Twenty twenty was a tough year for Americans. It opened with an impeachment and tumbled quickly into a pandemic. We soon realized COVID-19 would affect us like nothing since the deadly influenza epidemic of 1918.
Fighting the pandemic came at great cost to the economy. Businesses were shuttered, some permanently. Millions of Americans lost jobs, and schools closed. People lucky enough to remain employed often worked at home, sometimes while homeschooling children.
There were debates about mask wearing, racial unrest, a long political campaign and a contentious election. By December 31st, the pandemic had claimed an estimated 373,000 Americans.
Finally, after a seemingly endless year, anti-COVID vaccines emerged and we looked with hope toward 2021. Then, less than a week into the new year, the nation’s Capitol building was overrun by rioters for the first time since the War of 1812.
Americans of every political persuasion are reeling. We’ve endured almost a year of constant threats of illness, isolation, poverty, hunger, eviction, and political upheaval. How do we survive this and maintain any vestige of inner peace?
That’s the question my clients are asking me, and the question I’ve had to answer for myself. Here are seven practices that sustain me.
Meditation keeps me sane. According to the Mayo Clinic, the benefits of meditation include stress reduction, improved sleep, and healthier blood pressure.
Today, technology has made meditation easy. Smartphone apps like Insight Timer and Calm help users enter into a meditative state.
Unfortunately, gyms and fitness centers have closed during COVID. Consider a change of venue. Many instructors now teach over the internet. Connect your computer to your television and access yoga, tai chi, dance classes and more, right in your living room.
Take a walk. Start slowly and as you gain strength, walk farther and faster. Walk outdoors, down a country lane or through a city park, and gain the additional benefit of the endorphins your body releases in nature.
Now is the perfect time to ditch processed foods. Not only do they fail to provide the nourishment your body needs, they actually undermine your health.
Get rid of the boxes in your pantry, and replace them with organic fruit, vegetables, and healthy protein. Within a few weeks, you’ll reap the rewards. You’ll be more energetic, rest better, and feel lighter.
Before the pandemic, we left home to enjoy movies, museums, and concerts. I loved to try new restaurants with friends, and travel near and far. Now, we have to make our own fun.
Like to cook? It’s the perfect time to try new recipes, or a brand-new cuisine. Love music? Create playlists of your favorite artists, and explore new genres. Love to read? Libraries all over the country have electronic books available at no cost.
Try something new. Millions of people enjoy adult coloring books. Drawing, painting, and writing are great creative outlets.
Is there a craft that interests you? Women and men alike enjoy knitting, crochet, and quilting. You might even create a family heirloom.
Your TV provides access to thousands of movies and television shows. While you’re waiting for the real thing, explore the world through travel documentaries.
Whether you live alone, with a partner, or as part of a family, it’s important to nurture all your important relationships.
Our family schedules a weekly Zoom call, where everyone is free to drop in and out at their convenience. Some weeks we have a full house, and others there are just two or three of us online.
Regular phone calls, emails and cards keep us connected to others. It’s particularly important to reach out to friends who live alone. If you’re among them, don’t wait for people to contact you. Be proactive and build bridges to the people whose friendship you value.
If you don’t already have a pet, consider adopting. The bond between human and pet can be deeply satisfying. Animals also give you opportunities to play and have fun.
Human beings are comprised of body, mind and spirit. If you are a believer, spend time in prayer. Read inspirational books, and worship in communion through televised services.
If you’re not religious, take time to support your spirit by quieting your mind (as you do in meditation), being in nature, or immersing yourself in music or art.
7. Use this Affirmation
For all of us, there are times when fear overtakes us. I have found this simple statement calms and centers me:
“In this present moment, I am completely safe and protected.”
None of us knows for sure when we’ll return to “normal life.” In the meantime, it helps to have a plan and tools we can use to survive and thrive.