Dear reader, some of us have been in social isolation for over fifty days. Can you believe that? What a huge and bizarre number!
I hope you’ve been finding ways to cope with all of this, whether that’s reading or doing something else. Last week I shared with you five ways I’ve been dealing with myself through all of this. I hope you were able to find some commonality in experience or maybe some new ideas about what you can do to make this easier for yourself. Whether you did or didn’t, I hope you’re doing okay, my friend.
Without further ado (enough with the ado!), here’s the second half of my quarantine top ten. Enjoy!
6. Podcasts. I never was a big podcast listener before all of this. I would catch a few episodes of Dax Shepherd’s Arm Chair Expert if I knew the guest (the Emilia Clark episode!!) or NPR’s Hidden Brain if there was an interesting topic. I’ve only followed one podcast faithfully, and it’s one half of the reason podcasts made this list. Phone a Friend with George Ezra and Ollie MN is a charming and funny and sometimes moving series about two childhood friends ringing each other up on the phone once a week and sharing it with us in order to reduce stigma around mental health and vulnerability with others. The tone has been a little less goofy and carefree (obviously) since the lockdown began, but it still is the highlight of my week. The second half is UnF*ck Your Brain by Kara Loewentheil. A quick and helpful therapy session from a funny and down-to-earth expert, this podcast sparked a journey for me that’s literally changed my whole life, but more on that soon!
7. Pen Pals and Letter Writing. I’ve had a pen pal for the past seven or so years. We met briefly at a summer program and then a few months later, we chatted virtually and began to write letters to each other. I love getting little letters in the mail from her, updating me on her life and cat and ups and downs. We’ve gotten to share graduations and heartaches, new chapters and new relationships, big things and little things with each other over the past seven years that we never would have been able to otherwise share. Last week, I made her a special cheer-up card with quizzes and pictures of cats and pressed flowers in it that she told me made her day when she was having a hard time. It’s so fun to make something special for someone by hand. I also joined a letter writing group and sent out two more fun letters to new pals, and I participate in another letter writing program called More Love Letters which sends monthly letter requests to your email inbox once a month, asking you to share a little handwritten love with someone who needs a little care (submitted by their loved ones). As if my coping was Jane Austen enough, eh?
8. Therapy. I began therapy in January of 2019 to deal with, well, everything. I began by going once a week, where I cried for an hour to my soothing and encouraging therapist. In about eight months, I managed to get down to two meetings a month, and my entire life began to shift. I started to be more reasonable and loving with myself and others, and found ways to deal with difficult or stressful things maturely and gracefully. I continue to visit my therapist twice a month, though now our meetings are via phone. I’m learning how to deal with my emotions, make peace with my past, and help myself build to the future. It’s also just really helpful for someone outside to say “Hey, you’re doing a great job.” Besides my two podcasts above, I’m also finding resources online to guide me through some things I’m experiencing. This site has a load of amazing resources that you can use to supplement your regular therapy or begin your journey to getting help. I worked through the perfectionism module and it changed everything for me. (Of course, please see an expert if you are struggling with your mental health! These are worksheets, not licensed professionals!)
9. The Challenge. I used to be addicted to TV. I would have it on all day, watching reality cooking shows or dating shows, letting it run mindlessly in the background while I scrolled my phone. Since quarantine, I only turn it on maybe twice a week, and most days it doesn’t come on at all. Part of that is me being mindful about what I consume — news especially — during this time and part of it is being mindful about my time. As things level out, I’m learning a new normal, and for now, that has very little TV in it for me. I have a few guilty pleasures, RuPaul’s DragRace and The Masked Singer among them, but what I am living for this quarantine is MTV’s The Challenge. I started watching this show regularly about two seasons ago and quickly became hooked. I can’t swear it was the inspiration for The Hunger Games, but the evidence is compelling. I love the drama, the physicality, the complete and utter distance from the real world, the alliances and the scheming, and, obviously, TJ Lavin. It’s just such a change from my day-to-day, that I look forward to Wednesday nights like a kid on Christmas.
10. A daily mantra. I got a Five Minute Journal for Christmas because Emma Watson told me to. Every day since this began, I’ve been writing on the affirmation line every day this mantra: I believe in the good things coming. I also have it printed and taped to my mirror so I can see it and say it to myself. It’s been so grounding, like a little prayer I send out to the world every morning, and it’s changed my outlook. Instead of expecting things to be bad or scary, I’m putting out expectation for the good, and I’m seeing it manifest in my life. Not that bad things stopped happening, or that this is a magic spell — it just creates an awareness for me to look for good things instead of bad ones, and that small gratitude practice has made starting the day a lot smoother and optimistic.
So there you have it, dear reader. Do you share any of my coping mechanisms, good or fun? I hope you’re finding ways to connect to yourself, your loved ones, and your world as we continue this trek through an uncharted land. I’m wishing you love and light and good things coming. Until next time!