This season has been one of the most terrifying and trying times our nation—and world—has faced in a long time, but it has also taught us a great deal about ourselves. If anything, we’ve learned humans are fiercely resilient and adaptable, but we’ve also gotten to take a look at what’s most important in our individual lives. And, like the old adage says, it’s the little things in life that really matter.
“This experience is making us realize how busy we were before all this began, and it begs us to ask the question, ‘was it all necessarily necessary?’” says Cathleen Swody, PhD, an organizational psychologist and founding partner of Thrive Leadership.
Swody says we are not only being taught to work with more focus and purpose, discovering what is necessary to prioritize—and how to prioritize it—but we are also learning what affects our mood, becoming more in touch with our emotions. She says prioritizing mental health and making meaningful connections with others are valuable skills we need to continue to foster as life eases back to our former definition of “normal.”
When we are aware of what affects our mood, we’re more prone to get outside and enjoy a walk in the sun, Swody says, but our busyness can keep proper mental health at bay. Now that most of us have the time to self-reflect and are experiencing a range of emotions, it’s important to discover what brings us joy and what fills our lives with meaning and purpose.
The Veranda staff, eternal optimists that we are, took some time to reflect on habits we’ve developed during the pandemic this year that we’d actually like to continue prioritizing once life begins to look the way it did before. From pursuing passion projects to relishing in intentional time away from screens, here are some pandemic habits our staff seek to keep when life goes back to normal:
Prioritizing "Unplugged" Time
Now, nearly a year into spending most every moment at home surrounded by all of our devices, it's becoming increasingly more difficult to get away from the televisions, laptops, phones, and other electronics that can lure us into time-sucks. However, taking some time away from the news cycle, mindlessly scrolling through social media, and resorting to Netflix as our main form of entertainment will do wonders for our mental health—and creativity—as we are tempted to cling to those distractions once life goes back to normal.
"I am very guilty of 'doom-scrolling' and spending hours just getting lost in all the negative news," says Assistant Editor Sarah DiMarco. "I've been using the Flora app which helps limit your screen time by 'planting' a tree. If you join the Flora Care service, the team will plant real trees when you reach your goals."
Associate Digital Editor Lauren Wicks has found keeping her phone out of the way until lunch keeps her ultra-productive and much less stressed when starting the day. She says if she must check Instagram for something work-related, she will just check on her laptop and keep the temptation to use her phone at bay until her stomach tells her it's time to start cooking.
Digital Director Victor Maze says he's trying to generally slow down more and has enjoyed making more time for reading books (and magazines, of course!) instead of just scrolling through news feeds.
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Making Time to Foster Our Passions or Learn Something New
Several of our staff members have enjoyed becoming students again, be it of history, language, or even baking! Hobbies that often get thrown to the wayside have become bright spots in our days of quarantine, even serving as a form of self-care—and we want to keep them up as life begins to go back to the way it was.
“I have thoroughly enjoyed having the time to really delve into the topics that interest me,” says Style and Market Editor Dayle Wood. “Whether taking online classes on Hungarian embroidery and the history of Southeast Asian textiles, or diving into books on life during the British Raj and Russian dacha interiors, I’ve relished being a student again and hope to keep it up post-quarantine.”
Other Veranda editors have enjoyed brushing up on their foreign language skills, and they are crossing their fingers that they’ll get to use their skills on a dreamy vacation someday soon. What a great reward that will be!
“I want to continue to try new things—whether a recipe, learning a new language, or taking an online creative class,” says Rachael Burrow, Senior Style Editor. She highly recommends using the language learning tool, Duolingo, for a fun and rewarding break in the middle of the day, even if it’s just five minutes.
Design Director Victor Maze is having fun re-discovering his current hometown of Orlando, Florida and hopes to keep learning more about the city once life picks back up. He says embracing the art of the "staycation" and rediscovering things he can do in driving distance instead of always thinking about the next big vacation is something he hopes to continue into next year and beyond. Part of that also includes supporting local restaurants by dining out on the patios of his favorite haunts weekly.
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Prioritizing Exercise as a Form of Self-Care
Design Director Victor Maze and Editor-in-Chief Steele Marcoux say they hope to keep walks in their daily regimens. Research shows walking isn’t just good for your body, it’s a natural form of stress relief. That’s our kind of multi-tasking.
“It’s the best way to get exercise, while also relaxing,” Maze says. “You can do it while listening to a podcast, talking to friends, or just letting your mind wander. Plus, it’s a great way to get vitamin D!”
Several of our other staff members say they want to ensure exercise stays part of their weekly self-care routine. Senior Photo Editor Kate Phillips says she has enjoyed actually “making it to barre class” five times a week, albeit virtually, and wants to keep it up once her local studio reopens its doors. This is not only a much-needed time to move and stretch the body, but it has also helped her stay sane and manage stress.
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Relishing in Life’s Slow but Meaningful Moments
Many of us have enjoyed spending our free time away from a screen and in the company of loved ones. Whether it’s playing cards on a Saturday night, writing a handwritten letter to an old friend, or lingering around the dinner table after a meal to have meaningful conversation, our staff is relishing in the precious few slow moments we are getting right now—and want to keep them a part of our routines when we can instead of letting them drift by.
“I recently started sitting in my front yard—as opposed to the back deck—at the end of the day so I can see neighbors walk by,” Marcoux says. “I have truly discovered the whole new side of my house!” Not only has the front yard been a great respite from a messy kitchen or loud living room for many of us, but Marcoux has found the front yard to be a great social spot to enjoy the company of neighbors and friends without having to go anywhere at all.
Social distancing has taught us all valuable lessons about being a better consumer—of both material possessions and time. Photographer William Woodcock says he wants to continue his habit of consuming less paper products, while Copy Editor Ashley Leath wants to continue to challenge herself—and her family—to reduce food waste. She, like Assistant Editor Sarah DiMarco, wants to be more determined to source local food and products when possible.
“I definitely want to continue to support small and local businesses more,” DiMarco says. “It's been heartbreaking to see so many forced to close due to the circumstances of the pandemic, so I want to make a conscious effort to look to these places first before going to big, national retailers.”
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Seeking Quiet in the Chaos
A common thread throughout our staff’s hopes for post-pandemic life included making space for peace and quiet in our busy days, even if it’s just a few intentional minutes. Executive Editor Ellen McGauley says taking some time away from the chaos of the day to write her thoughts and feelings has been a worthwhile exercise she wants to keep up.
“I started a quarantine journal at the beginning of this to keep track of what was changing without the ‘noise’ of so many distractions and obligations, and it was enlightening,” says McGauley. “I could suddenly make a better omelette without thinking about it. I finally knew in what arrangements to hang pictures on walls that had otherwise stumped me. I started a container garden—and the plants didn’t die. Running became easier because I hadn’t depleted my energy mentally.”
Marcoux says she wants to continue enforcing daily “quiet time” in her household, during which everyone takes a break from the screens—and from each other.
“I’ve started taking an afternoon tea break around 3 p.m. every day—when I remember,” says Associate Digital Editor Lauren Wicks. “It has become a ritual I look forward to every afternoon, and those minutes it takes to boil the water and steep my favorite tea give me some much-needed time to check my posture, take some deep breaths and even take a few stretches at my workspace. It’s something I want to keep up when I get back to the office because it really does rejuvenate me and helps me finish the last few working hours of the day strong.”
As the “return to normal,” slow as it may be, feels just around the corner, Swody says it’s important to take inventory of what truly matters to you, so you can continue to prioritize your values.
“We are creatures of habit, and it’s all too easy to settle back into our old ways,” Swody says. “Stay conscious by asking what you need to do to feel your best. Was exercise making you more productive? Was eating a healthy lunch preventing that mid-afternoon slump? Consider making visible reminders of why these things matter and make a daily or weekly checklist to make sure you can continue to take care of yourself.”
Swody also says seeking social support is a great way to help you stay focused on what truly matters. She says finding an accountability partner who shares your values and has maybe had a similar pandemic experience can help you stay the course in caring for yourself and nurturing important relationships as life picks back up.
“Just as much as we’ve learned about what works and what’s important to us, this time has helped us shed some bad habits that aren’t serving us, like multi-tasking and being glued to our phones at dinner time,” Swody says. “Don’t fall back into these traps and find ways to simplify where you can to ensure you have meaningful, purpose-filled days.”
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