In today’s virtual interview, I sat down with Jade Bowler, AKA UnJaded Jade, to chat about how she’s been dealing with the current coronavirus situation.
Jade’s an awesome ‘edu-influencer’ whose YouTube channel has more than 400,000 subscribers.
She was studying at university in San Francisco when the pandemic began to hit and so she cut short her time in the States and returned to the UK.
With most of the world in some kind of lockdown amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, we spoke about the importance of keeping to a routine and prioritising things like exercise and meditation.
We also discussed the issues surrounding the situation with regards to mental health.
Thanks for taking the time to have a quick chat, Jade. How are you, and how have you been coping with this crazy situation we find ourselves in?
Sure! So just to give you a bit of background, I was actually at university in San Francisco and I was faced with the decision of whether to come home or try to stick it out there. Obviously, times are super uncertain.
I’m back home now. There was definitely an adjustment period of fear, checking the news constantly for updates, and not really knowing what to do with myself, especially with university and adapting to this new schedule. It felt like my life was ruptured so quickly, which I’m sure a lot of people can relate to.
It’s been two weeks now that I’ve been home, and I think I’ve finally sussed out a routine to try and make myself feel more positive and embrace the weirdness of this situation.
For me, it’s about how I can establish a sustainable routine for those five days of the week? [A routine] that makes it feel like I can accomplish everything I want to, I can feel that there is some kind of separation between work time and personal time… because that’s often a difficulty when you’re at home.
I’ll just jump into some of the tips that I’ve found useful!
The first really quick one is that I tend to define my outfit the night before. I’ll literally lie it out, so as soon as I wake up [it’s ready].
I try to wake up at a consistent time every day and try to go to bed at a consistent time every day. I try not to treat it like it’s the summer holidays, and so then there’s a lot less friction to get myself ready as soon as I’m up.
The outfit is there, and I won’t go on my phone until I’m fully dressed and ready, so I don’t have the temptation to lounge around in bed a bit longer.
I’m a big fan of yoga and meditation, and setting up my mindset in that way. I’ve actually started this 21-day meditation challenge for myself to get some accountability of making that a habit.
And I’ve found that doing that first thing in the morning has been really helpful in setting myself up positively for the day.
Then, I’ll tend to come downstairs and make a quick breakfast. Another huge tip is setting a to-do list and defining not only what you want to do that day, but kind of having broader goals for that week, I find quite helpful.
On a Sunday night, I’ll take the week as an overview and think, ‘OK, here’s what I need to accomplish by the end of this week, and here’s how I’m going to chunk it into pieces’.
I think that having that high-level overview of my week is really helpful when it comes to the nitty gritty of the stuff I want to get done that day.
I think having an established workspace that isn’t just my bedroom has been really helpful as well. This has been hard. It’s a challenge because obviously my whole family are at home, my brother is doing online school right now, and my mum and dad are working from home.
There is this one table that I’m at right now – and if I sit here, I’m not scrolling through TikTok, I’m not going on my phone – I am doing the tasks that I’ve set for myself and I find that separation is really useful.
Another huge tip which I think is overlooked is exercise. Exercise is so essential, especially when we’re cooped up. I tend to alternate, so one day I’ll go for my run and then the next day I’ll do some at-home workout.
For me, I know from experience of working from home in general, I tend to have this afternoon slump. Post-lunch, after having worked all morning, I come back to my laptop not as motivated any more. So I try to position my exercise at about 2pm or 3pm, and I find that’s a really good way to take my mind off the work, completely reset and jump back in fresh again.
Obviously this situation is awful and it is hard to see and hard to hear about. I think you can also see some more personal positives in this situation.
I don’t know about you, but it has kind of forced me to slow down, be a bit more reflective, and consciously prioritise my mental health at a time where so many people [are getting anxious].
It’s important to be grounded in myself to help ground my family if that makes any sense.
Are there any other things that you’re doing right now that maybe you weren’t doing so much before this all kicked off?
I think maintaining focus is important because of the distractions. I don’t know if you’ve heard of The Pomodoro Technique? Let me tell you about it!
It’s this technique where you pick a very specific task and the idea is that you set a timer, and for 25 minutes, your entire focus for that 25 minutes is just that one task. So you’re not half-heartedly going on your phone or checking the odd email if it comes through. You’re just doing that one task.
As soon as it’s done, you could have a five or 10-minute break. I’ve found that it’s been really useful for me to partition my time like that and be focused and then be chilled again.
Also, spending time with my dog has been great!
How important do you think it is to manage your relationship with technology and social media during this time?
It’s huge. For me, I know that my most productive time is the morning. So I’ve almost made this rule for myself that I won’t check the news first thing and I’ll try not to dive into the whole of social media first thing either. I protect my mornings.
I’ll get ready, come down, make the to-do list and get started. And then lunchtime is when I sort of allow myself to go on social media for the first time that day.
I also tend to check news in the evening, because I find it can cloud how I feel and therefore make the day worse. Watching it in the evening helps me feel informed and then I can talk to my family about it if I’m feeling a bit stressed.
Also just setting limits more generally. I have to catch myself. ‘OK, it’s been 20 minutes and I’ve forgotten why I came to this app.’ It’s just about being more conscious.
You mentioned getting up at the same time and going to bed at the same time each day. Do you have a specific routine you go through in the morning and before bed?
Yeah. So my morning routine especially is very defined. I will get up, I will do the meditation without even thinking. I will get out of bed, make the bed so I can’t crawl back in. Then I’ll sit down and do the meditation.
I do find that is a great transition between the ‘sleep groggy’ state and ‘OK, Jade, this is a new fresh day so let’s get our mindset right for this day’.
And then I think, just getting myself out of the bedroom space [is important]. And I know that’s going to be difficult for some people because maybe in self-isolation that is all you have.
I think that finding any way to separate it, even if you have to rearrange your bed or sit on a different end of it.
I try and turn off my phone by a certain time, get in my room by a certain time and then try not to let myself lie in bed on my phone. That’s the pitfall.
You study at Minerva, which is an online university, so you’re almost in a great situation to deal with what’s happening right now?
It’s quite ironic actually, because when I first went to this university, everyone said, ‘it’s a scam because it’s online’. And now with this situation, it’s almost become the most robust model because we’re used to it.
We have a dedicated learning platform called the Active Learning Forum. I think’s it’s adapted a lot better for learning than something like Zoom.
For me, the only real difference is the timezone shift. I’m used to having classes in San Francisco time with professors predominately in the US. Now, I take classes from about 5pm to 9pm, which is not the end of the world.
That’s been strange as well in terms of redefining my routine and doing all of the preparation work for class and trying to structure my life around remembering that I’m at university and wanting to work on my other goals like my YouTube stuff. It’s been strange, also just not having the friends and the university life around you any more.
I was watching one of your recent YouTube videos and you made the point that during this time, there can be some of that pressure on people to ‘write that book, start that podcast or learn that skill’. That can all be a little bit overwhelming and you can feel under pressure to do something. Maybe this actually the time to be doing that. Maybe this is the time to take a step back…
Definitely. I think that pressure can be overwhelming. There’s nothing wrong with using this time to chill, or to do a social media detox.
If looking at the news makes you feel worse, you could look at it once a week and prioritise your mental health.
I think it is a time to get to know yourself and how you are dealing with these things. There is no pressure to write a whole book, it’s OK!
How has the situation affected what you do with your YouTube and social media channels?
I think oddly enough, being a social media person in this time is almost the most beneficial job you could have. More people are online in general and more people are looking for meaningful connections online and to feel part of a wider community.
I think social media really can give you that. That’s something I’m trying to foster. On my Instagram, for example, I’ll do question polls on tips and advice other people have or how they are prioritising their mental health, and have that dialog there.
For some people who are experiencing more loneliness or who are in literal social isolation, it’s powerful to be able to share messages like that on social media.
If anything, I actually have more free time to invest into it, which has been positive. But something I’ve found challenging is finding the right angle to address the situation with.
Because obviously it is awful. There are so many people on the front-lines, working so hard for us all right now. And part of me feels kind of strange doing all of this positive, motivational content in such a hard time. It’s hard to balance that.
This situation really makes you realise how grateful we should be for the simple things we have had in our lives. Something like just going to a restaurant – we can’t do that any more. Would you say it’s helped you gain a better perspective of life in general?
One hundred per cent. You just hit the nail on the head.
It’s all the casual moments in your day which you don’t even realise you’re lucky enough to have the freedom to do… it’s kind of sad in a way, that you have to have things taken away from you in order to realise just how meaningful and great they are.
Even the little things like, the freedom to go and see a friend or go to a restaurant, even just high-five someone! They are random activities that do add meaning to a human life.
But, as you said, perspective isn’t always a bad thing to gain.
To wrap things up, what advice would you give to your 18-year-old self if you could go back knowing what you know now?
I suppose it’s even relevant to this situation – I would tell myself to embrace uncertainty.
Because I think at the age of 18, I was this person who loved to have a really strict plan for my life, really defined goals that I could work towards. In my holidays for example [I would think], ‘I should get work experience to achieve this’.
And now, I’m at an entirely different university to the one I initially applied to. [I have] a very different perspective on life.
I think that in the uncertainty comes the spontaneity which is kind of beautiful.
Yeah, embrace the uncertainty – it doesn’t have to be scary!