We as human beings have experienced (and are still experiencing) a collective trauma during the past 12 months that will be studied for years and decades to come. From cancelled graduations, to curfews, lockdowns and losing local businesses, to family funerals that were held unattended by loved ones- the pain has been and is still all too real. I want to make clear that this article is not meant to make light of any suffering, or to offer simple fixes for a much, much more complex situation. My hope, in writing this, is to offer some sort of relief for the incredibly mundane days that have become reality for so many of us.

According to May Wong of news.stanford.edu: “…an incredible 42 percent of the U.S. labor force now working from home full-time.

About another 33 percent are not working – a testament to the savage impact of the lockdown recession.” This has been detrimental to the average U.S. citizen’s mental health and well-being. Being trapped at home- working or not- is not a normal way of life. It can be so tempting to sleep away reality, or binge-watch TV, or fall down the rabbit hole of feeling hopeless and helpless and let the stress eat you up, regardless of your unique situation. I’ve been there. I think it’s safe to say that most of us have at this point.

So- what can we do about that? Obviously, we have no power over this pandemic (save for practicing CDC guidelines to help stop the spread), so for me, that was the first step: acceptance. Realizing that I don’t have control of what’s going on in the world and that no matter how bad I want things to be different, they aren’t. At least for now. When I realized that and let myself come to terms with it, I could finally take the next steps to take care of my mental health. It helped me focus on the things I can control. It’s okay if you aren’t at this point yet. Everyone’s experience during this has been unique and we all process things differently. It’s important to take your time coming to this, and to not bury your worries or let them get out of hand either. Take each one as it comes, rationalize it, and accept it. Meditation can be incredibly helpful with this- and for reducing stress. FitOn is a free app I use for meditation and overall fitness- and it’s a great resource.

Meditation & Structure

I prefer to meditate in the morning and before bed, which brings me to my next point: structure. If you are unemployed or working from home, or even if you work on business premises but come home right after… and rinse and repeat… this can be so refreshing. Before the pandemic hit, I was at college and on the go from 8am to 10 or 11 at night. I was socializing, getting things done, and working toward my future goals. I’m the kind of person who craves that kind of structure-I love a tight schedule. It gives me a sense of purpose. Once the pandemic hit, all of that disappeared, except my classes that had moved to online (which is an entirely different experience in and of itself). It took me a long while to set a healthy and healing routine for myself that felt even remotely close to what I’d had at school. Right now, I go to bed around 11 and get up around 7 or 8am. If I’m struggling one morning to get myself up after my alarm goes off, I count to five. It sounds so simple, but it works. I count to five and I get up, make my bed so I’m not tempted to crawl back in, and head to the kitchen.

Write Down Your To-Dos

Once I’m in the kitchen, I write my to-dos and do my manifestations. I used to keep them all in a planner, but I recently got a whiteboard to hang on the wall and write them down and found I prefer that. (It can really be as simple as that- finding a method that you enjoy best.) It feels so good to erase each item on the list and watch it go back to an empty board- to me it feels like a literal clean slate. Usually those to-dos include some housework, like dishes or laundry, as well as a few staples like: exercise, and journal. My manifestations are just phrases I repeat out-loud to myself and my space (it sounds crazy- but I truly believe it solidifies your intent and the course for your day). I like to keep them simple like “I’m going to make today a great day” or “Today I will choose patience”.


Exercise & Movement

On another board, I keep my workout split for the week and what I’m having for dinner. I follow Kayla Itsines’ BBG program in the Sweat App (this is not an ad or anything- I literally just love it so much and it has completely changed my outlook on health and fitness.) The app is comprised of strength training programs, HIIT, yoga, barre, post-pregnancy programs and more- and it’s specifically designed for women though anyone can use it, and it is friendly for beginner through advanced levels of fitness. There are Facebook groups comprised entirely of the global Sweat community. I have found great strength and encouragement from these support groups. I encourage you to try move your body in some way, every day. It does absolute wonders for you not only physically, but mentally.

If you are intimidated by starting a healthier routine, try to start by adding things instead of taking things away.

Restriction is never the answer. For example, instead of cutting your time in the evening to relax, just try to incorporate a 10-minute walk or stretch session on your lunch break or after work. Start to add more fruits and vegetables to your meals instead of restricting calories, etc.

Healthy Eating Habits

Healthy eating is also one of the most important things you can do for yourself and your overall well-being. During this pandemic, it is totally fine (and NORMAL!) if your eating habits have slipped a bit, if you’ve been eating based on emotions, etc. I believe that our relationship with food is a sacred and individual thing, and you deserve to have a healthy relationship with your body and food. One way to improve this relationship, I firmly believe, is to understand the basics of nutrition. Making sure you are getting the nutrients you need can feel so overwhelming but there are some simple ways to improve your eating habits if you are struggling to establish a better routine. I firmly believe that knowledge is power, and having a general knowledge of basic nutrition is a necessity if you want to feel confident in your health choices. Here are some general nutrition tips that could help you get started:

1. Macros: protein, carbs and healthy fats. Try to have some source of protein in every meal. As a vegetarian, I try to focus on consuming things like tofu, beans, quinoa, tempeh, etc. Obviously, if you have no dietary restrictions, things like poultry and lean beef are good examples of healthy protein.

2. Portions: Try to visualize your plate as ¼ healthy carbs (like whole wheat pasta, brown rice, etc), ¼ protein (your protein should look about the size of your palm) and ½ of your plate should be vegetables.

Please understand that I am in no way a dietician or nutritionistbut I do have a lot of knowledge about exercise and nutrition that I have sought out and actively taught myself to heal my relationship with health and fitness. I have found it a great form of self-care and it has taught me to love myself during this time.

Practicing Gratitude

Practicing gratitude can also be a powerful tool in helping cope with the world right now. I take time each night to journal, and to reflect on what I’m thankful for from the day, as well as pausing a few times a day to realize what I have in the moment. It can be so easy to get caught up in the negatives, the things that we’ve lost due to this pandemic, but taking time to be thankful for something as simple as a full fridge or how pretty the streetlights look on the pavement after it’s just rained- can be so pivotal.

Which brings me to my final point. Being disciplined is so crucial.

Motivation isn’t always going to be enough to get you out of bed. It will fail you- that’s just a fact. Getting up and getting a workout in or going to work and getting things done, even when you feel like pulling the covers up over your head and hiding from the world right now is so important- but so is giving yourself grace. If you need to take a night to binge-watch your favorite show on Netflix, or if you want to order tacos and ice cream one night- do it. Take time to video-call a friend, paint, read a good book. You need those things for your health as well.

You are strong, capable, and I am proud of you for getting through this difficult time. I sincerely hope that you can walk away from reading this with at least some solace and a feeling of solidarity. We are all in this together.

If you are interested in more information about health and wellness or want some direction as to how to get started, feel free to email me at: rachelwoodhealth@gmail.com.