By: Valerie Bahar, M.D., M.B.A. Community Health Choice
The COVID 19 pandemic is wreaking havoc across the world but especially crippling us in the United States. Most of our lives have been confined to our homes. Who would have thought that staying at home would be such a challenge?
I usually spend the early morning sitting on my patio watching the sunrise; its golden rays peeking out over the horizon penetrating the darkness. A gentle breeze caressing my face as I watch the leaves dance to the music of the wind. I love this time of day—a brand new start but this time not in the usual fashion. I began to notice that the usual restorative effect was absent. An invisible culprit has stifled the peacefulness in my life and in the lives of us all. Peace has been replaced in many of us by feelings of despair, depression, anxiety, loneliness and a myriad of other negative feelings.
I didn’t want these feelings to overtake me. I wanted to make the best of my time in the midst of the circumstances so, here are some of the ways I deal with the challenge. This is not a full list but it’s a start — add to it. “Time is what we want most and what we use worst” –William Penn
**Stop and Smell the Roses**–Walter Hagen
Slow Down: Although this pandemic has forced us to slow down, it has brought new stressors– loss of employment, loss of finances, at home for extended periods of time with or without the family, new role as teacher, inability to socialize with friends and family and a host of many others vying for your attention, –it is you who have to make the conscious effort to stop and appreciate life. Appreciate the beauty of your surroundings: the melodic solo of a bird’s song, the laughter of a child, or even watching ants as they work with purpose in mind. I work on appreciating what I have by practicing gratitude. When you are feeling bad that is especially when you have to make yourself be thankful. It is definitely harder to appreciate the little things when dealing with this difficult situation. “Gratitude turns what we have into enough”–Anonymous
**You don’t have to be good at something for it to be good for you” –Unknown
Start a hobby: Do something you have always wanted to do. With YouTube at your fingertips, you have instant instructions/guidance. Take photos and make a collage or add short stories to them, plant a garden even a small one for the kitchen. I started painting and learning to play the guitar. Both are completely outside my comfort zone but things I always wished I could do. Although learning to play the guitar is definitely much more difficult than I thought (what was I thinking?), it has been enlightening.
“Reading is Dreaming with Open Eyes” — Unknown
Read: There is such a vast array of material that can fulfil this requirement. I set out to read at least 10 books per week. Buying a Kindle unlimited membership and having Amazon prime has helped me to accomplish this. However, you do not have to limit it to books. Read something…magazines, articles, the dictionary, etc. Jhumpa Lahiri says “That’s the thing about books. They let you travel without moving your feet.”
“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” – Aristotle
Self-Reflection: Start a journal to chronicle this time. I believe this is one of the greatest opportunities to learn about yourself. Make a vision board or write a letter to your future self. Better yet, write a letter to your past self. Allow forgiveness where your past self messed up; accept where you are or what you did and commit to making changes especially if the behavior still exists. One more thing, while forgiving yourself, also forgive others that have wronged you. Paul Lewis Boese said “Forgiveness doesn’t change the past but it does enlarge the future.” I started journaling committing myself to write every day about how I am feeling and why. There is nothing more cathartic than being truthful with yourself. Yes, you can handle the truth.
“Sweat is just fat crying” –Anonymous
Exercise: Whether it is an honest to goodness workout or just a relaxing stroll, a bike ride, or a sightseeing adventure in the park, get moving. We have all heard that exercise has so many other benefits beyond weight loss or getting in shape. Exercise improves sleep, decreases stress, increases your energy level, and improves your mood just to name a few. In the spirit of doing something different, I started bike riding. Hmm, not as much fun initially as I’d hoped especially since I fell almost immediately. I got up, brushed off the dust, and picked up my pride and we (my pride and me) hopped back on and rode into the sunset. No…. I went home to try another day. “Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live in.”—Jim Rohn
“Creativity is intelligence having fun”—Albert Einstein
Be creative: Make a point of doing something creative on a regular basis. Try a new recipe or make up a recipe, make jewelry, make costumes for play, etc. Part of being creative is taking out the old and bringing in the new. Clean that junk drawer, closet or garage. My granddaughter and myself make costumes that we then play in. We made pirate hats and eye patches and then proceed to hide and find treasures. X marks the spot. I have also tackled the garage but not quite there. Not even close but I see the finished product on the canvas of my imagination.
“For it is in giving that we receive”—St. Frances of Assisi
Give: Giving to others not only help them but it helps you. You can give of our time, your talents or your treasure. There are so many simple things that can be done, sending a “thinking of you” note, buy extra at the grocery store and give to a single parent or elderly person or take out the trash can for a neighbor. I contacted everyone on my contact list and sent a “checking on you” text. To those who were sick, I sent Doordash gift cards and to those who live alone I call every week.
“Just play. Have fun. Enjoy the game.”—Michael Jordan
Have fun: Life is too short not to enjoy it. Any activity can be turned into fun. With fun comes laughter which makes the heart lighter. There are so many health benefits of laughing but darn it, it just feels good. Have a comedy night either with movies or a comedy show reruns (like I love Lucy). Although I have lots of fun with my granddaughter, I even laugh at myself. My family has a group text and sometimes we group text about nothing specifically but end up laughing at each other for hours.
Lastly, remember every day is a brand new day. Start over. “Today is a new day. Even if you were wrong yesterday, you can get it right today.—Dwight Howard