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  • Gena Chieco

Reflections in the Very Early Days of the Pandemic

I hope that you and yours are safe, and that you are hanging in there in the midst of these unprecedented times and challenges. I know you are getting inundated with correspondence, but I wanted to pass along some words of encouragement, in case they resonate with you.

While this is a truly horrific state of affairs, it does present an opportunity to turn inward, to notice how we choose to react to events as they unfold, to be mindful of our thoughts, to reflect on what we are grateful for, and to honor our resilience and fortitude. For every layer of darkness, there is a countervailing light in kindness among strangers, in a sense of love, in doubling-down on maintaining deep connections. Please know that if you are struggling with depression and/or anxiety, this is completely normal. We are in the midst of a global state of uncertainty around a f-ing PANDEMIC, which triggers feeling utterly out of control! Control is a tricky thing. We do our best to cling to illusions of control, yet we are like the emperor with no clothes when the s*it hits the fan and we are faced with the reality that there are very few things actually within our control. COVID-19 offers a grand-scale exercise in learning to surrender to the unknown and to remain focused on the present moment (as opposed to playing out future doomsday scenarios or looking to the past with regret). Here are a couple of terrific podcasts on the topic of finding calm within the storm: Jack Kornfield + Tim Ferriss & Brené Brown Podcast, Episode 1 FFTs (for the first time). Approach your full range of emotions with compassion and curiosity. Try not to shove the tough feelings away or view them as "bad," for all emotions are sacred; allow yourself the space to process whatever arises, including grief. It's OK to say, "THIS SUCKS!!" because it totally does! It's OK to be angry, mad, sad, and scared, even if you are relatively healthy and struggle with guilt knowing others have it far worse. If you are feeling stuck or down, this 17-min. guided meditation by Tara Brach is a game-changer. I have other resources on my website. Take a chance stepping outside of comfort zones and experiment with being vulnerable: Ask for help, tell someone you feel scared, find out from loved ones what you can do for them, reach out to neighbors, extend an olive branch towards mending relationships. On the topic of vulnerability, Brene Brown is a guru: Her TED talk on vulnerability went viral as did her TED talk on shame. Her Netflix special, the Call to Courage, is a terrific intro. to her work and honestly quite entertaining. (I was actually at the taping of it - not realizing it was being taped!) All of her books are excellent. She also has a new Podcast, Unlocking Us. A note on WFH: While it may seem exciting at first, the reality is that like all things in life, WFH presents both negatives and positives. For one thing, it is easy to literally end up sitting in the same spot all day (recipe for lethargy). For another, it is isolating on top of the already isolated state we are in with the quarantines. (Fellow extroverts, I sooo feel you!) The most important thing is to maintain some semblance of a daily schedule, incorporating work + breaks + things that boost your energy. Here are some pointers, in case you find them helpful:

  • start your day with journaling or meditation first thing before you reach for your phone (I highly recommend Amber Rae's 30-Day Journal Experience & Deepak & Oprah's free series - both are free and you can still sign up!)

  • schedule frequent move breaks - take a socially-distanced walk outside or do an indoor workout (Aarmy, Y7, Lekfit, and Sculpt Society are personal favs);

  • schedule creativity breaks - paint, write, cook, craft, journal;

  • take 30-min power naps, when needed (way better than a cup of coffee!);

  • bookend tough tasks with more enjoyable tasks (like organizing for you type As!); and

  • listen to music when you can.

It's key to be disciplined with your time and to bring in positive activities to offset stretches of work. Be compassionate with yourself if you are not as productive as usual. Pare back work if you find yourself working 10+ hours/day. Focus on the things that spark joy and ditch the things that weigh you down. Trust that the good and bad will ebb and flow, and that this too shall pass. Some ideas for boosting well-being while quarantined:

  • watch standup specials and allow in laughter;

  • eat healthy foods (but don't beat yourself up if you deviate - let's be honest, we're all carb loading!); send spontaneous notes or texts of gratitude to friends and family;

  • write out a list of everything you can't wait to do once this is over, and how you will feel when doing these things;

  • learn a new hobby virtually (foreign language, drawing, dance classes, etc.);

  • start to research that dream you've been putting on hold until now;

  • tackle your home-based to-do list;

  • begin each day by setting an intention and end the day with a reflection;

  • research a vaca you want to take in 2021;

  • Skillshare offers thousands of art courses led by top talents - first two months are free when you join now; Google Arts & Culture offers museum virtual tours and much more;

  • if you are finding spending 24/7 with your partner is... trying, to put it mildly (lol), the Gottman Science of Love online workshop is transformative and fun;

  • this Quarantine Activities & Social Distancing Resources to Maintain Sanity is crowdsourced (it is DC-focused, but has a ton of other stuff); and

  • get outside (socially distanced, of course) - breathe in fresh air, listen to the birds, appreciate sunrises and sunsets.

Focus on all the things big and small that spark joy, and avoid the things that drag you down.

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