The coronavirus pandemic has imparted many unfortunate and downright strange things upon our world: Businesses have shuttered, people have lost their jobs, events have been canceled, nearly the entire workforce (and everyone’s social lives) went online and inviting donkeys to Zoom meetings is acceptable now.
But the coronavirus pandemic has also led to many positive changes as well. More than ever (or at least in what feels like a very, very long time), people are spending more time outdoors in the sunshine. Almost everyone I know has picked up a new exercise habit. People are spending more time with their families and less time fulfilling obligation after obligation.
Long-forgotten household chores, like pressure washing the driveway and re-mulching the front garden, have been ticked off of to-do lists. Activities that brought us joy during childhood — four-square, puzzles, coloring books and climbing trees — have made their way back into our lives.
I, for one, have reconnected with old friends and “socialized” (virtually, of course) with them more than I have in the last several years. I’ve found more time to practice gentle movement, such as yoga, rather than trying to stuff every exercise known to man into the 60 precious minutes I typically had for working out pre-coronavirus.
And — gasp — I have actually read some books for pleasure, something I haven’t managed in the last two years. I’ve kicked around a soccer ball with my younger sister, embarked on countless walks around my neighborhood and even played a few games of Scrabble and Hearts.
Many people, myself included, have also realized something substantial: Our lifestyles are not sustainable. Burning the candle on both ends and battling burnout every single day is not feasible. It’s not healthy. It’s not fun.
The coronavirus pandemic has made that very clear. No matter which side of the spectrum you found yourself on — out of work and spending a lot more time at home, or bogged down with even more work — the world halted for everyone in some way, shape or form, and showed us that perhaps many of us were not living our lives in the way we really wanted to live.
Once the world shifts again, as it inevitably will, we should hold onto some of our newfound habits, profound realizations and rediscovered hobbies. Here’s what I’m holding onto; I hope you’ll join me or make your own list of habits to keep.
Listening to and honoring your body
I truly love exercising: I love pushing my mental and physical limits, breaking a good sweat and feeling the muscle burn as I approach physical thresholds. I’ve learned, though, that it’s not healthy to work out like that every day. I knew this going into the coronavirus pandemic, but it’s an ever-present thought now.
Because fitness is an outlet for me, at first, I was one of those people thinking, “More time than ever! That means more exercise and tougher exercise!” Those thoughts quickly dissipated after I destroyed my body in one week with some of the toughest workouts I’d ever programmed.
For the last several weeks, I’ve been prioritizing rest days and gentle movement. I still get in a good sweat almost every day, but I also make sure to move more slowly — I go on walks, take breaks from work to stretch for 10 minutes and try to end most nights with a gentle yoga flow. I also prioritize workout recovery, such as foam rolling, and these habits have made a huge difference in how I feel on a daily basis.
It’s important to listen to your body and give it what it needs. For example, if you’re so sore that you can’t sit on the toilet without help from your arms and the day calls for an interval-style circuit workout, maybe you should just do some yoga instead. Your muscles will thank you for it, and you can work out hard the next day.
Once the world returns to its usual hustle and bustle (or whatever new version of hustle and bustle might arise), I plan to continue honoring what my body asks for, and I hope this makes me a better exerciser and a better trainer.
Spending time with family
Because of life plans that were in place before the coronavirus pandemic exploded in the States, I happened to be in my childhood home when things shot through the roof. When shelter-in-place orders went into effect, I was with my mom, my stepdad and my younger sister.
At first, I felt some minor annoyances — I had to account for other people being around all of the time and flex my work schedule in ways that didn’t always feel ideal, when I was used to living on my own.
But I quickly realized how lucky I was to be here with them. I had all the comforts of home; I had people to talk to; I had home-cooked meals, family game nights and many wine-induced giggle fits with my mom, who is one of my best friends.
Had I been in my apartment across the country when coronavirus craziness transpired, I would have been devastated. I would have been lonely and scared. So yeah, I’m an adult sheltering in place with my parents — and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Staying connected to old friends
I’m pretty introverted, so at first, the stay-at-home order didn’t bother me much in terms of the lack of socialization. In fact, some of my first thoughts were, “Hey, this means I won’t have to say no to events I don’t want to go to.” And that made me really happy.
But a couple of weeks in, I realized that even as an introvert, I needed at least some social interaction. I hopped on several FaceTime and Zoom calls with friends I hadn’t spoken to in months or even years, and it was fantastic. A glass of wine and some old stories can apparently keep me occupied for hours!
I’ve loved catching up with old friends, even in an entirely virtual manner. I really hope to carry this habit over into the post-coronavirus world, and I hope all of my friends do, too.
Setting work boundaries
As a lifelong overachiever and perfectionist, setting work boundaries has always been difficult for me. This was true even in high school, when I worked at a Smoothie King in my hometown. My friends and family were often bewildered at the number of hours I worked in addition to school and sports.
I worked a lot throughout college, too, and still do in my early adulthood. I’m a yes-person, so saying “no” to anything, especially work projects, is not a strong suit of mine, even if I don’t actually have time to take on any more work.
But the coronavirus taught me the risks of continuously accepting more than you can handle. After a while, burnout is inevitable and it can take a while to recoup from that.
I’ve had to practice setting boundaries during this time, especially with the added mental weight of a global pandemic, and I’m challenging myself to keep making smart work decisions when life returns to “normal.” For me, that means saying no when I can’t handle a new project, asking for help when I need it and being clear about my limits with others.
I’ve always loved spending time outdoors and exercising outside. There’s just something about fresh air and sunshine that makes me feel so happy (and it’s not placebo). Not only is the sunshine vitamin (vitamin D) good for your mood, it’s good for your immune system, too.
During the coronavirus stay-at-home orders, I’ve taken almost all of my workouts outside, except for when it’s raining — before, I spent those 60 to 90 minutes in a gym. That extra hour or so alone has boosted my mood and overall well-being immensely, but to compound the benefits (and beat boredom), I’ve also been adding more time outdoors with daily walks.
As much as I love the community at CrossFit gyms and having a room full of fitness equipment at my disposal, I might be one of the converts who switches to at-home workouts even once gyms and fitness studios reopen, solely for the benefits of sunshine and fresh air.
Stressing less over what you can’t control
If the coronavirus pandemic taught me one thing, it’s that I straight up cannot control everything in my life. As much as I want to — I’m very “type A” — I cannot.
When the coronavirus situation first started intensifying in the US, I stressed over every little detail. I was very afraid about how this situation would affect my life, and in my head I spent hours dissecting the minutia about how I could possibly exercise control in any combination of scenarios.
Eventually, I realized that level of control simply can’t exist because the coronavirus pandemic has left so much unknown at all times. I can’t make plans for “when it all ends” because no one knows when it will all end. I can’t plan my workweeks like usual because the news cycle is ever-changing. I can’t even plan my workouts in advance because, working out at home, I have to account for weather, and if I planned an outdoor workout and then it rained, well, I’d have to pivot.
Eventually, I learned to (somewhat) accept this lack of control, and it actually feels good. Although my inner type A personality keeps begging to make lists, spreadsheets and plans of all sorts, I know that stressing over what I can’t control does no good for my brain or body.
I intend to carry this mindset into the post-coronavirus world and let go of things I can’t control. I know this will be a hard practice for me, but already I’ve seen and felt the benefits. Less stressed, more blessed, right?
Uplifting scenes of coronavirus solidarity around the world
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.
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