Updated: 6 days ago
One of the first things to leave when the pandemic hit was routine. A sense of "normalcy". How were we going to push forward with any type of schedule or personal goal achievement when the rug had been pulled out right from under us? How were we going to settle in without a precedent? How were we going to handle our new norm? And how long would this nightmare last?
Any key to maintaining mental health involves structure and routine. Some type of manageable atmosphere. A pattern. I am not a mental health professional, but after years of dealing with my own mental struggles, I can attest. Any time that I am lacking balance in the spiritual and/or physical components of my life, I have found that my mental well-being suffers. I need to be present with God and in my body in order to feel complete. To feel strong. These, of course, were two of the (many) things threatened by the news of a global pandemic that quickly went on to produce a stay-at-home order in the state of New York come March. I will admit, however, that I also wasn’t truly present with a routine in both of these areas pre-quarantine either. So now where did that leave me?
I found myself in a difficult place mid-April. I was unexpectedly living with my parents, my boyfriend, and my brother and his girlfriend, four hours from what I normally call home; I had been furloughed from my job at the restaurant and distanced from my dream of performing; Corona had worked its way through our family and affected each of us in drastically different ways, leaving me incredibly low in energy (except for my dad, somehow he managed to get off scot free without an antibody in sight); my anxiety had sky-rocketed and was causing me to experience preemptive panic attack symptoms almost on the daily (something I haven’t had to deal with since college); and, I was sad.
When my anxiety started mounting back in March and fear of the unknown was even more inevitable than normal, I clutched to the Holy Spirit. Jesus has been a part of my life since I was a child and it is engrained in me to lean on Him when the going gets rough - a habit for which I am very grateful - but it is not always easy, and there is also not always routine to it. However, with all of my other regimens out the window and nothing but time on my hands, I turned to the Word. I started adding some quiet time to my days - time for me to sit and meditate on God’s words, to pray, to listen, to ask. I started with a devotional I had been meaning to get to for a while, one my mother had recommended from her church entitled Renew. It was a 21-day journey and it provided me with the structure I was craving. When I finished that I went onto a 40-day plan called Fast From Wrong Thinking. It was just the medicine I needed in order to conquer those fearful thoughts that had started bubbling up to the surface. These were all ways for me to get back on track mentally and to settle in spiritually to everything that was currently happening in our world. It was something I could do to move forward and it started encouraging me to rediscover that structure I (we) had lost so abruptly.
It was around this time that I started my Artist’s Way exploration as well, and my schedule started to rebuild. I now had some time dedicated to seeking from the Lord, I was writing three stream-of-consciousness pages every morning and following a full-on educational program on behalf of my inner artist child, I started peppering in some industry seminars and Q&As that were being offered by countless creatives out of work and eager to help others going through the same, and I finally found myself with enough energy to catch up with my friends on their own arduous trek through quarantine. Things were starting to look up. There was finally a new "normal" in my life, and a new routine. But now, my body was yearning for the same.
I had been inundated with emails from Backstage (a trade publication for actors) for a while with this new program they had launched during quarantine called The Slate. It consisted of Zoom sessions, forums, workshops, and classes filled with every topic under the sun and created a community during a time when we truly needed one. In this programming was included a workout class every weekday at 11am. I loved the idea of adding that class structure into my life, but it took me that first month (and a full recovery from Covid) to finally find the motivation. Now that my days had started to fill up and take shape, adding a physical component to them excited me. I woke up one morning with the urge to move my body, and I’ve been following that compulsion ever since.
Stephane V-S’s 40-minute workouts gave me power. They were challenging, yet digestible. The former Olympian had crafted a small-space, all-levels, no-equipment, work-from-home fitness curriculum that really got me feeling strong again. And that routine saved me. Knowing I had a live Zoom call to show up for every morning at 11 really pushed me to get out of bed. And feeling those endorphins again was heaven! I wanted more.
In the hours of Instagram scrolling I was doing weekly to entertain myself and keep myself updated on everyone’s lives during this crazy time, I came across another fitness class happening live over on Zoom, one developed by Synthia Link - a dancer, performer, fitness instructor, and former Rockette I had met over ten years ago while working at The Merry-Go-Round Playhouse. She was conducting hour-long sessions two days a week and recording them for anyone that had missed - and I wanted in on the fun. Let me tell you what an energetic, positive, supportive session it was to add to my new routine! Her cardio-based classes are chock-full of heart-pumping jump rope routines (or air jump rope if you lack the physical rope, and space, like me), planks, lunges, squats, sprints, and movements with a towel that set my arm muscles on fire every single time. Again, everything was equipment-less and manageable in a small space with just a yoga mat and a smile.
Steph and Synthia have since developed their training offerings further and now both provide programs and privates outside of their weekly group sessions. Stephane is now on his own, separate from Backstage, and coaches live on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays - still in the 11am time slot. Synthia teaches on Sundays and Wednesdays at 2pm EST, but her recordings are emailed out and available for 48 hours post-class, so I usually complete them on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. It goes without saying how incredibly generous it is of these kind humans to offer such substantial material on a donation basis to a community that’s hurting, both creatively and financially, but I still wish to express my deepest gratitude. Without them, it would’ve been much harder to find my sanity during these past four months. Let alone my strength. And with them, I most definitely feel stronger. I have regained a sense of control over my life, my schedule, and my atmosphere. I am taking steps forward again and that makes me happy.
In the weeks since, I have discovered even more workout sources. Fitness regimens and programs available free and regularly on social media for the movement-hungry public. Some of my favorites include: Whitney Simmons - I intend on doing a post about her down the line, as her YouTube videos bring me such joy - she provides “hot, fire, flames” workout routines with and without equipment (as the gyms in Utah are already open) and she does it all with an incredibly bubbly and optimistic personality; Women’s Health Magazine - another joy of mine I’d like to blog about - they offer weekly schedules of live IG classes in all different lengths and disciplines that are then posted to their IGTV channel so you can bookmark and re-visit them whenever you’re out of ideas or options for an at-home sweat sesh; and good ol' Tone It Up - my passion for them also heading your way in a blog entry soon - they offer posts with strengthening moves you can add into your current routine and also have a weekly schedule of live classes available (most of them are through their app which is subscription based, however, they offer a handful through IG live as well, on varying accounts). Body By Simone, actually a former employer of mine, is offering exercise advice and live workouts as well. Chloe Kostman, whom I discovered through an acting seminar, has started an email chain with killer weekly live yoga classes (Yoga by Chloe), also now available through recording. Even some of my fitness-professional high school friends have taken to teaching on Zoom! My bestie since grade school, Jonathan Mushock, has his own personal training company in which he conducts individualized private sessions and butt-kicking bootcamp classes. And a great gal pal of mine, Brigid Judge, has recently started her own weekly power vinyasa classes as well, and she is sincerely the bomb! There is such a plethora of information out there and no reason not to find something that works for you. In a time where we are told to stay in place, I encourage you to still find your movement. Push your body to get going, and find that routine that brings you joy. You have the power to create your life, regardless of the current circumstances.
We had a New Year…but then we had a new year. Things took an unexpected turn in March and presented us with information we weren’t ready to handle and an unpredictable outlook. We thought we’d have a fresh start with 2020, and then things turned quite sour. I know so many of your New Year’s goals or resolutions have been sitting stagnant for a while. Maybe they don’t even apply to your life anymore - mine certainly don’t. But let’s look at this mark in time, this new sense of awakening, and find our new resolve. Our quarantine resolutions. New goals and aspirations, but ones with an elevated purpose. Things that push us forward and keep us going during this crazy time of uncertainty, anxiety, and sadness. Health has an even greater meaning now - whether it be mental, physical, or spiritual - and we must take care of it in its entirety, not taking a single second for granted.