No scuba diving? No problem.

November 1, 2020

My favorite thing to do is scuba diving in a coral reef.

To begin with, it’s underwater. Humans aren’t designed to function underwater! Breathing in a world that doesn’t belong to us is amazing all by itself.

Then there’s the incredibly varied marine life. Coral itself is fascinating—it looks like a plant, but it’s an animal! My favorite are the moving creatures, though. I’m always happy to see common fish like angelfish, damselfish, or groupers. And I get reallyexcited when there is a nudibranch, a mantis shrimp, or a titan triggerfish.

Best not get too close.

Diving a tropical reef often also includes a boat ride to the dive site. Few things are more relaxing for me than throwing my legs over the side of the boat and watching the ocean.

Finally, there’s the people. Before a dive, it’s fun to get to know the boat crew and the other divers. I’ve met fabulous people while diving, like the startup founder who sold his business, used the money to buy an apartment in Paris for his mom, and became a dive instructor. After a dive, it’s great to have lunch and discuss what everyone saw. Wait, you saw a shark and I missed it? Argh!

The last time I went diving was in February of this year, right before the pandemic forced many governments to close their countries’ borders. Here’s me:

This was in 2020. I can hardly believe it.

I’m telling you about how scuba diving relaxes me because it impacts my productivity. You see, in the past few years, I’ve gone on many trips. In 2018 and 2019, for example, I went on a month-long road trip through California and Utah, a month-long trip to Bali, as well as trips to Turkey and Tenerife.

Between trips, I worked hard. In fact, I worked almost every day, including weekends. I didn’t mind; in fact, I liked it. Because I have my own business, I have the luxury of not following standard business hours. I work whenever it’s convenient for me and my total number of work hours is very reasonable. Still, I thought about work almost every day that I wasn’t on a trip.

And that worked for me. I spent my energy working when at home, then decompressed on a trip. Work, travel. Work, travel. This routine was great.

Then the pandemic happened. I feel very fortunate to have visited Malaysia and Bali in January and February of this year. But since then, I haven’t been able to travel to decompress.

Yet I kept working. Not more than usual, and I also spent plenty of time sleeping, working out, and having as much of a social life as is responsible these days. But I had virtually no days when I didn’t think about work at all.

Eventually, I realized that this had to stop. I became crankier, more forgetful, and made more mistakes in my work—classic stress symptoms, with which I’ve been very familiar since I burned out in 2016 and 2017. I knew, this time, that I couldn’t go on thinking about work every single day until the entire global population has received a coronavirus vaccine. I would burn out again.

So I had to learn a different routine. I practiced taking breaks throughout the day, rather than working until I got tired. I developed the habit of going on long walks without my phone. I hired a personal trainer, so I would spend hours per week lifting heavy weights (which is really hard and does not allow one to think about work). Recently, I even took a bunch of days entirely off of work! It felt great.

You might chuckle at me mentioning having taken a bunch of days entirely off of work. But for me, that’s unusual. My previous pattern was to work a bit (or more than a bit) every day, taking my breaks in the form of travel.

Anyway, it took me a while to build a pandemic-proof stress management routine. But through experimentation, I got there. That’s a huge win for me.

(What new routines have you developed to cope during the pandemic?)

And I’m so happy that I figured this out. Even if the pandemic lasts another two years, I’ll be able to navigate it without excessive stress. No travel required.

That said, let’s get this over with. The coral reefs are waiting for me.

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