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How to Cope with the Coronavirus Shutdown

by Shari Graydon

Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

Is it possible to eat your weight in popcorn? 

I appear to be trying. 

The pandemic lock-down has also given me permission to double my chocolate intake, consume cookies at breakfast and microwave chunks of cheese on a plate so I can scrape the stuff into my mouth with a fork. The grapes have become mere garnish, and I don’t even try to find a 5 pm Zoom date to pretend I’m not drinking alone. 

I’m not proud of this behaviour, and the fact that I have the luxury of doing it without being criticized or even interrupted at any hour of the day or night is not lost on me. I know others are negotiating divorces over lesser offences committed in too-close quarters. And some are contributing to the tragically skyrocketing calls to women’s shelters.

Reading others’ coronavirus coping mechanisms inspires or depresses me, depending on how ambitious they are and where I am on the popcorn/chocolate/cheese self-loathing cycle. But in case you’re in need of new ideas, here’s what I — and some of Informed Ops’ experts — have found helpful:

Phone calls: I’m old enough to have spent the first part of my career unencumbered by email’s demands. And yet like almost everyone else, I’ve allowed online communication to supersede the phone. Now, however, exhausted by the cognitive dissonance of virtual Zoom meetings (the video tricks your brain into believing you’re with others, but your body knows better and the impact is wearing), I often dial a contact or friend without (gasp!) emailing them to secure an appointment first. 

The intimacy of voice-only calls made while wandering around my apartment, sitting on the couch or lying on the floor feels both liberating and deeply human. 

Performance metrics: At my first non-service-industry job post-university I had to keep a time-sheet, recording my hours against the clients on whose behalf I was securing media exposure. Although I left the job after three years, three decades later, I’m still logging my hours. 

At Informed Opinions, the resulting data is complemented by other measures. These include both productivity metrics — how many workshops we deliver, women we train, experts we recruit to our online database — and evidence of impact — how many op eds they publish, interview requests they receive, and journalists we engage.  

Pandemic fears have increased some of these metrics but seriously eroded others. And when every day feels the same, and there’s no clear end in sight, being able to note even small accomplishments helps boost my mood. This means I now keep a manual spreadsheet to track the days I complete my self-imposed routine of pushups, lunges, supported shoulder stands and a dozen other stretch and strength exercises. And I check my Fitbit data more than ever. Where before I paid attention primarily to my step count, now I’ve become manic about minutes of activity and number of hours I’m moving. (On balance, given my consumption confessions above, I think this qualifies as a healthy tech addiction.)

Romantic comedies: Movies I previously turned my nose up at because of their predictability (plucky heroine! deal-breaking secret! happy ending!) I now seek out precisely because the characters’ arcs are so familiar and a satisfying resolution is guaranteed to arrive within two hours (as opposed to, say, 18 months).

Last weekend alone I watched both Maid in Manhattan and The Wedding Planner. I did find the retro Cinderella story vibe of the former and the excessive consumption ethos of the latter grating, but I also loved the warm embrace of the hotel staff sisterhood and geriatric scrabble players who had Lopez’s back in the two films. 

Also, and not incidentally, because I’m currently watching Ozark with my partner long-distance, the rom-coms provide a necessary break from the thrumming undertone of threatened — and sometimes graphically realized — violence in the much more sophisticated and satisfying-in-other-ways programming.  

Writing: Despite having ample time to complete a still unfinished funding application, I have repeatedly stepped away from my computer to mop my kitchen floor, watch origami videos and make massive vats (yes, plural) of my favourite pasta sauce. 

But writing that gives me an opportunity to express how I feel? That I make time for. Last week I discovered that Toronto-based poet Dwayne Morgan was offering an online session that night for a $10 contribution. Tough call: finish tallying my 2019 receipts so I could finally submit my tax return, or hang out with Dwayne? His gentle prompts helped me translate a little of my own sadness into something that might be relatable to others.

Many of the experts profiled in our database are being called upon to share their insights on Covid-related issues, and a number have offered their own coping advice: