Two weeks came and went, and I stayed true to my word not to write anything these last two weeks. Some days were harder than others to keep my commitment, especially when a new story idea popped into my head and I wanted to get cracking on the outline. Nevertheless, I stuck with my plan to give my writing creativity and imagination the break it needed.
I’m glad I did because I was reminded that I can, in fact, be considered an expert in matters of wellness, including work/life balance and stress management, when I re-read a roundup that I contributed to several weeks ago.
Here was my answer:
Some healthy habits people can adopt to cope with stress during the pandemic are to keep a consistent schedule (the best you can) and schedule playtime. There are a lot of uncertainties during the pandemic, both in our local community and global one.
We keep waiting for “one more shoe to drop,” in what can feel like a never-ending string of negative events. There’s a feeling of helplessness that comes with these uncertainties, and the truth is the only aspect of the pandemic we can control is our response to it.
By keeping a consistent schedule, we are sending our brains a mental signal that we are still in control and this signal can reduce some of our feelings of stress and anxiety. The consistent schedule doesn’t have to be micromanaging your day down to the minute.
It can be as simple as getting up and going to bed at the same time each day, walking your dog in the woods every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon at 3pm, or sitting down for lunch every day and taking an actual break for 15-20 minutes.
These tiny rituals may not seem like much, but your brain is going to find them quite soothing. Also, because there is so much doom and gloom in our lives, it’s equally important to add planned playtime into your schedule.
Because of the pandemic, a lot of our go-to social activities are no longer available. Having planned playtime gives us something to look forward to, which boosts the amount of dopamine, a feel-good neurotransmitter, created in the brain.
So, you do not just get a dopamine boost from the playtime itself, but also the anticipation leading up to it.
Read all the answers in the expert panel here.
After reading my answer again several weeks after writing it, I felt reassured that I do take my own advice. I have no photographic evidence of me going to bed at the same time and getting up at the same time, nor do I have evidence of sitting down and taking a few minutes for a lunch break, but I do of course have ample photographic evidence of walking a dog in the woods in the afternoon.
What? Can’t find Annie in this photo? Here’s a video that may help.
I also have evidence of scheduled play time. It’s always a treat for me to spend time on the farm with my friend Katherine, Abe R. Ham the pig, and the goats. Zorro, who is getting older and suffering from arthritis didn’t come out to see me, but I got plenty of time with the little ones, Frankie and Sheldon.
In looking at my calendar for the coming week, I realized I don’t have any scheduled play time lined up. Hmmm. The possibilities! Maybe I’ll hula hoop. Maybe I’ll watch the salamanders swim in the pond. Maybe I’ll color. Maybe I’ll sit and stare out the window watching all the cute woodland creatures snack on the birdseed I sprinkle outside in the morning since I can no longer keep a birdfeed up thanks to the bears currently out and about.
It’s fun thinking of all the possibilities. And if you have any suggestions, let me know!
P.S. – If you didn’t have time to watch the video …