How are you coping and what strategies are working for you?
Marlon F Espinoza
CEO and Chairman, Native Caribbean Foundation
Nominee, Mentor of the Year, 2021; Youth Business International
My career and family life has changed drastically since the start of the pandemic, in ways I could not imagine. No experience in my past has prepared me for this. My mental health is being taxed to the limit and I wake up each day with a feeling of dread as the bills pile up and the income dries up. As a self-employed person, every day I feel that I am drawing closer to financial collapse. I cope by adapting my working hours, sometimes 18 hours per day. Often, I feel helpless, and totally without control of my destiny, but I refuse to give up and let the despair win.
I see the mental and emotional pain of our youth and it’s a weight on my soul too heavy to bear. I continue to look for creative solutions through my NPO for helping children engage in creative activities and theatre to help alleviate their stress, and possibly provide motivation and inspiration to keep trying. I try to find, mostly unsuccessfully, scarce funding for these activities. When I feel most alone, I call my friends to check up on them, and after the short conversations I feel my world is not as bad as it was a few minutes ago. Every day, I struggle to keep my creativity, and imagination alive, but every day is a fight for survival and sanity.
I have found that COPING is really a strategy your mind formulates. Through volunteering with organisations that provide mentorship to entrepreneurship trainees, I have found deep satisfaction and emotional relief. The positive reinforcement cycle of helping others to cope with their financial burdens, and who see entrepreneurship as their way out, listening to their concerns, offering solace and a safe place, indirectly brings positivity and fulfillment to me. I try my best to keep their dreams alive. Though I am concerned with my imminent financial woes, I still ensure charity remains part of my practices, giving food hampers to needy families. I am often reminded of the adage “From a little, one can still give a little”.
Country Director, Global Peace Chain Trinidad and Tobago
This pandemic has ripped our systems that we’ve built for our lives or as I call it – our methods to madness, and now flipped the world into chaos. It has left the world at the mercy of the survival of the fittest state of mind. Everyone must recognise their own way to manage the stress that would result in finding a balance.
For me the key factors have been to be and remain: spiritually grounded, focused, purpose-driven and goal oriented.
My suggestion to other young professionals and entrepreneurs, is to set many short-term goals so that in achieving them they bring you closer to making the long-term goals a reality. Use the SMART process, which is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely. Should you not achieve some of your goals because of external factors then know that you can readjust, refocus, and reprioritise. Remember that it’s not what happens to you that matters, but what you do after that does.
For me, becoming resilient has been a work in progress and now part of my resilience strategy is not asking myself or God in particular, “why me?”, but rather I choose to ask, “what’s the purpose, experience or lesson to be learnt?”. I’ve learnt that breaking point always proves to be a breakthrough and it may not be what we desire but it works out for the best.
Take one day at a time and learn from the challenges, the failures, and the positive impacts of your successes. These are the elements that will keep you grounded and maintain your ambitions.
Discover a new skill or talent. Dance like no one is watching and sing till the rain falls and then sing some more again. (I do it happily). Read a book or play a game. Remember that you are not alone during this phase and you can connect with a family member or a friend for a virtual game or challenge. One point I’ll add is that knowledge is power, and you can invest in yourself by signing up for any of the free online self-development courses.
As Country Director of GPC-TT, I collaborate with a team of professionals referred to as Global Peace Ambassadors. The pandemic has certainly not spared any of us, so being there for each other is an important aspect of making it through these times. As a leader, it is important to value your team, trust their abilities, and respect their experiences.
One strategy I’d like to share with each one, is that of the Japanese concept known as IKIGAI – A reason for being. The concept of ikigai as a purpose in life with both personal and social dimensions is captured by understanding: What you love: your passion, What you are good at: your vocation, What the world needs: your mission, and What you can get paid for: your profession. If I’m being honest, I can’t say that I’m coping well but rather, that I’m adapting and making it work one day at a time by the grace of God.