March 18, 2020
Mental Health | Wellness
The other morning I walked into my local coffee shop, ordered my usual, plus a bag of beans to make coffee at home. This is a really normal thing to do, but I felt a pang of sadness and fear as I placed my order. You see, every morning, I walk my dog and we end our walk at this little gem of a coffee shop. As someone who lives alone, there’s a sense of family when you see a familiar face every day who knows your name, and just how you like your coffee. I didn’t realize quite how important this daily ritual was to me, until I was faced with placing my last order for the next few weeks.
Asking fellow regulars to please not pet my dog (in case he ends up carrying the virus on his fur) felt like I was rejecting them on his behalf. I felt guilty. But that feeling quickly turned to relief as they elbow bumped me in solidarity, vowing to catch up over coffee and shower extra love on my pup when this is over. Suddenly, that feeling of community I was scared of losing came rushing back, because never before have I felt more like we’re all in this together.
As I walked home, I started panicking again, realizing that I touched the card machine with the same hand that was carrying my bag of coffee beans. I made a mental note to wipe the bag with alcohol when I got home. Shit! I just touched my face… There’s nothing like a viral pandemic to make you realize just how much you touch your face. After running the gamut of emotions, I returned home feeling mentally exhausted… and weirdly dirty. I just wanted to roll around in sanitizer and crawl into bed until this is all over.
Our community has been through a lot lately, and while there’s definitely been some good in between all the bad, I’ve found myself frustratedly yelling to my empty apartment, “Can I just get a break?”. When I’m stressed or scared, I tend to lean in to humor, so I turn to social media and laugh at the memes. Then I see the news and go back to feeling heartbroken and scared. But then I see the videos of Italian neighbors singing together from their windows, working out together on their balconies and my heart swells at how beautiful and resilient the human spirit is.
While watching the Italians rally together in impossible circumstances, I made the decision then and there not to cry myself to sleep in a vat of hand sanitizer, but instead to use the extra time on my hands for good, and to seek new ways to stay positive and connected to my community while social distancing.
Social Distancing Goals.
Image source: https://www.instagram.com/issyrider/
First Things First: Self-Care
Now is not the time to cancel any therapy or coaching sessions. Remember the coffee buying emotional roller coaster that I mentioned? Yeah. Just because it’s very normal to feel sad, scared, and all over the place in this kind of extreme situation, doesn’t mean we won’t benefit a lot by talking it out over the phone. Our team at The Happy Hour has been working hard on bringing you some virtual events over the coming weeks to help you find community and support during this unsettling time. So watch this space!
I contacted my trainer, told him what limited equipment I had at home, and asked if we could do Skype training sessions instead. I’m the kind of person who relies heavily on working out for keeping me sane. I experience stress very physically and I need an outlet – especially now. By keeping my same training time, it keeps me in my usual routine, and the virtual interaction allows me to maintain the social aspect of my training, all of which helps to keep things feeling somewhat normal in these very abnormal times.
Proper nutrition is the foundation of good health, so I made a list of the kind of things known to help with immunity (think berries, citrus, garlic, turmeric, bone broth, lots of leafy greens & colorful veggies) that I could meal prep and freeze in order to limit my trips to the grocery store. I’m a bit of a foodie, and the likes of ramen noodles and canned tuna would get depressing fast, so I got creative. Spoiler alert: there’s a lot of nutritious soups and tagines in my future, and I’m not complaining!
I’ve set limits for the amount of social media and news I’m consuming. Because for every funny meme, there’s a scary news clip, and I don’t need to stress myself out unnecessarily going down the rabbit hole of doom. That’s not to say I’m sticking my head in the sand – I religiously check reputable sources like the WHO and CDC twice a day to make sure I’m up to date. But the rest of the day it’s remote work with my amazing team, and Schitt’s Creek… again.
I took a cue from The Happy Hour’s co-founder, Clara, and decided to channel my emotions into this blog post. And you know what? It feels damn good. If you haven’t written down your feelings over the last few weeks, I can’t recommend it highly enough.
As someone who’s moved around a fair bit, I have friends all over the world. Never before have all of our social calendars been clear at the same time, so you bet I’m scheduling FaceTime dates ASAP! Who says our social lives have to suffer? We might be physically distancing ourselves, but with technology, there’s no reason not to connect socially. In fact, it’s crucial not to isolate ourselves in times of stress.
If your gym or yoga studio isn’t holding online classes, why not get a group of friends together over Skype and take turns leading different kinds of workouts? It’ll keep you active, accountable and social (and probably laughing), without needing to leave your home. If you are able to safely do your workout outdoors, even better. A little fresh air is good for the mind, body and soul.
It’s times like these that our small businesses need us more than ever. I’ve made a point of placing orders with local farms that are offering delivery/drop off services. Keep your eyes on social media to see who’s currently open, as it changes daily. Supporting local businesses helps put food on their tables and keeps the economy chugging along. Next on my list is to get a couple of gift cards for things like yoga studios, nail salons and restaurants to help keep them afloat over the next few weeks – and to give myself something to look forward to once social distancing is over.
If you know of any elderly people, or other immune compromised people in your neighborhood, why not call them up and ask if you can pick up their prescriptions, or get them some food next time you do a grocery run? Make it easy for them to stay home and stay safe.
Also, don’t forget local non-profits. So many people (and animals) were displaced during the tornado, and social distancing and perfect hygiene might not be luxuries they can achieve right now. Continued donations of money or wish list items can make a world of difference, especially in areas hit harder by the tornado like North Nashville and Mount Juliet.
Work from Home
No, that’s not an oxymoron! A big part of keeping things feeling normal-ish for me is sticking to my routine as much as I can. It’s so easy to slip into working from bed, which then turns into Netflix over lunch & next thing you know you haven’t left your bed in days & it’s full of crumbs. Ew David! (Have I mentioned I’m watching a lot of Schitt’s Creek?)
I find setting an alarm and making my bed helps me start my day with purpose. Getting dressed is also key. Simply switching from pjs to leggings & a cozy sweater helps signal to your mind that you mean business, comfy business.
I have also created a dedicated work space in the corner of my living room. This space allows me to get in the zone and focus without distractions, but also allows me to “leave the office” at the end of the day. Just because you’re working from home, doesn’t mean that your work should creep into your down time.
Be thankful for our heroes. Of course that will always include our troops, first responders and doctors, but in these strange times, the people working checkout counters, making deliveries, and taking away your trash are also putting themselves at risk for you. A small gift card could lift their spirits and help their family more than you know. Heck, even a heartfelt “thank you” can go a long way these days.
It can sound trite to suggest gratitude at a time of so much uncertainty, sadness and fear, but if you and your loved ones are healthy, you have a lot to be thankful for right now. I’ve accepted that it is normal to feel ungrounded right now. That it’s okay to be cheerfully catching up with friends one minute and feeling tearful the next. But ultimately, I’m grateful.
I’m grateful for my health. I’m grateful for my sweet dog, Enzo, who’s the best snuggle buddy when I feel scared. I’m grateful to be able to work remotely. And I’m so grateful for the inspiration and hope that has been instilled in me by my own community, and people around the globe who have found connection and moments of joy in this difficult time. Our spirit is stronger than this.