So. 2020 is almost over. And though I know it isn’t rational, I can’t help hoping that the end of a year that has been defined by the global COVID-19 pandemic will also bring about the beginning of the end of the global COVID-19 pandemic. (At present, it doesn’t look like it will, at least in the U.S., but a woman can dream.)
It hasn’t all been bad. Forced into isolation and deprived of many of our former activities and modes of entertainment, many of us have developed new habits during this year of quarantine. I certainly have. Here are a few that I won’t be giving up, not even after a vaccine emerges to help return life in the United States back to normalcy.
I had been practicing yoga and doing a little Pilates at home before the pandemic hit, but the pandemic really kicked my home fitness efforts into high gear, for a few reasons.
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One, having practically nowhere to go left me with a lot of time on my hands. Working out was something to do. Since I’m not a particularly crafty or hands-on hobby sort of person, my choices were: work out more or get extra depressed sitting on the sofa all day for an endless amount of days.
Speaking of getting extra depressed, I fully believe that ramping up my workout frequency and intensity helped stave off the depression that would otherwise have hit me like a speeding truck during these months of isolation. Research has established exercise’s ability to help reduce symptoms of clinical depression, even if there isn’t a clear consensus on why. Personally, I think the combination of feel-good endorphins released by exercise and the empowering feeling of growth and improvement contribute greatly. Exercise is not a substitute for professional medical care in cases of depression, but it has been a wonderful extra tool to manage my moods.
I fully believe that ramping up my workout frequency and intensity helped stave off the depression that would otherwise have hit me like a speeding truck.
I started out with an inexpensive yoga mat and block set that I scored on Amazon for less than $25. My home workout area (yeah, I have one of those now) now boasts a much nicer Manduka yoga mat next to the crappy old one, two sets of dumbbells, a Bala Power Ring, two sets of Bala Bangles for wrist and ankle weights, and several workout towels. All of them get used regularly and will continue to be, long after this virus is a thing of the past.
I love eating out. I especially love eating out when I get to eat things that I normally wouldn’t dare try cooking at home. So when local restaurants shut their doors during the first lockdown, I found my dining options dwindling to nearly nothing. (And I don’t love restaurant delivery services. The food is never quite as good after the car ride to my place.)
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The pandemic forced me to get more daring with my own cooking. I feel very comfortable making sous vide duck breasts and sous vide duck leg confit now. I’m getting better at gutting and broiling mackerel, one of my favorite Japanese restaurant staples. I’ve managed to make an udon broth as slurpably delicious as the udon I used to travel 20 miles to eat. I’ve even acquired and eaten live sea urchin a couple of times! That was a particularly terrifying experiment, but so worth the effort and the poked fingers.
As an added benefit, thanks to the abovementioned quarantine fitness efforts, I’ve gotten into the habit of tracking what I eat and paying attention to my macros. Cooking at home allows me to actually know for sure what’s going into my mouth.
Masks and Social Distancing
Finally, this pandemic has helped me grow much more confident in my own desire to be left the eff alone.
Wearing face masks in public has long been the norm in Asia, and in my part of the U.S., it’s pretty normalized and not too loudly poo-pooed anymore, too. You know what else has been normalized? Standing way far away from strangers in public spaces. I really like this.
I don’t think I’ll wear face masks all the time after the pandemic is over, but whenever I feel a little unwell and need to venture into the world, I absolutely will bring one of the cat face masks I got from Etsy, or one of the even more adorable bikini shark and bunny butt ones designed by my good friend Jenna at The Paper Wilderness, and I will pop them on before popping into any shop or other enclosed space. The mask will help prevent me from inadvertently spreading any cold or flu germs. It will also help mask my sneer when others stand too close.
This is primarily a “me problem,” but I’ve always hated it when strangers stand so close to you that you can feel them breathing down your neck. The pandemic has taught us that that is an Unsafe Behavior. I’ll be enforcing a wide bubble of personal space around myself as often as possible from now on.
I don’t think I’ll wear face masks all the time after the pandemic is over, but whenever I feel a little unwell and need to venture into the world, I absolutely will.
2021 and Beyond
I think many of us will sigh a collective sigh of relief when this year ends, and we’ll sigh an even bigger collective sigh of relief when the pandemic begins to recede. But as difficult and tragic as this year has been, I think it’s taught many of us a few lessons about how to live and how to handle ourselves in times of crisis.
To those of you who have directly suffered illness, financial losses, or the loss of loved ones due to the spread of COVID-19, I am so sorry. As we discuss the effects the pandemic has had on our lives, those of us who have been privileged enough to take these times as an opportunity for self improvement and growth should remember that others haven’t been able to and that others have had to carry a heavier burden. I hope 2021 brings you greater health and healing. And I hope we can all carry the more positive of those lessons forward into the next year and beyond.