Almost every single email I’ve received in the past three days had a subject line starting with “Our response to…” Then, last night I received the email notifying students that all IU classes would be conducted online for the rest of the semester. It may have taken 5 semesters and a summer at school to get to this point, but I really love my classes and the world that I’m in when at IU. I’m a Weepy Wanda, so of course first I cried and got really angry. At the people making decisions, at the people recklessly disregarding that this situation is about more than themselves, at God, at anyone. Why is this happening to us now? And why is it the most threatening to those already living at risk in their daily life?
As much as this is a major inconvenience in my life, it’s putting severe strain on the daily lives of more people than I can even fathom. The domino effects of every closure and quarantine have my brain in a state of constant racing thoughts. Social isolation, for a lot of people, can allow for dark thoughts to creep in and make a home for themselves in your mind. With routines changing at the drop of the hat, purposelessness and helplessness have an express lane to your soul.
Since I have zero control over this world’s future on a grand scale, I’m trying to remind myself of the control I have over one very important person: Me. I hope that this list of coping mechanisms, healthy distractions, and thought re-routers that I (or friends of mine) have found to be helpful can do even the littlest bit to ease the heart and soul of another very important person: You.
First Things First
Filter your View of Things
With classes, meetings, and even time spent with friends transforming into Zoom and FaceTime sessions, I’ll be spending even more time looking at a screen than I usually do. We also happen to be in the season of Lent, and it is tradition to “fast” in some way for these 40 days. The president of my high school posted an inspiring video, Call to Love in Challenging Times, in which he talks about fasting from the onslaught of negativity and media.
The next time you’re aimlessly scrolling in an Instagram black-hole, it might be a good idea to “mute” any accounts that are adding to your negative feelings. It’s a great alternative to unfollowing if you just need a temporary break or are part of the generation that’s gravest sin is un-friending or blocking. Some wonderful people to follow for positive and sane responses to the insanity of the world are @brenebrown, @goodnews_movement, and @frankiedoingcute stuff if I can get my sister to give me more material to post for her.
Check in on Others
Now is a great time to reach out. To the people you have drifted from since high school graduation and have regretted it ever since, the people who used to be a huge part of your life, the people with whom things ended on difficult terms yet you think of them regularly. And don’t forget the people who look like they are always thriving and don’t need anyone to check in on them.
Combat the Restlessness
I am the worst at sitting still when watching a movie and have to be doing something with my hands. I’ve read that one reason ~kids these days~ tend to open a social media app just to refresh, close, and reopen a moment later is because of a sort of tactile addiction. Our hands are so used to holding and playing on our phones that even if you don’t want to check an app, you feel some sense of need to. I just checked my phone for notifications about three times while writing that paragraph even though my sound is on.
Something that can successfully get me off my phone for a significant span of time is making things. I love to knit, sew, paint, cook, you name it! I think my mom probably saw this in me when I was little and taught me how to do some of these things and it has since become a part of my being to want to create constantly.
When my friends see the doodles in my bullet journal or my latest DIY project, they often say, “Ok, but I’m not artsy like you…” To that, I say you don’t have to be “artsy” to create art. My friend Abigail is living proof that someone who is adamantly against believing she could make something beautiful can be converted to a crafter.
These are a few DIYs that I’ve posted before, but if you need help thinking of or learning how to make something, I’m happy to help point you in the right direction. And, since not everyone has copious art supplies laying around, adult coloring pages are a great option if you’re working with limited resources/low confidence in creative abilities. Here are some free printable PDFs other bloggers and artists have posted! (Fun , cute , and positive ones…and some for when you’re especially angry).
Shake Your Booty!!
A wise woman once said “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands.” Being cooped up in a house or apartment can put a strain on the best of relationships and endorphins can help aid in your quest not to bite anyone’s head off 😊 If you truly are feeling violent, stop reading this and contact a professional immediately, please.
Fun fact: I hate exercising by myself, but I find the less I move, the less I want to move! I’m a dancer (and a dancer dances….real ones will understand) and despite having taken ballet classes since I could barely walk, practicing on my own doesn’t really do it for me. Luckily, there are some exercise options designed for small spaces and even this specific situation. I am planning to take classes through the live stream options offered by Ballet Nova and CLI Studios. I have also enjoyed Cassey Ho’s Blogilates for 5-15 minute targeted workouts and can’t wait to try Yoga with Adrienne! I also plan to look into my local yoga and exercise studios options as they adapt to livestreaming/video classes so that I can continue to support them!
Get Away (Figuratively, of course)
A lot of people in the creative community have been discussing the fact that art is more important now than ever. One main reason I am following the career path of performer is because I want to create escapes for people and help foster active, healthy minds through their consumption of art. Sometimes all you need is to just think about something completely different for a few minutes.
Almost four years ago, I wrote a list of movies (see below) to watch when I feel funky and if I did it all over again today, it would look pretty much exactly the same. Other great options for visual entertainment include Ted Talks (like these ones here) and restarting a favorite series that feels like home when you watch it. For me, that’s Gilmore Girls and it got me through dark days freshman year of college. And because you simply cannot go wrong with Ms. Brene Brown, her Netflix special is a wonderful escape.
Listen To Something
Even people who have no trouble at all falling asleep on an average day might have a tougher time with racing thoughts or fears. This post has my main suggestions for sleep aids, but one stand out is the podcast Bedtime Stories for Grownups: Nothing Much Happens.
I have no right to tell people to meditate. I don’t do it. It’s really hard for me. However, I am going to at least make an effort to make it work for me in the coming weeks of alone and at-home time. Some apps that my friends have highly recommended are Calm and Headspace. There are plenty of audiobooks and podcasts that also teach the art of meditation.
Audiobooks (Libby App)
With schools and libraries closing, access to books is both harder and more expensive than before. My secret weapon against boredom is the Libby App by Overdrive. To log in to the app, all you need is a library card from a participating library. You can borrow thousands of titles in the form of audiobooks or e-books at no additional cost. These two posts list some great options for your perusal. [List One] [List Two].
Whenever I get panicky, my surefire first step to calm is listening to my moon playlist. Loving the moon runs in my family and I’ve made many a soul sister along the way through our mutual love for la lune. The criteria for the playlist are simple: the song must 1) be about the moon 2) make me feel something (anything). You’re welcome to use mine, and I’d love to hear your go-to calming playlist!
Resources for extra care
If you go to therapy or have been wanting to start seeing someone to talk to, being confined to your home might add to your anxiety. I haven’t personally used this app, but Better Help comes highly recommended and is a safe/reputable way to connect with therapists who will conduct sessions remotely. If you are already seeing someone, ask about phone or video-chat options.
There is no one right answer to handling this craziness consuming our world at the moment, but keep your mental health in mind during it all. We need to come together as a community and cooperate with what the people who are truly educated on the subject say is best, but don’t forget that your thoughts, feelings, fears, hopes, and dreams are all valid too.