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Wise Advice from Tyee Readers on Running the Pandemic Marathon

We’re entering the later miles now, and it’s still so hard. We asked how you’re powering through — or at least coping.

By Dorothy Woodend and Christopher Cheung 17 Mar 2021 | TheTyee.ca

Dorothy Woodend is culture editor for The Tyee.
Christopher Cheung reports on urban issues for The Tyee.

If the pandemic is indeed a marathon, we’re entering mile 24 right about now: guts seizing up, leg cramps incipient, lungs labouring and most body parts pleading for a break.

Anyone who’s ever run a long race knows one of the main things that gets you across the finish line are the other people, running with you, handing out cups of Gatorade and orange slices and cheering folks on as they enter the last leg.

We could all use such a boost right now. That’s why we asked for your advice, and we’re grateful to Tyee readers who shared their own methods of coping in these hard times in emails or discussions in the comments’ section under our original article.

Below we’ve included some of the most engaging suggestions, ideas and simple encouragements. We had to trim them slightly, otherwise you’d be reading the equivalent of Tyee’s War and Peace: The Pandemic Edition.

Thanks to all those who submitted.

“Buy a selection of pajama bottoms, T-shirts and sweatpants. Maintain the wardrobe that you haven’t been wearing in case your clothes still fit when we are liberated.” — Alanna Hendren

“I quit my job and went back to university.” — @bravesealpup

“Rye whiskey.” — @thegodsareangry

“Don’t spend too much time at the fridge and stay away from cookies and Hawkins Cheezies.” — G West

“I’ve gone as far as rolling out Hawkins, cut with Rice Krispies, to bread chicken and even spotted prawns.” — Free Willy

582px version of PandemicYearOneCheezies.jpg
Illustration by Christopher Cheung.

“After giving thanks to yourself daily for getting through these unprecedented times, spend time outside every day in all weather — except perhaps a howling blizzard. Be curious and notice the subtle changes in the natural world. Even any downtown has natural life.” — Helen

“The summer before the pandemic, I started swimming in the ocean every day. Waking up every morning and cycling to the beach first thing for a swim has been a real life-saver for me.” — BK

582px version of PandemicYearOneSwimmerDW.jpg
Illustration by Dorothy Woodend.

“We Zoom. We get over the anxiety of diving into a new technology pool, get over the awkward video, bad lighting and sound delays that make us sound like we are interrupting one another until… voilà. We are talking and laughing and going off screen to get the proverbial coffee pot. We Zoom with our usual friends because, no, we can’t see them every day, haven’t for weeks and weeks. We Zoom with old friends we would normally connect with by Christmas card. ‘How are you surviving, back in Ontario?’ We Zoom into family reunions with our brothers and sisters strewn across the countryside of our history like it was July and we could all be eating watermelon. And we Zoom with our kids for coffee, before they set out on their days, seemingly so close we could almost pack them lunch. But they are in Vancouver. Have been for years. So oddly, oh so oddly, we are closer now.

“Do we prefer it? No. We so much want to pull their beating hearts up close to ours and feel their welcoming arms around us. But we will keep stitching ourselves together, Zooming in and out of one another’s lives, weaving our electronic tapestries of tenderness until we get to zero and are done. And then, hopefully, we will not forget that we know how to connect, and the importance of it. Now we know how.” — Robert Hart

“Fairly early on in the ‘stay-at-home’ part of the pandemic strategy I was becoming more and more depressed. A dear friend, who is not normally prone to depression, had a meltdown over a relatively small event being cancelled. Her wise husband took her for a walk in the park. She told me later, ‘I cried all the way there, an almost 30-minute drive, and about 50 feet down the path through the trees I took a deep breath and the crying stopped. This experience was the beginning of our thrice weekly walks in local parks.’ This has been the thing that has restored our sanity. Not only does it give us something to look forward to, it presents us with a never-ending variety of new experiences… listening to bird sounds, watching bird behaviour, noticing wee differences in our surroundings week to week, watching the salmon make their way upstream to spawn.” — Maureen Rossetti

582px version of PandemicYearOneSalmonDW.jpg
Illustration by Dorothy Woodend.

“How do we go boldly when we don’t want to go? Go anywhere. At any time... when descending the front steps may indeed lead to the abyss of uncertainty, possible malady and a swab stick the length of an HB pencil. Other survival stuff: a bevy of stringed instruments, a decent digital camera and a portable set of watercolour paints, paper and accessories provide hours of introspective activity when each day can seem like a week’s amount of time. And, as part of my personal renaissance, I have increased the amount of correspondence of hand-written cards and letters: the joy of their reception by friends and family has been heartfelt and sometimes returned by mail.” — James Houston

“During COVID, I’ve taken to reading plays over video chat with my father. We’ve gone through a lot of Shakespeare, Wilde, some W.B. Yeats, and most recently, Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas. We sometimes assign roles, but more often it's fun to just roll with each scene and pick parts as we go. It’s been a great way to remove ourselves from the current woes of the world through an act or so of drama every week.” — Jack

“My family is grown, and I now live alone. Here are some things that help me. I practise self-care. Make that my go-to activity. Go outside for one hour a day if it’s not a blizzard. Do most of my shopping on foot and pick things that I really like to eat. Not too much sugar, although dark chocolate is OK. I feed myself, clean up after self, make bed to fall into at the end of the day. Self seems to like order more than chaos, so I tidy up a bit. Have found more dust than I ever thought existed. I feed the Oregon juncos and pine siskins on my railing every day; there are no two alike. Keep expectations low. One accomplishment a day is sufficient, like doing the laundry or getting groceries. Afternoon naps save the day, while listening to CBC and reading novels. Call friends, especially single friends, although married friends can be just as lonely. Celebrate 5 o’clock with a beer and a cheers to absent friends. One way or another, I made it through another day.” — Kathryn Ogg

582px version of PandemicYearOneBirdDW.jpg
Illustration by Dorothy Woodend.

“My best tip is to go for a walk in a dog park and pretend that the dog owners are talking to me instead of their dogs. It really helps my flagging spirit to be regaled as a ‘good girl’ or a ‘gorgeous pup.’” — Barb

“Last March, our church closed, and I haven’t been to an in-person church service since. As a member of the church choir for 35 years this was a tremendous loss. Out of the blue the choir received an email from our accompanist asking if we would like to record our voices by singing along to a practice track and join in the fun of creating a choir from afar. I was very skeptical at first, because I have always been the last to catch on and understand new technologies. Eleven months later, I am now singing solo recordings, duet recordings and the latest adventure is an Easy Virtual Choir program that allows our faces to be seen for the first time. When you create a voice recording you do not need makeup, hair done, appropriate clothing or a well-lit room venue with staged props. Next comes the praying that it will blend, have been sung in time, and eventually (after the wizardry mixing from our accompanist) sound sweet to our congregant members. Surviving the pandemic has happened one song at a time.” — Heather Pitman

“One thing that has been helpful for me, as a person who lives alone, is doing jigsaw puzzles! It is the first time that I have touched a jigsaw puzzle since doing them with my family while growing up. I have found the puzzles to be an enjoyable distraction and something with which to intersperse with television-watching, Sudoku puzzles, crossword puzzles, adult colouring and catching up with Facebook.” — Maureen Rossetti

582px version of PandemicYearOneVirusPuzzle.jpg
Illustration by Christopher Cheung.

“I’ve made an art out of bed-making, and I delight in the pleasure of a well-made one, ready to welcome me back at the end of the day.” — Bonnie Richards

“Every night at 5 p.m. we build a fire in the fireplace and sit in two comfortable chairs right in front of it. We get a glass of wine, watch the fire, and talk, even though we might think that we have nothing new to say. Somehow, staring at the flames, we talk about the past, present and future. All good. It is a nice structure to the day in the time of COVID. The time not being busy is a gift.” — Hazel Ramsey  [Tyee]

Read more: Health, Coronavirus

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