These are unprecedented times, every day the pandemic is escalating at an alarming rate. It’s not just the exponential growth of covid-19 cases, but equally scary is the economic impact it’s having and will continue to have. I wake up every day to despairing news from all over the world, not able to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Even if you are not sick, even if you still have a paying job, even if you have a pantry stocked with food, you are very likely feeling scared, or anxious, or lonely, or stressed, or overwhelmed, or all the above. You might also be ok, even enjoying spending more time at home and lots of time with your close family. I just want to say: it’s ok to feel whatever the f* you feel right now!
It’s ok to feel bad. It’s easy to try to minimize feelings of anxiety, stress, and fear, it’s easy to tell yourself (even if subconsciously): “I am so lucky. I don’t deserve these feelings. These are for others that are not as lucky”. But feelings are not finite, you are not depraving anyone of their own feelings just because you feel them. Feelings don’t belong to certain groups of people or situations. Feeling guilty for feeling sad gets you into an infinite loop of despair. And this doesn’t help anyone – it doesn’t help you, it doesn’t help those around you, and it doesn’t help the community.
Instead, embrace *all* your feelings, accept them, know that it is ok to feel *whatever* you feel right now. Forget about how your situation compares to others, just accept it for what it is. The sooner you can learn to embrace how you feel, the sooner you learn to live with yourself and your feelings without those weighing you down and limiting you in all sorts of ways. And, the sooner you will be able to help others around you.
It’s ok to not be very productive. There is so much content out there about what you should be doing with all your “spare” time at home right now. You should learn Japanese, learn to code, learn to bake, write a book, learn to paint, write a journal, etc etc etc. If you are doing these things and taking full advantage of any spare time you got now, then good for you and keep at it! But if you don’t feel as productive as you “should”, if you are not learning a new language, or reading 10 books a day, or taking tons of online classes, that is ok too. Just start small and celebrate small victories. You were productive while working for a couple of hours straight? Feel good about that. You read a couple chapters of a book and were able to concentrate on it? Heck yes. You worked out today? Pat yourself in the back. You did none of those things? Don’t worry. Stop putting yourself down for all the things you thought you would get to that you haven’t yet. It is a stressful time! It’s hard to concentrate when you are anxious and sad. Give yourself the space and time you need. Meditation can be a great place to start to create that space (I really like Headspace!)
It’s ok to feel joy. Actually, you should purposely seek it right now. Yes, I know you probably don’t feel “happy” like you might have a couple months back, but let’s redefine happiness in this new world (and going forward). Sure, happiness can mean feeling fulfilled about your entire life and the state of the world, but that seems very hard to achieve (now and ever). Instead, happiness can also be joyful moments (even just minutes or seconds) throughout your day, it can be about very tangible and specific things like:
- Admiring flowers on a morning walk
- Cooking and eating something comforting
- Feeling the sun on your face
- Hearing the voice of someone you love across the phone
- Feeling a nice breeze
- Drinking a good cup of coffee (or tea!)
- Looking forward to watching a Netflix show
- Feeling strong after a hard workout
- Enjoying a beautiful sunset
- Dancing alone in your living room to your favorite music
- Feeling proud that your house plant is growing and healthy
- Reading a good book
- Being productive at work
- Hearing a beautiful bird sing
SO MANY OPTIONS! Enjoy the little things, find meaning and happiness in moments, think of happiness as a fluid state, not as a binary one.
Here is 7 tips on how to create more joyful moments throughout your day:
1.Exercise. The importance of working out for your mental health cannot be understated. Exercise makes you happy, it releases endorphins and makes you feel good! It reduces levels of stress and helps manage anxiety. This is all well known and documented! Specially in times like this, finding the time to exercise is key. Honestly, all you need is 30min (or even 15min!) and a mat. Now more that ever there are so many free resources out there for working out at home, many trainers are providing excellent free classes daily – just do a quick search in YouTube and Instagram! Lately I am into Kit Rich and her daily live youtube classes, but there are endless options.
2. Limit your news intake. There is so much out there, hitting you every second of every day like a slap in the face. There are articles, podcasts, TV news, pandemic trackers, etc etc. You can spend all day reading covid-19 news and crying on a corner. But you shouldn’t. Yes, it’s important to be informed but it’s also important to stay sane and healthy, and not despair. Make a decision to only proactively intake news a maximum of twice a day, maybe is mid-morning and mid-afternoon, maybe is by opening the NYTimes and reading one or two articles, maybe is by listening to a daily podcast. And then that is it! cut it, stop reading, stop listening, stop talking about it (at least proactively). Find other things to read and listen to, non-covid related.
3. Cook (even if it’s just for yourself). Cooking can be therapeutic. It’s not for everyone, I know, but give it a shot! I have been spending *a lot* of time in the kitchen lately and I have developed a planning process. I pick a few cooking books (+ cooking apps) and basically go through the books on a weekly basis, selecting recipes that sound good, and adding ingredients needed to my supermarket list. We shop every 10 days or so. If I can’t find something it’s not a big deal since I have a list of other recipes, so I can just skip those items and try next time. Then throughout the week I just look at the list and pick what sounds best that particular day to make. Books I am going through right now are: Dinner from Melissa Clark, Mexican Today and Pati’s Mexican Table from Pati Jinich (she also has a blog), and Nothing Fancy from Alison Roman. I also love the NYTimes Cooking app and use it a lot. If you don’t have cooking books or don’t want to pay for the nytimes app there are many free options out there, such as allrecipes, bon appetit, plus lots of Instagram accounts! Once you are ready, make yourself a nice cocktail, put some music or a podcast, and get cooking!
4. Connect with people. Chat with friends and family through video! Make plans for it, just as if you were going out to meet them. Put it on the calendar and jump on your virtual HH with a drink in hand, decide on a meal and cook together, watch a Netflix movie at the same time (Netflix Party), play an online game (I was recently introduced to Secrete Hitler, it’s great!). If you are able, organize a meeting with a neighbor and sit across the street from one another, or drive through a friends apartment and talk to them over the phone while seeing each other. We might be physically isolating from others, but that doesn’t mean we need to social isolate completely – you can, and should, be social in other ways.
5. Give (if you can). We are all in this together, the whole world! Think about that, the *entire world* focused on one thing: beating this thing. Even so, I know it’s still hard to feel connected to others, but giving can help with this, and there is so much need. Now is the time to give, whether that is locally to the nearest food bank or internationally to support the more at risk communities, if you can: GIVE, in whatever way it’s meaningful to you.
6. Immerse yourself in nature. Nature can be a true refuge. The fact that it will be here no matter what can provide you with a sense of calm, of stability, it provides emotional support just by its mere existence. Depending on where you are I know it might seem difficult for you to do this, but don’t think of nature as “out there”, think of it as *all around us* – the trees doting your street, your backyard, the park around the corner, the birds you hear from your window, your house plants. As much as you can, immerse yourself in it.
7. Take time to reflect on what’s important. Once this is over (and it will be over), what do you want to get “back to”? what are the things you want to leave behind/stop doing? what are the practices you developed during this time that you want to carry forward? do you know now which relationships build you up and you want to maintain versus those that put you down and you want to let go? Take this as an opportunity to reflect on what’s important and not just “go back to usual”. Keeping a journal is a great way to start – just spend 5min a day writing whatever is top of mind.
But, most of all, don’t lose hope, stay positive, and be kind to yourself and to others! And tell me, what are you doing to create more moments of joy?
Stay healthy and safe out there, sending you all love!