Mental Health In Quarantine

3 Ways I’m Preparing Myself For The Last Wave Of Pandemic Depression

By Wednesday, February 24, 2021

“I’ve reached my limit when it comes to cooking new meals, at-home workouts, and virtual hangouts. I think we all have.”

So I think we can all agree that we’ve hit another wall with this pandemic. Yes, the vaccine is here, and distribution for all is near, but 2021 still looks and feels a lot like 2020. But instead of just putting my head down and doing my best to get through it (after all, this time last year was all about how we could “flatten the curve” with just a few weeks of isolation), I’m hoping to handle the ongoing pandemic fatigue with a lot more grace and self-love. While these tips may not work for everyone, I hope they inspire some to think differently about how they plan to make it through the upcoming months.

1. Be Kinder To Yourself

Believe me, I know this sounds a lot easier than it is. To be truthful, I’ve kind of reached my limit when it comes to cooking healthy meals, finding innovative at-home workouts, and jazzing up my virtual hangouts. I think we all have. It’s OK to admit that every two to three weeks, there’s just going to be an inevitable week of takeout. Or perhaps a week of frozen Trader Joe’s meals followed by a week of takeout followed by a meal kit you found a discount for online. While it’s important to stay healthy and well-nourished, I’ve had phases during this past year where I’ve been really excited about cooking and others when it’s just an absolute chore. As someone who cooks for just one, it’s even more dejecting to waste food or throw away moldy fruits and veggies. So, takeout is one big way I’m being kinder to myself this year. I’ve learned to accept the idea that nourishing myself with food in any capacity is already a win and a privilege. 

Another way in which I’m practicing kindness is with my workout routine. For two years pre-COVID, I worked out religiously five days a week, on top of easily hitting 10,000 steps a day. When the pandemic began, my energy levels were through the roof, whether from anxiety or my pre-pandemic routine, and I wound up working out 1-2 hours a day. 

As I settle into the “new normal” though, my workout routine has begun to wane. These days, I’d be lucky if I got in 15-20 minutes of exercise, on most days. while I’m trying to get better disciplined about walking and getting outdoors this year, the truth is, most days I don’t feel like doing pushups or working on abs. While exercise is always about finding something you love to do, at-home workouts have gotten stale for me. There are certain moods in which forcing myself to work out can feel good and others when it makes me feel worse, so I’ve accepted that there will be more rest days in 2021, and that’s fine! Just do whatever it takes for you to get through the day, the week, the month or the year — okay?

2. Find A Trusted Friend To WFH With

While this isn’t doable for everyone, believe me when I say that this has been a game-changer for my mental health. Back in November, I was introduced to a new friend (via social distancing, no less) who, as of now, has received both doses of the vaccine. I must note she also works in a neuroscience clinic. She suggested that on the days she’s not at the clinic, we should work-from-home together and in the process, she has become one of my closest friends — something I never expected to say amidst a global pandemic. Not only does this buddy-system help strengthen our friendship, but oftentimes we wound up being a lot more productive when we’re working together, as compared to working alone. The process brings me back to college, when I’d study with friends in the library and, while we’d often take an incessant amount of breaks and chit-chat, we somehow still got a ton of work done.

What’s more, this gives us a break from having to do our work from our actual homes. Being in a different setting is such a luxury during COVID and one I’m not taking for granted, anymore. Sometimes we trade-off on cooking meals, depending on whose home we’re working out of, that day. Again, I’m aware this may not be a possibility for everyone, but if you live alone, then I highly recommend thinking about including a friend into your pod since the wonders it’s done to my mental health have been monumental. It certainly makes me miss the pre-COVID days more when I could wander into a friend’s apartment at any time (despite the number of roommates they might have) but I also feel lucky to be able to do this with even just one other friend. 

3. Cut Down On Screen Time (Or Cut It Out Entirely)

This is a no-brainer, and one I know we’ve all discussed, but it bears repeating: limit your screen time. I’ve recently taken to buying physical books in an effort to increase my reading time, while also engaging in more activities that don’t require me staring at a screen. I’ve also gone from being a religious Facetimer with friends. to switching solely to phone calls. This way, I can complete chores or go for a walk while I catch up with my loved ones. Of course, I miss seeing everyone (even if it’s on a screen) but after a long day of work and Zoom calls, it’s just a lot better for my eyes o resort to a phone call.

Another way I’m cutting down on screen time is by embracing artistic endeavors. As a math major, I don’t need to tell you that I’m *not* creative. But I’ve discovered several safe, socially distanced activities to do. From clay-making and woodworking classes to painting in the park, I encourage everyone to really dig deep into what small businesses are coming up with to stay afloat in 2021. It’s fun developing a new skill,  and it’s nice to do something different that doesn’t involve a screen — even if I do it entirely alone. 

Whether it’s new activities to engage in or adapting an elevated mindset, what are you doing to gear up for the next pandemic wall?

Keertana Anandraj is a recent college grad living in San Francisco. When she isn’t conducting international macroeconomic research at her day job, you can find her in the spin room or planning her next adventure.

Image via Unsplash

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