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Sara Kuhl

The current global pandemic has stirred a lot of unpleasant feelings inside all of us, I think.

I struggled with happiness and quality of life when it broke out in Kentucky, at least.

My girls weekend with my closest friends that was scheduled for the end of March was canceled. We were talking about manicures, pedicures, massages, casinos and more just so we could have quality time. It didn't matter really what we were going to do, as long as we were having fun together.

My household was planning camping trips over in Red River Gorge.

I was discussing spending a weekend showing my boyfriend the Pinnacles in Berea -- he's never been and I've only gone there a couple of times for work.

It was heartbreaking to have to put these plans on hold for the forseeable future, to not have events to look forward to as we progress through the calendar year.

Like most other people, I struggled with feelings of anxiety and depression for a while.

It was extra frustrating because my normal way of handling those feelings -- heading to the gym for about an hour after work -- was an outlet that was taken away from me.

What was I supposed to do?

Workouts at home aren't as stress-relieving as bench-pressing and squatting weights.

And I had made so much progress in my journey of weight loss and having a healthy lifestyle in the year that had gone by since I signed up at the gym.

Was all my progress going to go away because of the coronavirus?

Simultaneously, I was reading articles -- some even in our own publication -- about tips from health experts on how to deal with these feelings.

They mention going outside often and having a set routine so we can still maintain normalcy in our daily lives. They mention slowing down and appreciating what we can about life.

Or what I equate to "taking time to smell the roses," as the old adage goes.

But what I was reading didn't really compute in my brain right away. It took some serious adjustments in the inner workings of my hamster wheel in order to find some sense of peace again.

My boyfriend bought me "Animal Crossing New Horizons" on his Nintendo Switch and told me I could play it whenever I wanted to relax.

One night, I was feeling so anxious that I laid down in bed with my weighted blanket and played it until the battery died while a movie was on in the background. I didn't even know what sparked the anxiety on that particular day.

But somewhere around the start or middle of April, without me even noticing it at the time, my thought process shifted.

It went from, "How am I going to feel better?" to "I'm going to relax, and I'm going to be OK," once I'm home from work.

I found the determination I needed to tackle my own unpleasant feelings.

My routine has shifted from going to the gym after work to doing a yoga video. It doesn't give me the endorphin rush that weightlifting did, but it's more meditative, and I think I needed that.

If I want something more intensive, I go for Julian Michael's "30 Day Shred."

Working out and moving definitely help me feel better about myself.

If I just need to decompress and don't have energy, I play more "Animal Crossing."

It's a happy game where you play a character who goes around an island collecting fruit, bugs and fish. You get to design the island however you want. Though you have a house to pay off, there's no interest on your loan nor a time you have to have it paid off by, and the guy who gives you the loan has family members who buy anything you want to sell, even weeds that occasionally pop up on the island.

It might sound silly, but it helps.

Some nights, I hop on Discord and chat with those friends I didn't get to see during our previously planned girls weekend, along with others who live out-of-state.

I've also started taking more walks throughout the day, or even sitting at a table in the backyard while chatting on the phone with my parents.

Because when I shifted my focus from worrying about me to actually taking care of me, I've become more available for others when they need a sympathetic ear.

I believe the beautiful thing about us all being in the same boat is that we all have more empathy. We all can relate to each other.

Self-care is important and has helped me come a long way in such a short time span, but having the ability to be emotionally available for those around me is even better.

I'm definitely glad I took the time to smell the roses, and I hope I can help others understand the importance of taking care of themselves now that I'm feeling better in my new routine.

Reach Sara Kuhl at 624-6626; follow her on Twitter @saraekuhl.

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