Pandemic Coping Strategies

Pandemic Coping Strategies – A Personal Survival Kit

Pandemic Coping Strategies – A Personal Survival Kit

Monica Tindall

If truth be told, I’m not doing so well with this round of restrictions. I’ve put on a happy face for the good part of a year, but it’s finally getting to me. 

It’s now school holidays for me – our long summer break. I was previously running on adrenaline I think – trying to support students, families, my team and our community while classes were in session. Teaching is a profession of give, give, giving. However, now I’m left to my own devices, with no one to cheer on or uplift but myself. Time to think. Reflect.

Part of my despair is having no control. More factors are no social contact and no time in nature. And, there’s also the uncomfortable niggling thought of not having seen my mum since my dad passed (pre-COVID). 

A big part of my problem though is envy. I know – deadly sin. Many of my expatriate associates have left for the summer to their home countries in North America and Europe. There is no quarantine required, or if there is, there is at least some choice in digs. Furthermore, they are getting the vaccine of their choice within a day of arrival. Vaccine envy is real. I’m spending too much time looking at Facebook updates of the great outdoors, beautiful open spaces and pics of reunions with family and friends. I’m trying to feel glad for my colleagues, but another vice – comparison – just ploughs in its stubborn heals. I watch my friends in Australia complain of the slightest restriction and just shake my head, eye roll uncontrolled – if they only knew.

It’s not as if I can’t go home. I could get permission to leave and return. For that, I am grateful. I’ve heard too many horror stories, though, about the lucky dip of Australian quarantine hotels that you must endure for two weeks. You’re randomly assigned a room upon arrival. You could get a place with a view and an opening window or one with no natural light at all, find mould in the bathroom and actually get COVID from the air in the hotel itself. Stupidly priced air tickets and no guarantee you’ll reach the city you signed up for further prohibit the idea. Imagine getting out of quarantine only to find that the state you landed in has now closed its borders, and you can’t reach your final home destination. Then to have another two weeks of hotel quarantine awaiting my return to KL for less than a week or two in Australia – it’s just not a viable alternative. 

BEFORE all of you toxic positivity people (my own head included) chime in and say, “but you have so much to be grateful for. First world problems…” I DO have so much to be thankful for, and I give gratitude every day for my many blessings. Part of my struggle is feeling guilty for feeling down when so many others have it much worse off than myself. But… for my own mental health, I am allowing myself to hold feelings of gratitude and frustration, isolation, bewilderment, sadness and contempt all at the same time. 

Alright, enough whining. Better to focus on what I’m doing to get through – my personal pandemic coping strategies. (I would love to know yours. Please tell me in the comment box below how you’re going and what you’re doing to survive or thrive.)

Pandemic Coping Strategies – A Personal Survival Kit

I am a fan of William Glasser’s work on Choice Theory. I recognize that I can’t do much about the situation. It’s futile trying to tell myself to stop feeling a certain way. But… I can choose what I say and what I do (even if I don’t feel like it at the time). In essence, my talk and actions can lead to a change in the way I feel and, in turn, have a positive impact on my physiological response as well.

So, with that in mind, here are the things I’ve been making myself do – my personal pandemic coping strategies. I think they’re working… mostly. 

30-Day Yoga Challenge 

A little over two weeks ago, I signed up for a 30-day online yoga challenge with Damai Studio. I am NOT a yogi. I thought it would be good for my mind and body to do something different. And, oh holy downward-facing dog, it is hard for me! I have committed to the morning classes for a month – it gives me a reason to get out of bed in the morning. So far, it’s been fabulous, hard, but so good for my flexibility, stability and mental health. The instructors are wonderful. They encourage everyone to go at their own pace and do what feels right for their own body. No pressure. As a newbie, I especially appreciate that. And, because there is a group attempting 30 days of yoga, there’s some peer support to continue. I know nothing about the correct tools but I did buy (is online shopping another coping strategy?) an eco-friendly yoga mat online. Do you have a brand you’d recommend?

Pandemic Coping Strategies – Read, Read, Read

I am delighted with the time the pandemic has given me to read. I am going through at least two books a week. My favourite genres are informational texts and biographies. You’ll see clearly what my interests are from my list of standout titles below. Again, I’d love your personal recommendations. Tell me in the comment box below.

The 40-Hour Workweek – Timothy Ferris (I wish!)

David and Goliath – Malcolm Gladwell (fascinating statistics-based ideas on “underdogs, misfits and the art of battling giants”)

Talking to Strangers – Malcolm Gladwell (more fascinating statistics-based ideas on what we assume we know about other people and how very wrong we can be)

The Global Expatriate’s Guide to Investing – Andrew Hallam (brilliant, must-read)

A Time For Mercy – John Grisham (highly engaging novel, but let-down ending)

Passive Income – Richard Gadson (time to start thinking about retirement)

Investing Demystified – Lars Kroijer (excellent, simplifies ideas so even those with no financial background can understand)

Gaia’s Garden – Toby Hemenway (THE book to get you started using the principles of permaculture)

Urban Gardening – Will Cook (lots of ideas for small spaces)

All New Square Foot Gardening (3rd Edition) – Mel Bartholomew (excellent, a bible for many, can’t wait to have my own small plot of land)

Born a Crime – Trevor Noah (wow, what a story, and what a man)

A Promised Land – Barack Obama (interesting insight into what goes on behind the scenes)

1984 – George Orwell (a classic and fascinating reread in light of global events over the past two years)

F**K Whales – Maddox (a fun story as to how I came across this one, but I’ll tell that at a later time)

Educated – Tara Westover (fascinating story of a girl growing up in a survivalist family and her pursuit of education – couldn’t put his one done, read it in a day)

The Midnight Library – Matt Haig (I’m halfway through this one. The protagonist is caught between life and death in The Midnight Library. Each book on the shelf tells how her life would have turned out if she made different choices. Great story so far.)

Write A Novel 

Continuing from above, and something I’ve taken much further than just a read, is the book by Jeff Gerke, Write Your Novel in a Month. The text clearly outlined what to think about before starting a novel, gave some excellent tips on structure, and stimulated motivation to get started. I’m dedicating 90 minutes a day and am working on that novel now right now. Stay tuned. 😉

5 am Starts Even Though I Don’t Have To

Another from the just-read list is The 5 am Club by Robin Sharma. It’s a bit of a magical tale in the beginning and a little corny (especially if you’re more a non-fiction reader like myself). Still, I even found myself getting swept up in the magic of the ideas. Skim the first part if you want. The juicy tips are closer to the end. There’s a lot of good stuff in here, but it begins with owning your day – making the first thing you do the most important. And, yes, I am part of The 5 am Club. How about you?

Daily Exercise

I’ve had a life-long habit of exercise. As a teen, I was a long-distance runner. In my university years, I gained Fitness Trainer certification and taught aerobics. Later I moved into Latin dance, HIIT training and hiking. I move not only for my physical health but for my mental health too. With restrictions, gyms closed, parks not open, and pools shut down, I was forced to rethink my regime. Looking for something I could do with no equipment and on my own, I turned to YouTube fitness videos. Gosh, there are so many! I took up kickboxing and found a new spark to light my movement fire. I even got some shiny red gloves to look the part. Perfect for working out frustrations, I punch and kick those worries away.

TED Talks

Post-workout, I spend about 15 minutes stretching and listening to TED Talks. I’ve learned some fascinating things this past year.

  • How to tie my shoelaces correctly (yes, there is a correct way!)
  • If I stand squeezing my heels (and hence my butt cheeks) together, I get a nice J-shaped rather than an S-shaped spine (try it!)
  • To form a habit, break it into tiny steps and connect it to something you already do (every time I use the bathroom, I do 20 squats, push-ups or crunches. That’s over 100 a day! I drink a lot of water.)
  • Celebrating the small achievements gives you the courage to continue moving forward (when I finish a task, no matter how small, I stand and give myself a cheer, “Yay, well done me!”)
  • Start the day with positivity (as soon as my feet hit the ground each morning, I stand and say, “This is going to be a fabulous day!”)
  • 20-20-20 – for every 20 minutes I’m on a screen, I stop for 20 seconds and stare at something 20 metres away

It might sound crazy, but these tiny changes have a big impact over time! What are your favourite TED Talks? Have you formed any new habits?

Pandemic Coping Strategies – Made Our Wills

Following another excellent read, In Case You Get Hit By A Bus, I took a serious look at what would happen if one of us, or both of us dies. With assets both in Australia and here in Malaysia, it would be a nightmare to leave to the family if we didn’t have something in place already. The book gave me lots to think about. It’s much more than solely making wills, but also thinking about how our loved ones could find what and who they would need to close our affairs.

University Permaculture Course

When all of those free online books, courses and movies were being passed around in March 2020, I took full advantage. I signed up for an online university course in Permaculture. I found it here on the site 1700 Free Online Courses from Top Universities. Permaculture mimics natural systems to create sustainable communities. The three months it took to complete the course were truly inspiring. The passion continues to grow and has moved into an in-depth exploration of sustainable living. From passive house design to solar panels to composting loos, if you thought I was green pre-pandemic, you should see me now. Hubby even purchased a solar panel from Lazada. Unfortunately, he hasn’t figured out how to hook it up yet. He says they didn’t send the right cables. If anyone has a clue, I’d appreciate your help.

Pandemic Coping Strategies Solar Panel
Solar Panel – If you can help us figure out how to hook it up we’d be grateful

Insulated Our Apartment

One of the things I learned through passive house design is that you can save a ton of energy just by insulating your home. I don’t have too much control over orientation and ventilation (the other two key principals of passive house design), but I sure can (and did) seal those cracks that were letting costly air-conditioned air escape. For under the doors, if the surface is even on both sides, I found these slide-on foam strips the easiest to use. To seal slits around the doors and windows, I tried foam with a sticky back and silicone ribbons. The latter worked better for the structure of my doors and windows. Not only was it effective in keeping the cool air in, but it also kept dust and some of the noise from the construction site next door out.

Insulation Around the Door – Siding Foam for Underneath and Sticky Silicon Strips for the Sides


I’ve spent a lot more time gardening over the pandemic (and by the growing number of members in Facebook gardening groups, I guess many of you did too). Spending time in the dirt uplifts my mood. I can’t get out in nature as I so desire, so surrounding myself with plants is the next best thing. Pre-pandemic, I had already filled our apartment with plants in an attempt to filter haze and provide us with clean air. During the pandemic, we added to that with edible balcony gardens. Many plants were killed in the making, but every failure is a learning opportunity. I started with all-in-one kits like this one and then slowly expanded from there, saving seeds from fruit and cuttings from veg and propagating my own.

Edible Balcony Gardening Malaysia.
Edible Gardens – Pandemic Coping Strategies
Personal Survival Kit
Just A Small Section of Our Indoor Plants

Out of concern for the future (I’m a natural worrier), I’ve been thinking more and more about how to make The Yum List sustainable. You may have read this article earlier in the year where I reveal the costs associated with running a blog and explain why, after 11 years of nothing, I’ve added Google Ads. Long story short, it costs a LOT to run a professional-looking website with the amount of content I have – and all of those expenses are coming out of my pocket. I don’t like the ads. I’ve given them a couple of months now. I think they look ugly and detract from my content and so have been exploring less-intrusive ways to try to generate revenue. Much like articles, I’ll only publish things I’ve personally tried, but with an affiliate link, I will also gain a tiny commission from the sale if you purchase something within a certain number of days. You might also be interested in what goes into publishing a blog post here.

Gifting & Sharing

One thing I’ve found more time for is gifting and sharing. As a food writer (not so much a home cook like many of you talented people), I often have abundance. I’ve found sharing this with my neighbours and guards has forged small but meaningful connections. I’ve also enjoyed making care packages for friends and sending them over with one of the many delivery services that have become so easy to access over the past year.

Whiten My Teeth (and now Hubby’s)

Earlier in the year, I had great success with a home teeth whitening kit from White Republik. It’s easy, fast, painless, is delivered for free, arrives quickly and gets results in less than 20-minutes a day in just over a week. With Hubby also due for a break from university, I figure it’s his turn to brighten his smile. Get a 10% discount from White Republik by using the code TheYumList. (And stay tuned for his before and after photos.)

Home Teeth Whitening Malaysia
Home Teeth Whitening – Before & After Photos

Pandemic Coping Strategies – Eating More Veg

I guess as part of the permaculture philosophy and an ongoing personal desire, I’ve been looking for more ways to consume fewer animal products. A nutrient-rich, whole-food, plant-based diet boosts health and for sure is an excellent pandemic coping strategy. Countless studies show the benefits of diets based on whole grains, fruits and vegetables. With mental health low, it’s an easy way to stimulate those good feelings. However, writing about food isn’t always conducive to that. I always ask restaurants for meat-free options to highlight, but in some cases, that is just not what they do well. Finding balance, I’ve sought out more services that provide vegan and vegetarian menus and happily report the numbers are growing in KL. Businesses such as PB Health make it easy to make the transition to a plant-based diet with their daily meal deliveries. Recently, I tried them for a week and loved the way I feel eating this way. Furthermore, you can get a 10% discount when adding the code YUMLIST at the online checkout.

PB Health KL
PB Health KL – Plant-based meals

Booze Delivery

And when all else fails, sometimes a nice glass of fine wine or a hand-crafted cocktail can take off the edge. Here’s a list of services that have saved my sanity multiple times over the past year – booze delivery in KL. By using them, you’d be protecting their livelihoods too. Isn’t that nice to know you can help just by ordering another bottle?

Pandemic Coping Strategies
Booze Delivery

What are your pandemic coping strategies? Have you done anything unusual or out of your norm this past year? What was your biggest purchase? What has been your most significant learning? How are you?


  1. Yes, it has dragged on so long and yes, it can get so depressing…but I’m fine with it, resigned to my fate – just stay home, nothing is ever going to change, will never be the same again and count my blessings – at least, I have my pension and other sources of “pocket money” to live comfortably – so many are suffering.

    • I feel as though there is no point in hoping anymore and I’m okay with that. Acceptance. I think it makes it easier if you have your family and friends around you. One of the challenges for expats has been going for so long without seeing their families and with little hope of doing so in the near future.

  2. Hi!! How are you doing?

    My biggest purchase was laat year in MCO1.0. A treadmill. I could do my walk or jog indoor although I much prefer outdoor. Hubby and I try to have our morning walks outside at least thrice s week. We just did this morning. A morning walk to a butcher shop and coffee shop and back. An hour.

    Hope you get to go home and visit your mum. A phone call is a nice way to get connect with her and your loved ones.

    Hope this pandemic will be over soon and we could get back to normal, finger crossed, next year. I miss travelling.

    • Hi Rose, That was a smart purchase! We’ve been thinking about getting something for indoor use as well. Thank goodness, we are still allowed to walk around our neighbourhood. Exercise has been a saviour. Yes, fingers crossed we can get back to some travelling again soon. Wishing you well.

  3. So far, I am doing okay…with lots of yoga, meditation and lifting…I feel good. Just hope that the lockdown and mask obligation can be lifted.

  4. Hit the nail on head about HQ. We are in one at the moment, so unhealthy for children. No fresh air, limited healthy food (soft drinks, fruit juices, carbohydrates), mould in shower, partially broken toilet, dusty a/c & the bonus of previous guests “dirty” jocks. It seems the hotel
    Is under such strict guidance from WA govt which does not make sense. Human right to have access to fresh air especially children. The potential mental health affects on children in the long term horrify me.

    • So sorry to read about your bad experience. I’ve heard that it really is a lucky dip and the range of experiences range from 0 – 10. Is there any possibility of them moving you?

  5. Hello Monica,
    Lovely that you left a comment on my blog, it’s been a long time for me too.
    You seem to be managing the pandemic fairly well though by your words it seems you get frustrated sometimes and no one can blame you for that.
    Interesting your take on our Quarantine, you are right from what I’ve read and seen on the news.
    Fortunately here on the Island we haven’t had a case for just over a year. Our border is closed to the outside world, and to other Australians who come from ‘hotspot’ areas within Australia at the moment.
    Keep busy with all those things you are doing, thank goodness you can venture outside for exercise getting a drop of sun on your skin to help keep you healthy….take care M xx

    • Hi Margaret,
      Lovely to see your travel pics again.
      Trying to keep up the fight. Some days are harder than others but I’m determined to choose a fruitful path.
      I do yearn to return to Australia. Being stuck for over 450 days has certainly made us consider where we want to be in the future.

  6. Brian Pratt

    Hi Monica I’m a Kiwi with Australian friends in KL so can sympathise with your predicament. Have enjoyed reading your blog – it has helped us through some lock-down low points – here’s hoping that next year will see us able to travel a little more freely. Missing our daughter in Barcelona big time.
    As regards reading can recommend anything by the late, great Jan (formerly) James Morris – a travel writer par excellence. Very best wishes from NZ.

    • Thanks for your kind comments, Brian, and for the recommendation.
      I just looked Jan up. Wow! She is very well accomplished. Some new material for me.
      Much appreciated.
      Hope your daughter is at least enjoying some freedom in Spain and that it won’t be too long until you can see her again.

  7. A very interesting read! Wow! You can dance! I am coping rather well during this lockdown since I am someone who loves staying at home. Now I can spend more time gardening, cooking and tidying up parts of the house that I have neglected. Thanks for the tip on insulating doors and windows. That’s something that I need to do. I am looking forwards to your novel!

    • Thanks for reading. Tomorrow I’ll take some photos of the insulation around the doors and windows and add them in. It was really quite easy (and very cheap) to do myself. I think it will come in handy as well in keeping out the haze if it returns. We have a lot of plants in the house, so can maintain our own little oxygen bubble 😉 Good to read that you are doing well. I guess it’s a little easier when you have your family not too far away.

  8. Yes, this lockdown thing is getting boring but so far, I am getting on fine. I have the garden, cooking, and keeping house to keep me busy even though I do miss meeting up with friends and enjoying meals with them. I also miss having friends visiting or we visiting our friends. I like your indoor/vertical garden. I am quite happy with our early morning walk, that is the only exercise that allows us to enjoy the fresh morning air and outdoor. I hope you will be able to visit your mom soon. I too miss my sons who are not able to visit because of the lockdown.

    • I’m sorry you haven’t been able to see your sons. I think that is one of the hardest parts of being an expat – not having seen family for so long and with not much hope of doing so in the near future. Glad to read your keeping well. I am happy with my vertical garden – trying to make the most of a small apartment space.

  9. Maybe it’s not that bad after all.
    Give Mother Nature a break, she will heal herself again.
    I saw some news about dugongs returning to their former habitat somewhere in Thailand.

    • No complaints about the beautiful clear skies here either. In 18 years in Malaysia, I’ve never seen such beautiful weather and so many months without haze.

  10. Michelle Berry-Khella

    Thank you so much for being real- with restrictions (and the challenges they create) dragging on and on, some days it is truly depressing. With all the toxic positivity out there, this was a much-needed read.

    • I appreciate you taking the time to write. I was hesitant in posting for fear of being shamed for seeming ungrateful. Hope you too can allow those uncomfortable feelings to be acknowledged and know that you’re not alone.

  11. Hi Mon, thank you for the tips which I realized I was doing, sort of…(just not named!). What has kept me sane is to have a long term project as a compass. I have 2. A podcast a friend and I carry in Spanish (has been so fun!), and mastering Korean (or any language), within weekly lessons through italki and more practice through Duolingo.
    I feel your frustrations. Even though I could travel, I was not able to enter my own country to see my also widowed mom.
    Thanks for sharing the self-care, much needed!
    PS: no idea on how to help with the solar panel

    • Cata, Yes, I remember your dad passing also your mum being now alone. My own grief increased my compassion. I don’t think you can ever truly understand until you’ve been through something similar yourself. It’s already difficult being so far away knowing it would take a couple of days to get back if there was an emergency but now the reality would be weeks (if at all possible). I am like you and find that projects and longer-term goals to work towards keep me going. Thanks for taking the time to write.

  12. I feel for you xx

    Since Covid-19 reared its ugly head not being able to plan anything and look forward to it has got me down.

    And on the occasions when we have more freedom we have to book things in advance. There is no joy of the moment and spontaneity that lifts the spirit.

    I am however grateful that in the UK we have never been required to be locked up in our homes and there has been no curfew. We were always allowed to get out and about locally for walks.

    • I appreciate your kind words.
      I understand the feeling of restraint that comes with not being able to be spontaneous.
      There are so many little things adding up to a larger feeling of things just not being right.
      I love seeing your photos. I imagine I am walking in those beautiful gardens and going on rides with you.

  13. This is a very relatable article in this scenario. Being an expat here and not being able to visit my family and losing loved ones, last year and this one has been very challenging emotionally. So to cope up and trying to being sane I have turned towards reading, cooking experiments, gardening and working out. Keeping myself busy all day long is helping me to get through this.

    • Amrita, I’m sorry to read about you losing loved ones. I lost my dear dad just prior to COVID and while it was extremely upsetting I am grateful that I was able to spend so much time with him while he was in the hospital. I can’t imagine not being able to be with him because of COVID. Yes, I think keeping busy is the key for me too – making projects that get me out of bed in the morning and working towards small goals each day. Thanks for taking the time to write.

  14. The biggest change as a result of the pandemic is that I ditched the quarterly hairpiece in August of last year after wearing one for the last 15 years. It was a freeing experience, but one where I had to let go of my biggest fear. It still us taking time to get used to. I finally updated some photos on LinkedIn and others. Being the germaphobe that I have always been, it wasn’t hard getting used to the restrictions. I am elated that my employer never laid us off for the first month where we did a absolutely nothing. And I felt incredibly guilty. I’ve been completely vaccinated for two months and Illinois is completely open. The hardest part was convincing some relatives that this was real. It came back to bite them in the rear. It’s been taking time to get used to not wearing the mask. I still will in certain situations.

  15. Alison Lyford

    Hi Monica,
    This post really resonated with me. I also teach at an international school in KL and although I’m looking forward to breaking up next week, the thought of the holidays in lockdown (with two teens at home) is rather daunting.
    Your blog has inspired me to have another go at a 30 day yoga challenge. I did one during MCO 1.0 but haven’t kept it up. Plenty of time to get back on it now!
    I’m also planning to spend lots of time cooking and baking plant based food and reading. I recently finished ‘The Midnight Library’ and really enjoyed it. If you liked ‘1984’ you might also enjoy ‘The New Wilderness’ by Diane Cook. My favourite book of last year was ‘American Dirt’ by Jeanine Cummings.
    Here’s to things getting back to normal(ish) again soon. Fingers crossed.

    • Thanks for taking the time to write, Alison. I can’t imagine what it must be like to also have children in the house. That must have been especially tough with online learning. I’ve just completed day 22 of the yoga challenge. It has done wonders for my body and mind. Have just looked up both of those books. They look highly engaging. Thank you for the leads. Here’s to taking things one day at a time and trying to make lemonade out of lemons.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.