T-SQL Tuesday #132 How Are You Coping with Pandemic?
It’s T-SQL Tuesday!!T-SQL Tuesday is the brainchild of Adam Machanic (Blog | Twitter). December 2009 was the first T-SQL Tuesday invitation that went out by Adam. It is a monthly blog party on the second Tuesday of each month. Currently, Steve Jones (Blog | Twitter) organises the event and maintains a website with all previous posts which you can find here. Everyone is welcome to participate in this monthly blog post.
The AskThis month’s T-SQL Tuesday is hosted by Taiob Ali (Blog | Twitter). Taiob invites us to write about how each of us is coping with a global pandemic.
We Are Not in the Same Boat
Before I begin, I wanted to start by sharing this short quote by Damian Barr;
We are not all in the same boat. We are all in the same storm. Some of us are on super-yachts. Some have just the one oar.
Some will be enjoying the time away from others, some will be pining for social interaction. Some will find it the perfect time to start a blog, some will be cursing themselves for not finding the right words for their next post. Some will throw themselves into work to get through it, others won't even be able to think about work. We're all different and how you deal with this situation will be very different from me. If you find any of my ideas useful, great. If it doesn't work for you, I hope you find something that does.
Above all else, if you're not ok, just know that it's ok to not be ok. I've seen so many "inspirational" posts calling for us to start a new career, build a new business and it's so easy to be self critical...just look after you and your closest, anything else is a bonus. And talk to someone about how you're feeling. I know it feels awkward, but people will listen to you. And if all else fails, you can always scream at Iceland.
I decided to blog about how I've been coping on a personal level because above all else that has been my priority during this time and the one thing that has been affected the most.
What on earth have I been doing!?!
Dealing with this new world has been slightly skewed for me as I started the beginning of the Covid era out of work. The company I was working with made some commercial decisions about open projects and mine was a victim. Businesses across the nation were trying to work out how to get their workforce operational remotely and there's me trying to find one that would at the same time want support with their data solutions!
I decided for my own personal sanity, that I'd take a few months off. Lockdown - and supporting my family through it - was enough to deal with, without the added stress of searching for work. So from March (April?) until the end of June I became a house husband, a teacher and a student. Honestly, I'm sitting here now trying to provide some sort of summary of that period and it's all a blur. This year feels like a decade has passed and that time off feels like an eternity away. But more or less...my kids were learning from home so I spent a fair bit of time supporting them with their school work, I also spent the time earning some certifications.
I wasn't really coping
It wasn't really until the end of that period that I realised I wasn't coping very well. I'd been very isolated as a result of not working and I didn't realise how much it had affected me. I haven't really been in contact with friends and family other than those closest to me and my only real interaction with anyone has been the postman and our local Amazon deliver lady! On July 1st, I hosted Alex Yates (blog | twitter) for my user group's first venture into online talks and afterwards a few of us stayed online to have a chat and it felt really surreal having a technical, non-covid related conversation!
Returning to work during the second half of the year has been a bit of a culture shock for me. It's taken me a bit of time to get used to permanently working from home. Daily routines and general wellbeing had been blown away long ago but I've now put structure to my day and it has helped.
Here's a few of the changes I've made to help me get some form of control of things.
We've taken the opportunity to change our diet. Nothing crazy, but my wife and I have decided to focus on fresh, lean eating. It's all too easy to buy for convenience and for us, we've got an array of food preferences to accomodate for - between the four of us we have a fussy vegetarian, a fussy meat eater, a not-fussy meat eater and a not-fussy vegetarian so mealtime has always been a challenge and normally resolved with frozen crap as the path of least resistance.
I spent some of my time off planning a two week menu that accomodates all of us with a base meal that is only slightly adjusted to the different preferences. It will probably be the most rewarding thing to come out of this whole thing. Beyond the fact we're eating much healthier, it's changed the way we shop, how we cook, and we've made a point of eating round a table which we've never done religiously. I've also been drinking lots of water. Seems obvious right? Daily recommended average is 2 litres which is quite a lot of water! I've been strictly exceeding this daily and I don't count coffee because that's cheating. It took me a while to get used to it! Other obvious stuff like fruit and multi vitamins to ensure I'm getting everything I need.
I started a routine of daily exercise. I was amazed at how little activity I did working remotely. My longest walk is to the kitchen to grab a coffee and when I started to pay attention to my daily step count I was pretty horrified. I talked to my latest client about blocking out sections of my day so I can go out for walks and they've been happy to accomodate this. The winter weather is upon us so I may have to think of something else to do soon!
When I first started exercising, I was doing a daily HiiT routine and a daily run (jumping in with both feet is typical of me) and very quickly I hit a wall. So for a while now, I've just been walking and I had intended to replace a few of the walks with runs but I've been laying low with a heavy bout of sinusitus and ETD for a few weeks. If you decide to start exercise, be less Justin - start small and gradually build yourself up!
This has been inspired by Brent Ozar's life hack which ironically is from another TSQL2sday post. In this post he talked about having a half-hour hour glass to help him with natural checkpoints to assess whether he's making progress with whatever wild index tuning he's doing. I remember at the time I read this post and though ooh what a great idea and promptly bought myself one and then never used it.
Recently I've been using it as a reminder to just get up and have a mini break away from my desk, whether it's just to walk to the back of the house to watch the squirrels, or grab a coffee, whatever. The point is to just get away from the screen. In our normal day there are so many breaks - people turning up at your desk, meetings, trips to the coffee machine / water cooler. Working remotely the disruptions are all virtual and so time away from the screen is vastly reduced. I might not religiously get up at the point at which the timer runs out and that's not the point of it, but it is an effective reminder than I'm due a break real soon.
I've made a conscious decision to detach myself as much as possible from the digital world. Pretty hard when I work in it, but I've consciously removed myself from all social networks other than Twitter and LinkedIn. I spent quite a bit of time structuring my phone so that it wasn't constantly buzzing in my pocket and I'm less inclined to rely on it to be my boredom-filler.
It has been pretty effective...other than what I will call the trump-syndrome, that is to say that I've been sat here over the pond doomscrolling for the past week aghast at the behaviour of a certain someone who shall remain nameless (ish). The amount of attention that has been given to Twitter over the last week has led me to question whether I need Twitter either. But then if I didn't have Twitter I wouldn't have been able to witness the bizareness of the Four Seasons press conference. I digress...
Again, it's all about balance, my feed is full of people I wish to hear about, what I need to concentrate on is not getting drawn into exploring outside of my feed. Unplugging has freed up a tonne of time to do other stuff. You can read more about my unplugging here, I've not updated over the last few weeks due to feeling rough, will do so soon.
Many years ago, someone who worked for me gave me their leaving present back as a donation voucher for Kiva. Here's a brief of what Kiva is;
Kiva is a 501 non-profit organization headquartered in San Francisco, California that allows people to lend money via the Internet to low-income entrepreneurs and students in 77 countries. Kiva's mission is "to expand financial access to help underserved communities thrive.
You lend money, when the money is repaid you can lend it to other initiatives. At the time, I donated the voucher and that was the end of it, I've recycled the funds a few times over the years but very little if I'm honest . So earlier this year I decided to start donating funds on a monthly basis. Each month, my daughters and I sit down and each decide on an initiative to support. It's a small gesture, but I find it rewarding for my daughters to know they are helping others less fortunate than themselves.
If you go out and make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope, you will fill yourself with hope.
Want to get involved? You can sign up here. We could have a #sqlfamily team. Who's with me??
I've also decided to learn some random stuff. Why? Well...just because. So right now I'm learning to juggle and thanks to Josh Horton I CAN NOW JUGGLE!! I've got some targets to hit before I can say I'm done with it, but I'm getting there. Next random thing is going to be speedcubing that is speed solving Rubik's cubes. So right now, I can't even solve a Rubik's cube but that seems like a bit of an ordinary objective, but solving it quickly, now that's something else. The world record for speedcubing is 4.22 seconds (wut?!) I can't imagine getting anywhere near that but I will set myself a conservative target and see how I get on.
None of this has any real value, but it's rewarding and a damn sight more enjoyable than doomscrolling. I'm not going to find a career as a juggling rubik's cube solver but hitting objectives are great whatever they are and it helps to break down the objective into smaller targets and celebrating each met target. Can I juggle two balls, can I juggle three balls three times, four times, five times......fifty times? Same with Speedcubing - just complete it once first, complete it twice, complete it within n minutes, n-1 minutes and so on. It feels great to nail a target.