Professional Development

10 Activities to De-Stress During COVID-19 Closures

By Cheryl G. Murphy, OD

April 15, 2020

The COVID-19 crisis is touching all of us, which can mean significant stress. I live in western Suffolk County on Long Island in New York State. My town is about 47 miles away from New York City, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. As of April 14, there are 106,863 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in NYC. There are 24,358 confirmed cases in my neighboring Nassau County and 21,643 confirmed cases in my county of Suffolk.

As an employed OD, the crisis has meant the closure of the offices where I usually work. The loss of work, coupled with concern about the virus, has led me to look for ways to reduce stress. Here are ten things I am doing to enhance relaxation.

Cleaning
One of the first things I did after I stopped working was give the house a thorough cleaning. Since our family was going to be spending a lot of time in it (the kids are out of school and my husband is working from home), it felt good to get that done. Hey, I may even go down to the basement and unpack “forgotten” moving boxes that we have there from when we moved over two years ago. We’ll see.

Gardening/Yard Work
I have been planting daffodil plants mostly and forsythia bushes. No need to go to garden center stores, most of which are closed. If the weather is nice where you are, you can do “spring clean-up” in the yard or order summer bulbs online and have them shipped to you. These are bulbs or tuber roots you can plant now in the spring and they will grow and bloom by this summer.

Crafts, Hobbies and Projects
I am not an artist, but I like to think I am sometimes. Before I had kids I started embroidery projects that were left unfinished. I dug them out and maybe I will actually finish them, who knows! I have also been painting rocks. There is a Facebook group online that shows you how to do it (the group by me is called “Long Island Rocks,” one upstate by my parents’ is called “Rome ROCKS, Rome NY”.) I am also going to dig out the tie-dye kit my daughter got for her birthday this summer and we’re going to tie-dye t-shirts outside.

Video Games
I remarked to my husband that it is so weird not to be working because I have either been working or going to school since I was 16 years old. He reminded me that I do have a gap in my work history when I was put on leave for bed-rest due to my triplet pregnancy. That reminded me of how many days I had to stay in bed and not do much of anything. One thing that got me through that time was playing video games. Twelve years ago when I was on bed-rest I got really into the now-defunct Disney online game, Toon Town.  Now, I am playing “Untitled Goose Game” by House House through Epic Games on my laptop.

Physical Fitness
Now is the chance to take that walk around the neighborhood or head to your favorite trail or a not-so-popular nature sanctuary, town or state park. Keep social distancing (and ticks!) in mind. Bring your bug spray, and when you cross other people on the trail, step aside giving them plenty of room to pass without getting within six feet of them.

Maybe jogging is more your thing, now is your chance to start. Listen to your favorite music if you are walking or jogging solo. Yoga and meditation is also a good way to stretch and practice calmness. Or challenge yourself with one of the many fitness programs with home workouts available online such as the Beachbody Series.

Read/Write
There will come a time when you feel like you have watched everything on Netflix and TV becomes old and boring. Time to catch up on those books you have seen come out and wanted to read but never did. Or better yet, set out to tackle a list of classic literature like me. Right now I am reading Dracula. E-books are available for quick download to your smartphone or iPad and local libraries offer many of them online downloadable for free. Ever fancy yourself a writer? Now is the time to try. You could start by writing journal entries on this wild situation we are currently in. The New York Times recently published a piece on how Shakespeare wrote King Lear while quarantined due to fears of the Plague.

Work/Volunteer
Many hospitals are asking for health-care professionals out-of-work or in retirement to help treat the influx of patients affected by COVID-19. If you don’t want to work or volunteer in person, there has also been a call for people who know how to sew or are willing to learn to make masks for hospital workers who are dangerously low on personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies.

I dug out my sewing machine from 30 years ago and learned how to use it all over again (thanks to YouTube!) I have sewn 92 masks and am hoping to hit the 100 mark this week. I belong to two mask sewing groups on Facebook, “SEW Away Corona” and “Stitched Together Long Island.” The masks from members of these groups are donated to hospitals, nursing homes, police officers (NYPD) and other frontliners. I have also made many for friends, family and neighbors. The Facebook groups are great. They give lots of tips and encouragement, especially for those new to sewing like me.

Catch Up on CE & Other Practice Management Learning
If you don’t want to enroll in a new line of work or if you can’t sew, you can always attend CE online or catch up on something else that you have been meaning to do that will benefit you when you return to work. For me, it is fiddling around and practicing with an EHR program online. Since we are going to be switching our EHR at our practice soon, we have been given a link to a demo version of the new program, so that we can familiarize ourselves with it and take teleconferenced tutorials.

Family Time
We may never in our lifetimes experience a “pause” in the world like this again, with work and school halted. These times are stressful, and we have a lot on our minds financially, but there are other rewards that we can reap from this experience. One of those is spending time with your family. Making extra special lunches or dinners each day and sitting down at the table together twice a day has been special and memorable for my family and I. I even tried out recipes I had saved the links to and had been meaning to make. We have been going on hikes every other day when the weather has been nice. I see other families have been doing puzzles or playing board games together. We all have the chance to reconnect in ways we hadn’t months ago. Make memories and spend time together. Now is the time.

Reach Out
Call your family members and friends from near and far. FaceTime them. Call your neighbors, especially if they are elderly to check on them. Have a virtual hangout (or happy hour) with friends and colleagues. E-mail your optometry school and see if there is anything they need you to do, like alumni outreach online, phone call fundraising or see if they want you to FaceTime with a class of current optometry students to answer questions about optometry as a profession. Tell them about what you do and your experiences being an optometrist. Call up your old college buddy or friend from optometry school, whom you lost touch with. Ask them how they’re doing. Laugh together remembering the old times.

We will get through this. Together. Take care of yourself. Take care of each other and stay safe.

What have you been doing to de-stress? Have you found any good coming out of this situation, like more time with family or time to tackle a unfinished task or an untouched hobby? How have you felt emotionally and physically? Has this article helped remind you of something that you’ve have been meaning to do? What other suggestions would you like to share with others on what we can do to get through this?

 

Cheryl G. Murphy, OD, practices in Lake Ronkonkoma and Patchogue, N.Y. You can like her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter @murphyod. To contact her: murphyc2020@gmail.com.

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