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4 Reflections on Living through a Pandemic: Self-care, Community, Fitness, and Mental Toughness

I don’t have to tell you how strange this year has been. We’ve all been facing new struggles and challenges through the pandemic. We had our routines unceremoniously stripped from us and had to figure out a new way of life without the opportunity to ease into it.

My story might be different than yours — or it might be eerily similar. Regardless I’d like to share these 4 pillars that got me through the pandemic, grounded in the importance of self-care.

1. Self-care

When the pandemic started, I felt fortunate to have a job that allowed me to transition to working from home. At first, I thought it was going to be awesome working in my pajamas and not having to commute.

Well, I still appreciate not having the commute, but I don’t work in my pajamas anymore. That was a slippery slope that I’ll talk more about in a minute.

I found working from home to be more challenging than I expected. The call of my favorite Hulu series was strong and there were so many distractions. I found it so easy to get lost doing something other than work. For example, I might check a message on my phone and suddenly lose 20 minutes scrolling through TikTok.

I know myself well and I know my potential. More specifically, I know what I can accomplish in a day. You might think that would be a good thing.

The problem for me was that when I didn’t fulfill my potential, I felt guilty. It was unhealthy and I found that instead of motivating me to do better, it just condemned and paralyzed me.

I found relief when I found the strength to offer myself a bit of love. I was in — we all were in — an unprecedented situation. I needed to give myself a little breathing room. When I relaxed a little about this, I found it so much easier to get my work done and I naturally became more productive.

2. Community

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Humans weren’t made to live in isolation. There’s a reason that solitary confinement is the worst punishment in a prison. As we all know now better than ever, our mental health takes a serious hit when we’re forced to be alone.

I didn’t feel comfortable doing a lot of the things I would normally do with my friends. I didn’t want to go to restaurants or concerts and expose myself. I wanted to be part of the solution and that meant staying home and not getting sick.

Technology makes it easy for us to stay connected without leaving our homes or having people over to visit. However, we’ve got to make space for that in our lives.

I learned that I needed to make opportunities to be social. I started setting Zoom dates with my friends and calling up colleagues to collaborate on projects. Technically we could just chat about them on Slack, but it did us both some good to talk about them on video chat instead.

I also needed to be okay with an appropriate level of risk. It might not be okay to meet a friend for coffee like I would have in the past. But we could mask up and meet at the park to go for a walk together outdoors. I found little things like that to be immensely helpful.

Humans weren’t made to live in isolation. There’s a reason that solitary confinement is the worst punishment in a prison. As we all know now better than ever, our mental health takes a serious hit when we’re forced to be alone.

3. Fitness

I also really discovered the importance of physical fitness. Sitting for hours on the couch watching Hulu was really bad for me — and I’m not just talking about my waistline.

The more I laid around, the less motivated I was to do anything. My back hurt from sitting so much and my head hurt from staring mindlessly at a screen for most of my day. I needed to get some exercise.

Online fitness classes worked for a little while. But, honestly, working out by yourself is such a drag. I felt better after working out, but never felt like could approach the classes with the same energy I had before when I worked out at the gym or took in-person fitness classes.

Finally, I realized this was one of those things that I needed to get out of my cave for. Thankfully, I found an awesome climbing gym where I felt safe to train.

Oso did wonders for my physical fitness and mental health. With plenty of space, I could go and test my skills on the climbing walls without being packed in with tons of other people. There are also free weights and weight machines that are religiously sanitized that I could use for strength training and a yoga studio for days when I needed to unwind.

Needless to say, when I started going to Oso, it was a game-changer.

4. Mental Toughness

Climbing takes grit and mental toughness, not unlike this whole past year. It takes endurance to run a marathon, even if that marathon happens to be on Hulu.

My complacency and lack of motivation were overwhelming at times. It was a full-time job just to fight them off enough to care about showering every day. I seriously went for a few days without showering — more than once.

But I got better over time. I made self-care and my personal health priorities in my life, and it got easier to battle the loneliness and complacency.

Things especially got better after I started going to Oso. It felt good to stretch my muscles and push my limits and it motivated me to take better care of myself overall.

I started getting dressed every morning instead of lounging in my pajamas. I found that it helped me be more “in the zone” when I sat down to work and I was more motivated and productive.

Plus, it wasn’t such a chore to reach out and connect with people. I felt energized and excited to talk and I was actually presentable to appear on video chat. I was done wallowing in my pit of loneliness. I had found a way to embrace the challenges of the pandemic and still have a life.

We’re all in this together

Where are you at in your journey? I know the pandemic has affected us all in different ways. If you’re still in a lonely place, I encourage you to start reaching out. Especially if you’ve gotten your vaccine, it is less risky for you to get out and participate in different activities.

I, for one, highly recommend joining Oso. Their strict cleanliness standards make me feel comfortable going and the benefits for my physical and mental health are 100% worth it.

Maybe I’ll see you around sometime!

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