Weeks are turning into months, yet many of us are still under shelter-in-place and lockdown orders. Physical distancing, unthinkable last year, is shaping into a new norm. These are strange and difficult times, but many of the people I talk to are surprised by how they’ve adapted; they sheepishly admit that amid the storm and collective suffering they’re feeling calm, healthy, even happy.
What’s the secret? We humans are very good at adaptation – our history and biology are testimony to that. The human brain is flexible and finds a way, but what’s true for our species doesn’t always apply to us as individuals – some of us are doing better than others.
Here are a few inspiring health lessons for these challenging times.
Between challenge and surrender
With so much uncertainty, what you can control is your attitude, says food blogger Denise Bustard. “The number one thing I've learned during quarantine is that I can't control everything in my life. There are some curveballs that life throws at you that you can't ‘fix', and you just need to surrender and accept it, whether you feel positively or negatively towards the experience. I spent weeks in quarantine feeling miserable, anxious and like everything was out of my control. I read a book called The Surrender Experiment and decided to give it a try…and it totally changed my mindset! After surrendering to the fact that we were in quarantine, that it was out of my hands and that was OK, I felt so much at peace.”
Give yourself a break. “It's natural to feel guilty about being unproductive with this new abundance of time,” says Jeff Cook from Spell Bound, “although, forcing yourself to be busy will just create more stress. Focusing on self-care, mindfulness and rest can abate the stress of the pandemic or even make you more productive in the long run.”
Manage expectations suggests clinician Jana Wu: “To keep my sanity, I use the concept that is often heard in 12 Step programming of ‘lower the bar’, to which I add, ‘where you can!’ I cannot lower the bar on my clinical work as a therapist, but I can shift my expectations of myself and my children during this time. As a full-time working mother, without childcare or school at this time, I have allowed myself to take a ‘do what I can, when I can’ attitude.”
Life should not be on hold, though. “The greatest obstacle to finding serenity in the current pandemic is the overwhelming distraction with when-will-it-end, as if we are holding our collective breath for the reprieve and re-emergence into our lives,” says Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist Catherine Saxbe. “Strange as the current chapter may be, it is just as much a part of our story as any other chapter, not a time-out from the tale. What we do now, holed up in our homes, is the stuff of our lives, not a break from them. There will be a new normal, but there cannot be a back to normal, because that old normal is gone. Normal is dead! Long live normal! Embrace your reality with curiosity. You may come out of this with a new job, or no job, or fatter, or thinner, stronger, a juggler, a writer, a baker, a candlestick maker, but whatever the transformation, be the engaged progenitor of your metamorphosis. You are not a bug on a pin. Your life is as real and not on hold.”
Beating the quarantine 15 and setting fitness goals
Lockdowns can change the way we eat, and boredom, stress and stocked up high-calorie imperishables can lead to overeating. Likewise, exercise routines have been disrupted for most of us. Eating well and exercising, however, are more important than ever.
Quarantine challenges are popular for a reason. “I was really worried about what would happen to my routine and motivation when my gym (and all the others) closed, says Trusty Spotter’s Evan Porter. “I discovered after a few weeks of floundering around in my garage that the key to staying motivated to work out (for me) is having specific goals. When I'm…