covid19 tips: How I’ve Kept Healthy Enough to Not Start Talking to My Reflection in the mirror. Yet.
Updated: Feb 8
Two weeks had passed since having to leave my office at the drop of a hat, in the pouring rain, because of Corona - two weeks since I’d felt some quasi-sense of normalcy. I’d subsequently spent the week after anxiously indulging in all my Quarantine snacks like I was preparing for hibernation, only pausing my chipmunk-like Oreo nibbling to bite my fingernails for a minute instead. When I came to terms with leaving LA, I threw myself a little pity party, walked to the 7-11 across the street, and treated myself to a few donuts. (If you’re not going to live in California, what’s the point of eating sugar-free/non-GMO/low-carb, anyway?)
It wasn’t until I was back in the bedroom I’d lived in from middle school on, that I realized I would quite literally go insane if I kept this up. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good, greasy, low-quality Domino's pizza at midnight like the rest of us. It was just that going to the gym and cooking my egg white omelets every morning were parts of me that didn’t only keep my body functioning, they kept me from having a personal 2007-Brittany-Spears-Let’s-Shave-My-Head breakdown.
The one way I’ve been able to cope with just about any problem that comes my way, besides getting an ear piercing at a moment's notice, is getting a good lift in. Breakup? Time for deadlifts. Didn’t get that internship? It’s Chest Day. Move home to Indiana, lose your job, and say sayonara to college graduation? Whoops. We neglect to inform you the gyms are closed due to COVID-19.
I would like to say I’m the kind of girl that can put on a brave face, whip her hair into a high ponytail, and get to the air squats. But that’s not me. That will never be me. So I rolled up my metaphorical sleeves (after one final *woe is me* sob fest - the only kind of fest you’ll be seeing this year), and got to work.
The first step I took to keep healthy:
1. I bought a home gym.
Just because there has to be icing on a cake, everybody and their father was sold out of workout equipment. Even worse, the items in stock had prices multiple times the original value. You close down the gyms and suddenly the whole world wants to be Arnold Schwarzenegger.
I digress. I hit a stroke of luck on Facebook Marketplace. The guy had a rack, a slew of weights to choose from, and the Olympic barbell itself. Not to mention he lived only ten minutes away for a speedy pickup. *Cue the choir of angels.*
The ice of sanity I’m skating on is, despite my profound humor, thinner than I’d like. This little gym has become my sanctuary.
Working out is only half the battle, though; I would love to pretend Quarantine calories don’t count, but after my third sloppy burger in one week, I wondered if the tiny mice people always say come at night and sew your clothes tighter might be choosing me as their next victim.
2. I cleaned up my diet.
Every morning for at least two years, excluding holidays and the post-wild night mornings I wake up hungover on the couch of a friend’s apartment, I have the same exact thing: an egg white omelette with spinach, Mexican cheese, and salsa, paired with old-fashioned (emphasis on the old-fashioned) oatmeal and nut butter. I drink a glass of lemon water before, and a cup of hot tea after. Do I get sick of it? Not really. For someone as Type B as I am, I thrive off of routine. This is my, “Hey, I’m Healthy and Productive and Definitely Have My Life Together” breakfast. No abra-kadabra can do what this ritual does to me when it comes to setting the tone for my day.
Now, on the flip side, let me just contradict everything #2 stands for. Just for kicks and giggles.
3. Eat that cookie. Or brownie. Or hell, both.
I’m not sure if it’s because my sister’s sweet tooth is the size of Bigfoot’s molars, or because she’s genuinely bored, but let me tell you, there is always some dessert here. As a person who finds no wrong in eating cookie dough for breakfast or a brownie in the middle of her workout (yes, this did indeed happen last week, much to my sister’s shock - iNtrAWoRkOuT CarbS, right ladies?) my temptation meter is off the charts.
So I let myself have some, and I swap out the copious amounts of Goldfish crackers I usually inhale for grilled chicken instead. I don’t restrict anymore, especially not when something’s been baked, homemade, and straight from the oven; I know darn well it’ll have to be the rainiest of rainy days for me to do that myself.
Really though, I don’t want to be the annoying girl who preaches *BALANCE* because who really knows what that means, anyway? In short, eat your broccoli and eat your cake. Just, not together.
4. Bring back the nap.
Or any type of sleep, to be honest. It’s important, and it’s something I have preached for years and never done myself. (The curse of being someone with extreme FOMO.) Before Quarantine, I was going out in LA probably three times a week. I worked five days a week and had night class three times a week. I didn’t like coffee much before coming to LA, either. *slightly tweaks* But now I bleed brown.
Since I’m now unemployed and still trying to figure out where the heck I go from here, I’ve had ample time to sleep. As someone who prides herself in usually waking up around nine in the morning on a Saturday, no alarm clock necessary, this new pattern of having my omelet at noon is . . . slightly jarring. I am no longer Allison-Pump-Me-With-Caffeine-Witucki, I am now, Allison-Wake-The-Hell-Up-Before-The-Sun-Goes-Down-Witucki. (Might be hard to fit on my driver’s license, but I’ll take it.)
Yet I embraced it, and to be honest, despite science contradicting this in every single way, I’m pretty sure I have made up for 22 years of lost sleep. Corona, I’ll cheers to that.
(My little Sleeping Beauty stint has now reached its expiration date, if only because I prefer to feel some sense of accomplishment in my day before it’s time to figure out dinner.)
To my next point:
5. Spend time with family.
This should be a given, but honestly, it’s something I’ve neglected a lot. I spent most of last year seeing friends across the country or catching flights to new European cities. Christmas came and went in a blink of an eye, and then - wham! - the Starbucks' barista at LAX hands me my iced coffee post four-hour flight as I mentally prepare to start my final semester of undergrad.
Transitioning from a child to an adult is a weird thing; it’s not easy for the parents or the kid, and when you’re the oldest, you have the wonderful opportunity of being the first. Arguments are kind of in the job description; yet, I’d somehow subconsciously figured spending every waking minute avoiding my home instead of ironing out the wrinkles my family and I had was going to magically fix things.
Quarantine did something nothing else could.
It sent me flying back to Indianapolis, forced my sister home from college, and refrained my dad from business travels.
It took away my ability to go out to the bar with my friends, so I had margaritas with my dad instead.
It closed the gyms, so my siblings and I spent a day shooting the soccer ball around outside.
It shut down a lot of restaurants, so we started doing more of the classic, timeless nights we’ve had for years, where my dad grills out on the patio, my mom cooks the sliced zucchini and squash wrong yet again, and my brother puts out feelers for who might want to go through the drive-thru at Dairy Queen when we’re done.
So many nights, I’ve thought about getting out of the house and finally having my own, permanent place, and wearing that work blazer and earning those high-heel blisters. But recently, a lot more nights have me taking in what is undoubtedly the final hurrah of my youth. Not many people get to say their entire families had the privilege of being together again for a decent amount of time once one of them hits college.
I’m thankful I get to tell my dad I’d rather endure another Finite course than play the board game Risk, because it means we have the time to play.
I’m thankful my mom gets frustrated when she hears we don’t want chicken for dinner again, because it means there’s another family dinner in order.
I’m thankful my sister pops her head through our Jack and Jill bathroom door and gasps, “How much have you been drinking?” during my Zoom Happy Hour, because it means we’re still just a door away, and not yet cities, much less states.
No one knows what is really the right or “healthy” thing to do right now. For some people, watching Netflix until they need Lasik eye surgery might be the only thing doing their mental health right. For others, becoming the next converted Yogi and spending most of their waking hours mumbling, “Om . . . “ until they’ve felt some inner peace may be what’s best. But there’s one thing, I think, that is the real key to getting through this without wanting to check into a psych ward or audition for The Biggest Loser:
It’s counting your blessings. Remembering what we still do have. Realizing our homes are not holding us hostage, they’re serving us refuge. Not everyone is fortunate enough to be in the position to say the same.
And one final, very important point:
6. Get cheap, drugstore self-tanner. Because if you can’t go to the beach, you might as well sip a watered-down Mojito in your swimsuit and act like you’ve gotten Vitamin D.