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Sanity in the time of a pandemic

Reader Karen sent me a message on Instagram the other day asking what I am doing to maintain sanity and a grateful attitude during these difficult times.

For the record, I don’t think I have this completely figured out, and I have not been unflappably cheerful this whole time.


an image of me at my best, captured by Lisey 😉

But there are a few habits/tips that have helped me, and I thought I’d write them down in the hopes that maybe they will help you too. 

First: Don’t expect to feel totally cheerful all the time

(I am going to list some cheering habits after this; don’t worry!)

Everyone’s life has been turned upside down in some way or another, and I don’t think it’s fair to expect yourself to feel really fantastic about this.

For example, the extroverts among us are weary from not seeing people outside their houses. And the introverts are weary of having their housemates around all the time.

No one is getting exactly what would help them thrive. 

Also, suddenly losing our routines, activities, and freedom (with no end-date to boot!) is just flat-out hard, and I think it’s ok to acknowledge that. That’s totally different than wallowing in our misery.

Plus, in the bigger picture, this is a really sad situation. There’s serious physical and financial suffering happening out there, and we don’t need to try to feel cheerful about that.

So, I think we need to give ourselves (and our housemates) some grace. This is hard, and we’re all struggling in our own ways, so give yourself and your family some room to feel bummed out.


On to some things that have helped me.

Don’t think ahead. Stay in the moment.

In every long-term difficulty I’ve faced, I have been tempted to think, “Oh my WORD, how will I ever make it through x number of weeks/months??”

This has been helpful exactly 0/1000 times.

Thinking about a long stretch of difficulty is just so discouraging and I don’t think anyone can stare that in the face and feel cheerful.

For instance, when I was pregnant and sick (I had hyperemesis all four times), I could not let myself look at the mass of upcoming day and weeks. I felt much more able to deal with the situation when I just thought about getting through one day at a time. 

Me, pregnant with Zoe (see tiny Sonia in the mirror!)

Focusing just on today or just this week really helps me.

Remember that most things are temporary

Full confession: I struggle to remember this!

When I hit something hard, I often assume that the hard thing is permanent and will never go away.

Sometimes, this is true, of course.

But a lot of difficulties are temporary. And even a long period of temporary is still not forever.

Our current pandemic situation is going to be a loooong temporary, yes.

Things are not going to be this locked down for the rest of our lives, though.

One day, we will be able to go to work and school, have friends over, go shopping, and travel.

Kristen in face mask

Someday, maybe shopping will not require a mask.

Think about who you could help

Focusing on yourself and your misery will rarely help you feel better.

But helping other people will almost always make you feel better.

I can write blog content that helps people, I can help keep my girls busy, and I can reach out and check in on friends and family.

All of those things help others feel better, but they also help me feel good. A true win-win!

Focus on what you can do

There are a lot of things we can’t do right now. A LOT.

So, it’s easy to think about those things and then feel discouraged.

This is a pretty dis-empowering line of thinking, though, and I find that I feel a lot more powerful if I think about what I can do.

how to store leftover wall paint

painting: still an option right now!

To name a few things, I can:

  • help others (see above)
  • take care of my body
  • follow the government’s directions
  • pray
  • feed my family
  • take care of my home

If I have extra free time*, I can read, make a photo book, watch a show, write something, learn a language, do a craft, tackle a home improvement project, and so on.

*I know not everyone has more free time! I’ve felt a little more busy than usual in some ways, and so have lots of other people.

Keep some structure going

I don’t think something super regimented is necessary, but in times of upheaval, it feels good to have some sense of normalcy.

So, I am still going to bed and getting up at the same time, and I’m making sure Sonia and Zoe are too.

(Lisey is 19 and I figure she can manage herself. 😉 )

We’re still having meals at the usual times, chores are still happening, I still shower and get dressed, and so on.

roasted potatoes

Food: something that can still feel pretty normal!


I think it’s possible that some people might feel all right with a structure-less life, but I’d venture to guess that more often, even a loose routine feels better than a snack-whenever, screens-all-the-time, up-all-night, sleep-all-day situation.

If the latter isn’t working for you, try a little structure and routine and see if you feel better.

Look for things to appreciate

There has never been a time in my life that has been completely bereft of things to be grateful for, and that’s probably true for you too.

You might have to work kind of hard to find things to be grateful for (!), but they are there.

Some examples for me:

  • I am healthy and safe.
  • The weather is mild.
  • We’re still allowed to go out and exercise.
  • The girls have fun doing video calls with friends.
  • We’ve got plenty of food to eat.
  • Mr. FG can work at home, and so can I.
sunny stream

Thank goodness for outside.

Make to-do lists 

I don’t think this will help everyone, but I had to include it because it is helping me SO MUCH.

In the evening after dinner, I try to think through what I could do the next day (productive things, things to help my kids and others, things that could help me feel good and so on).  

to do list

So not-innovative, but seriously, such a lifesaver for me!

I write them all down, and that way when I get up the next day, I immediately have a clear idea of what I could spend my time doing.

This helps my days feel much less aimless and disorganized than they would otherwise.

(Your mileage may vary! If to-do lists make you feel stabby, then skip this tip. 😉 )

Maintain healthy habits

I mentioned keeping a sleeping routine, but I’m also trying to eat well and be consistent with exercise.

rep fitness bumper plate outside

These things help to keep my mental state as good as possible, and they also help to keep my body stronger, which is a boon in a pandemic.

I’m not doing anything crazy with the diet and exercise (having a quarantine glow-up is not my goal!); I’m just trying to keep moving and keep plenty of the good stuff in my diet.


I hope these tips are helpful to you. And I’d love it if you added to my list of ideas, so:

What’s helping you to maintain your sanity?

P.S. Since this is not a blog about Christianity, I didn’t include a lot about my faith in this post. But as a post script, I will say that my faith helps me to not be anxious about getting sick. I know where I am going when I die, and I also believe that I will not die before the work God has for me here is done. So, that helps to calm my fears.

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Tuesday 5th of May 2020

Hurt my back in late January and have been at home since then, except for a few medical visits. In early March, the second day I was physically able to return to my office for work, they announced the institution was closing during the shutdown, so back home again. I am normally an optimistic person, but also being highly sensitive and empathic, this situation has gotten to me many times, especially when I think about the people who lost loved ones, jobs, can't get food, shelter, etc.

I have been doing the following which has helped: 1. Remember to be grateful that I am still working, and my husband and I live a simple life, so I can afford to do the second item on my list while I have a job. 2. Donated to causes helping others. 3. Keeping in touch regularly with friends and family. 4. Meditate and sit with the bad feelings when they show up. Avoiding them never works. A really good book on this is Pema Chodron's "Welcoming the Unwelcome." 5. Avoiding the news with a brief check in once a week just to know what I really need to. 6. Eating well and allowing room for good dark chocolate in my diet. 7. Sunning myself for vitamin D, or supplementing with it, works wonders for my mood. 8. Literally taking stock of what we have on hand, realizing what we really need, and knowing we have enough. Keeps me from getting sucked into a panicked hoarding mindset. 9. Listening to sleep stories at night on the Calm app. Very relaxing and helps me fall asleep faster. 10. Doing calming breathwork like the 4-7-8 breath twice a day.


Tuesday 5th of May 2020

Some days good days other are bad.

I am still working so not much free time but I find a quick walk or music to be helpful, or play with the dogs. Also coloring is fun.

I did find bread flour so yay!

Lot of texting & Facetime.

I am hoping the weather this Friday will be cold and yucky so I can go pick up my garden plants. I think most peeps will not go out if yucky.

It is nice to see lawn mowing service companies out. The smell of grass and faint hum of mower.

My day has been washer stuck on 22 minutes, bread machine dough bar won't move, microwave door won't open and sewing machine breaks thread or loops above the needle. (sigh)

Does anyone else just use Kitchen-aid to knead dough? I can't knead by hand.


Tuesday 5th of May 2020

Oh, that sounds like such a day of frustrations. Those little things really add up.


Tuesday 5th of May 2020

Oh and dog chewed his leash in half so a working sewing machine would be helpful! Lol...


Tuesday 5th of May 2020

It's hard for me to admit, but I am really struggling with all of this. I own an essential business and my office is in the house; I have had more work than normal trying to keep our business running. With my son home for the rest of the school year and the required "distance learning", I am back and forth between work and homeschool monitoring all day. My kiddo is super down hearted and I don't have the time I'd like to devote to his schooling or just his desire for attention through this difficult time. Overwhelmed is an understatement. I feel like I'm failing my kid. That being said, I try to give thanks each day for every blessing we do have through all this and know that this too shall pass. It helps to hear where you all are coming from as well. Thanks for the positive posts, Kristen!


Tuesday 5th of May 2020

Oh Steph, you are SO not alone. Parenting in this pandemic is really hard; there's all the practical stuff you have to manage, like distance learning, and then there's the emotional kid stuff to deal with.

I don't think I'd be too overwhelmed if I was just managing me and my feelings, but trying to help my girls through this is hard and I never know if I am doing the right thing or not.

Anyway. It's ok to say this is hard. <3 Lots of us are right there with you.


Tuesday 5th of May 2020

Such helpful suggestions! The only thing I can think of adding is to savor humorous moments. While happily preparing for a much anticipated trip to the grocery store, I got fancy and dabbed on pretty lipstick. Really?!?! FACE MASKS ARE NOT COMPATIBLE WITH LIPSTICK! Two weeks later, I did it again

Barb F.

Tuesday 5th of May 2020

Put the lipstick on the outside of the mask and you will put smiles on the faces of those who see you. But make sure to paint on a smile!!


Tuesday 5th of May 2020

Haha, this is something Sonia would do!


Tuesday 5th of May 2020

1. Singing along to eighties songs on the radio 2. Finding ways to bring humour to work - & I have colleagues good at this too, one pops around every now & then with a silly story or pic on her cell phone or in a frustrating moment comes up with a comical slant that has people in stitches, colleagues who sometimes feel a bit more like siblings helps too - so grateful for them 3. Honest debrief with a couple of workmates 4. DVD's with my sis 5. Chocolate 6. Freshly laundered flannelette sheets 7. reading my Bible more & talking & listening to God more

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