The past 6 months have been unquestionably the strangest time in my life. It has been an unprecedented, unpredictable, and challenging time for the entire world. Not only have we been affected by a global pandemic but there has also been social uprising, extreme political divisiveness, wildfires, hurricanes, shootings, and more. Our lives have been turned upside down and I have relied on certain tools and activities to keep me sane.
As I’m writing this, my family has been staying home for almost 6 months. My husband and I have been to the grocery store and a few other essential places but our kids haven’t been anywhere except the dentist, the pool, and a few outdoor hikes and bike rides. We haven’t taken them anywhere indoors but the dentist since March 14. They are starting school soon which will be online indefinitely. Our family of 5 has adapted to staying home and being together pretty much constantly—peacefully for the most part, but not without our challenges. There have been days and weeks when each of us has lost our cool. I’ve had moments when I felt like I didn’t know how I could go on.
All that is just to say that I have continued to go on and that is mainly because I’ve leaned on certain things for support. The following 10 tools and activities have brought comfort, consistency, stimulation, and support to me (and my family) during this challenging time.
I’ve never been much of a baker before. Back before COVID, I’d bake simple chocolate chip cookies now and then and I’d baked a pie or two in my life. Other than that, for me, baking meant using a mix or slicing up pre-made, store-bought dough. I’d never been one to bake anything time-consuming or complicated but that has changed over the past several months. Now my family has become accustomed to enjoying a variety of breads, pastries, and cookies on a regular basis.
Baked goods are definitely comforting. I mean, what is more soothing than biting into a warm, gooey, homemade chocolate chip cookie or enjoying fresh baked bread with dinner? Baking and eating the baked goods has brought me comfort during this time. But there’s more to it than that. I’m also enjoying baking because it’s an activity that is controlled and predictable. The recipe provides a structure and a plan and that feels really darn good, and needed, in a time with so much uncertainty.
One recipe that’s become a weekly staple in our house, and was shared with me by my sister, are these sourdough bagels. I thought they were challenging at first, but now I’ve baked them so many times, I’ve almost memorized the recipe and they taste really good! My family easily eats a whole batch in one weekend.
2. Learning new things
During this challenging time, I’ve found that learning new things has both kept my mind distracted and calmed me. In addition to baking, I’ve also learned how to cook some new recipes. I discovered the quirky and fun EmmyMade on Facebook and I can’t recommend her videos highly enough. This video has inspired some pretty delicious ramen recipes in our house over the past few months and between the five of us, we’ve literally prepared hundreds of servings of instant ramen! Something a little different and yummy!
I’ve also taken time that I don’t usually feel like I have to dive into topics like the Enneagram, anti-racism, and watercolor painting. In fact, my daughter and I have been doing a lot of painting together which has been both a bonding experience for us as well as relaxing and creative for me.
3. Intuitive Eating
This time of challenge and uncertainty would be so much harder for me if I weren’t a practicing intuitive eater. If you know me, you know that Intuitive Eating has become a big part of my life over the past year and that I recently became a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor. You can learn more about Intuitive Eating here but in a nutshell, Intuitive Eating is a weight-inclusive self-care eating practice that teaches us to tap into our physical feelings of hunger, fullness, and satisfaction. Through Intuitive Eating practice we learn what, how, and when to eat in a way that truly nourishes our body and self.
Because I have learned to allow myself to eat all foods without judgment or guilt, I have been able to let go of diets and diet mentality. I eat what I enjoy and what satisfies me. I trust and listen to what my body wants and needs and I exercise in that same way as well. Intuitive Eating has freed me from old challenges I had with food and my body. Do I always do this perfectly? Heck no! But, I give myself grace and continue to practice. Intuitive Eating is a journey, not a destination, and I’m here for all of it.
I know that many people have struggled with food and exercise during the pandemic. With so many challenges in the world, food and exercise become even harder to deal with for many people. If you are interested in finding out more about Intuitive Eating, please reach out. I can offer support and resources to see if it’s a good fit for you.
4. Mindfulness, Yoga, Meditation, and Reiki
I know, that’s four things, but they go together (for me). All four of these practices have been a part of my life for a while (Reiki is the newest) but over the past 6 months, they’ve become even more necessary and beneficial for my mental and physical health. I even wrote a blog a couple of months ago about how mindfulness can help with becoming anti-racist. You can read it here if you’re interested.
I practice some version and combination of mindfulness, yoga, meditation, and Reiki every day but my practice is not always the same. Some days I have time for all of them individually, some days I have less time and I combine them. I use mindfulness throughout my day every day and it’s a very effective tool in helping me deal with my reactivity to challenging situations and emotions. In a time when challenging situations and emotions arise pretty much every day, these 4 practices have been so needed.
Walks have served several purposes for me during the pandemic. For one thing, they are one of my only times when I can be alone. When I want to be by myself I only have a few choices: lock myself in my room, go out to do errands, or take a walk. I take a minimum of one walk per day but it’s not uncommon for me to take 2 or 3. Sometimes just 5 minutes is enough!
Walks have always been an enjoyable way for me to move my body and clear my head. And now they have also become a time for me to call a friend, listen to an audiobook, look for beautiful flowers, or simply just have some silence and breathe fresh air.
6. Audiobooks (and books)
During the pandemic I think I can actually say that I have become a reader which is not something I would have identified as before. In most normal years before COVID I read maybe 2 or 3 books, but in the past 6 months I’ve read at least 12. I’m loving reading and soaking up information. I have only been reading non-fiction and self-help though so I’d really like to read a fun fiction book. Recommendations welcome, please!
7. Zoom, Whats App, and Voxer
Yes, that’s three things again, I know…these are all ways that I’ve stayed connected and found support over the past 6 months. I already used all three of them quite a lot before COVID but now that we can’t see people in person they have become my main forms of communication with friends, family, and clients.
Zoom has always been the primary way that I teach classes and hold groups for work but now, during the pandemic it has also become the place for holding family gatherings and social events. I know this is true for so many of us at this point.
If you aren’t familiar with WhatsApp and Voxer they are both apps that you can use for voice messages and I use them both every day to communicate with my best friends here in San Diego and across the country. We all have busy schedules and this is a way we can connect and support each other easily. If you find it hard to make time for phone calls, these apps are great. I don’t know how I’d survive without them these days.
8. My work
I am grateful to love the work that I do and to get so much pleasure and fulfillment from working with my clients and students. Work has kept me very busy over the past 6 months in a good way. My work has given me structure and kept me grounded. I’m so happy and grateful to have the consistency and commitments my work has provided.
9. Letting things go
A year ago I wrote an article about not being able to “do it all”. It’s here if you’d like to read it. Here’s the thing: no one can do it all and we absolutely have to let some things go, especially during challenging times!
Over the past 6 months I’ve let go of a lot of things. Our house is messier, our sleep routines have completely changed, and my kids are existing on ramen noodles, sourdough bagels, and ring pops. But, the truth is, we’re all doing okay despite the chaos. When we let things go we often realize that we can survive (or even thrive) without having complete control of everything all the time. And, in fact, realizing we don’t have control has been one of the biggest lessons to learn over the past 6 months!
I practice positive self-talk and affirmations regularly. One of my most common is, “I am enough, I do enough, I have enough”.
How we talk to ourselves is a huge piece of letting go of control and being okay with it. Do you pay attention to how you talk to yourself? If not, I encourage you to. Our mind believes what we tell it. Feed your mind something positive to believe!
It may sound cliche but above pretty much everything else, gratitude has kept me afloat during this challenging time. Over the past several years gratitude has become a serious practice for me and I’m now at the point where almost every time I’m struggling with something, I’m able to pause and focus on what I’m grateful for. This doesn’t mean ignoring the hard situation or pushing my difficult feelings aside. But, it does mean taking a moment to really acknowledge what I have. There is always something to be grateful for and it’s always helpful to know that, even in the hardest times.
Don’t get me wrong, this time has been hard.
I want to be clear, the past 6 months have been hard. As I mentioned before there have been moments that felt unbearable. I’ve had days, even weeks, where I’ve cried, I’ve felt angry, frustrated, resentful, sad, and really scared. I’ve been through all of the hard feelings, and so has everyone in my house. The tools and activities I’ve listed here have not made all of those challenging feelings and difficult experiences disappear. Not at all. But, they’ve made this time manageable. These 10 things have brought me and my family moments of joy, connectedness, structure, and even moments of peace and relaxation.
What brings you relief in times of challenge and uncertainty? I hope you’ve found things that work for you and I’d love to hear what they are!