Staying In But Remaining Strong

We are living in unusual times, ones that call for us to stay vigilant and take actions to protect our physical health. We will likely be navigating a shifting COVID landscape for the foreseeable future, and all of us need to prioritize our mental and emotional health. It’s important that you not lose sight of that. The mask you wear and the physical distancing you practice are, of course, extremely important, but it’s likewise essential that you cultivate a sense of progress and maintain some vision of the personal path of your life.

Keeping one’s life moving is important to one’s overall wellbeing. “I have to get my life together”: This is what I have heard a friend say after a Netflix binge or a session of “procrastibaking” (i.e., procrastinating via marathon baking in lieu of writing a report). My friend was really expressing her renewed drive to get moving again: gotta get it together and keep it together.

While we cannot control the big picture, we can take small steps to control our own path and thus stay resilient. Start with the basics: include all five food groups in your diet and get plenty of sleep, fresh air, and exercise. The basics are a good place to begin, and they will bring positive results. Physical exercise will lift your spirits, increase your energy, and offers positive cognitive effects. So head, shoulders, knees, and toes: it just may be the path to sanity and wisdom. Making a choice to limit screen time and blue light exposure at night would also be great.

How else can we seek balance in life during these uncertain times?

One way is to enjoy the wonderful rhythm of applied focus followed by a release or break. The focus and discipline of a routine in a distraction-free zone can do wonders for one’s sense of accomplishment. Set goals and apply yourself to mastering them: completing a list of chores, reading three chapters of your book, doodling two drawings in a notebook, trying out a new recipe. Incorporate interests that you love into your daily life and watch how your efforts add up. A few chapters on a regular basis and you have read the book – and then the whole series. A few recipes with cinnamon as a dessert ingredient and you have mastered a corner of the bakery. Environmentally themed Instagram posts? You may quickly become part of a larger online community.

Be patient: there is a learning curve to developing new routines. It may go a bit wobbly in the beginning, but the habit will soon take hold. Wondering how long it takes to make a new behavior automatic? Approximately 66 days, so the time to start is now, and looking forward to a future goal is the perfect way to initiate progress.

There’s more. We can absolutely keep moving with our friends and family. Think community, continuity, communication, and concerns: the 4 C’s of being at home. Reach out to your people and apply creativity by thinking adaptively to your circumstances. You know the digital tools at your disposal, including Zoom, Teams, and Google Meet. Virtual internships, volunteer jobs, social gatherings, and exercise routines are all happening. Loop yourself in or create your own group, because keeping in touch is important.

The act of extending yourself will surely pay off. It will increase communication and open opportunities that you have not even thought of yet. Then there’s concern, for yourself and for others. Keep talking. This is not an easy time, so do your best to stay open, expressive, and supportive. We are in this together.

The way forward will be different for each of you. You are the designers of your day and the keepers of your lists. It’s up to each of you to chart your own path, so see what you can do to utilize the resources that are available to you and to make the most of this unexpected gift of time.