Let's face it, this has been one of the most challenging times in many of our lives. It's not easy for anyone to live through a global pandemic. Our social circles have dwindled, our routines have been up-ended and life has pretty much been turned on its head. As someone who lives alone, and has relied heavily on my job for routine and social interaction, I've had to make a lot of adjustments to cope with this new reality and avoid falling into a depression. It has not been easy, and it's taken a great deal of commitment to stick to these new strategies. I'm hoping they help you manage as well.
Strategy 1: Transform your old routine
This one sounds really simple, but in practice, it's much more difficult. When I found myself home all day, many of the activities I'd taken for granted were suddenly gone - and I missed them terribly. I went through a full on grieving process, missing my office, coworkers, walk to work, lunchtime and chatting with people at the coffee machine. After speaking with a therapist, she suggested I create a new routine. I mapped my old activities to new activities to ensure I'd stay busy and had some semblance of a normal life. For example:
- 20 minute morning walk to work transformed into a 20 minute circle around the neighbourhood with my dog
- 1 hour workout after work transformed into a jog or brisk walk around the neighbourhood
- My lunch break with colleagues transformed into intentional practice of taking time to call, email or message my friends to connect
Strategy 2: Tune out, completely
After obsessively checking the number of new Covid cases in my area every hour for the first few weeks, I had noticed that my anxiety had skyrocketed. I was sleeping 3 hours a night at one point during the first three months, and could barely function. I started to realize that there was absolutely nothing new happening on a day-to-day basis, or at least nothing that would change anything about the way I was living my life. Any major event or update was being relayed to me through friends and family, and it started to become overload.
So what did I do? I switched it off - all of it. I stopped checking social media, stopped watching the news and stopped entertaining conversations about it. What happened is that I started reading more, painting, and thinking about hobbies and side projects I'd always wanted to tackle (like this one). I felt happier, lighter, and forgot about Covid. They really do say ignorance is bliss, and in this unique situation I think we all deserve a bit of bliss. Be safe, but don't for one minute feel guilty for tuning it all out.
Strategy 3: Keep moving
This is the big one for me. What's kept me going over the past 6 months is walking, yoga, running, and staying active. If you can't run, go for long walks. If you can't walk, do light exercises with your arms - do whatever you can to keep moving and keep the blood flowing. I've kept to a routine of throwing on music or an audio book and running or walking with my dog. Work out your energy and thoughts through movement.
Strategy 4: Focus on your health
When we're healthy, nourished and getting enough sleep we can better cope with the stresses that life throws our way. Before the pandemic I was eating terribly, I'd graze on chips, candy and sugary snacks throughout the day. Since the pandemic hit I've tried to only stock my cupboards with healthy alternatives, because I've accepted that I have absolutely no willpower when it comes to chips and candy. I've switched over to dried mango, fruit, nuts and some dark chocolate. I'm spending more time researching healthy meals and trying to focus on nutrition. Exercise is obviously part of staying healthy, but just as important as exercise is getting a good night's rest. Once you turn off the news, it gets easier to maintain proper sleep hygiene. Make sure you're going to bed at the same time every night, use lavender or essential oils to get comfortable. Try not to look a screen for an hour before bed (this one is so hard) and try to get 7-9 hours a night.
Strategy 5: Connect, and talk about your fears
Don't just smile and nod. When someone asks you how you're doing, now more than ever, have the courage to be vulnerable and open if you're having a difficult time. Now is not the time to put on a brave face, now is the time to support each other and realize that we're not alone in this. This is new for everyone, and it's not easy. If you don't have someone close to you that you can trust to open up to, there are many out there in your situation who are in the same boat, and there are resources to find peers to open up to. You're not alone. See post on support groups.