It’s been almost a year since the pandemic descended upon us. Most of us are still practicing self-isolation and limiting physical contact with family and friends. Some of us lost jobs. Many of our family members who retained their jobs are still working remotely and missing that day to day contact with co-workers. I think we are all feeling the effects of this disruption in our lives – some to a larger degree than others. In talking with our son last night, he echoed my sentiments on the pandemic. “It’s been a long year,” he lamented.
Thankfully, our extended family and friends have coped with the restrictions and found ways to keep their lives enriched – even though we have all collectively given up some activities that we love such as travel, dining out, getting together with friends, working out at the gym, playing pick-up ice hockey, and on and on.
Instinctively, I have been practicing useful coping skills that lift me up when I’m feeling particularly lonely or depressed with the on-going pandemic. These common sense strategies have sustained me and help keep me feeling positive and productive.
Exercise – even when we are not living in the midst of a pandemic, regular exercise that incorporates outdoor time are essential for my mental health. Just ask my husband! I get very, very grumpy if I don’t get in a good old-fashioned aerobic workout and an infusion of Vitamin D each day. Physical exercise activates some mighty impressive chemicals in the brain that aid in significantly improving one’s mood. In addition, the other healthy benefits of daily exercise include weight control, improvement and/or maintenance of some serious health conditions such as high blood pressure and increased energy levels. It doesn’t involve much time each day to reap these benefits. Establishing the habit and remaining committed is the key.
Many of the recent outdoor photographs on my blog are taken during my daily, brisk walks along our dirt roads. I embellish my walking routine with regular indoor workouts using several 30-minute intensive online exercise videos. (Thanks to sharing a membership to The Daily Burn website with my daughter-in-law and the recommended links my son sent me to some fierce exercise videos!) Occasionally, I bushwhack in the back country around my home on snowshoes for a change of pace and scenery.
Keep a Routine – Even though I’m not working right now, I’ve been trying to adhere to a consistent time to rise in the morning and retire for the night. It keeps me focused, ensures I’m getting enough sleep and gives me structure to the day – which I need. Part of that routine involves maintaining a weekly or daily “to-do” list and making a plan each day as to what I want to accomplish. Prioritizing as I jot down my thoughts over morning coffee, the list contains essential tasks alongside “fun” activities. I’ve never understood how other people navigate their day without a “to-do” list. My husband falls into this category! He’s always teasing me for my endless scraps of paper that give purpose and structure to my day. It’s a light-hearted jest and I remain undaunted in my effort to sway him to the benefits of making lists!
Eat Healthy Meals– This should go without saying, right? We should all strive for well-balanced meals. While I miss our dining out sojourns, I have found renewed pleasure in having the time to prepare newly discovered recipes. I’ve also returned to some “old” classic recipes that I have not served for years. Over the past nine months, I have been keeping some sourdough starter on hand and regularly cook with it. I’m happy to report that my sourdough pizza crust has been perfected over the course of the pandemic! We regularly enjoy sourdough pancakes once a week, and I’m trying to improve my sourdough bread technique.
Of course, I am not above incorporating some delicious “snack” foods into the mix! Who doesn’t enjoy a rich, decadent dish every now and then? I made a luxuriously rich, spicy Chili Con Queso dip with chips for our Super Bowl treat the other day and did not regret a single mouthful!
Engage in a craft or hobby – I have no shortages of hobbies to keep me busy! And some of these are not portable enough to take on the road. While sedentary here in Vermont, it’s been such a pleasure to start (and finish) some quilt projects while I have access to my sewing equipment. I’ve been wanting to re-organize our spare bedroom for years so that I have room to create a temporary sewing nook. With that chore accomplished, I can now sew without relinquishing access to our dining room table for days!
Focusing on a project keeps my mind occupied and I’m less likely to dwell on “pandemic” constraints. I’m in the middle of completing a new quilt for use as a sofa throw in the Airstream. I decided I needed a new color palette in the Airstream. This is what happens when I have time on my hands! I often use quilt designs that someone else has drawn up. I have an entire bookshelf devoted to quilting project books and magazines. These ready-made quilt designs detail fabric needs – making it so much easier for purchasing material.
Since I chose a quilt block pattern and am customizing this quilt, it was necessary to calculate my own fabric quantities. This turned out to be an hilarious exercise! With calculator, pencil and rough drawings on hand, I approximated my fabric needs several times and, each time, arrived at a different total! Even after several attempts at narrowing down the essential fabric yardage and landing on what I thought was the correct measurement, I found that I came up short with two of my 4 fabric choices! After reviewing my bin of left-over cloth, I altered my pattern by adding a fabric that I had on hand to make up some of the shortage. I still need to embark on another trip to the quilt shop for more light, tan material. Apparently, my math skills need some serious honing! 🙂
While I’ve been busy with my crafts, my husband has been refinishing some old furniture we’ve had stored in our basement for years as well as crafting new furniture. He designed a new coffee table using the base of a vintage woodstove salvaged from a construction site years ago. The “top” of the table was fashioned with several maple boards that he glued together, planed and finished with a polyurethane sealer. I love the way it turned out!
He’s now in the process of refinishing a 60’s era Lane square coffee table that we purchased years ago at an antique mall. Someone had painted over this beautiful walnut/ash table with bright blue paint and decoupaged fans of playing cards over the top. We bought it for use as a play table for my sons when they were small. Knowing it had the “Lane” stamp on it, we always thought that some day we’d return it to its more natural state. It’s coming along nicely. I still cannot figure out why anyone would paint over such a quality table!
Of course, now is also a perfect time to learn something new! Lately, I’ve been eyeing my abandoned ukulele sitting in the corner near my hall closet. Maybe it’s time to get that out again and reeducate myself!
Stay connected with family and friends– It’s important to remain in touch with those who do not share your household. Social media certainly helps in this regard. It’s not the same as a face-to-face encounter but with all the video conferencing options out there, it’s a reasonable substitute. We regularly talk on the phone with long-distance family and visit immediate family close by when it’s convenient. It helps fulfill that social connection we all need. I know some folks have established “pods” of friends who commit to safely sharing in-person visits with a limited number of people. We do not have anyone nearby who feels comfortable with this so we have not explored this option.
This has probably been the most difficult consequence of the pandemic to manage. I treasure our weekly chats on the phone with my sons, and my numerous phone calls to mom throughout the week. A few days ago, my sister and I sustained a 4-hour long phone conversation! I think that is a new record for us! 🙂
Just a simple email chain among friends can brighten my day. Our old Dartmouth book club group enjoys a remote connection right now. We share book recommendations and small insights into our daily lives right now. It keeps us connected and engaged.
I’m looking forward to starting my seasonal work in April. It will be nice to have some other social interactions for a change – however limited they may be.
Music– There is a healing aspect to music that can transcend all other therapies designed to boost our mood and improve our emotional health. I am addicted to Spotify. I also still have one of those old-fashioned turntables and regularly play my old vinyl records! Depending on my mood, I can choose between The Eagles or Norah Jones – Yanni or John Prine – Bonnie Raitt or Eric Church – Bob Seager or Bob Marley – the choices are limitless! I have found that spontaneously dancing by yourself in the middle of the day to Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock and Roll” (or the Grateful Dead’s “Dancin’ in the Streets” or Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark” or The Rolling Stones “Start Me Up”) is rejuvenating and just plain fun! 🙂
Occasionally, I move all the living room furniture to the side and pull up one of my line dancing videos. All that muscle memory starts coming back and I’m immediately uplifted!
Meditation (and Yoga) – While I do not engage in either one of these relaxation techniques on a daily basis, I do practice them when I feel the need. Regular meditation is a such a great way to reduce stress and encourage relaxation and focus. I am conscious of the fact that I should try to engage in some form of meditation on a more daily basis. It’s my new goal over the next few months!
It’s been a long haul this past year. I’m hopeful that a positive change is on the horizon. In the meantime, stay safe, practice physical distancing, wear a mask, wash your hands – and, most importantly, find new ways to stay engaged with life!