“So, this is a first…”

I tell the screen in front of me and announce the premiere of a virtual interview for the blog. On the other side of the screen is a psychologist and headhunter, Marek Navrátil. Marek finished his Ph.D. in social psychology and throughout his entire career, whether as a psychotherapist, HR Director, or an executive search consultant, he has been listening to people’s stories. How did those stories change during the pandemic? What are people dealing with now? And what are Marek’s tips on how to stay sane during the pandemic? That’s what we got to talk about.

5 things to watch out for during the pandemic, according to Marek

„I feel, as my grandma would describe it, like a tiger in a cage,“ Marek comments on his home office situation. “Even though I go out, I exercise, I jog, et cetera, there is still this glass ceiling. The barrier that you don’t see and can’t overcome.” From stories Marek hears, this is what most people feel like. What should we watch out for, according to him?

  • Place

“The place, the place, the place. It’s very important. People value their environment much more than they did before,” Marek thinks, “because now having a nice cozy home with fast internet, good equipment, and a lot of space is more important than ever.”

  • Relationships

“We spend much more time with people who were close to us but now became even closer. So plenty of relationships started suffering from the overload of intimacy. I see during interviews that people don’t often have a quiet corner. A room where you can close the door and escape. So many people are learning new techniques on how to be together.”

  • Motivation

“This is one thing that makes my job very difficult,” Marek sighs, “people aren’t very motivated to pursue new opportunities. Because what would drive you to change your job right now? Change your kitchen for your kitchen? The job might be different but the scenery is still the same. This is one of the most serious reasons why people suffer – because there is no motivation.”

  • Fridge

“And of course, you sit at home and there is a fridge and there’s food in the fridge and some people reduce their stress by eating. Which is a mechanism they’ve used for years. There are many obese people and this is very challenging for them. I talked to several people who are afraid of meeting others because they are fat and they feel threatened.”

  • Substance Abuse

“Doing yoga when you have your children jumping around is a problem. And from what I’ve heard, some people found a coping mechanism in drinking or smoking weed. It can make you think deeper about your situation and that can be quite a serious problem if you analyze it and you think there is no end to it.”

5 tips on how to keep your sanity during the pandemic according to Marek

Let’s see what tips on keeping our sanity during the pandemic the psychologist offers.

  • Routine and exercise 

“What works for me is the system of my work and my routine,” says Marek, “A big part of it is exercising. Getting exhausted. Because when staying at home, we miss something between 2000-4000 steps every day. Which is quite a significant amount of physical activity. Metabolism is very important and it affects your brain. If you don’t burn, get sweaty, if you don’t receive endorphins, you suffer. Routine and exercise are always a good idea. And especially recommended for patients with depression. Depression needs movement.”

  • Getting out

“Trends show that people are going out more, picking mushrooms, walking in a forest, and so on. When I go out, my favorite paths are full of people. And I think it is very important to go out.”

  • Relocation

“People around me also started thinking about relocating. Changing the place, finding a better apartment because prices went down and now it’s a good time.”

  • Keeping your dreams

“This crisis has one very positive thing. It gets all of us on the same starting line. I can see that people are more open to adventures. Like – ok I have nothing to lose so I can…” Snap! “…start doing this. So, it’s about releasing the fear of I can’t do anything, I’m locked down and there is no future. Of course, there is a future and you have your dreams, your fantasies, your activities you’ve always wanted to do and there is no better time than now.”

  • Taking the first step

“So yeah, people also started doing great things. And I’m not talking only about sewing masks. I’m speaking about life decisions. One of my friends decided that he wanted to go to university and he started preparing for the entrance exams. It’s a great time for the first step which is the most difficult to take. But it can be small and you can do it even from your living room. The first small step.”

Marek took a step of his own. “When I was practicing psychotherapy, I had my supervisor, and recently I contacted him and I started supervision again. I don’t do therapy right now as I’m having my life supervised, and I think now is a great time to find somebody who can help you with your life and maybe move it to the next level. It can be a therapist, it can be a mentor, it can be any person who you can talk to.”

“I think we’re all going through a very difficult phase of our lives and it’s something we all must somehow deal with and there is nothing bad about searching for professional help. Just stay safe,” he adds.

If you wish to get in touch with someone you can talk to about your ambitions or fears, then check out this Prague-Expat-Friendly Guide on Where to Find a Mentor.

And if you feel like reaching out to a mental health professional, here’s an Expat’s Guide to Therapists in Prague.