I'm not sure what exactly I want to say with this post. It feels like there's nothing left to say in a way. Over the last few days, the United States has come to realize just how serious COVID-19 is. It's a reality that people in Europe and Asia grasped long before most Americans. I think that we're all starting to realize just how much our lives are fundamentally changing. How long this will actually impact us.
I've seen a lot of different reactions on Twitter. Understandably, there's a lot of heartbreak over lost vacations, concerts, and book tours. A lot of us were using things like this to keep motivated. It's entirely understandable why these choices have been made, but it doesn't make it any less hard. So, I guess what I wanted to say first is don't feel bad for feeling bad. Yes, there are people losing much more from this, and we should be doing everything we can to help them through this time, but beating yourself up for being disappointed isn't productive. We're all about to lose a lot of things big and small, and, while dwelling isn't productive, sometimes it's needed for a moment.
Also, if you're an author that was supposed to go on tour (or wasn't able to go even before this), I'd love to help out. Whether it's your debut or your fifth book, it's heartbreaking to have worked so hard on a book you love to not get your moment of recognition. I feel particularly bad for debuts who feel like they're losing their big moment. Luckily, the book community seems to be using this as a united force. Tons of bloggers and prominent authors are coming together to promote new releases and coordinate online events. We can all stay connected through Twitter and the internet even as we're forced to stay physically distant.
If you're an author who's releasing a book in the coming months (especially if you're a debut), please reach out to me on Instagram (@readingwritingandme) or on Twitter (@readwriteandme) in my DMs or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your book information and what kind of post you'd like to do. I'm happy to work on cover reveals (you can check out the one I did for More Than Maybe here), guest posts (examples), or be a part of my author and publishing world interview series, Into YA. I'm happy to work with you to create whatever you think best showcases your book to the world and gets the word out there! There are tons of other blogs that are doing this as well. If you look around on Twitter, there are tons of threads of bloggers looking to help (one great one is from @erinhahnauthor).
Beyond that, I've seen a lot of people stressing about the mental health and productivity implications of social distancing and self isolation. It is the responsible thing to do, and, ultimately, what will allow life to return to normal the soonest. We all need to do our part to reduce our exposure to COVID-19, but that does create serious impacts. It's hard enough to cope with a worldwide disaster and the anxiety of uncertainty without upending our routines too.
I graduated from online school almost a year ago now, and I've spent much of this past year working in my house with very little actual interaction with people. And, ya, it's really, really hard. I've been through difficult ups and downs with depression over this time, and COVID-19 certainly doesn't help with that, but here are some things that have helped me.
First, cut yourself some slack. Don't set grand expectations about all the things you'll be able to accomplish in quarantine. I often fall into a trap where I expect far too much from myself and then I never do anything because I'll never be able to accomplish all of it. So, most of all, take all of these tips with a side note that none of these tips require perfection or exact adherence. Sometimes, you just can't get everything (or anything) done, especially now. The key is not letting that become a permanent state of being.
I think the best thing you can do for productivities sake is to think of what you want to accomplish that day first thing when you wake up. Choose a reasonable number of tasks or even underestimate what you'll be able to do so you don't get discouraged. Also, how you go about this can look differently based on your personality. This can be a mental checklist, a detailed list in a journal or planner, a full agenda with scheduled times, or anything in-between. Everyone thrives on different levels of intensity on that front, but just having a clear idea of what little tasks to start with helps you get over the paralysis of having so many things to do.
I find separating what tasks I want to do into morning, afternoon, or evening blocks most helpful. That way I'm not confined to doing a task that my brain just doesn't mesh with at a certain time, but I can choose what to work on while still having a general view of if I'm staying on track. A lot of these time estimations get more natural with each day as you get a better idea of how long each thing takes and how much interruption you'll have.
Move through these things one at a time and make sure to give yourself a pat on the back for everything you accomplish. Whether you celebrate with a check mark, nap, sticker, or Twitter time, make sure you appreciate what you've been able to do and fight to urge to feel like you're not doing enough.
Also, even as we all talk about productivity and work activities, acknowledge that it's really hard to get as much or any work done right now. Even for people who are used to working at home, their situations are shifting dramatically. What you can accomplish alone for eight hours is vastly different than what you can do in a house full of people. Setting boundaries, if possible, is definitely helpful, but also realizing that there will be a shift is important.
And for everyone who's only goal is devouring a ton of books, don't feel bad if you can't get as many books read as you thought. While it's getting better, for the first few days of the outbreak getting serious, I wasn't able to focus on books or writing or blogging. I just checked my phone in 15 minute increments and spent the rest of the time panic-staring into space. Sometimes that's just what you have to do. Now that we've moved towards self isolation and there's a clearer view of what to do, I've been able to detach from Twitter more and get productive, but don't feel bad about the time you have to process before you can start taking in information again. If you're a creative or content creator, don't get angry at yourself over a block. We're all dealing with a lot right now that's taking up more space than usual in our brains. It's easier to get back to using it as an outlet if we give ourselves a chance to breath.
As far as preserving mental health during this time, I've found that forcing normalcy on myself works the best. If I get too frazzled or find myself blankly staring, taking a shower is a good way to restart my brain. Something about being physically clean feels like a chance to start over. Exercise, as cheesy as it sounds, is also a good reset. I struggle with keeping consistency with it, but when I exercise on a regular basis I feel my best. It's important, though, to assess what you can handle right now. Whether you want to box out your frustration, take a walk, or do something calming like barre (or for some, yoga), there are tons of great resources on YouTube and Instagram for home workouts. Some of my favorites are from Popsugar, Danielle Peazer, Lazy Dancer Tips, Heather Robertson, Fitness Marshall, and Fitness Blender, but just type whatever you're looking for into YouTube and browse through all kinds of different (free) options all meant to be done at home. This is particularly important if you already have a workout regimen. Adapting it to home will keep a sense of routine.
Do things you enjoy even if you feel like doing nothing (but honor your limit). Sometimes, after a few days of absorbing nothingness, you need to push yourself to do things that feel pointless or like too much work. Do something creative and low pressure. Pull out paints, a journal, or an instrument and start making something with no pressure of it being "productive". That often will shift your mindset to a better place to do things you have to do.
Send messages to friends to stay connected. Send ridiculously long texts if you want. Make sure you keep talking to people outside of the four walls of your house. Pick up the fluffy books that you haven't gotten around to reading. Relish in some happy endings, but try to find a variety of things to do to keep from boredom.
If you feel like you want more connection when the people you know are busy, I've found podcasts and YouTube really help. Even though you can't have a conversation with them, watching someone's vlogs or listening to someone talk about a vast array of topics does offer a bit of a sense of interaction and connection. Find people you enjoy listening to and work though their whole catalogue. Also, goofy YouTube videos. Watch fails and reactions and compilation videos. Anything that will put a smile on your face or make you laugh for a second. Even if it's totally artificially created, that moment laughing will have a far reaching impact on how you feel. Now is the time to indulge those guilty pleasures as you take a break from the news.
Much like listing out tasks to do for the day first thing in the morning, I like to have a list of things to do from playing piano to writing to reading to making outfit inspiration boards and collages to hula hooping. Just tons of activities I can do in the house that I can choose from when I get bored to stop from doing unproductive things like excessive snacking or spiraling about world doom.
Really, we can all get through this together so long as we keep moving and set proper boundaries (both with loved ones we'll be in tight quarters with for the foreseeable future and with the parts of our brain that feel like we're never doing enough). Let's remember to check in with our friends who might be feeling lonely or lost without support structures of community or school, and let's support people like artists, authors, and musicians through online means now that they're tours have been cancelled and their businesses minimized.
I'll be updating the blog as often as possible because I believe now more than ever it's important to talk about amazing books and authors and lift our spirits. It's also something I can focus on to keep myself moving forward and provide a little structure. I'm sorry for the lack of posts in the last few weeks, but I've been struggling with a lot of the uncertainty in recent weeks like probably a lot of you. I'm hoping I'm starting to overcome that, but we're all taking it a day at a time.
Over the course of the week, I'll put out reviews of the books that I manage to finish (follow my Instagram to see what I'm reading and get updates on my Stories), but I also want to do a few posts of online resources that might be helpful right now for putting a smile on your face or keep a routine. I made a couple suggestions on a few YouTube workout channels to check out now, but I want to make a couple list posts of my favorite videos and YouTubers along with an updated list of favorite podcasts (the old one is here).
I want to try to spread some joy if I can.
If you're super bored, I do have three years of content now if you want to go through the archives, and I also have a podcast that should have a few days worth of listening hours (you can find everything about the Empathy Factor here where I discuss a ton of music and pop culture stuff), and a music blog where I talk about my concert experiences, favorite music videos, and artists I'm loving (musicmusingsandme.blogspot.com). I'm hoping to add a ton more to that in the coming weeks as well.
Also, don't forget your local library's online resources including e and audiobooks for when you run out of your last major haul.
And if you're still feeling dubious about social distancing or the new actions that are being taken to fight COVID-19 or maybe you're just totally confused about all the conflicting information, check out Harry Steven's article in the Washington Post. It's the clearest resource I've seen to explain exactly what the impact is with a ton of straight science and super informative interactive graphs.
Stay safe everyone!