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Caring for yourself during Stage 2

On the mindset I adopted to cope with physical distancing
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MIA CARNEVALE/THE VARSITY
MIA CARNEVALE/THE VARSITY

As Ontario begins to crawl ever so slowly out of some COVID-19 restrictions, many of us are breathing sighs of relief as we start to see a light at the end of the tunnel. And if you’re anything like me, knowing that COVID-19 precautions are both wise and necessary doesn’t always make the day-to-day any easier.

Being separated from friends you used to see every day, worrying about your elderly relatives, or even feeling like the typical activities that once defined your identity have been stripped away are all hard circumstances to accept.

Many of these precautions should still ideally carry forward, even as patios open and hair salons open their doors.

After many weeks, there are a few habits and mindsets I’ve found to be crucial in keeping me sane throughout our semi-lockdown; this isn’t a to-do list or an advice column, but I hope what’s mentioned here not only helps you out through this next phase of reopening, but actually redeems this time. Hopefully, we all come out of this as more reflective, caring human beings.

Accomplish one goal a day

Don’t get me wrong — I’m not saying I’ve gotten several things done each day, or that I’ve begun to pick up a major new skill. I learned that playing an instrument is not in the cards for me a long time ago. 

However, writing down something you want to accomplish the night before and checking it off the next day is so cathartic. Though I wholeheartedly agree with people who remind us of the fact that it’s more than okay when we aren’t productive in the traditional sense, setting these small goals can help to differentiate between days as they start to bleed together. 

There’s no worse feeling than going to bed feeling like nothing happened and then entering into the next day with the same mindset; it becomes an endless cycle that leaves you in negative thought patterns. Even once you slowly but surely build a more stable routine, it is important to incorporate small but tangible accomplishments to keep yourself on track.

Move outside

Catching some sunlight is always important, no matter the time of year or phase of life; but now more than ever, getting some fresh air is vital not only for your body, but for your mind as well. We all know that exercise releases endorphins, but going outside to do so can have such a deep impact. Seeing the earth renew itself and summer set in reminds us that not everything is falling apart.

As much as I truly love listening to podcasts or music while I’m walking, one of my favourite things to do during my walks has actually been walking in silence. I think in our normal hustle and bustle lifestyle, our brains are constantly occupied. Boredom has become a non-option. I never have to be bored if I have my phone — sometimes I even catch myself checking Instagram in the grocery line. 

But there is something so valuable in being left in our own thoughts with no other voices chattering in your ear or a need to document your surroundings on your story of the day. Take this time to form your outlook and views, away from everyone else, and don’t shy away from questions that you ignore in the usual rush.

Most importantly, don’t abandon your walks once you’re out and about! Being outside, and alone with your thoughts, is relevant beyond coping with being separated from others — it can help with both mental and physical health at any point.

Look beyond yourself

We’ve all seen the hashtags — #stayhome, #yesyoustillhavetostayhome, and #StayHomeStaySafe have all trended at some point. We know that staying home is a small price to pay compared to those who are on the front lines of the pandemic, but you can’t always control the way you feel about it. That is okay. It doesn’t make you a selfish or lesser person. 

At the same time, I’m a firm believer that action feeds emotion. Even if your thought patterns aren’t in the best place right now, doing things for others will lead your mind to naturally think of them too.

So, send a letter to a friend. Reach out first if you want to call someone. If you fall into the COVID-19 baking spell, safely drop some off at a friend’s doorstep. Spreading kindness to someone else will guide your emotions to follow and help you to not dwell on your own difficulties.

As we get out of our semi-lockdown, many will have an enormously difficult time adjusting to the ‘new new normal.’ Reaching out with compassion can help both you and the community around you. For one, you can consider volunteering through the Canada Student Service Grant program, to help your community in managing COVID-19.

I know a lot of people have different recommendations for their own mindset habits: gratitude pages, affirmations, journaling — the list goes on. What helped me most in looking beyond my own world of problems and struggles was daily devotionals. It’s been praying and reading my Bible — the daily habit that I’ve built has felt like such a lifeline in all this. I truly believe it’s not just a comforting mechanism or a personal crutch to get me through the day, but a real truth for me to hold onto each day. 

Oddly enough, a book I recently read while staying home was The Scribe of Siena, a time-travel book that takes place during the 1340s in Italy, the centre of the Bubonic Plague. This period of disaster and hardship and the following centuries also saw the Renaissance, a time of renewal and rebirth.

This is not meant to minimize the impact or the sheer sadness that COVID-19 has brought. This is to say, however, that we are not without hope and that we will see growth again. Tomorrow will worry about itself.