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Staying Sane and Hopeful During the COVID-19 Pandemic

By Sarah Alawi

March was a month full of stress and anxiety around the uncertainties of the COVID-19 pandemic and the disruption of normal life.

Following Harvard Law School’s decision to evacuate campus in early March, most students – myself included – had to hurriedly pack our lives into suitcases and return home in the space of days.

For some of us, getting home (for me, New Zealand) meant having to travel internationally  through airports and transit hubs amid a global pandemic. We landed on the other side to a new normal as the rest of the world caught on; we now live in quarantine “bubbles” while continuing to learn, meet and even socialize via Zoom. Our days are shadowed by restraint and a desperate hope to return to normalcy.

In all of the chaos, the only certainty is that things will remain uncertain for a while. But, as we enter a new month, we have a chance to reflect and focus on one thing we can control: setting a healthy mindset. Now, more than ever, is the time to prioritize our mental health and physical well-being while we continue spend our days in self-isolation.

Here is a roundup of top tips on how to stay healthy, sane, and hopeful in this time of crisis:

  1. Grieve if you need to. As Stephanie O’Neill wrote for Kaiser Health News, “Coronavirus has upended our world. It’s OK to grieve.” A trauma counselor interviewed by O’Neill adds, “it’s important to acknowledge and grieve lost routines, social connections, family structure and our sense of security.” Once you’ve grieved, you can plan the way forward.
  2. Get active. Whether you’re walking, running or cycling in your neighborhood, or streaming your favorite workout, the aim is to focus on staying active for at least 30 minutes every day, bearing in mind that you are moving far less at home than you would in your usual routine. Many fitness studios are prioritizing your health and streaming online workouts via Facebook Live, Instagram Live, or on their website for free. One local option is Breathe Cambridge for yoga and pilates. Other favorites include Skyting for yoga and flow (U.S.) or Fluidform Pilates (Australia) for pilates. Now is the time to find what works for you, and support local and small businesses. You can pay it forward by donating $5 or $10 to a COVID-19 related charity or to support teachers.
  3. Eat healthy. With more time at home, you can focus on cooking and trying out new recipes. It doesn’t have to be lavish; Julia Roberts’ trick, she said in a Goop podcast, is to pull together a group of pals to share favorite recipes in a group chat.
  4. Stay social, and reach out. In enforcing New Zealand’s move to a 4-week quarantine in late March, the country’s prime minister emphasized that the term “social distancing” is something of a misnomer: it’s physical, not social distancing. Make time to reach out and call your loved ones and neighbors via apps like Skype, FaceTime, and Zoom.
  5. Avoid the 24/7 news cycle. Scrolling a news feed gets in the way of productivity and increases stress and anxiety around the global situation. Mark Pearson, a professor of journalism and social media at Griffith University, shared tips for managing news consumption in times of crisis, including: developing a routine of checking the headlines twice or three times a day; avoiding suggested or sponsored news feeds on your social media with dubious and unfiltered information; and subscribing to official feeds like the World Health Organization and your preferred bank’s summary reports on the economic indicators.
  6. Be kind. One of the New Zealand government’s key messages in this difficult time is to be kind to yourself and to others. We are all in this together.
  7. Be hopeful. In Hope in the Dark, Rebecca Solnit writes, “Inside the word ‘emergency’ is ‘emerge’; from an emergency new things come forth.”

Sarah Alawi

Sarah graduated with a BA/LLB(Hons) from The University of Auckland. She then Judges’ Clerked at the High Court of New Zealand for two years, and went on to work as a junior litigator primarily acting on a broad range of commercial disputes. Sarah’s research interest is on assisted reproductive technology, and intends this area of law to be a key part of her practice in future. During her Fellowship, Sarah will write on the enforceability and interpretation of pre-conception agreements after relationship breakdowns.

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