How I’ve tried to stay sane during COVID-19

Tips on how to sustain a healthy mind and healthy life

“Coping means to invest one’s own conscious effort, to solve personal and interpersonal problems, in order to try to master, minimize or tolerate stress and conflict.”

Quarantine has really tested our limits hasn’t it. Our minds, our bodies, our will, our strength, and even our relationships. I no longer interact with people on a daily basis and every once in a while I will vet through which of my friends I trust enough to hang out with. This has caused some serious consideration and evaluation of who I really feel and see are my real relationships.

Everyday has become a battle for mental sanity.

What will I do today? How can I stay productive when there’s not much I can do? How can I prepare for such an uncertain future? How am I going to pay my rent??

The mind.

It is powerful and it is a tool.

And you know what you do with tools? You learn to control them.

It is common belief that a strong will is natural. Many times people have proclaimed to me that they “wish” they had my discipline or dedication. This is no wish and I did not have a magic genie magically grant it to me. A strong will is developed through every single small action that you take every single day. Will you cave in and stay in bed all day? Will you listen to your bad thoughts and discredit a day’s productivity before it even has a chance to prove itself?

I am still learning to control my mind and everyday I win battles and I lose battles. Will I binge on pancakes? Will I write some new content? Will I work on learning something new? There are days where I succeed and days where I fail. Those days of failure are so hard. I end the day with a gut-wrenching disappointing feeling. I am disappointed in myself and it makes me want to quit. Why bother?

Why bother.

It’s a great question.

Why bother because

…your health is important

…your mental health is vital

…you livelihood matters

that’s why it bothers.

Consistently successful days are the path to betterment and it all starts with one.

Here’s what I’ve been doing to stay sane during quarantine.

  1. Reading

One of the age-old ways of training your mind to be more disciplined is to read. Being able to focus on a book without deferring to distractions and allowing your mind to become fully-interacted with the book is an incredible habit to develop.

Not only that but reading can make you a more interesting person. You become more interesting for two reasons.

a) You are probably a better listener since you’ve been learning to train your mind to focus on one thing at a time (a very valuable trait).

b) you have new topics and material to discuss.

I have always wanted to be part of a book club so in May I started one with a couple of girlfriends! Since everyone was looking for something to do I managed to get a group of 8 dedicated girls and we set off on a reading adventure together. This has not only incentivized reading but now I get to look forward to a (virtual) book club meeting every month. So far we’ve read The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides, Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney, and There There by Tommy Orange.

Along with “fun” reads I also enjoy motivational, inspiration, and self-help books. I usually read these books in the nighttime so I can end the day on an extra positive note and it helps me make my plans for the next day.

Some of the motivational books I’ve read have been The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday, Becoming by Michelle Obama, You are a Badass by Jen Sincero, and A Life Without Limits by Chrissie Wellington. I find motivational books to be a necessity and I will continue to throw in an uplifting book in my life no matter how impressive life gets. You could always use a word of advice. I read this quote that said “The beginner’s mind makes room for endless possibilities, the expert’s mind obstructs all but a few.” I want to be a beginner my whole life. I want to stay open-minded and humble.

I have begun working on a new project to merge my love for Miami and my love for reading and I can’t wait to share it with you all!!

2) Gardening

I’ve learned so much. Gardening is simultaneously so easy yet so hard. You can’t communicate with your plants and sometimes if you don’t pick up the signals fast enough, it is over. I can’t say I am even intermediately good at it because I feel like I haven’t even begun, a lot of my babies are still in their infancy. I have, however, learned what NOT to do. For one, don’t just put a bunch of seeds in the dirt and wish for the best. Yea, I did that, sue me. After my sunflowers stopped growing and I realized they were all in a fight for their lives I replanted them and gave them more space. Now they have lots of space around them and are growing much better than before.

So first lesson, don’t just throw shit in the dirt.

Which brings me to my second lesson. Don’t just throw shit in the dirt. Yea, I did this more than once and all it does is constrain the seeds and not allow for any productive growth. I did it with Arugula, I did it with Basil, I did it with everything and basically had to start over. Seems pretty stupid but you live and you LEARN.

If you don’t have space for a garden then simply put some green onions in water and you will not only have unlimited green onions because they are the easiest thing to grow but you’ll still have that satisfaction from gardening.

Overall, gardening has kept me sane because there is nothing like watching the gradual growth of something you are taking care of, sprout in front of your very own eyes. If you don’t want to have a child just have a garden.

3) Exercising

This is kind of a given when it comes to taking care of your mental health. Your physical health shapes your mental health in various degrees but I’ve been looking at exercise a little differently after watching this Ted Talk – Your body language may shape who you are.

I watched this Ted Talk maybe 5 months ago but I still think about it everyday. It essentially boils down the “fake it till you make it” approach in a more logical and scientific approach and I’ve been actively applying this approach ever since I watched this talk. When I go for a long walk (my favorite “lazy” exercise, even though it actually burns so many calories) I do not simply walk but I focus on my posture. Same thing when I run. They did various experiments based on a persons testosterone and cortisol levels and had them stand in high-power positions and low-power positions and then measured these two hormones before and after. I don’t want to spoil the video but they are theorizing how your body can change your mind.

Exercising helps you build the muscles and joints to give you good posture and posture can shape your whole world. Your body can change your mind.

And try to keep it fresh! Try new things! Fall on your butt in front of 100 people, look like a fool while trying to swim an entire coastline of the ocean, go skating while you feel all the eyes on you, learn to play tennis with your pro friends. Life is not a dress rehearsal, this is it. Humble yourself and understand that you are a beginner. It is outlandish to think you should immediately be good at something you just started, who do you think you are??

Vary up your exercises so you don’t run the risk of getting bored. This offers the added benefit that your body will be worked out in all different kinds of ways and you will grow stronger because of it. There are a couple of socially-distant ways I have kept up my exercise regimen.

4) Art and creative pursuits

During the early stages of quarantine I ordered a paint-by-number painting and oh my GOSH it was a lifesaver. So de-stressing, so relaxing, and then at the end you have a beautiful painting! Channeling your stress into creative pursuits can be increasingly helpful for training your mind to handle stressful situations with more clarity and effective response. I got my paint-by-number kit on Amazon and I chose a painting with a sailboat because I have a dream of one day sailing around the world so I wanted something to remind me to make steps towards that dream.

I read somewhere that home DIY’s were also on the rise during quarantine and I was definitely contributing to that statistic! I finally made the Welcome wreath I’d been wanting to make for a while, as well as a key ring holder, and I hung up old pictures. I put up a corner bookshelf and spent my days analyzing how I could make my home homier and as useful as possibly but still minimalist. That’s my style category right there.

My other creative pursuits include starting the virtual tour series “Miami Mondays” which has kept me feeling alive. I used to knowledge and expertise as a tour guide and I produce, star, and edit in short dynamic weekly episodes highlighting a historical landmark in Miami.

Overall, you should make stress your friend. Stress is designed in the human body to get us to react to situations and what makes or breaks stress is mostly how you react to it.

Train your brain, train your body, and train your reactionary methods and you should be well on your way to being your happiest self.

What about everyone else?

I asked my Instagram followers how they have been keeping sane during COVID-19 and these were some responses.

Mountain Biking – although Miami has no mountains we’ve got some cool parks! I’ve only ever been to Virginia Key Mountain Bike Park but the view was SPECTACULAR.

Yoga, rigorous exercise, meditation, wim hof breathing, nature, biking, beach, running, and studying – I’m gonna need you to teach us all what Wim Hof means!!

Morning walks and cooking

Plants and my skates… oh and a lot of food. Can’t forget the food – I felt this on a personal level.

Working from home has its benefits, paddleboarding, running, swimming, and biking. – Getting that daily dose of natural dopamine!

Picking up new skills/hobbies! Taught myself to write Javascript and built my first rifle! Cuz, zombies are coming next… – I really would’t be surprised.

TikToks honestly, what else is there to do? – Commence dance challenge.

Coffee – Is it Cuban though….

I haven’t lmaooooo – girl….. we felt that.

Working on my next project! – details por favor!

Alcohol – White Claw or Truly is the question I need answered.

More than before! working from home did it all. – I feel busier than ever!

Frequent walks outside, even if just on the balcony! – My balcony is my life!! So grateful to have one and I’ve said it once and i’ll say it again, walking is an underrated form of exercise!!

Working and reading. Going to the park helps a lot. – Socially distant I hope!

Meditation and art.

Not really. – Hang in there!

Partly. – Perhaps a nice walk may help?

I’ve been reading many books, I’ve read 25 books in 3 months here in Colombia! – Shout out to my motherland!! (I asked him for a recommendation and he said…) “El Olvido Que Seremos” by Hector Abad Faciolince. Gotta read a book in Spanish every once in a while to keep the mind fresh!

Picking up new hobbies! – {I asked for an elaboration} “I’ve picked up chess, fountain pen collecting, and traditional men’s fashion”

The beach – Yes!!

Bought a bike and started doing all the nature trails around here… – So you were encouraged to discover something new, that is great!

Ice cream and naps – My new favorite flavor is Americone Dream by Ben & Jerry’s

Camping – I have been DYING to go camping! This is rated as one of the safest activities to do right now. Any favorite camp sites?

Cycling – YES YES YES me too

So it seems like we’ve all been coping (or not) in different ways but we are trying. Getting the ball rolling is like trying to roll a 100 ton ball up a steep mountain. At first it seems impossible. You are weak, you give up, you kick the ball but you don’t go anywhere, you are persistent to get this demon ball up the mountain. Everyday you move the ball a little further up the mountain, inch by inch. Those first few days are so tough, you are so weak and your legs could barely take it but then all of a sudden you’ve grown a little stronger and have a little more stamina. So you start to roll the ball more and more and before you know it you’re steadily moving towards the goal of getting to the top. The beginning may have taken forever but that’s all behind you. You are stronger everyday because of that slow beginning and you know better now.

This is the development of a habit.

Get that ball rolling.

Carolina is an independent guide who currently writes, produces, and edits all original content. For exclusive behind-the-scenes content, become a patron on Patreon and support her during these troubling times. She also accepts cash donations for production costs.

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