How I Overcame Depression & Hopelessness During the COVID-19 Pandemic (2021)

This was a post I have been meaning to write to my past self during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic during March 2020. During that time, I, like everyone else, had plans that had been halted due to the pandemic and the harsh lockdowns that came along with it. Once the entire world and my plans literally stopped, I couldn’t help but feel completely helpless & hopeless for the 1st 6 months of the pandemic.

Fast forward as we come to the end of 2021, and I am more optimistic than ever. I was able to get work experience during the pandemic, learn new skills, lose weight, and crush other goals, too. What changed?

Action.

When all else is bleak and there is no end in sight, what else can we do? For me, that answer was self-improvement, and I hope that writing this post will inspire whoever is going through a rough patch during these tough times that we are always in control of ourselves and our thoughts and actions. Not to mention, as of writing this post it seems that the end of the pandemic is still not in sight with the discovery of the Omicron variant of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

Here are some of the things I have worked on & achieved during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Learning a New Programming Language

When all was hopeless, only one thing was important for me: I needed to just start to get the ball rolling. And this was actually the perfect excuse for me to finally take the time to exercise my mind to learn a new programming language: Python.

Python

This has been in my backlog for so long after I graduated college, and I had been meaning to learn it mainly because it’s the hot programming language of the job market, as well as some people have been able to use it to do some automation.

So, I started with Automate the Boring Stuff with Python by Al Sweigart. Even if I had a programming background in C & C#, This is a good course to get started with Python because it covers both the basics & some practical applications you can use Python in. After the course, I was able to create simple automations like sending emails, creating Word/ Excel/ PDF documents, or doing GUI automations just from code! With a little practice, I can see myself using this to automate admin business work.

After that, I just felt like I wanted to get to know the programming language a little better, so I took the 2022 Complete Python Bootcamp From Zero to Hero in Python course by Jose Portilla. This is a little less remarkable than the previous course I bought, but this is a good run through of most, if not all, syntax used in Python 3. More of an academic approach to learning Python.

Learning Web Design

Learning a new programming language was one of the 1st steps I took to get myself out of my rut, but the problem was I couldn’t use it for real-world application right away.

This led me to take a look at all my friend’s and family’s situation & ask: “What is something someone in my immediate circle needs right now & will appreciate help with?” And the answer to that question? Websites. A lot of businesses suddenly needed to get online, and they need help with that FAST.

HTML & CSS

But before I would be able to learn how to build websites, I gotta learn the basics of building one. Enter the Build Responsive Real-World Websites with HTML and CSS course by Jonas Schmedtmann. Like Al Sweigart’s course, I really like this course because it gets you up to speed with the basics of HTML & CSS in building a website, while you are building a really beautiful project along the way!

WordPress

In my journey to building websites, I stumbled upon the Content Management System (CMS) that is WordPress. WordPress is what powers more than 40% of the web as of writing, and it is what other big businesses & organizations are using to power their websites, namely:

Naturally, knowing this led me to take a look at WordPress. I picked up the WordPress for Beginners – Master WordPress Quickly course by Andrew Williams. This got me up to speed with learning the ins & outs of WordPress.

I also took the Complete WordPress Course | Elementor course by Ferdy Korpershoek. This was more advanced than the previous course, but it was more fun because it delved more into the design side of things.

Needless to say, I started my own freelance web design business, and I am proud to say I was able to generate a respectable amount of additional revenue for my clients. Not to mention, I have taken a LOT more web design courses on top of these ones I have mentioned.

Learn Basic Business & Marketing

Needless to say, it’s not enough to learn about web design to start a freelance business, but it’s also important to learn about the fundamentals of business & marketing.

Basic Branding & Copywriting

If there is one basic marketing book I would recommend, it’s the Building a StoryBrand book by Donald Miller. I had no marketing background (even worse: an engineering background!), and when I recommend people on how to improve their marketing & branding, they look at me like I have taken a BS in Communication or had formal expensive training on marketing! This book covers a simple 7-Step Framework in creating your brand message, and it is so effective that I attribute part of my website successes to it.

Basic Digital Marketing

Even as a technical person, I always wanted to learn about how to market businesses online.

One course I took was the Google Analytics for Beginners – Master Google Analytics course by Daragh Walsh. This walks you through the basics of using Google Analytics to track your website activity. As a web designer with a technical background, I really loved this because it was able to show you how to quantify website KPIs & see if your campaigns are effective. This puts the numbers in marketing, which makes an engineering grad happy!

Another one I took is the The Complete Digital Marketing Course – 12 Courses in 1 course also by Daragh Walsh. This is basically a dump of all digital marketing tactics in 1 course. I personally just underwent the SEO & FB Ads section here. This one I am a bit more lukewarm with because he just teaches you tactics on how to use the different platforms, but he doesn’t teach you how to run them effectively (complete with proper system of planning & writing copy & campaigns).

Basic Operations Automation

While I learned a bit of automation from Al Sweigart’s Pyhton course above, it didn’t stop me from looking at other solutions.

That’s what led me to discover Zapier. Zapier is the “glue of the apps of the internet”. Want an Evernote Note created when you star an email? Zapier can do that. Want to check in on your team every morning to kick off the day? Zapier can do that.

So I picked up the Zapier – How to Automate your Business and Gain Efficiency course by Mauricio Aizawa. It covers the basics, but the potetial applications I see from these simple lessons excite me when I work them with my clients for my freelance business.

Work Experience in P&G

Let me start by saying getting into P&G was not easy. In fact, it was my 4th attempt in getting into the company when I am writing this. However, it was worth the effort, even after 3 failed attempts.

Do you know why people aspire to work for Multi-national Companies (MNCs)? It’s true. The caliber of people there are very different. Typical employees in a Filipino small business drag their feet and aren’t motivated to perform. Not in P&G; when they say they invest in their people, they mean it.

P&G is one of the most highly rated employers in the Philippines, and the lessons I have learned from the company are very, very priceless for a young professional like me. It’s a great training ground for leadership training, and in the time I have been in it, I have grown very fast as a leader. Heck, their expected traits for success says it all:

  • Lead with Courage
  • Innovate for Growth
  • Champion Productivity
  • Execute with Excellence
  • Bring Out Our Best

Not to mention, they are very, very driven to look for cost savings; that means they have a very strong drive towards automation & digitization, some of which I am proud to be a part of & I delivered to the best of my ability.

Nevertheless, as of writing, my time with them was cut short. It just wasn’t a good fit, but I still learned a lot from my time there. So, thank you P&G.

Health & Fitness

While I mentioned all about learning & careers in this post, I’d be remiss to say that health & fitness wasn’t also part of me getting out of my rut.

My motivation? Simple. I just wanted 6-pack abs to impress others, but as I went further in my health & fitness journey, it became more than that.

Diet

Want to lose weight? It’s pretty simple actually in the start: your calories in should be less than your calories out.

How I started out was by measuring the calories of every meal I ate everyday. I did it in 2 steps:

  • By using the MyFitnessPal app
  • By eating the same meals everyday
  • By weighing myself in a scale everyday (but log only weekly)

If you want to learn how to use MyFitnessPal, this video is a good guide to get you up & running.

With my meals, I basically ate the same thing:

  • 200 g of beef
  • 200 g of chicken breast
  • 200 g of broccoli
  • 6 eggs
  • 100-120 g of rice

The main thing here is that I am eating ~150 g of protein everyday, and I adjust my rice according to my caloric needs. At first, I started with 2000 calories/day, and then I lower that whenever I plateau in my weight loss for 2 weeks.

I weigh myself everyday because it was actually proven that just weighing yourself will make you lose weight in the long run. But mainly because what gets measured gets improved.

Conclusion

Always be working on something if you don’t want to become depressed.

If there is one thing I have learned in the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s that an idle mind is the devil’s workshop. That’s why it’s important that even if current circumstances are tough, we should always be working on something. Even if things beyond our control are at its worst, knowing we are growing personally gives us a sense of purpose to keep going because it’s something we can control. At least that’s what helped me get through the tough times in the pandemic.

I hope I was able to inspire you to better yourself. Let’s get through the pandemic together. 🙂

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