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What Self-care Do You Recommend in These Covid Times?

writing about color

The writing life is not exactly stress free. If you’re self-published, you have the endless hustling and all the cares of a solopreneur. If you’re trad published, you have the endless waiting, the rejections, and also the hustling. I used to be very anxiety-ridden all the time, and that took its toll.

The pandemic has distressed all of us–we’re not all equally affected, but we are definitely all affected, in different ways. Survival takes its toll, be it mental or physical, and I’m not immune to the shenanigans of 2020. I’ve decided though that letting it all get to me will help no one.

I’ve started off a few practices:

Eat healthy, and light. Snacking too much to alleviate stress wasn’t helping. My butter addiction hasn’t gone away, I’ve just reduced the helpings!

Spend time in nature whenever I can–I’m extremely privileged to live in a country where the Covid is so far in control, so we can visit parks. (Masks are mandatory here in Singapore, and that though it is very annoying to walk in hot humid weather wearing one–I see that it is necessary. On my walks, I’ve never met anyone without a mask–while it isolates all of us, it also makes me feel cared-for: I’m part of a community where people follow laws that have been created to protect the entire community.)

Meditate whenever I can. I’ve realized I don’t have the mental bandwidth to take a few minutes off and don’t get anywhere when I do. I meditate on my walks instead, and meditate while doing chores. Thich Nhat Hanh’s books have been very helpful.

Reading has been hard too, I can’t get myself to focus. So I’m going for light reads: thrillers, fantasy, and even a romance by Helen Hoang! Once in a while, I also doodle on an app and play with colours–very mindless and relaxing.

My tiny garden has kept me sane–when the world is too much, sunlight and pottering about with plants helps.

Of course, writing. I’m battling deadlines, but ahave  taken up writing as relaxation as well–with no end in mind other than filling up a page. Very brief prompt-based sprints help with that.

A complete social media break is impossible, but I try and switch off as much as possible. Not much news either, only as much as can trickle in via cursory glances at social media.

Cooking and baking has been a chore, but on some days, when I let go a little, they relax me.

Connecting with friends and family has helped–while I’m still not going out socially (am a hermit even during normal times), calls with friends have helped.

Reaching out to others with help–whether it is a call to just listen, a little financial aid, or fundraising, helps me keep the focus away from myself.

So these are my ways to keep borderline-sane through all the madness–can’t do all of them everyday, but a combination keeps me going. I still spiral into gloom on some days, but I always manage to haul myself out. And I’ve decided to cut myself some slack–my word of the year was wuwei, and it has helped me not expect too much out of myself and surf over whatever comes my way.

How have you been doing amid the pandemic? What do you do to keep your sanity and well-being intact? What self-care do you recommend in these covid times?

 


Are you part of nay online or offline book groups? Founded any? What is the experience like? Do you think online book groups are similar to those offline?My debut literary crime novel,”You Beneath Your Skin,” published by the fab team at Simon and Schuster IN is optioned to be a TV series by Endemol Shine.

It is available in India here.

Worldwide, here.

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Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her forthcoming literary crime thriller, The Blue Bar is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency, and will be published by Thomas & Mercer on January 1, 2023.

I appreciate comments, and I always visit back. If you're having trouble commenting, let me know via the contact form, or tweet me up @damyantig !

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45 Comments

  • Rahul Bhatia says:

    So good to read about how well you are coping with the tough times! Best wishes

  • Rajlakshmi says:

    It must be hectic for you. I am glad you are able to find some break in your routine.
    My garden also keeps me sane, along with yoga.

  • dgkaye says:

    Good for you D. Getting out for fresh air for half an hour walk I find necessary. The sitting is way too much for my lower back since this new world. Stay safe my friend. <3

  • What you’re doing sounds good. In addition to all that 2020 is throwing at us, we’re dealing with raging wildfires here in California. Heavy toxic smoke is making it difficult to breathe or even get outside. I’ve taken to reading daily – on my break at work and at night. Bought some calligraphy markers and a small sketch pad to touch base with my childhood artist. Toss in a nap when possible and I’m hanging in there. Thanks for some great ideas!

  • I can totally understand! I think stress has taken its toll and it is important to take care of ourselves. As much as I like going out and walking amidst nature, I haven’t stepped out because the situation here is still crazy. Cooking has also become a chore now but occasionally I try to make something just because I want to. I haven’t been able to write much but reading is keeping me sane.

  • Soumya Prasad says:

    Brilliant pointers, D. I’ve been pretty much doing the same things. Gardening, eating healthy, working out, cooking & baking, painting, reader and everything else that calms my soul. Self-love is what we need the most this year.

  • pythoroshan says:

    I have struggled to focus too when it comes to reading too… mind just wanders… if anything, i am now hiding within youtube binge watches of SNL skits and humour videos… tough to read our news or even go on a social media timeline without getting more depressed

  • Pam Lazos says:

    Great list, Damyanti. Doing my best over here to make mine longer than drink wine, drink wine, drink wine. ;0) Actually, I have started a somewhat shaky, but determined meditation regime along with more stretching. It’s amazing how a few little things can make a huge difference.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Hahhahaha wine sounds good. SOmetimes even first thing in the morning. I stay away from it though because who knows how I’ll fare lol. You can start small with meditation–a little bit works wonders. Thich Nhat Hanh, Eckhart Tolle, Joe Dispenza have taught me a few small tricks that keep me going.

  • Suhasini says:

    Instead of doodling, I try solving Sudoko puzzles. And we still can’t go out for walks freely, so me and my kid end up spending that extra energy through Zumba. We both enrolled as a team there๐Ÿ˜Š

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      I have sudoku fiends in my family but somehow have never latched on to it myself. So cool that you and your kid do zumba together!

  • Shalzmojo says:

    Stepping out in nature has been the most blissful thing for me too and yes the mask in this humid weather is painful but the sight of all that green is so so blissful. Its just worth it. I hear you on everything you have said here and ditto you on that. Hugs Damyanti!

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Being in the green is almost worth any price ๐Ÿ™‚

      Hugs right back, Shalini.

  • I have been reading a lot, but I try to balance my for-the-blog and comps reading with for-fun reads. Another blogger I follow recommends baking as self-care–but then she’s in Finland. Here, it’s still to hot for me to want my oven on for long periods of time. I do need to get out for more walks, but my boys and I have been enjoying our bike rides around our little town this summer.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Bike rides are awesome! I keep dithering about buying bikes but renting one and biking by the seaside is heaven!

  • Billybuc says:

    Gardening, walks in nature, and yoga! Absolutely necessary so I don’t become stagnant.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      I need to take up some light yoga–I used to it and it made me feel so much better!

  • hilarymb says:

    Hi Damyanti – I’ve kept my head/brain safe … and kept researching/learning – writing my blog, and checking in on other bloggers. I’ve kept walking – not as much as I should … and need to adjust my lack of routine and do more exercises … I’m quite strong-minded … so I’ll cope through. Well done for you – it’s been challenging … take care and stay safe – Hilary

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      You do such an amazing job in the blogging community, Hilary. Thanks for all your hard work. Take care, and stay safe too. Hugs.

  • Great advice, Damyanti! I especially like the gardening, getting out into nature/exercise, and eating modifications you mention. For us, a newer practice is taking a family walk most evenings either before or right after dinner. So, it’s not a strenuous walk, just a 30-min stroll around the neighborhood (but distancing from non-family members) with just the kids and us adults. It gives us a chance to hear their thoughts on what’s going on with their lives or larger issues, sans television, XBox, etc. I also would be lost without my personal time jogging or walking and reading. And, as small as it sounds, as a person who battles depression, I recognize the good that comes from simply showering and putting on clothes as if I were going out in public. Honestly, I haven’t much time for anything these days other than kid care, a little bit of personal/work stuff, and domestic chores!

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Chores overwhelm me, too. I try and set low standards everywhere–from chores, to work, to writing.

      Your time spent walking with the family sounds ideal. I hope you have more time to be gentle with yourself, and depression does not rear its ugly head any time soon.

  • arlene says:

    I garden, write, have some cooking experiments and read a lot. We still wear face masks here along with face shields. I usually wear them on short trips to the grocery which is located at our subdivision gate. Keep safe Damyanti.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Stay safe, too. Good to hear your community believes in masks–so many don’t especially in India, and we’re paying the price.

  • Ruchi Nasa says:

    All the valid points. And I was wondering why I can’t read these days …even the genre which would be stress busters for me ..these days I find difficult to read ..so I’ve shifted back to medical reading for a while

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Reading needs focus, and when we’re on survival mode we lose that focus. Perfectly natural, really. Don’t worry about it, it will come back to you as you relax more.

  • soniadogra says:

    I finally decided to go easy on myself this year. I haven’t given up on my goals but I have allowed myself some time. I write, not as much as before but I do. I am spending more time reading though. I find it relaxing. Social media has taken a back seat for a while. I don’t know for how long though. I also worry, hilariously, whether people will remember me when I decide to be back. Cooking is extremely tiring for me but I have to do it. I try joining my children for an hour of TV watching everyday. We are doing a series of family movies and that seems relaxing. Then there is work. That is demanding but I have no choice with it. Your post got me thinking… And blabbering.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      This isn’t blabbering, at all. Taking it easy on ourselves seems so hard to do–we always hold ourselves to such impossibly high standards. Cutting down on social media, spending time with family, and self-care is what’s important. Don’t worry, none of us are going away, and we’ll all be here to cheer you when you decide to get back on social media!

  • Jemima Pett says:

    Glad to know you are coping. If only people would wear masks more here. They are only required in doors – shops, buses, that sort of thing. Although I don’t wear mine outdoors, as I’m not going to any busy places. Supermarket once a week and home. Try to get out for a walk in the country or a park once a week, the rest of the time I’m focused on getting the next book out and looking after the garden and guinea pigs!
    My list of ‘things to do ‘ helps me get through, but it’s a love-hate relationship! I’ve not controlled the eating well at all, but I must be worrying it off.
    So I reckon I’m the same as your average lockdowner, even though we’re supposed to be more relaxed now. The instructions from our idiots-in-charge are useless. Nobody knows what to do. So I follow the Scottish rules.
    I too glean most of the headlines from social media – but you have to be careful not to fall for made up stuff. I’m thinking of throwing the tv out completely.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Those in charge in Singapore seem to know what they’re doing, but this being a pandemic, the economy is severely affected. All the best with your next book! To-do lists are double-edged for me as well. Sometimes, I long for days without to-do lists. Take care, Jemima.

  • Rosie Amber says:

    Being out in nature and a gratitude journal have been helping me. I also only glance at newspaper headings and never watch the news, I keep my focus locally on what is happening around me. Too much weight from all the negativity in the world is crushing and feels like weight-lifting is needed to keep it off. A new balance is needed urgently.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Yes, Rosie. Can’t handle news any more and can’t get involved with it. Going local and small-scale to make a difference is where the trick lies, I think.

  • Great tips! Iโ€™Ve also stopped watching too much negative news on TV. And I try to focus on all the many positives in my life.Simple gratitude works.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Gratitude absolutely works. I practice it all the time–so much a part of life that I forgot to mention it. Tempted to go edit my list. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Self care is a very individual thing. If it works for you – do it! And do it some more.
    I step away from the news as much as possible. If I cannot change it (and I usually can’t) I turn it off.
    I read.
    I spend time outdoors. Nature is so often solace and heart-balm for me.
    And I continue to volunteer in much needed areas where I think/hope I can make a positive difference.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      News is so toxic these days, everywhere. Most of it is propaganda from one side of the divide or the other, and there seem to be no facts. The post-truth world has truly arrived. Nature, volunteering, reading–all the pursuits we all need, really.

  • Good diet, adequate rest, outside exercise around lakes and trees and communication with friends and family. Strict limit on TV watching and cut down on social media as much as is possible. Meditate on the good and be as helpful and encouraging as possible to others. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      I agree with and practice almost all of it, Ian. Good to know you’re coping well.

  • Birgit says:

    You do a lot what I do but, aside from working from home, which I love, I have not felt that badly affected. I have to get used to mask wearing going grocery shopping but thatโ€™s about it. I do miss seeing my friends but we do still see each other just social distancing. I love to craft, making cards and scrapbooks, watch movies and tv, read and, when I can, walk.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Being an introvert always helps, and I am one. Haven’t met anyone in a while, but online interaction makes up for it. Your routine and interests sound lovely, Birgit. Stay safe.

  • I’ve been doing a lot of yard work – tons of exercise as well. My wife has baking and cooking like crazy. We just focus on each other.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Yard work is very helpful–wish I had one! Focusing on each other is such a lovely thing–we do a bit of that as well.

  • Stu says:

    Hey Damyanti:
    Besides writing every single day now, and participating in different Writer’s Groups, I’ve been finding more and more meditation groups.
    The newest, and the best for me right now, is a Transcendental Breathing hour on Saturdays. A real energizer and mind settler.

    Physically, I’m not ready for Yoga. Too many creaks, argghss, and ouchies. We’ll see.

    Music plays a huge part. Put on headphones, find something i want to listen to on Amazon Prime music or Spotify, and I’m off for a good hour or so.

    Hope you’re doing well.

    Stu

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Hi Stu, yes, breathing right really helps. As does music–I love classical, and jazz. All good here, so far–let’s hope it stays that way. Take care of you.

  • sparks1524 says:

    Funny you mention this. My pandemic experience has been the opposite. I retired from the Navy in 2017, and chose to take a 70% pay cut when I left the federal job I had because the leadership was bad. Focusing in on preparing to self-publish my first novel, and the lack of stress by toxic leaders, has made my own life smooth out considerably. However, I do find not going to Starbucks and talking to the people there while writing has been a stressor as that was one of my main social outlets.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      So good to hear that, Nathanael.

      I don’t support Starbucks (overpriced, bad coffee, imo), but I do sorely miss sitting at local cafes and food courts. The buzz of humanity around me used to somehow create the silence I needed within to write.

      All the best with your debut novel!

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