If you’ve suffered from anxiety or depression in the past — and honestly, even if you haven’t — life these days can be pretty disconcerting.
If you’re not working, as many of us aren’t, there’s only so many times you can switch between reading, gaming, gardening, and attempting to contact the unemployment office before you go completely bananas. Sleeping more than seems reasonable for someone who doesn’t do much of anything nowadays? Feeling a distinct lack of productivity?
Then you’ll be at least semi-relieved to hear your reaction to quarantine is entirely normal.
As humans, we crave connection with others. It’s in our nature to explore, interact, socialize. When we aren’t able to do these things, there can be an unconscious regression in our personality. We move inward, since we can’t move outward.
You’re going through enough right now. We all are. There’s nothing wrong with your inability to cook Instagram-worthy dishes. There’s no reason you have to pursue a complex or expensive hobby. It’s okay to do something mindless, if only to pass the time.
In the first trimester of my pregnancy, which started late last summer, I suffered from a bout of high-functioning depression. Essentially, that means I spent days upon days in bed and in pain and felt absolutely terrible about it. By the time I came out of my prenatal depression, it was winter. And by the time winter ended, COVID-19 began.
In many ways, it seems like I haven’t lived a normal life in nearly a year. I long to visit my parents and my friends, far too many of whom haven’t gotten to meet our newborn. And though I can write from home, I desperately miss the days when I could meet my subjects in-person for story interviews.
But my husband and I have discovered a few ways to maintain our sanity during these troubling times, and I thought it might be useful to share them.
(1) Visit the water. I won’t pretend that Holland State Park isn’t crowded more days than not, but there are plenty of turn-offs near Lake Macatawa where you can get out and smell the sweet, lakeside air. Take the time to download Zillow on your phone, and you can spend at least an hour being amazed by the sheer expense of lakeside houses.
(2) Pick up a curbside order from your favorite store or restaurant. It’s unreal how much pleasure you get when you support local businesses who are struggling to weather the storm. Even on days when you feel utterly useless, you can make a significant difference to someone else.
(3) Open your windows. Now that the weather has (mostly) warmed up, a decent amount of sunlight can seriously change your perspective. When struggling with your mental health, it’s important to remember that you control your environment. A clean living space, some upbeat music, a few open windows and a scented candle can be an even more effective pick-me-up than a good drink.
(4) Try a podcast instead of television. Free apps like Stitcher can connect you to hundreds of interesting shows — and, even better, you can walk while listening. It’s entertainment and exercise, rolled into one.
(5) Go see the tulips. We can’t celebrate Tulip Time this year, but there’s a big perk to being locals. There are literally thousands of beautiful tulips spread throughout the Holland area, and no tourists to avoid. The time is ripe for a tulip photo album.
When all else fails, I sit on my porch with a good book and try to remind myself of the tattoo I got on my 18th birthday: “And in time, this too shall pass.”
— Cassandra Lybrink is a Holland resident. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.