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9/16/2020 9:23:09 PM
How I’m Getting Out of Bed in the Morning and (Mostly) Keeping it Together During the Pandemic
Note: I do not own, operate or benefit financially from any of the organizations mentioned here and am not responsible for their actions. Please do your own research and/or consult medical professionals when appropriate before proceeding with any of these activities.
After I sent out the newsletter a few weeks ago asking how I
could help during the pandemic, some of you replied, requesting that I share
anything that might help you get up in the morning or get through the day.
This is such a strange time we’re living through, and we’re
really not built for it. Studies show, over and over, that we’re social animals
who need relationships and human interactions in our lives in order to feel
Many people who didn’t have depression or anxiety to a
serious degree are now having trouble getting up in the morning, are drinking
more (and earlier) in the day than they used to, or feel riddled with anxiety
I didn’t need a pandemic to put me in this zone. It’s
something I inherited that has gotten worse over time, so I’ve been struggling
to find ways to cope for a while. This may sound strange to you if you’ve read
my books, which tend to include a lot of humor. However, after reading many
memoirs and listening to a lot of podcast interviews, it seems that most
comedians suffer from depression, too. The humor gives people like us doses of
positive brain chemicals to boost our moods. If only it would last longer!
Here are some free and paid ways that I keep myself
functioning. They may not be exactly what you need, but I’m hoping you can at
least find some ideas and inspiration from the list:
*If you are a younger person, you probably already know
how to find podcasts, so you can skip down to my list of favorites.
A podcast is similar to a radio talk show, only you get to
choose when to listen to it. For several years, I kept hearing about people I
was interested in having podcasts, but I had no idea how to find a podcast. I
would ask members of my family and they’d say things like, “Oh, you can get
them all kinds of places.” (Not helpful.)
Finally, my husband showed me that I could get them from the
Spotify app on my phone. Many (maybe most?) podcasts are available on several
different apps, so if you tap the App Store icon on your phone and type
“Podcasts” into the search field, you’ll see: Spotify, Stitcher, Apple
Podcasts, and others.
Once you’ve got a podcast app on your phone, you can search
for specific podcasts or people. For instance, if you’re a big fan of particular
celebrities, when you type the names into the search field, you may see a bunch
of different podcasts where they were interviewed or you might find that they
already have their own podcast. Tap on the episode and listen. I often find my
new favorite podcast because there’s an ad for it during the podcast I’m currently
Nowadays, I use them to help me get out of bed in the
morning, which is when I feel the worst. Instead of getting up immediately, I start
listening to some of my podcast “friends” talking. They make me feel better but
don’t expect me to answer them first thing in the morning like in-person humans
do. (Mr. Nina is one of those dreaded morning people who wakes up happy and
chatty, but, luckily, we are on different morning schedules right now.) I also
use podcasts and audiobooks to keep me from getting anxious or angry when I’m
in the kitchen. (I REALLY hate cooking.)
My Favorite Podcasts
Armchair Experts-Dax Shepard and Monica Padman are
interested in a lot of different things, like I am. They are very open about
their own life struggles and often go deep with their guests, while still
maintaining their senses of humor. They have some celebrity guests, but they
also have really interesting authors, academics, and scientists on the show. It’s both entertaining and informative.
I also love the
familial relationship they’ve developed. Monica started out as nanny for Dax
and his wife Kristen Bell, then became Kristen’s assistant. Now, they’ve all
adopted each other as family. Dax and Monica sometimes get mad at each other as
family members do. They often confess their bad behavior or thoughts on the
podcast and apologize to each other, which I like hearing. I guess I feel like
there isn’t enough apologizing in the world, considering how often people act badly.
Regardless of the topic, these two usually cheer me up and make it easier for
me to start my day.
Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend-This podcast brings me a
lot of joy. It’s often hilarious, especially when the guest has comedy improv
experience. I wasn’t a particular fan of Conan’s TV shows, but I love his podcast
because there’s so much more time to get into interesting and/or hilarious
conversations with interesting and/or hilarious people.
Revisionist History with Malcolm Gladwell- Rather
than having guests, Malcolm Gladwell has a well-researched, well-produced true
story to tell you about things in history that were overlooked or
The Michelle Obama Podcast-WAIT! Before you
pass this one up, let me clarify that it is not about politics. Michelle
Obama hasn’t ever been into politics, except when she had to be. The mood of
this podcast is very calm and optimistic. It’s new, but, so far, I love it. For
instance, the episode with Conan O’Brien where he and Michelle talk frankly
about the challenges of marriage, and she admits that, during an argument, she
actually took off the ring Barack gave her and threw it. (Yes, she’s human, too.)
I also loved the episode about working women with Valerie Jarrett, who had some
really important things to say about being a working mom and about mentoring others.
I also sometimes listen to No Stupid Questions, The
Happiness Lab, and even Anna Faris is Unqualified, in which Anna and
a celebrity guest attempt to give advice to callers.
Some podcasts are ongoing, while others are a miniseries
about a particular topic. Search some names or words that interest you and see
what you find.
Besides podcasts, I often listen to fiction and nonfiction audiobooks
when I’m doing things around the house. These are not usually free, but they do
help distract me from the drudgery and keep me from having negative
thoughts. You can get audiobooks from
iTunes, Kobo, Audible, Google Audiobooks and others. Tap your App Store icon
and search “audiobooks.”
Note: Malcolm Gladwell, who I mentioned in the podcast
section, has some interesting non-fiction books in audio.
For me, the best booster—the one that can often make the
rest of my day better—is exercise. A number of brain researchers,
psychologists, and psychiatrists I’ve listened to on podcasts emphasize that
aerobic exercise can create positive brain chemicals. The difficult part is
that, when you’re depressed, your mind tricks you into thinking you have no
energy in your body.
It helps if I plan things the night before by putting my
workout on my calendar and setting out the clothes I’m going to wear to workout
in. The next morning, if I can make myself wrestle my way into my exercise bra
and get dressed, I almost always workout. If I get dressed and still feel like
I can’t make myself do anything, I start with a YouTube video and do what they
Note: If you are not used to working out, please be
careful! I’ve known people who
finally got up the gumption to exercise only to overdo it and injure themselves immediately,
rendering themselves unable to exercise for months. Be aware of how your joints
feel and don’t go overboard. Start small. Watch a video and just stand there
and do the arms the first time. If that feels like exertion, keep doing it for
a few days or longer, until it feels easier, then add the leg movements. Always be careful
with your joints and back. It’s normal to feel muscle soreness from a good
workout, but you shouldn’t be in joint pain during it or feel like you were in a car
Keep in mind, you may need to try different types of
exercise to find workouts you can stand to do. I have learned that, regardless
of what kind of exercise I’m doing, I need music with a good beat, and I need
to do the exercise to the beat. If it’s to the beat, as long as there
isn’t complicated choreography for me to follow, I can do all kinds of
things—high and low impact floor aerobics, kickboxing workouts, step
aerobics, weights and squats—but it must be done to the beat of good music.
When it isn’t, I get progressively angrier as the workout goes on.
enjoy a very different kind of exercise, like stretching or tai chi. Search for
things you think you might like on YouTube and you will almost certainly find a
couple (or a million) videos about it.
My Favorite Workouts:
Bollywood workouts from BollyX on YouTube-Once I get
my clothes on, if I still don’t feel like working myself out, I go to the
videos below to get me started. The music is joyful, the people look like they
are having fun, and the moves are exercise inspired by dance, but not hard to
follow. And it’s free!
This one has 3 songs. It’s
usually the first video I do. If you are new to working out, do the low-impact
moves. (In other words don’t do any hopping while you’re exercising.)
This one is just one song,
but it’s led by an adorable girl that makes me happy every time I see her.
So far, every time I’ve done these workouts, I’ve felt
better and often want to go on and do more, so I move to my other types of exercise.
If you don’t know how to work yourself out, try going to YouTube.com and searching “exercise” and “workout”
and see if anything strikes your fancy.
POUND Rock Out Workout:
My daughter and I are very different, but one thing we agree
on is that we both LOVE taking Pound classes. We have been doing them virtually
through Zoom since Covid-19 started. While the internet isn’t the most ideal
way to take a class, it can make it easier for you to try out because you don’t
have to turn your camera on and let other people see you if you don’t want to. You
can also turn it on to say, “Hi,” then turn it off for the workout. But even if
you leave the camera on, in Pound, you don’t have to be concerned about doing
it just right. The instructors tell you not to worry about messing up because
you are a Rockstar and you should consider it a drum solo.
You can try this out using regular drumsticks if you have
them around or whatever stick-like thing you can find. One friend held chopsticks
in her hands to try it out until she could get some Ripstix. Or pretend to use drumsticks
and find out if you like this type of class. You can buy Ripsticks for around
$20 on Amazon (generic versions are even cheaper) or the PoundFit.com
website. (Ripstix look like drumsticks, except they are bright green and
weighted ¼ lb. each.)
I want to say more about Pound because I feel like it saved
my life in a couple of ways. I couldn’t exercise much for several years due to
a weird migraine condition that was triggered by light, motion and a number of
After we moved to the Seattle area, I found ways to calm the
migraine situation down, and I decided I was ready to start looking for a way
to exercise. The combination of the music and getting to hit the Ripsticks
together and on the floor was awesome! I started to gradually lose the weight
I’d gained, then Mr. Nina was diagnosed with cancer and Pound became my
lifeline, allowing me to pound out the extreme stress I was under.
My daughter has never been flexible, so when she started
Pound, she couldn’t squat or lunge low enough to hit the floor/yoga mat.
(Instructors encourage you modify the exercise however you need to.) Now we’ve both lost over 15 pounds and she
can do ALL the moves.
Different instructors choose different music so if you try
Pound and like the general idea, but aren’t crazy about the musical choices,
try another instructor. Some instructors are teaching virtual Pound for as
little as $5 a session since the pandemic started. Go to PoundFit.com Find a Class page. Next to “Find a Class” you’ll see
the “Virtual Only” toggle. Switch it on. Then type in a city and state. You can
try an instructor near you (so you can continue post pandemic) or try one
somewhere else. My daughter and I do virtual Pound twice per week with an
instructor we already knew. We are also trying Pound classes in different
states or countries for fun. (I think we’ll be working out in Mexico City this
Note: While you can find some promo reels with examples of
Pound online, they often don’t have the real songs on the videos because of the
specifics of music licensing agreements. However, in class, you get real rock,
pop, R&B and other music you’ll probably recognize.
Think back to when you were younger, before you had the
responsibilities of work and/or kids and/or spouses. What did you do to get rid
of that teenage angst?
For me, it was music. As a teenager, I sang in choirs and
sang and danced (barely) in our high school Madrigal Singers group. I harmonized
with music in my car. At home, I often lifted myself out of a funk by playing
my guitar and singing. I would start with a song that matched my downer mood
and as I felt better, my set would turn more uplifting.
For Christmas, Mr. Nina got me a karaoke setup that I enjoy
using, but it’s not necessary to have a microphone to enjoy singing. YouTube is
full of music videos, practice videos, and karaoke videos with lyrics you can
sing along with.
I also used to feel better by writing down what was
bothering me in a spiral notebook. Now, sometimes when I get upset, I write an
email to the person involved, but I don’t send it that
day. The next day, when I see it again, I often realize I was over-reacting
and I don’t need to actually send the email.
Is there something you used to do that made you feel better?
Did it get lost in the shuffle of your life?
Does crafting or knitting or needlepoint relax you? (They tick
me off because I’m terrible at them, but this is about you.)
How about doing cartwheels across the yard? (This also ticks
me off because I was the only one in 7th grade P.E. who couldn’t do
a cartwheel, but, again, this is about you.)
Did you used to enjoy ballet or some other kind of dance? (I
took a semester of modern dance in college and it was one of the most
humiliating experiences of my life. The instructor gave me a pity “C.” But, really,
this is about you.) You can search YouTube to find dancing to watch or to try.
Or maybe take an online Barre class, which is exercise based on ballet. There
are lots of videos for this on YouTube.
My daughter is excellent at finding enjoyable (to her) ways to fill her time
outside of work. Besides online Pound classes, here are some things she’s doing:
Needlepointing Hogwarts (She and her friends often craft
together via Zoom.)
Studying advanced Spanish grammar
Watching YouTube videos to learn how to make paper flowers
to use as decorations.
Using the HelloTalk phone app to interact with a texting pen
pal in Costa Rica.
Using the Duolingo app to work on beginner Chinese.
Learning ASL (American Sign Language)
Facetiming with friends who are struggling with being lonely
during the pandemic.
Remember, between phone apps and YouTube, you can learn to
do all kinds of things for free. I find it’s harder to stay in a negative
headspace if I’m really engaged in something.
Service to Others:
According to researchers in the psychology field, one of the
best things we can do for our mental health is being of service to others.
While it is important to donate to causes when you can afford it, the data
shows that more personalized service (helping a specific person or family that
you know of) is best for you, psychologically, and much longer lasting than giving
randomly. People who’ve donated kidneys to others have the most lasting
emotional benefit, although I’m not suggesting you need to go that far.
If you have tried everything within reason and are still
struggling, you many need to involve a professional. Whether it’s a lifelong,
inherited problem or because of trauma you’ve suffered, or from the current
situation—2020 may be the worst year, globally speaking, in my lifetime—don’t
give up on yourself before reaching out to a psychiatrist, psychologist or
In my case, there is a strong biological issue that I
realized I needed to try to address. When I was younger, I managed to turn a lot
of that anxiety into energy. I believed it helped me in my overachieving. But
some of these genetic issues can get worse as you get older and that’s the
situation I’ve found myself in. Although all of the things I’ve mentioned above
help me get up and get through the day, I need more than that.
Yesterday, I had an online visit with a psychiatrist. This
is something many people are not comfortable sharing but I wanted to say it
here so you’ll know this is not a generic “seek help” statement.
It’s hard to seek help when you are anxious and depressed.
The anxiety makes it difficult to decide who to contact and hard to make the
phone call even after you identify the professional you want to speak to. The depression
can suck away your energy to the point where you don’t have it in you to find
someone, or it can make you feel your situation is hopeless.
In some ways, it’s
easier now than it ever has been to see a professional because so many are
offering online appointments during the pandemic. And there are websites and
apps like BetterHelp.com, TalkSpace.com, and Online-Therapy.com,
where you can have appointments through video, phone, or chat.
But nothing is easy when you are suffering from anxiety
and/or depression. Over the past year, I researched mental health professionals
online several times, but was unable to go through with contacting them until now.
If you try and can’t make yourself follow through one day, try again until you
can manage it. If you can’t, for a while, don’t think of it as failing or
cowardice. Just think of it as not quite being ready.
If you’ve been isolating at home alone during the pandemic (or
with people who stress you the hell out), talking to a therapist here and there
may be all you need. We’re not built to live like this. Even my author friends—many
of whom are introverts—are struggling to get words on the page because they’re
concerned about loved ones or overwhelmed by what’s happening in the world.
Struggling does not equal weak. Depression does not equal
weak. Anxiety does not equal weak.
My conclusion during my 5 decades on the planet is that the
human brain is an amazing, resilient machine, but the human psyche is
surprisingly fragile. Maybe it’s just that 200 years is very short in evolutionary
time, yet, for most of us in industrialized countries, our lives are vastly
different than those of our ancestors.
We don’t need to move around constantly to gather or grow
food to survive, so we’re not automatically getting exercise every day. And,
surely, we weren’t meant to know about every tragedy and horror that happens throughout
the world, like we do today. It’s a lot for minds that were mostly focused on simple
survival for millions of years.
Regardless, well-meaning friends and family who tell you to
just snap out of it or act like you’re weak because you are succumbing to
emotional/mental problems don’t know what they’re talking about. If you start
looking into it, you’ll find many people we’ve touted in history books as heroes,
geniuses, and great talents suffered from depression and/or anxiety during
Is there something you’re doing that’s helping you get up
and get through the day? Feel free to mention it in the comment section. Then, feel
good about it because you may be helping someone else.