I had no idea that the new t-shirt I bought–emblazoned with two elephants, a tree, and Better Days Will Come–would become my motto for 2020. I ordered it a few weeks ago with the U.S. presidential election in mind. I wanted to wear it while tabling at zine fests in the fall so that shoppers would get a little hit of optimism every time they stopped at my table and saw my shirt. I didn’t know that my shirt would be needed so soon as a rally cry during a pandemic.
Unless you’ve been living alone in the woods, or on an island, with no news to speak of, you know that the coronavirus (COVID-19) has spread quickly around the world. As of today, COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in more than 150 territories and countries. More than 200,000 people have gotten sick and more than 8,000 people have died since January. But, 69,000 people have recovered as well. (NBC News coronavirus map)
Where I live in Seattle–the hotspot for the coronavirus in the U.S.–most people are on self-quarantine. Schools and colleges are closed for at least a month. Most organizations and businesses are closed or on limited hours with the exception of hospitals, grocery stores, pharmacies, banks, and restaurants offering takeout and deliveries. We are essentially staying at home, isolating ourselves, and trying our best to stay healthy.
I’ve never experienced a time when isolation and social distancing was mandated by the government. Now, some people choose to do this without any mandates, but for most of us, these are strange times indeed.
So, I thought it might be good to share some tips about how my husband Marcus and I are coping during this time in case it might help someone else. We are fortunate. We’re healthy (so far, so good); we have plenty of food and supplies; and we have enough savings to last us a while (we’re freelancers with a substantial emergency fund).
You already know to wash your hands often, don’t touch your face, and practice social distancing. It’s my hope that the following five tips will give you some solace, comfort, and a few good ideas to try in addition to the usual precautions. Use what resonates and discard what doesn’t.
Tip #1: Get out of your head and into your body
This is something I’ve been trying to do for years and now is the perfect time to really put it to use. (By the way, if you’re reading this, Jas Hothi, thanks for all the reminders!) I think a lot. I’m in my head a lot. Because of this, I can be prone to worry and anxiety. The one thing that seems to help me right off when I get into a worrisome state is to do something that gets me out of my head and back into my body. Here are some examples.
I recently took a really hot shower in the middle of the afternoon. It was short–like maybe five minutes–but man, did it feel good! I had no idea that taking an extremely hot shower at an unusual time would make me feel both so relaxed and so alive, but I’m remembering this for the next time I’m feeling down in the doldrums.
Yesterday, I took my qigong class by Zoom. Due to COVID-19 concerns, my qigong teacher Michelle Thoreson decided to hold all our classes by Zoom for the rest of March. Before the class, I was skeptical that it would be as good as practicing in person. But you know what? It was remarkably good. And I know Michelle isn’t the only one going digital during this precarious time. Many exercise coaches and yoga teachers are offering their classes online and via livestream. If you’ve been wanting to try one, give it a go. You just might like it.
Marcus and I have been trying to take a long walk every day. Not only does it make us feel good but we’ve also seen so many cute dogs (where have you all been hiding, doggos?!) and actual families walking and biking together. It’s our hope that the silver lining to the coronavirus is that more people will spend more time with their loved ones doing things that they enjoy. America is the most workaholic country in the world. I won’t be surprised if this pandemic finally convinces us to slow down and focus on what’s important in life.
Tip #2: Talk to your loved ones on the phone
Because we’re doing our part to practice social distancing, Marcus and I have been talking to our friends and family members on the phone instead of getting together in person. It’s been great having conversations on the phone instead of texting. It reminds me of my days in high school and college when I’d have phone chats with my friends all the time. Another benefit of talking on the phone rather than using FaceTime or Skype is I can look as grubby as I want and no one will see me. Finally, it’s way more personal and nourishing than communicating over email. Pick up the phone and call someone you love today.
It’s easy during a difficult time to fall into the trap of watching the news every hour of every day and then feeling terrible by the time you go to sleep (if you can sleep at all). I stopped watching TV news more than 15 years ago when I realized that news stories often focused on the negative and are also often biased against people of color and underrepresented groups. I now read a limited amount of news online and in the newspaper (yes, Marcus and I actually subscribe to The Seattle Times: a real, paper newspaper!) and we purposely seek out positive news as much as we can. Speaking of which, here’s a story out today by freelance writer Christy Karras in The Seattle Times: What I Want You to Know About Coronavirus, from a Seattle Woman Who Recovered from COVID-19. It’s one of the most helpful and positive stories I’ve read about COVID-19. Please read it and pass it on.
Tip #4: Create something with your hands
I received a set of free sedum starts through one of Marcus’s photography gigs and have been wanting to plant them for weeks but just haven’t made time for it. Finally, this weekend, I got out some planters that my sis-in-law Christy had given us a few years ago and repotted the sedum starts. It only took a few minutes but it made me happy to see them all potted and pretty on our window sill. These few minutes of creating something with my hands will now give me many days, weeks, and months of beauty. It reminded me again that human beings were meant to be makers. Whether you want to garden, cook, bake, draw, paint, craft, tinker, or build something, allow yourself the time to make something. Give yourself permission to do what you’ve been yearning to do.
Tip #5: Support your local eats
My last tip is about how much joy Marcus and I got from supporting our favorite pizzeria, Pagliacci Pizza (aka. Pag’s), last night. Due to my long list of food allergies and intolerances (including garlic, onion, dairy products, tomato sauce, and more), we haven’t ordered from Pag’s in years. We were already shopping at our favorite grocery stores and bakery (shout out to Tall Grass), but we wanted to help our local restaurants too. Eating a slice of tomato-sauce-and-cheese-free pizza may not be your idea of heaven, but it sure was for me. Pag’s makes such awesome pizza that neither of us missed the traditional pizza ingredients that you’d normally have. Plus, how cool is this 1979 Seattle Sonics illustration (hooyeah, Ames Bros) on the box?!?
I want to acknowledge that this last tip is full of privilege. Not everyone has the money to order takeout or have food delivered. But, if you have the means, please consider ordering from restaurants that you’d be sad to see close down due to the pandemic.
Well, that’s it for my mini pandemic survival guide. I hope my tips helped you. Now, I’m off to take a really hot shower and go for a walk. If you have some tips you’d like to share, please submit your comments below. I’d love to hear from you. Stay well, friends, and remember, BETTER DAYS WILL COME.
Peg Cheng is the author of The Contenders, a novel that asks, can enemies become friends? She is currently writing a book about how to retire as a millionaire even if you make a modest income. Peg is also the creator of Fear & Writing, a workshop for procrastinating writers from all walks of life.
Photo of me and Froggy by Marcus Donner and t-shirt by EpisodeGraphics.
Photo of woman stretching by Morgan Petroski.
Photo by landline phone by Annie Spratt.
Photo of man on laptop by Oleg Ivanov.