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Stay Alive & Stay Sane

Whether you worked from home before this or not, whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, whether you’re living with a dozen people or alone, nobody wants this, nobody is emotionally prepared for it, and there’s no magic trick to make this situation completely okay.

That said, I have two rules: a) stay alive and b) stay sane.

When I was in graduate school, I spent hours reading and studying. I ate whatever I could afford--one month it was frozen broccoli and hot sauce over rice, another month it was eggs (so many eggs), another month it was lentil soup and bottomless coffee from a favorite shop. Sometimes I took a break to go running, but I wasn’t really sleeping, I was stressed and unhappy, my diet was abysmal, and I was always hunched over a book. Long story short--I ended up in the ER, blood pressure through the roof, vomiting from the pain in my head. Diagnosis? Stress-induced muscle spasm.

I can’t say I immediately changed my life, but it was a lesson. No matter how much mental and emotional work I’m putting into something, I try really hard to take care of my body too. And if my emotional state is unstable, I can’t care for myself properly.

So these rules are the ones I applied when I put in two weeks of twelve hour days making my editor’s revisions to ONCE TWO SISTERS. And they’re the same ones I’m applying now, as I continue working, while grieving these world-shattering changes and trying to keep our home a stable, comforting place for my kids.

In addition to washing your hands (often, 20 seconds per time, as demonstrated here by a hamster and here by the Rock), not touching your face, and maintaining a distance of AT LEAST 6 feet between yourself and anyone you’re not living with, there are some basic rules to keep your body up and running.

Staying alive:

  1. Get up around the same time every day,

  2. Eat food that will give you real energy at regular times during the day.

  3. Move your body.

  4. Go to bed and sleep for at least 7 hours (I hear 8-9 is better).

Staying Sane:

  1. Reach out to a friend or two every day.

  2. Do something kind.

  3. Do something creative.

  4. Set boundaries

Doesn’t it seem strange to set boundaries when we have literally so much physical/personal space right now? But the tricky boundaries are the emotional ones, and we’re all a little raw right now. Sometimes when you’re having a hard time holding onto hope, you don’t have the strength to withstand a friend’s negative spiral, or conversely, to bolster yourself against a social media feed filled with people who are “winning” this quarantine. Cut yourself some slack by claiming some space, a quiet time for self-comfort or to do a small thing that will make you feel better and stronger. And cut your friends some slack. This article about the stages of grief has been very helpful about putting these moments in context. I really believe we’re all doing the best we can. The person sending you a chain email or a recipe for sourdough starter is struggling to cope just as hard as the person who’s binge-watching CNN.

Finally, stories have always been a source of hope for me. All things have a beginning, a middle, and an end. If you want to get out of your own head and you’re desperate for a break from the news, may I recommend a book? Your local bookstore may be doing delivery or curbside pickup, and many are also organizing online author events.

Stay home—-stay safe, stay smart, stay kind, and we’ll get through this.

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