Staying Sane During a Pandemic

Greeting from Sheltering-in-Place!

As I’ve been adapting to this new world, changing the range of my adventures to my home and my neighborhood, I’ve come across a number of tools to help me process, cope, and manage through a period of extreme change. I keep telling myself that my travel and semi-nomadic lifestyle have trained me for this period of uncertainty, but even that has not prepared me for the emotional processing of a completely changed reality. So with that, I wanted to share a few tools I have used to keep myself productive and healthy (mentally, emotionally, and physically).

If you want to be productive…

broken down by Month, Weeks, and Days.

(By the way, it is also absolutely okay to not be productive. We’re going through a lot right now, so it’s okay to take it easy too.)

  1. Goal Setting for the months and year — Fill out a Passion Roadmap. This has been one of my favorite discoveries. I did my first one in 2018 and have done it every year since. Basically you answer the question: “If I could be anything, do anything, or have anything, what would it be?” and you answer it based on different time frames. We’re in the middle of a transition and this is a great tool for setting goals. I would focus on the 3 month goals as a start.
  2. At the beginning of the month (or now) — Take 5 minutes to look at this coming month and see what big deadlines or projects are coming up. Are there any projects you need to start planning for in the coming weeks? Are there new projects you want to set your eyes on? Are there personal passion projects that you’ve put off for a while? Now is a great time to start!
  3. At the beginning of the week — Take 5 minutes to look at your calendar to see what needs to get done this coming week. Create time blocks for ensuring you get those tasks done.
  4. At the beginning of the week — Set your goals for the week by noting in your planner or calendar what you want to focus on. I use a planner called the “Passion Planner” for this and my goals can be anything from “Apply for internships” to “Set new quarantine schedule for working out, school, rest.”
  • At the End of Every night — Make a list of all the things you want/need to get done the next day. This helps you avoid the inevitable morning lull when we’re not sure what to get started on.

If you want to stay healthy…

(broken down by mental, emotional, physical well-being)

MENTAL & EMOTIONAL HEALTH:

1. Writing, writing, writing.

Journaling: This has helped me process my thoughts and relax so I can sleep better. I keep a journal by my bed, and I write about anything from what I observed during the day, to how I’m feeling, to what’s on my mind. We are in the middle of a historic time and are dealing with rapid change. Allow yourself the space and time to write and process what’s going on. It will help in a few ways:

  • It will be a snapshot of your perspective in this new world full of changes.
  • I have found that writing my thoughts on paper helps my brain sort through the million things that are running through my mind. If you’re having trouble sleeping and you haven’t been able to sleep for more than 20–30 minutes because your mind is racing, try writing down anything and everything that comes to mind on paper (not a phone screen or laptop). Writing allows our brain to stop using its energy for remembering a thought. Seeing things on paper has always helped me visualize different considerations for a decision I might be making. It can also help us work through our feelings in the absence of someone being there when we need to talk about something. The next time you find yourself in a rut or unable to sleep, give this a shot.

Letters: Write letters to people. Whether it’s through an email, handwritten digitally, or handwritten and mailed out the old fashioned way, letters are great for many reasons. Two specific benefits are:

  • This is another avenue to process what you’re thinking because you’re writing again.
  • You share the love! Think about the last time you received a letter from someone that wasn’t about work, school, or bills. How did you feel? For me personally, it means a lot to me when someone writes to me. It’s verbal affirmation (one of the five love languages), which is powerful in the absence of being able to see people in person. My latest project is “The Quarantine Letters” and I have been sending random handwritten digital art/letters to friends by email.

Some prompts to get you started for your next writing exploration:

  • “Three things I am thankful for today…”. Practicing gratitude is a great way to recognize that even on our worst days, there are things in our life to appreciate.
  • “What was the best part of your day?”
  • “Right now I feel…”

2. Allow yourself to be creative and artistic

Rarely do we get the chance to have a blank slate to create something. What creative projects have been on your list to do that you never had time for? Did you ever go through those vacation pictures from last year? I have started to draw, write, and dance again, and it’s been a fun re-discovery of creative activities that bring me joy.

3. Schedule Catch Up Sessions w/ Family and Friends

We may be physically separated from each other, but it doesn’t mean we can’t interact with each other. I keep telling myself that every long distance relationship I have been through has prepared me for social distancing…and it kind of has! Reach out to your family and friends, even the ones you haven’t talked to in forever. We are all on a similar playing field of who is accessible right now and it’s a great time to reach out to people you haven’t talked to in a while. There is no fear of missing out or pressure to see anyone you don’t want to. This is time for you to hang out with exactly who you want to see.

4. Plan Virtual Games Nights — Set up virtual game nights with friends. Here’s a list of online site for board games.

5. Attend Virtual Concerts & Stream Performing Arts Shows

  • One of my favorite artists, Gina Chavez, performs every night at 8pm CST. She’s beyond talented and is one of many artists performing online. Highly recommend checking out her NPR Tiny Desk Concert
  • Sofi Tukker does a daily stream at 10am PST/1pm EST for anyone who wants to dance in their room to some amazing beats.
  • Andrew Lloyd Webber has been streaming one of his musical every weekend for free here.

6. Meditate — Make it a daily habit.

  • We hear this one a lot, but I think meditating now is more important than ever. Our minds are racing, we’re constantly getting new information, we’re moving, yet not actually moving forward or back. Meditating gives our mind the break it needs to re-ground and focus.
  • Meditating by itself may be daunting, so I usually use guided meditations that are generally 10–15 minutes long. They aren’t too long so that I feel like I’m sucking too much time out of my day (but time is a little more abundant right now anyways) and they’re not too short. I’d suggest trying this less than 15 minute guided meditation to get you started. It’s on kindness and compassion for ourselves and others. Two things we need a little more of right now.

PHYSICAL HEALTH:

1. Workout Virtually Friends as Accountability Buddies

I have two friend groups who work out in the morning and in the afternoon, respectively, at the same time every day. It’s easy to get comfy in our pajamas and robes (trust me, I’ve done this a lot), but staying at home doesn’t mean we can’t stay fit. Setting a consistent social workout schedule helps me stay accountable to my own fitness goals. Here’s one of the videos the Youtube channels I’ve been using from MadFit.

2. Take Virtual Dance Classes

I love dancing and the great thing now is that many instructors are offering virtual dance classes online. What’s cool about this? 1) You don’t have to worry about getting to a dance studio because you’re already here, and 2) NO ONE is focusing on you during a Zoom meeting, so there is no pressure if you don’t get the moves. Trust me, we’re all trying to stare at the instructor and our tiny box of ourselves on the screen to make sure we’re doing it right. The pressure for peer judgment is gone and dancers are always supportive of each other because we’re all learning too.

Here are a few online options. Feel free to try them out or support your own local dance studios! Artists need our support right now:

  • Full Out Studios — They have a range of classes offered and have a GoFundMe to keep their operations going.
  • In the Groove — Hip hop and urban dance styles — They were my old hip hop dance team! :) Check out their GoFundMe.

3. Walk outside (with proper safe social distancing…and a mask)

  • Nature heals the soul and sometimes we just need to get outside to breathe fresh air to keep us sane.
  • I would also recommend keeping a mask with you should you find yourself wandering over to a crowded area or grocery store.

Lastly, here are some curated additional resources from Passion Planner that might be helpful too.

This list is far from comprehensive and by no means do you have to do everything. Let it serve you in whatever way you need it to.

With that, I leave you with one last question to think (or comment) about:

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Free-spirited fun-loving traveler, passionate about people & making the world a better place through sustainability. The question is “Where is Cynthia Now?”

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Cynthia Leung

Cynthia Leung

Free-spirited fun-loving traveler, passionate about people & making the world a better place through sustainability. The question is “Where is Cynthia Now?”

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