Joy in the time of Covid
Whew. Hey there, friends. How’s everyone doing? I’ve been… okay? Not okay? It can change in a matter of hours, honestly, and I know I’m not alone in this. At this unprecedented moment in history, we’re riding out a crisis unlike anything we’ve ever seen and many of us are experiencing emotions such as fear, anxiety and grief. We are in a life and death situation, and we are all collectively sacrificing to protect our vulnerable and to give our health care workers a fighting chance against this threat. To do that, unless we are one of the heroes working in essential services, we have to stay at home.
Staying at home has different implications, depending on your circumstaces. For some people, it means working from home with tiny children underfoot, and dealing with the struggles of parenting full time while working full time. Others are out of work, or worrying about their businesses that may go under. Personally, I’m struggling with feelings of isolation and yearning for human interaction because I live alone. If you have someone you can hug, give them a squeeze for me. I can't tell you how much I miss hugs.
Despite my feelings of isolation, I know that I also am coming from a position of relative priviledge. I am still able to work, I have a safe home and food to eat, I am able bodied and I have access to nature trails close by. I know that there are people out there who are struggling with far greater burdens, and that knowledge has helped me gain perspective during this time.
Despite that perspective, I’ve had some hard days and dark moments. For about a week or so I cried almost daily, worrying about my loved ones, wondering when I’d see them again, or grieving experiences I was missing out on. However, I have also been moved to tears by the beauty of human connection that has sprung up like a stunning wild garden through the concrete of this crisis. This is an undeniably frightening and uncertain time, and I have been working hard at caring for my mental health in the face of this uncertainty. And so, I thought it might be helpful to share some strategies that have helped me cope in hope that they may help you as well.
Move your body
One of the most important ways that I’m coping with this crisis is through physical activity. I’ve felt incredibly grateful that prior to this crisis I was already physically active, and so moving my body during isolation was a given. I know not everyone has that baseline but no matter where you’re starting, moving your body is critical. Whatever activity you choose to do, make it joyful. Now is not the time to act punishingly towards your body and create additional stress doing something that makes you miserable. My physical activity changes daily based on what sounds pleasurable to me at any given time. Every day I ask my body what it needs, and then I follow that pull.
Unless your country or region is on full lockdown or you yourself are quarantined, please try to go outside, at least once a day. The moments that I’ve felt the worst over the past few weeks I got myself outside and instantly felt 20% better. It doesn’t solve the problem entirely, but it helps. Even if you just go and sit on your porch, or in your back yard, getting fresh air is so important for our well being. For me, it is especially critical because I live in a basement. Going outside can also lead to unexpected discoveries! On Sunday, I decided that I didn’t feel like any high intensity exercise and I wanted to go on a long walk, and I discovered a stunning new trail not far from my home. I wore my camino boots and I swear I felt a bit of the camino magic as I explored close to home and discovered something I didn’t know existed. I've now made morning walks a regular part of my time in isolation, and it is incredibly soothing to my spirit.
Clean your space
Okay, so if you’re a parent, just disregard this one. Those who know me know that I’m not much for house cleaning. I like a clean space but I don’t like to have to be the one to clean it. However, during quarantine I’m making sure that I keep my space as clean as possible at all times. I find that when my space is clean, it feels much more peaceful and it helps me manage my anxiety. Simple things like the act of making my bed every day also help me maintain a sense of normalcy which is so critical during this wild time.
Actively cultivate joy
On my birthday, I was feeling anxious and overwhelmed about the crisis, and honestly a bit mopey at having a pandemic birthday. So, I decided to go out and look for all the happy things I could find. I found flowers blooming in a garden, a puppy chasing a toddler, beautiful art sculptures on the beach, and the first buds of spring coming out on trees. By the time I got home, I felt so much better.
I’ve been very intentional about being loving toward myself during this time. I learned to make pasta carbonara, I’ve baked bread, done face masks and body scrubs, painted my nails and I’ve journalled almost daily. I ordered myself flowers so I’d have a beautiful bright spot in this lonely time, and I’ve been live tweeting a full re-watch of my all-time favourite show, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. During this scary period of isolation, it is critically important to be loving and gentle with ourselves and to seek joy wherever we might find it.
Build and seek virtual community and connections
The place I have found the most joy during this time has been through connecting to virtual community and with friends. I have been deeply moved by the human spirit and acts of kindness that have been playing out around the world. Facebook groups like caremongering are beautiful examples of people coming together to provide support, advice and resources, and have really highlighted the incredible generosity of the human spirit. As Mr. Rogers’ famous advice goes, during scary times, look for the helpers. And right now, there is no shortage of people reaching out to one another and helping in the face of this hardship.
This crisis has also highlighted the creativity of the human spirit, and with the support of online technology, there are a myriad of ways to engage in virtual community right now. Personally I have joined online dance parties and sung with 9,000 people around the world in a virtual choir. Singing with Choir! Choir! Choir! and reading comments from people in Italy, Indonesia, Australia, Spain, and many others really brought home that this is a global moment, arguably the most unifying global moment in human history. I find that profound.
None of us know what the future is going to bring, and that uncertainty is probably one of the most uncomfortable aspects of the Covid pandemic. We don’t know who will get sick, we don’t know what the economic fallout will look like, and we don’t know how long this period of isolation will last. I’m sure there will be moments when my anxiety will get the best of me again, but in the meantime, I’m doing my best to turn toward the good. I’m appreciating the opportunity to slow down, and to bring a new level of intention to my days. This crisis is forcing all of us to pause, take a breath, and take stock. It’s reminding us of our vulnerability, and of our need for community. It’s reminding us to check in our friends, and to reach out to those we haven’t spoken to in awhile. When all this is done, I hope that we take those things with us.
We may all be weathering this storm on our own, but this moment is a powerful reminder that we’re all in this together.