Finding the Joy in the Little Things

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Finding the Joy in the Little Things

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At the start of the pandemic, I was in an anxiety spiral. I was worried about everything from the health of family and friends to the possibility of nuclear warfare, and it resulted in some fairly agoraphobic, unhealthy coping mechanisms. I had recently moved to a new state, so I didn't even know the way around my neighborhood. I would stay in my room for days at a time, only socializing with the villagers on my Animal Crossing island. I was afraid to leave my house, afraid to grocery shop, afraid to pass someone too closely on the sidewalk. After several months of this behavior, and countless episodes of reality television, I recognized that I needed help.

I began the process with a simple google search. "Online therapy options." After some trial and error, I found a therapist that helped me break out of my depressive, anxious cycle, in a way that was both gradual and socially distant. Through my work with her and some self-reflection, I found several things that help me cope with the current reality, allowing me to enjoy small joys throughout the day, and here they are:

1) Trails! I was a hiker in college, but fell out of the habit after graduating due to moving around a bit. Since I had moved during the winter, I hadn't had a chance to explore any trails near my new home. With some recommendations from both my therapist and the internet, I slowly began to venture into the outdoors. I started with a trail that was a 10-minute walk from my house, and eventually worked my way up to a state park about an hour away. It allowed me to feel comfortable leaving the house again in a way that was still Covid-friendly, and I gained a better awareness and appreciation of my surroundings. As an added bonus, I was able to experience Ohio autumn in all it's red-yellow-orange beauty. After a hot, humid, sad summer, some beautiful fall colors along some incredible trails were a perfect way to reset.

2) Books. I read more during the first few months of the pandemic than I had in the past several years combined. I was able to tackle books that had seemed too long and daunting in the past, as there was little to keep me from them, and it provided a sense of much-needed escapism. I rekindled my love of reading, worked through some of my "to-be-read" list, and incorporated reading into my daily routine, giving me something to look forward to and work towards during a time that felt stagnant.

3) Podcasts. I've been a regular listener of podcasts for years. I have the weekly release schedule of my favorite podcasts memorized, and at this point I turn to those for car rides before music. But, similar to books, I had put off some of the podcasts that require more attentive, prolonged listening; these were often podcasts that told a story over many episodes, both fictional and non-fictional. With stay-at-home orders in place, it seemed that all I had was time, and one can only spend so much time listening to the news, so I turned to podcasts. I listened to them when cleaning, when walking on the trails, when cooking, and even when I was just laying around. According to my Spotify Wrapped from 2020, I spent much more time listening to podcasts than music, and I enjoyed every minute of it.

4) Succulents. I have my mom to thank for this one! I had collected a large variety of succulents over the past few years, but had to leave them behind with my sister when moving at the beginning of 2020. With plant-shopping being extremely non-essential, I hadn't had the chance to start a new collection prior to isolation, and I had just accepted that I was no longer the plant-parent I once was. My mother, being the incredible woman that she is, decided that was unacceptable, and signed me up for a monthly succulent subscription for my birthday, in which I receive two baby succulents a month. So far I have eight little succulents, and they are thriving!

5) Cold brew. As an extreme coffee lover and addict, and as a barista, I couldn't make a list of my favorite things without including some form of caffeine. My favorite place in the world is a comfy coffee shop, but that obviously is not the safest setting to relax at the moment. I used this time at home to perfect my cold brew recipe, as well as play with all the different ways to enjoy coffee at home. While I still miss the atmosphere of a cafe, and will be back as soon as it's safe and smart to do so, I have had fun crafting new drinks at home.

While I have had a variety of small enjoyments here and there throughout the last nine or ten months, these are truly the things bringing me joy and peace in this lonely, frightening time. Even when this pandemic is officially over, I plan to continue these practices, as they have become essential to my daily routines.

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This item was submitted on January 13, 2021 by Julia Jensen using the form “Share Your Story” on the site “A Journal of the Plague Year”:

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