Mundanely Inspiring Ways to Mentally Survive a Pandemic

 

Let me start by telling you that this is not an generic inspiring article about how you can get through the pandemic. There will be no mentions of routine-setting, meal-planning, and running 10 kilometres a day to stay fit.

In fact, I would go so far as to say this is the most boring and mundane list you’ll find out there on the topic! However, boring has been working for me so far, so maybe it will work for you too.

It has been a year and a half since my country has been ravaged by the pandemic and it’s only getting worse. Another emergency lockdown measure was announced yesterday and by this point, I’m quite numb to the security measures. Curfews, restrictions on how many people can leave the house, travel limitations… Been there, done that.

Or at least I thought I was numb to it all.

This morning, I woke up feeling fine but surprised myself by breaking down crying like a toddler who lost her favourite toy while telling my husband I missed Hokkien Mee (a delicious Asian noodle dish cooked with thick dark sauce and loaded with prawns, pork, and pork lard). I guess it’s easier to keep emotions buried deep rather than verbalise them. The moment I allowed myself to admit I missed something from my pre-pandemic life, the emotions become harder to control.

Now we get to the meat and potatoes of this article. What do I do to get through this challenging time while combating anxiety and unemployment and watching my savings account balance dwindle?

I sweep the floor

(I warned you this was going to be boring…)

After my emotionally fragile moment this morning, I swept the floor and cleaned the kitchen. I put all the dry pots and dishes from yesterday’s meals away and made myself some coffee. Then I hopped up onto the kitchen countertop, sat down, and had a WhatsApp conversation with a friend about childbirth as well as collagen supplements.

I don’t have work to take my mind off things because I’ve been unemployed since the start of the pandemic so I frequently turn to chores to keep busy and distract myself from the looming cloud of pandemic desolation. I sweep, mop, scrub, vacuum, wash, cook and bake.

Some days I work myself to the bone during chores just to feel like I’ve achieved something. I used to wake up at 3.30am every day to get to work on time and after that, I’d work on my side hustle until night fell. That was another life. Now I cope with my feelings of inadequacy and frustration by doing chores. In my mind, I’m the perfect housewife.

I binge-watch dramas

I’ve never liked to indulge the addictive part of my character. I see it as a flaw and have always actively tried to suppress it. I don’t allow myself to play games I’m really interested in. I hold off from starting on dramas that interest me for as long as possible as a self-control exercise. But that all went out the window about a year into the pandemic.

My recent guilty pleasure (if you can call it that) is Law and Order Special Victims Unit. I only have access to a few seasons and the subject matter is quite grim. But in a way, it’s soothing in its predictability. I like that it has so many seasons and episodes and I don’t really have to pay attention.

In a way, it’s background noise. It’s a way to pass the time. Before you know it, it’s 11pm and I put my laptop away and go to bed. Another day is gone and we’re hopefully one step closer to the end of this eternal cycle of lockdowns, infections, and death.

I window shop

I can’t even begin to tell you how much I miss walking aimlessly around a mall. When you live in a tropical country, malls are one of the places you go to get free air-conditioning and that’s the simple truth of it. I used to love going into all the pharmacies and skincare outlets. The sights, the smells, the people! But all of that is gone now.

Online window-shopping is one of my new favourite things to do now when I feel the monster of anxiety creeping in. I check out what special promotions different online sellers are offering, compare prices, then add things to my cart with zero intention to purchase. Sometimes I share links of cute outfits or snacks with my friends just so I can have a brief moment of social interaction.

At the height of my window-shopping craze, I had about 130 items in my cart on a shopping app. My dwindling financial resources and a sense of self-preservation meant I wouldn’t have clicked on “buy” anyway, but adding things to my cart gave me a sense of power and control. I guess it’s called Consumerism.

I watch Harry Potter

Over time, I’ve come to terms with the fact that I am quite a boring person in some aspects. I like to stick to things I’m familiar with. I feel excited and soothed when I hear the Harry Potter theme tune. I can lose myself in the books just as easily and stay up until 2am walking the imagined halls of Hogwarts through the screen of my Kindle.

Harry Potter is my happy place, as is Terry Pratchett’s Ankh-Morpork City Watch book series. They remind me of a time when things were simpler and “normal”. While starting a new visual series or a new book might have given me a sense of excitement before the pandemic, now it fills me with anxiety.

So I turn to the familiar. I watch a teenaged boy make friends and learn to fly because it takes me away from the here and now where I am trapped behind these four walls.

Everybody copes with anxiety and uncertainty in different ways. While I do exercise and try to find work opportunities and cook nutritious food for my small family, I also allow myself to LET GO.

Being honest with yourself has never been as important. If watching Harry Potter or Friends ten times in a row makes you feel better, do it.

We’re all living in uncertain times and in all honesty, the virus could kill you. So, watch that movie, wear those sweatpants, be boring. Do what you need to do to get through this.

Previously Published on medium

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