JESSICA ABO is an award-winning journalist, keynote speaker, and bestselling author of her debut book; Unfiltered: How To Be As Happy As You Look On Social Media. Her book addresses the relationship between psychology and technology and how we can take back our happiness IRL (in real life) without falling into the compare-and-despair trap. Jessica helps you push the reset button with bite-sized chapters full of practical insights from experts and psychologists.
How to Navigate with Positivity Throughout the Pandemic
Jessica’s Q and A will be helpful to so many Elucid Magazine readers as we all navigate through the murky waters of this Pandemic and try to sustain some normality.
It has been about 6 months into the Pandemic, can you share your tips on how our readers can remain positive and achieve personal goals each day while at home?
JA: Long before COVID was part of our daily conversations, I met a new mom friend through a school event. We talked about her work as a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, and my book Unfiltered: How To Be As Happy As You Look On Social Media. Rachel Shimoni Simons and I have kept in touch the past six months. Our heart-to-hearts cover how our families are doing, how we’re handling the unknown, and the toll we see COVID taking on society. She says the amount of pressure she sees clients, friends, and families placing on themselves to create something extraordinary or write “the next great American novel,” during this unprecedented time is disconcerting. I asked her, her thoughts on how people can stay positive and productive. She said, “Many of us are trying to function and maintain some sense of normalcy while being bombarded with distressing news images and fears about our safety and financial security. How can we expect to have any part of ourselves left for creative pursuits when all our energy is directed towards maintaining basic needs?”
She recommends “looking at routines and thought patterns that can provide some reassurance in these surreal times regarding basic needs.” She also encourages people to practice self-compassion and recognize that right now the priority might be to spend 75 percent of their days focused on basic needs, and the other 25 percent (if possible) resting or trying to practice whatever wellness you find restorative. “Just as everyone has individual challenges during this pandemic, we can’t expect ourselves to accomplish the same tasks. I recommend setting one realistic goal per day, that should be based on your own abilities and limitations, not the curated image you see a friend from high school posting.”
These past few months have given many people time to re-evaluate their career path. Many no longer want the 9 to 5 life. Have you had to make any changes to your own career during COVID? What can other people do to turn their passion into a career or start a side hustle, so they can eventually control their own destiny?
When lockdown went into place, I had a dozen speeches lined up for 2020 and several production deals about to close. Within a matter of days, everything fell through. Event organizers have reached out to me to say they don’t plan on holding in-person gatherings for the next 12-18 months. The companies I was supposed to be doing work for eliminated their marketing budgets entirely.
Media training always has been part of my company’s DNA, but it’s never been the sole focus until now. CEOs are making time to go through media training. People who aspire to give keynotes and TED talks are taking time to work on their story. What could have been a scary time in my career has turned into a smart career shift. I have a full roster of clients because I was willing to adapt. I have been educating myself on how to create, launch, and market an online course and plan to sell my first media training course this fall.
If you want to switch gears in your career, make a list of the things that make you come alive. Oftentimes people don’t know where to start when it comes to starting a side hustle or making a career change, but taking time to think about the things that light you up is very important. What would you do if you had a free day? No obligations, no responsibilities. Just a free day for you to enjoy. Jot down what you would do when you wake up, what you would do for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. How would you relax? What activities would fill your day? Would you cook a healthy meal? Or dive into your screenplay? Would you make phone calls or FaceTime with people who need a pick me up? Would you stay in your pajamas all day and research all about patents and intellectual property for your business idea? Once you zero in on what you love, think about how that can make you money. Maybe you’re destined to be a health coach or life coach. Perhaps there is a virtual writing group you can join to help you finish your first book and get it published.
After you know what you want to pour your time and money into, you need to establish your target audience. Who is your customer? What does that person need? Who is your competition? How will your business be different from what’s out there? To set yourself up for success, I also recommend talking with other entrepreneurs and reviewing your plans with an accountant and lawyer.
How to be resilient in life, so the little things do not set you back.
JA: I met Jill Hollander when I was nine years old. Today, she is an empowerment coach and motivational speaker. She has had two open heart surgeries and a heart transplant, and she is a cancer survivor. She says the first thing you can do when something sets you back is to shift your mindset by redirecting your thoughts. “You can redirect your thoughts in many different ways,” she says. “You can read a positive quote to start to help you to think more positively. You could get on a phone with a friend and connect and focus on the conversation that you're having.” She recommends moving through your emotions to help you move from your thoughts to your feelings. “You could do that through creative outlets such as dancing, painting, or whatever feels right for you.”
Given how much uncertainty we’re all facing on a daily basis, it’s important your social network doesn’t give you more stress. Hollander says to keep people close that you can support and can support you. “If you feel that you need to reach out to a therapist or a coach to help you through this difficult time, that can also help you to be resilient.”
Next, she recommends people identify the one problem that is impeding their life the most and start there. “If you're not sure what that is, start writing them all down. On a scale of one to 10, give each one a number. One being affecting you the least, and 10 the most, and the number that is closest to 10 should be the problem that you begin with.”Lastly, she says to take baby steps. “With each step, you'll see that you can cope. That you can deal. And that will give you hope that you will get through this challenge.”
How important is it to share on social media what you are truly experiencing while the world is social distancing and many feel so isolated?
JA: Our social platforms are a great way for us to stay connected to the outside world and our own communities. But it’s also a forum where we can share life’s unfiltered moments. Whether your toddler just drew all over your furniture or you left the house wearing two different shoes, showing life’s not-so-picture-perfect moments can be very refreshing. However, I think it’s important to share what you feel comfortable with and set your own boundaries.
I asked Rachel Shimoni Simons for her expertise on this question, too. She says during this pandemic, people are facing several challenges. “We are struggling with the dissonance between the reality now vs. what our lives looked life before the pandemic let alone trying to keep up with the glossy images of everyone who seems to be winning at this new pandemic lifestyle. Thankfully, there are people who are being honest about the challenges this disruption has caused. The strain on relationships, the difficulty balancing working and homeschooling, the financial fears, the loss of graduations, proms, weddings, baby showers, etc. Choosing to post this reality on social media is very dependent on the individual.”
She tells clients that they don’t ‘owe’ their truth to anyone. “For some people, posting their truth can feel empowering and liberating. But once content is out in the world, it is open to various interpretation and feedback and may not be received the way it was intended. Everyone filters content through their own lens based on individual experiences, so something that was meant as a personal and vulnerable post may have negative projections placed on it. My recommendation is that when casting out a vulnerable post on social media, prepare yourself ahead of time for any potentially negative feedback.”
Is dating online via social apps and zoom a good way to meet new people since the virus is preventing one-on-one dates?
JA: When I met my husband, I was living in New York City and he was based in Los Angeles. Our first date was in New York when he came to visit his family, and our second date was three weeks later in California. Over the course of those 21 days, we talked on the phone and over FaceTime for more than 30 hours. We learned so much about each other and got engaged after six months of dating.
I think when two people are ready for a meaningful relationship, it doesn’t matter if you’re meeting in person or on Zoom. What matters is that you can be yourself with the other person, that you share similar values and life goals, and that you’re both willing to make time for the other. A benefit to getting to know someone on FaceTime or Zoom is you don’t have other distractions. For example, if you’re having an amazing conversation, you don’t have to worry about the restaurant closing and politely kicking you out!
How did you stay connected during the Quarantine ideas for readers to do the same? How did you stay connected to family and friends during Quarantine? Do you have ideas for our readers to do the same?
JA: I learned how to make Challah last fall and decided to try a different recipe every Friday. During lockdown, I started hosting weekly Challah lessons with a different teacher on Instagram Live and Zoom. We’ve had more than 1,000 people make Challah so far, and now it’s not just my family and friends. We have people joining from all over the world. Maybe you can host a Zoom with your family members and all make a family recipe or a new dish at the same time, and enjoy a virtual meal together.
Six months into this, we’re still navigating the unknown. I think the most important things to do is to give yourself credit for getting to this point, to remember you’re not alone, and to seek help whether it’s a mentor for your side hustle or an expert to help you cope with social isolation.
Thank you, Jessica, for taking the time to enlighten our readers with invaluable advice during this challenging time.
To learn more about Jessica visit: https://www.jessicaabo.com/