Hi everyone! How are you doing? I hope you’re safe and healthy, and that you are taking care of yourselves! These are strange times, aren’t they? My mind is going everywhere – and often several places at once -, so it’s hard to focus. Which is why I don’t want to talk about books today, but give you some sort of general life update. I’ll mainly talk about how I deal with this situation, and maybe it can help you as well to stay calm. Not that you have to copy me, everyone is different and deals with things in their own way.
As you might know, I live in Belgium. Our country took severe actions against the spread of the coronavirus over the last two weeks. First, all bars and restaurants had to close and classes were suspended, then a few days later the government ordered all non-essential shops closed. We should also stay at home as much as possible, but we can still go grocery shopping or go out for a walk. Which is more freedom than some other countries have at the moment, so I count myself lucky.
Now, this new situation and the non-stop barrage of news about the virus aren’t easy on our mental wellbeing. And since I am very prone to anxiety even in regular times, this is quite a challenge for me. But I feel like I’m coping pretty well, to be honest.
Be kind to yourself
In fact, I find it easier to be kind to myself. Usually, I tend to beat myself up for feeling sad or worrying, like “why are you like this? There’s no reason to worry, get your shit together”. But now, paradoxically, I go easier on myself. Probably because I know this is a complicated situation and it might last for quite a while, so if I don’t take care of my wellbeing, it’s all going to collapse sooner rather than later.
So how do I practice self-care these days? Well, first of all, I read books. (Bet you didn’t see that one coming from a book blogger, eh?) I find that losing myself in fictional worlds is a great distraction from reality. Even when those fictional worlds are all under threat. Because it’s not a real threat and it goes away once you close the book. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could make all our worries disappear by simply closing a book?
But I have to admit that I find my focus wavering more than usual, so I tend to read in short bursts. And then I go do something else.
So far these last couple of days, I’ve done quite a lot of household chores. I’m all caught up with ironing, I cleaned the house, and I’m thinking of cleaning the windows as well. I find that doing these chores keeps my mind occupied, and when I’m done I get to enjoy a clean house. But I only do one or two things each day, and some days nothing at all.
Instead, I allow myself to do more fun things. I’ve picked up Minecraft again and it’s a great distraction. For those of you who don’t know: Minecraft is a computer game with very basic blocky graphics where you start off with nothing and by mining for ores and chopping wood, you can build the grandest castles you can imagine. It’s a very grindy game, which is perfect to keep your mind occupied. I also have a Pokémon game I haven’t played yet, so maybe I should pick it up now!
Some more activities
A few days ago, I dug up a jigsaw puzzle that I bought years ago but never got around to. It’s a gorgeous illustration, but having to fit all the green pieces definitely keeps me distracted from reality. And at this rate, I’m good for at least a month or two! (And we have another huge puzzle to work on after this one, in case this whole situation lasts even longer)
Another thing to keep my mind occupied, is learning a language. I’m using Duolingo, a website and smartphone app that teaches you a new language through short sets of exercises. I actually started using the app last summer to learn Swedish. And now that I’m done with that course, I’ve picked up Spanish.
These are a few activities that I have found to help fend off anxiety. But your mileage may vary and I’m not saying we should all learn a new language these days. For me, that works, but it might not for you. So just do whatever you feel like doing!
Meditations and smartphone detox
Furthermore, I started with mindfulness meditations. Mindfulness helps you focus on the present and stop worrying about things that happened in the past or that might happen in the future.
You can use an app (I’ve recently discovered Headspace, which has a limited set of free meditations and an extended set for premium members), or just find meditations on Youtube.
And another important piece of advice I want to give you: turn off notifications on your smartphone and mute or block annoying people. Seriously. On Twitter, I’ve muted people who only seemed to tweet hysterical things. I’ve also muted and even left WhatsApp conversations in which people posted fake info, unsubstantiated rumors, or hysteria. I’ve also dialed back on smartphone use in general by allowing myself a limited amount of time on social media and news websites (and by keeping myself busy with puzzles, games, etc).
I feel… calm(er than before)
It might sound weird, but I actually feel pretty calm. Calmer even than I did two weeks ago. I was worried that I was going to freak out (and I was actually pretty close), but reducing the amount of worrying news I ingest really helps, together with some relaxing activities.
It also helps that our street is so very quiet these days. Usually, our street is really busy with hundreds of cars and trucks, which creates a lot of noise and gives me stress. But now? The street is not deserted, but the traffic is down to maybe 25 percent of the usual level. I can even feel that the air quality has improved. I know it’s this quiet because of a bad thing, but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy the peace, right?
Anyway, I’ll stop rambling now. How do you cope with these stressful times? Let me know in the comments below. And stay healthy and safe, everyone!