 750 Words and Penzu have an accessible and easy user interface while also letting you have the freedom to use the tool the way that benefits you the most. Ultimately, journaling is a personal tool for your personal growth and productivity. It can help your creativity blossom, provide you great comfort while also being a good discipline to inculcate in yourself.
Feel Demotivated? A Dopamine Detox is Just What You Need
Dopamine Detoxes have been going viral for the past few years as a way to resent neurochemicals in the brain, influence the brain’s reward system and allow yourself to rediscover the motivation to do difficult things.
Founded by Dr Cameron Sepah, a California psychiatrist who specializes in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for addictions, the Dopamine Detox (a title he warns not to take literally) was meant to explore how people can regain control over their compulsions.
What’s Dopamine Got to do with Motivation?
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter, one of the primary feel-good chemicals in the brain responsible in some way for pleasure and happiness. However, dopamine is not directly responsible for the pleasure we feel when we indulge in our favourite activities. Dopamine simply gives us the craving and desire to chase after these things.
For example, taking your first bite out of a slice of pizza instantly sends feel-good chemicals to your brain. That’s not dopamine. But, the sudden urge to take another bite, almost as if you can’t stop yourself? That’s dopamine. Even thinking about pizza late night when you’re stressed about something else is also dopamine.
You could say that dopamine is the driving force behind your cravings. But that doesn’t mean that he’s the bad guy here. Dopamine, in humans and animals, is the chemical that forces us to get up and feed ourselves, have sex and procreate, and continue living. That’s why it’s so closely related to motivation. If you don’t have a lot of dopamine in your body, you won’t want to do anything!
Dopamine creates desire, which forces us to chase after things that make us feel good.
Dopamine is a lousy judge of character.
Now here’s where the problem arises. Dopamine creates cravings and wants for the things that make us feel good, but may not actually be good for us.
A greasy burger and a healthy protein salad both make you feel good, but in different ways. The burger is instant gratification, sending your taste buds into overdrive and giving your body the sugar and carbs it craves. Soon, you hit a crash or feel bloated from the calorie-dense lunch.
The salad doesn’t give you the same instant high but could stabilize your blood sugar and give you more energy for the rest of the day. You could have a better mood and feel lighter and better.
However, dopamine won’t recognise long term effects as much. Dopamine tends to be stronger with the activities that give you instant gratification.
Similarly, scrolling through social media and reading a book will both trigger feel-good chemicals in the brain. However, dopamine will recognize scrolling through social media as the stronger and more desirable activity since it’s instantly gratifying instead of longer pay-off.
That’s why the dopamine released when we hear a notification ping is so strong, it almost forces us to reach over and check our phone, no matter what we were doing.
In fact, even when the stimulus is disappointing, we still want to do it again and again. Haven’t you ever craved junk food so bad that you ate it and then realised it wasn’t as tasty as you thought it would be? Or spent half an hour scrolling through Instagram thinking that you don’t know why you wanted to do it so bad?
That’s dysfunctional dopamine making you want things that you don’t actually want so bad!
Since it’s the driving force behind cravings and wants, we end up chasing the burst of dopamine—just one more slice of pizza, one more episode, one more page to scroll through.
If you feel like your urge to check your phone constantly is so strong that it’s almost become involuntary, you might have a dopamine dependence. A good way to tell when you’re in this situation is when it feels like you’ve lost a lot of control and are mildly addicted to everything.
Instead of one addiction, you feel like you can’t resist daily temptations. Whether that’s social media, junk food, shopping, drugs/alcohol or any other kind of instantly gratifying activity, you feel like you almost compulsively indulge in them without being able to really make a decision.
Apart from this, you feel it’s increasingly challenging to stay focused on low dopamine-producing activities. Exercising, Reading a book, and working on your side projects are all things you want to do but keep procrastinating. You lack the motivation to actually do them, even though you want to.
Dopamine can seriously interfere with motivation. Instead of reprimanding yourself and going into a spiral of self-loathing for not having enough self-control, try to understand your brain so you can regain control over your decisions.
How to do a Dopamine Detox
- Make a list of all the activities and destructive behaviors that you want to avoid. This is personal to you and completely depends on your lifestyle. Dr Sepah mentioned these six compulsive behaviors: emotional eating, excessive internet usage and gaming, gambling and shopping, porn and masturbation, thrill and novelty-seeking, and recreational drugs. However, any other destructive behaviours are also linked to dopamine.
- Create a list of Can Do and Cannot Do
There is a lot of ambiguity over what can be done and what cannot on the dopamine fast. That’s why it’s best to stick with what Dr Sepah mentioned. He said that there is no way to completely eliminate all dopamine-producing activities. There’s no reason to isolate yourself from human interaction, in fact, it’s encouraged! The idea is to reinforce the brain with wholesome activities.
Spend a quiet day with yourself full of introspection, meditation and sitting with your feelings. If you feel uncomfortable and craving a particular activity, write it down (in a notebook) and articulate this feeling. What exactly is this discomfort? More importantly, what exactly is this desire? Do you really want the (said activity) or do you just want to feel good?
It’s suggested that you keep away from:
- All technology
- Listening to music
Most other entertainment forms like gaming, but reading a book is acceptable for a short amount of time.
- Keep a fast for 24 hours.
Most dopamine detoxes involve a fast from food just so that you can have a quiet day without stimulation. But if this would interfere with your health or you’re keeping a detox for longer than 24 hours, make sure you plan some simple and healthy meals with nourishment, not taste as the focus.
- Be Prepared
Have all your things prepared the night before. This is your notebook to write your thoughts in and to refer the rules you made about what you can do and cannot do.
Make sure you inform your friends and family that you’ll be undertaking this detox. This will make sure you’re not disturbed and also create a sense of accountability. It should, of course, be an off day from work as well.
Expect to experience extreme boredom and discomfort. The goal is to experience these emotions and understand our cravings and our actual needs.
You should also take this day to reflect on what you wish you did more of, but never seem to find time for. That can be painting, art, reading more books, cooking, etc.
- Hide your distractions
It might be helpful to hide your devices away. It will likely be challenging enough without your phone within arm’s reach, mocking you. I drained my phone of battery when I did this detox, mostly because by the time I felt tempted to go and charge it so I could use it; I would realise what I’m doing and keep it away.
If it’s emotional eating you’re doing this detox for, make sure you haven’t kept your favourite foods and snacks in your fridge! Having bland and healthy food around can ensure that you only eat when you’re really hungry, instead of just bored.
Once the detox is done, don’t jump back into your regular life and abuse all the things that you missed so much! Take some more time just to reflect what the experience was for you.
Especially try to focus on what you think you learnt, and whether you feel like you’ve regained a sense of control.
Most people feel a strong sense of pride in themselves once they’re done with the detox. They didn’t expect to be able to take such a big break from their destructive habits. Taking the break makes you realise how easy it might be to do this regularly.
What the Dopamine Detox will NOT do
Contrary to popular belief, the dopamine detox doesn’t actually increase or decrease dopamine levels in the body. It will not make your life more enjoyable! Taking a break from using social media doesn’t mean that you will enjoy social media more afterwards.
The reason for this is that Dopamine doesn’t actually affect the pleasure we experience. It only controls how much we want that pleasure.
You might find that social media is just as exciting or dull as it was before, and junk food just as tasty or gross. However, what has changed is the urge you feel to consume it is not as strong as before.
Next time you hear the notification ping, you might get the shot of dopamine in your brain to reach out for it, but you’ll be able to take a moment and think about whether you want to act on it or not.
You’ll also find it easier to indulge in lower dopamine-producing activities, like reading books or working. Dopamine detoxes are very effective in training the mind to do seemingly difficult tasks by reducing the need to indulge in the easy ones.
With fewer urges to indulge in destructive habits, you’ll have more time and motivation to do the other things in your life that require your attention. This is a good time to refer to the list you made of all the activities you wish you had time for.
Dopamine and Friends: The Happy Chemicals in our Brain
Most of us have heard the word Dopamine or Serotonin. They’re often used in popular culture, or described as ‘The Happy Chemicals’. While this is mostly accurate, there are four neurotransmitters (chemical substances) released in the brain that are responsible for the experience of happiness or any other positive emotion.
Even those familiar with the Dopamine and Serotonin often use them interchangeably, even though they are activated in entirely different activities and circumstances.
We’re all in the pursuit of happiness in one way or another. One of the core reasons why people begin to try and improve their lives and themselves is so that they can be happier and experience a greater quality of being.
Knowing about the four chemicals that produce the happiness sensation in the body can almost act as a formula to get your result!
Here are the four chemicals that play an integral role in the experience of happiness.
Dopamine is released in the brain everytime you expect a reward or experience pleasure. This means a bite out of a pizza slice immediately releases dopamine which allows you to enjoy it so much.
But dopamine doesn’t just stop there. It also has a powerful effect on making you want to take another bite of the pizza, and another, and another. That’s why dopamine is integrally involved in addictions.
Dopamine can also be linked to motivation. Your brain begins to only want to do the activities that will release the most dopamine. So if eating a pizza releases more dopamine than a salad, that’s why it’s so tough to eat healthy. Similarly, watching a youtube video or scrolling through instagram also gives instant gratification: release of dopamine in the brain. Doing your work or assignments are lower dopamine releasing activities (at first!) which can unmotivate you.
But dopamine isn’t the end-all. We don’t need to blindly listen to this chemical. In fact, if you choose to eat that salad and do your work, you’ll experience an even higher level of dopamine much later after accomplishment: and be proud of yourself too!
Why is it connected to happiness? Dopamine lets you enjoy the good things in life. In cases of mental illnesses like depression, and substance abuse; brains that have severely low levels of dopamine experience anhedonia which is the inability to feel pleasure of any kind. They no longer have the motivation or desire to eat or move or do anything.
Known as the love drug or even the ‘cuddle hormone’, oxytocin is released with physical contact with loved ones, even if you’re petting your dog! Oxytocin levels in a person can also have a link to how much love they received as children from their parents. People with low oxytocin levels have shown tendencies to feel hostile and suspicious of other people in their environment.
Oxytocin is integral in our brain’s perception of the social relationships we’ve formed. In a study, a group of men were given a dose of oxytocin and asked to describe their relationship with their mothers. The men who already had a secure and good relationship with their mothers were able to recollect instances and examples of how caring and understanding she was.
However, men who didn’t have a good relationship with their mothers were able to explain in detail how she wasn’t caring enough or didn’t love him as much as she should have.
Oxytocin helps us identify and articulate our feelings about all social relationships. In another study dutch students given a dose of oxytocin, they displayed strong preference for Dutch names and aversion to Arab and German names. Oxytocin helps us identify with our group and feel a strong connection and sense of belonging with them. This also means a sense of animosity towards those that don’t ‘belong’.
So how does oxytocin relate to happiness? You know that feeling when you’re with a friend and laughing uncontrollably about something? That moment can feel like true joy and happiness, and it’s all because of the release of oxytocin. In fact when people say ‘Laughter is the best medicine’, they’re not entirely wrong!
When most people use the term Dopamine for happiness, they actually are referring to serotonin. Serotonin is responsible for mood stabilising, and the feeling of well-being and well, happiness!
But Serotonin does more than this. Common belief is that Serotonin is only in the brain, when actually more than 70% of serotonin receptors are in the digestive tract. Serotonin is closely involved in how regular your bowel movements are, nausea, blood clotting and sleep. In short, the optimal levels of serotonin will ensure smooth bodily functioning.
Too less serotonin in the body can make the person experience depression amongst other mental illnesses, including suicidal tendencies.
High levels of serotonin doesn’t equal more happy: nerve cell dysfunctioning and high blood pressure, diarrhea and fever can be some of the symptoms as you’re on the brink of serotonin syndrome.
Most recreational drugs increase levels of serotonin in the body, which is why people experience the incredible ‘high’ and happiness while on them. A good case in point is MDMA, which increases serotonin levels drastically for the high and subsequently depletes resources for the next day or two. That’s why the ‘downer’ of MDMA is said to be so awful: even nicknamed ‘Suicidal Tuesdays’ for what happens to people after rolling on Molly on the weekend.
But even apart from illegal drugs, serotonin can be regulated to a great extent by the regular healthy individual. Exercising and being active can help regulate the serotonin in the body, as well as spending time in nature and practicing meditation. Getting sun exposure is a big factor: since Vitamin D levels and Serotonin are closely related!
Next time somebody tells you about a runner’s high, they’re really talking about the release of endorphins in the brain. Endorphins are also more popular in pop culture, commonly linked to exercise.
They also are the body’s natural painkillers. In fact, endorphins have a very similar effect to opioids! They work similarly, relieving pain and flooding the body with a feel-good sensation.
Endorphins take around 30 minutes to be activated. So while any form of exercise is good for you (including taking the stairs instead of the elevator), if it’s endorphins you’re after, you’ll want a good work-out session.
Many people experiencing mild forms of mental illness as well as periods of low feelings benefit enormously from pursuing a sport or physical activity.
For bonus chemicals: don’t just exercise, exercise with friends and sunshine! Then you’ve tick marked all four D.O.S.E and have hacked the code for happiness.
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