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or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Pandemic

I thought I’d break away from my usual topics, in light of all that is going on, and share with you some of things I’m doing to try to stay sane in an insane time. My suggestions for how I try to keep my wits about me are clearly unique to my personality and situation and your mileage may vary. It is critical, though, to find ways to relax and reduce stress while we all endure this unprecedented situation — stress is the enemy of health and well-being and more likely to kill you than Covid-19. Caregivers are especially at risk from stress since we tend to experience a constant stream of demands coupled with a never-ending fear of failing. So, use my suggestions as you see fit and find your own variations that work for you. Be sure to tell me about them in the comments. Stay safe and stay healthy!

Find Ways to Relax

We all have to find ways to let go of all the insanity and stress and settle our minds. This is easier said than done but, with practice, it is achievable and will make a significant difference in your well-being. Importantly, the better you are able to manage your stress, the more success you will have helping those around you deal with theirs.

  • Meditation — If you’re of my generation, you may know of meditating when it was all about becoming “transcendental” and reaching a higher consciousness. Certainly, if that’s still your practice, go for it, but if you’re new to meditation or looking to restart a practice, it’s best to start with a practice around “mindfulness.” J and I have been practicing mindful meditation for the past year using an app called “Ten Percent Happier.” The app (and its subscription service) provides courses on how to meditate, numerous guided meditations for all situations, video talks, and access to a meditation coach. I won’t go so far as to say that I’m good at this but it does make a difference when done regularly. Just the act of spending 10 or 15 minutes a day focusing on your own needs is a good step.
  • Music — Now is a great time to revisit your favorite music from the past or find something new. While I lived through the vinyl years (my favorite), the 8-track years (my least favorite), the cassette years (I still have a Walkman), and the MP3 years (the worst for quality), I am thoroughly enjoying the streaming years. I feel guilty that I may not be adequately supporting my favorite artists but the convenience of streaming services such as Apple Music, YouTube Music, Pandora, etc., makes it easy to enjoy those old favorites, build playlists full of soothing tunes, and discover new artists that make you feel cool and current.
  • Hobbies — If you have a hobby or an artistic endeavor that makes you happy, now is the time to spend time enjoying it. You can still order supplies online if needed and you’ll feel so much better if you can spend even 15 minutes focused on your passion. I don’t have any “true” hobbies these days but there are things that make me happy and feeling like I accomplished something such as small projects around the house or organizing and cleaning those areas in the house that are often neglected. I try not to put pressure on myself about not getting things done but when I do complete a task, I bask in the glory.
  • Reading/Audio Books — There are so many good books (new and old) to read or listen to. I love to do both but I struggle with this activity because I inevitably fall asleep. My chronic sleep deprivation just negates my ability to enjoy a book. I guess the good news is that I use audio books to lull me to sleep at night, and during the day, either activity can result in a nice nap. If your partner has difficulty reading, then one good activity is to read to them. This forces me to stay awake and we get to spend some quality time together. For an advanced exercise, try Shakespeare’s Sonnets.

Living in the Past

This suggestion may be more suited for older individuals but one way I escape the pressures of today is to throw myself back into the past. One of my favorite books is “Time and Again“,by Jack Finney, that tells the story of someone who is able to journey back in time by just imagining himself there. While I haven’t mastered time travel, I find that if I immerse myself in content that depicts life in the past, I both appreciate how people were able to be so creative having so little, and how much better we have it (in most ways) today. My current passion is listening to radio shows from the 1940s and 1950s. There are a many sources such as OTR.net — my favorite at the moment is listening to Radio Classics on SiriusXM because they give you background on the shows and play old commercials which are totally entertaining.

Old movies, old family photographs, pulling out that dusty folk guitar in the closet and playing songs from the 1960s, taking up an classic hobby such as Bonsai or crocheting all can help you remove yourself from today’s stress and reconnect you to a simpler time.

Focus on Gratitude, Not on the News

Turn off the TV news! Do it now! I’m serious! Don’t even just have it on as background noise. It will make you crazy. You can’t withstand the constant barrage. I understand things are changing at an amazing rate but if you let it go for a few hours, you won’t miss anything that urgent, so turn off the news. And while you are at it, step away from Facebook and Twitter! Social media is sadly overly negative and do little to help you persevere. I get up early and turn on my favorite morning show as a matter of habit — it’s a very bad idea at the moment. I don’t need to be reminded every minute of the severity of the crisis. I try to rely on occasional notifications on my phone or checking in with news two or three times a day, but if you get sucked in, your stress level will go through the roof.

On the other side, try to remember that you likely have it far better than the majority of people in the world. Sure, we’re dealing with a invisible threat that has the potential to be fatal, but hopefully most of us are not dealing with starvation or lack of clean water, or any of the numerous issues that claims thousands of lives daily around the world. I’m not suggesting to revel in other people’s misery — simply remind yourself (and those around you) that despite this dramatic interruption in our lives, our lives are pretty good. For my family, despite the uncertainty, we’re comfortable at home watching TV, being on the internet, eating good food, drinking clean water — overall, it’s still not a bad life! Be grateful for what you have, for those who support you, for your family and friends, for your health, and whatever makes you realize that it’s not all doom and gloom! Better yet, reach out and help someone else in need. Support a local small business by buying a gift card or pay your gardener or house cleaner even if you’re not using them — it’s a small gesture but an important one.

Finally, remember – this isn’t the end of the world!

We will get through this, and hopefully we will be better prepared when we have to deal with this type of situation occurs again. The optimistic side of me hopes that we all emerge as stronger individuals and a more empathetic, caring society, that we will have improved our healthcare system and our technology infrastructure, that we will have a greater appreciation for those of us who don’t experience the benefits many of us have, and our leaders will be better prepared for future crises. Then, the pessimistic side of me expects that when this passes, it will all go back to business as usual. For the moment, I’m hoping for the best, for my friends and family, and for all of you! Don’t give in to fear or panic! Please share this post with friends and share your comments with me.

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