Life in a pandemic. AKA – We’re still here?

I don’t think anyone I know anticipated Covid-19 lasting quite THIS long. Or maybe I just had an over-abundance of faith in our ability to deal with shit? All I know is I went into this 9 months ago quietly grateful for all the staying home parts and I made lots and lots of sourdough bread. And very much had a “just hunker down until this goes away” mentality. Which, I think we are all discovering, isn’t working as a coping mechanism anymore. One can only eat so much bread! I didn’t think there was a limit, but there is.

Here’s the thing: it is normal and necessary and healthy to to stop from time to time and examine the ways in which you are coping with life currently. What habits are actually boosting your resilience amidst this stress and which ones are heading you down the path toward total blow out of exhaustion, tears, yelling, tantrum throwing, or worse – health collapsing – mayhem? An example from my own life – getting up early to take time to quietly drink my coffee and journal, then get some joyful movement in before I start my work day is SUCH a gamechanger for me. Do you think that I am still doing this after 9 months of working from home? Hell no. I stumble out of bed, make coffee as I am logging in and sitting down to work in my pajamas. I didn’t think it mattered at first because these are stressful times and stress makes me tired so it was ok to sleep in a little more. The problem now though is that this waterfalls into my whole damn day and my body and mind are cranky. In the grand scheme of things and comparatively it is not that big of a deal. Life could be much, MUCH worse. But my “hunker down and just make it through this” mentality made it possible for me to let go of habits (meal prep, exercise, drinking enough water) in moments of laziness or chaos because “this pandemic is only temporary.”

I can’t tell if it’s frustrating or validating that things we’ve always known to be good for us yet difficult to keep doing when stressed are what are proving to be most beneficial to so many of us. You know – homecooked meals that includes lots of whole foods and veggies, drinking enough water and moving your body. I don’t know about you but when I get stressed out, I just want to hide. I don’t want to exercise. I don’t want to cook. I don’t want to work. And I CERTAINLY don’t want to go outside. I want to sleep and read fluffy books and not get out of bed. It is in these moments that I am simultaneously THE MOST resistance to wholesome food and exercise but also could really, really, REALLY benefit the most from them. These are the days you will catch me whining about how terrible I feel and snapping when my partner suggest going for a walk. And then seeing me walk back through the door talking about how glorious I feel and what a great idea it was and how everyone should do it.

I guess what I am saying is that in a time when we are calling on each other to check in and see how others are doing, it may also be time to check in on yourself. Here is the list of questions I am asking myself more regularly now, and committing to getting REAL honest with myself in answering them and acting upon those answers.

What habits have you let go since this began? Does this serve you? What habits did you let go of that you could benefit from bringing back? What would life feel like if you committed to bringing them back? Letting go of habits may not be a bad thing, maybe you have picked up more sustainable habits because this time and isolation has allowed you to really focus on yourself more than before. But maybe you are a little like me and when anxiety gets high or things change too much your instinct is to withdraw from everything for a time. Sit down and get real with yourself here – for me it meant imagining walking through my day having once more added back in some intentional time for myself in the morning, getting ready for work like I have to leave the house, eating healthier food that I took time to prepare, and making sure I still find time for joyful movement. For you it may be carving out time to read before bed, going to bed earlier, setting aside an hour each day for a favorite creative outlet, getting outside to walk the dog more.

What routines have you created since this began? Are these truly a benefit to you? We cook a lot less. Like, a lot. The rationale at first was that we were supporting local restaurants and doing what we could to help local business where we could and take out was one way to do that. It sounds silly now, but it’s also valid. And I do not underestimate the power of “a night off” when life is busy. The problem is that we live in a house full of sensitive gut health issues that eating out does nothing to help. So for the first time in years, some of us are dealing with things like candida overgrowth or skin problems or tummy trouble. Heartburn made an appearance for one of us. Part of it is stress. But a lot of it is what we are eating. On the other hand – we brought back more family time than ever before since this began and I am LOVING that. So what habits have been created since this pandemic began and how are they truly impacting you?

How are you nourishing social connections and finding time for loved ones? This is tricky because the nature of what is happening means that we are more isolated from our family and friends than ever before. I know there are a lot of varying beliefs about the Covid-19 virus out there and I am not here to tell you what you should believe – we have ALL had our connections to loved ones challenged regardless of beliefs. The ways in which we are able to seek out or strengthen our connections to those people who mean a lot to us has changed and yet they are more important than ever to maintain. Some of my favorite things that have come out of trying to get creative in this area are Zoom game nights with my mom; my best friend and I calling each other and “going on a walk together” – our walk and talks are such a huge part of my self care these days; parking lot meetings with my co-workers whom I desperately miss; and honestly – I am loving how much more friendly neighbor are with each other. What are you doing to remind yourself that you are connected and loved and a part of something bigger?

Going through these questions can be overwhelming if you realize there is a lot that could use a little shaking up or TLC. I’m not saying make a list and do all the things because that is one thing that drives me crazy in our health messages and culture – you DO NOT have to do it all, and if it stresses you out it isn’t doing your health much good anyhow! That’s not to say you shouldn’t try though. Pick one thing that feels doable to you that will make things feels better and focus on that. You can add others in later when you are ready.

This is hard. There is no user’s manual for living through a global pandemic. But that doesn’t mean it has to feel the way it does right now. You are allowed to explore what works and doesn’t work for you within the confines of this. You are allowed to change your mind, your routine and your habits. Don’t be afraid to sit down, get real with yourself, and decide what truly works best for you.

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