Get Out

Coronavirus blues have hit in so many more ways than one! This winter in Alaska has been a long one and the last time I saw grass was…well… here:

Montana- some time in early December

So, as you can imagine, when the snow started dripping from the Alaskan rooftops the last couple of weeks, we got allllllll excited. So much so that I even snapped this artistic happy pic for my Instagram:

Alas, the joy was thwarted by Coronavirus! And now the state is in lockdown, no restaurants are open (at least not for sit down), stores shelves are empty, and yes, the school system is shut down until May 1st (collective gasps of horror abound).

I asked my daughter’s teacher if there was word when school would start up again. His response was to tell me that her supplies could be picked up from the car line outside. Okaaaaay- so maybe no going back to school then? Who knows at this stage.

So here I was, celebrating the end of a long Alaskan winter and anticipating a long awaited Spring, but now we seem to have extended the isolation with both virus and with weather too. The view out my window today is this:

Now, in the true spirit of Alaskan spring, the snow is not a bad thing. Yes, it’s heavy but it’s a sign that things are warming up enough to snow. But even so, one cannot escape the cabin fever that has come as a result of social isolation and bleak skies.

So, what are we to do!

What indeed?!

Well, as it turns out, a healthy body and mind can reduce stress, alleviate physical symptoms of anxiety, and calm down collective frustration.

Go figure.

In fact, the experts at Harvard Medical School say that getting outside is a sure fire way to increase concentration levels, make people happy and get those all too important levels of vitamin D.

Pandemic! I hear you cry- well…yes there is that. But the other day as I was about to go insane, I saw this article from Runner’s World which said that running outside would be fine if alone and avoiding large coughing crowds. And since in that moment my head-space was a close combination of Vonngut’s ‘Slaughterhouse Five’ and Danielewski’s ‘House of Leaves’ (if you haven’t read these two- just know that this is not a calm place to be), I thought I’d give it a try.

So, this is me running in Fairbanks, Alaska in three feet of snow:

And because I figured that if I could do three feet of snow, then the rest of the family could do so too, I made them get out as well. So, off we went to this wicked cool place called Creamer’s Field in Fairbanks for an outdoor hike.

Then we drove here:

To walk through the woods here:

Okay, so I know…so what? It’s beautiful and cold and we went for a walk. Big deal right?

But- guess what? Surprise, surprise, it actually worked. Any messes in my head were out of it quick time after connecting with nature and getting out of the house. So that got me to thinking. How much collective negativity and anxiety is being built right now just from being on lockdown?

Interesting that you should ask this, it seems that this is on the mind of many a scientist at the moment. See for example, this article on reducing Coronavirus stress. And here’s another comparing the hysteria to the plague.

Now without getting on to either the ‘we-must-prep-for-the-inevitable-apocalypse‘ or the ‘it’s-totally-fine-here-drink-from-my-beer-mug‘ bandwagons, I thought about the health implications of staying in too long. This is a physical consideration, of course, but for me, predominantly a mental one. How long does it take for ‘lock-down’ to take it’s toll? Apparently not too long according to this article about China’s struggling collective mental health after weeks of quarantine, or this article which points to rising anxiety and depression for many in the U.S.

Oy Vey!

It seems that now more than ever we need a collective cheering up. For me that re-connection to nature, going outside, getting fresh air and moving the body, was a wake up call. But what about those who can’t get out? What about those who are in the city and surrounded by people and scared about contact? What about people who don’t have an Alaskan wilderness in which to stretch the legs?

Well- thank goodness for Forbes, who released this article on five things that you can do to reduce stress and anxiety and stay healthy during this time. Yes, getting out is one of the solutions, but only one. The others are worthy of consideration too, and if you happen to be one of those folks who are drowning under the wait of lockdown madness, then maybe these suggestions will be of assistance.

In the meantime, I’ve been doing something else too. Mine is a simple list called ‘the happy list.’ Sounds too easy right- well, yes it is. The list can be as long as you like. For me it is five things and I’ve been doing one every few days or so. I simply make a list of five things that make me happy. These are general and basically allude to what I feel like doing. Here’s one I made a couple of days back:

Easy right? These are not even all my things. I haven’t mentioned DIY or art or working out or writing or walking the dog. I picked five, but there is no reason not to go to town- it’s not like we don’t all have time to brainstorm…

Once I’ve got the basics done, I expand. The easiest way for me to do this is to think of three things to do per category. Don’t worry, the morality police are not at your doorstep if you don’t do them. This is simply a method to think about how to do what you love in different ways. To take what makes you happy and to put that into a dozen or so variations to fill your day.

Here’s mine:

I know, I know- “I’m not the imaginative type” you say. I hear you. “That’s what Pinterest is for,” I say. Why reinvent the wheel? Besides, once you start brainstorming, you might find that finding creative ideas to not go insane is easier than you’d imagine. The idea is not even unique! A quick Google search on ‘what to do if you are bored’ brings us a ridiculous number of blog sites, solely dedicated to keeping you occupied.

Taking an online course for example, is not so hard once you find Harvard’s free online seminars HERE. Cleaning out a closet? Check out Trinny’s fabulous YouTube tips HERE. Looking to keep the mind sharp? Here’s a site for you! Got children at home with you and looking for some things to do? Check out this Bucket List! And don’t forget my personal favorite. When times are drab and you are feeling down, there’s nothing like a vision board to get you thinking positively about your hopes and dreams. Check out this vid here to see some instructions and then go to town! Hey, got an empty wall spare? What’s stopping you?

Is social isolation something unbearable? Check out this site on some interesting ways to volunteer and help others during this time.

From DIYing that chair, to taking on that book you haven’t read, it’s possible to turn the collective frown upside down. Yes, things are serious, yes we’re all feeling the pinch, but maybe we can also collectively do something to help each other out and focus on the bright side.

As for me, it seems that the snow has stopped for now. How about a walk?

Do you have something that is helping you through the lockdown slump? Share and comment below and let us all know. Don’t be shy, give it a try.

Until next time, stay happy and healthy…and take a walk!

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