I have two thoughts overall about how well I’m coping
Thought 1: Wow this is rough
Thought 2: I am incredibly lucky and privileged, and it’s still rough
My pandemic story started with an intercontinental move
At the beginning of March 2020, I moved with my husband and two dogs from Portland, Oregon to Cambridge, England. The virus was in the news at that point, but we had no idea how it would spread and how the world would change.
After nearly ten years of working at home, my intention in moving was that I’d begin to work from the Cambridge office for my employer, Redgate. I’d also periodically travel to visit customers in the UK and Europe.
Things didn’t work out exactly as we’d planned, of course: I worked in the Redgate office for exactly two weeks before the UK went into the first lockdown. I’ve been working from home ever since — at first from a small rental house (which we’d thought we wouldn’t spend all that much time in awake, haha) and now from a more comfortable home which we were very lucky to find and move to after the first lockdown let up.
Looking back, I was lonely as hell for the first few months
I was very happy to have my job and my husband and dogs with me, but I felt very homesick, stressed, and incredibly lonely throughout spring and summer.
But almost everyone was lonely. When I talked to friends at home and mentioned I was homesick, some mentioned that they also felt homesick– and they hadn’t gone anywhere. Everywhere, we were out of place, and worried about safety and health.
To soothe my stress and worry, I relied on habits that don’t scale well: eating sweets, making cocktails, not moving much, and not setting many goals for myself. I was grateful to have a job and that my family was OK, even if they were far away. But I didn’t want to work on myself.
6+ months into the COVID 19 pandemic, I’ve made some changes
Over time, I began feeling more and more sluggish, down, and anxious. I realized that I could work on good habits and help myself feel better, even while the pandemic continued.
In early September I began working on eating better. “Eating better” looks radically different for different folks — for me, from experience the key to eating better is to largely eliminate processed sugar from my diet. If I avoid processed sugar most of the time, I begin enjoying vegetables more and generally make better decisions about what to eat, when to eat, and how much to eat.
I also largely stopped drinking alcohol.
I know. This post is a drag. WHAT IS A PANDEMIC WITHOUT ALCOHOL?
Well, for me, it’s a pandemic where I make better daily decisions about my health. I haven’t stopped drinking entirely — I think it’s OK for me to occasionally have a glass of wine when there’s cause for celebration. But “occasionally” is once every two weeks or less often. I try to avoid alcohol altogether if I’m feeling stressed or sad.
Two weeks ago, I got an indoor cycle for the house and have started up daily spin workouts. I’m also challenging myself to do a bit of beginner yoga and to hold a plank pose once a day for however long I can manage.
What’s made the biggest difference?
Taking on the habit of exercise as a positive coping mechanism has been a massive help. I’m finding that physical exertion is helping me to be less anxious even in stressful times. I also quite like that I can set goals around my fitness, track them, and work to improve.
And I also must say that my job with Redgate and my wonderful coworkers have made a huge difference. Not only is having the security of a regular paycheck a massive blessing, but working with understanding, open, and caring people is something I’m truly grateful for. My colleagues have helped me get through this weird, strange time.
Do I have any tips?
My main tip is that it’s never too late to start working on a good habit.
I didn’t work on building good habits during the first part of this pandemic. But I eventually came to a time when I was ready and able to begin doing that. I don’t win anything by feeling bad about the first part — there’s no point in that. I may as well celebrate what I’ve been able to do, and work on motivating myself to keep going.
Could I have done this with less privilege?
This is a hard one, y’all. Not everyone is lucky enough to have a job, much less one with supportive colleagues. Not everyone has a family who are healthy and able. Not everyone has the time to obtain and cook fresh foods for dinner. Not everyone can afford an indoor cycle. Not everyone has a safe place to take walks outside. Not everyone has their health.
It’s an incredibly tough time. And if all you can do is get by each day, I certainly don’t want to imply that you are doing it wrong. You’re not. We each find our own way through this life the best that we can.
Also, I’ve shared a bit about anxiety before, and to be clear I don’t think that simply “good habits” are a cure-all for anxiety and depression in general. Right now these are what is helpful to me, but I’ve been hugely helped by medical professionals before when that was what I needed.
If you’re suffering significantly from anxiety and depression, I encourage you to please reach out for help and be open to seeking help from a doctor. Please know that you do not need to suffer alone.