Lauren Alice Smith
Thrive in Sparking Isolation
Well, for most of us, it has been over 2 months since we have gone into quarantine, or as I like to call it, sparkling isolation. I've had some good and bad days but overall I'm pretty happy with how I have been handling it all and getting through. I've had to do a lot of allowing myself the space and time to do what I needed to do to feel okay that day. So sometimes that meant laying in bed all day and watching Love Island (the UK version only, duh) and sometimes it meant taking a walk and then coming home and doing 3 loads of laundry and cleaning my kitchen.
Overall, I've found little things here or there that have helped me get through and I hope will help you in your pandemic journey.
Bring Gratitude to the Forefront
While there is a lot of awful and terrible things going on in the world right now, I have realized that I still have a LOT to be grateful for. I have my health, I am currently living in an apartment by myself, I currently do not live in an area that is a hub for the virus, the list goes on and on.
5 years ago I was in NYC and was having a hard time grappling with the fact that I had not booked a gig in over a year. My mom bought me a small notebook with the intention of it becoming my gratitude journal. I soon found a set time at the end of every day to write exactly what I had been grateful for that day. Some days it was so many things that I couldn't fit it all on the page. Sometimes I felt like I had nothing so I reached for the basics - my family, the fact that I was alive and breathing, etc. But overtime, I saw the profound impact it had on my overall outlook and happiness. And a few months later I finally booked a job.
Living in gratitude has gotten me through hard times and it will continue to do so. Taking a step back and looking objectively at your life and what you are grateful for is so enriching and will never bring you anything but good.
Draw Back Your Curtains, Literally
This may seem silly, but I'm someone who generally keeps her curtains closed, especially once winter comes. And then they are like that for months helping keep the cold air out and as it warms up, I forget that the curtains actually open.
Just last week I realized how sunny it was out all of a sudden and had a "what are you doing?" moment. I pulled back my curtains and I have kept them open since. The sunshine and access to the outside world has absolutely helped my mood.
Pick Up New Hobbies or Rekindle Old Ones
There is no reason for us to be spending months on end staring at our phones and watching TV. However, this is exactly what I did for the first month and a half of quarantine. And you know what? It weighed me down. Hard. I was having a hard time sleeping and I was never in a good head space.
So one of my solutions was to stop watching TV and start entertaining myself the old fashion way. I have been spending my time doing puzzles, cross stitching, and reading! All three of these activities engage my mind more than watching TV ever will PLUS I'm not staring at a screen.
If you've always wanted to teach yourself to sew? Now is the time. Nostalgic for the days of your youth spent coloring and tracing Scooby Doo and pretending you drew him freehand? Now is the time! The mental health benefits I have experienced have been huge and I firmly believe it will help you too.
Prioritize Clean Eating
As most people know by now, I am a bit of a health nut with, like, a million food allergies and sensitivities. But I haven't always been this way. When I was a kid I would only eat chicken nuggets, french fries, pizza, hot dogs, and a handful of other junk foods. So when the going gets tough, it gets tough for me to not want to whip out the frozen organic french fries every night.
However, I have been able to maintain my healthy lifestyle by prioritizing quick and easy meals. I am very lucky to live in an area of the country surrounded by local, independent farmers. Because of this, I have not felt the strain of food shortages at all, and that's something to be hugely grateful for. So I usually buy most of my foods locally and in larger quantities so that I can food prep meals and keep goodies in my freezer for when I'm ready for them.
I have also been big into making a quick smoothie breakfast. Last Black Friday I bought myself a Ninja Blender and it has been one of the best purchases I have ever made. It makes my life SO much easier (Not only have I been making the smoothies and acai bowls, but I've also been making massive batches of hummus, so GET INTO IT). I have been buying fresh fruits and veggies, cutting them up, and freezing them so I have ingredients ready to go at a moment's notice. Its the perfect quick breakfast/mid day pick me up. Filling, full of nutrients, and healthy.
Find the way that works for you to make healthy eating possible. Maybe it is ordering from a meal kit delivery service. Or maybe it is taking a day every week to meal prep a bunch of meals that you can just heat up and go. If you're anything like me, the dishes right now are nonstop and anything you can do to feed yourself healthfully and minimize the dishes is the biggest win.
This is the perfect time to try and learn something new. I have been taking courses online to expand my knowledge in hopes of creating new streams of revenue for myself. But that doesn't have to be exactly what you do. You can read a book about a topic you're interested in but don't know much about. You can find a podcast about pretty much any topic these days that can enrich you and help you grow. You can even call up a friend who has knowledge in an area you're not as well versed in and chat with them about it; chances are you both will appreciate the interaction! When in doubt, turn to the internet. We are incredibly lucky to have such a vast source of knowledge at our finger tips during a time like this. Its a perfect way to turn lemons into lemonade.
Take Facebook Off Your Phone
Seriously. I'm not playing around. From the moment the pandemic started, I began experiencing mini panic attacks where I wouldn't have any other symptoms except for sudden tightness in the chest and shortness of breath for about 30 seconds to a minute and then it would go away. At first I was like "ahhh do I have the rona?" but it soon became very clear I just had massive anxiety around the whole situation we see ourselves in.
When I decided to ditch watching TV all the time, I also took Facebook off my phone. I realized it was contributing to my brain fog and unhappiness while I scrolled mindlessly for hours. Since deleting the app, I have not had a single panic attack. I feel lighter, happier, and my energy feels elevated.
Facebook is a lawless and toxic land where people gather to spread misinformation, hate, and general fear mongering, especially in times of trial and tribulation. The energy is SO negative and I let myself get sucked into the hellish landscape of nasty comments and uninformed sharing. It is such a relief to have distanced myself from all of that.
I still have to access Facebook on my computer from time to time as I am actively working as a social media manager, but going on JUST to do work and interact with patrons and not reading my newsfeed is palatable and has been working for me. So, don't feel like you have to kick it entirely. Even lessening the time spent will be beneficial.
Ultimately, you have power over what you consume and what sort of people and energy you surround yourself with. Your life can be as big and beautiful or as small and strained as you let it. Not everyone may agree with me, but Facebook is poisoning us. Just try it out for a few days and chances are you won't be sorry.
Find Time for Silence
Ultimately, it must be said that my point of view and coping mechanisms are all coming from a place or privilege. As I touched on earlier: I have a roof over my head. I live alone. I am still receiving a paycheck that is able to cover my basic bills. No one in my family has passed away from COVID-19. I realize that my experience is not everyone's and these suggestions above are not plausible/possible for everyone.
However, one thing that I believe IS possible for everyone is just finding some time daily for sitting in silence with yourself. Whether its 2 minutes or 2 hours, you owe it to yourself to sit in stillness and just be. You can think about it as meditating, intentional breathing, or just sitting quietly in the bathroom hiding from the children running around your house.
Every single person on this earth deserves that and needs that. The more we sit with ourselves, the more we know ourselves. The more we know ourselves, the more we ultimately know others, and the kinder this world will be.
Know that you are strong, you are capable, you are resilient. We will all get through his in one way or another. My hope is that we are all able to take this time to self reflect and grow so what when we come out the other side and the crisis has passed, we live in a much more compassionate and giving world.