Pandemic Coping Strategies – A Personal Survival Kit
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
Added Affiliate Links to My Blog
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.)
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.
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?
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?