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Short Stories: Your Coping Mechanisms For Navigating This Time

Real stories from the cupcakes and cashmere community.
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A few weeks ago, we asked our Facebook Community to share how COVID-19 has impacted your lives personally, professionally, and otherwise for what quickly became an incredibly impactful, reader-written post. We were so moved by your positive response and engagement that we wanted to keep the conversation going. This time around, we asked that you share the coping mechanisms you're employing to get through this difficult time, and were, once again, amazed by the number of thoughtful responses that came into our editorial inbox and DMs. You suggested daily disco dance parties, a 5 P.M. sweep of the house before settling into the evening, long drives while listening to a favorite audiobook, setting mini goals every day, virtual therapy, and everything in between. As the following stories show, there is no best way to cope, just the one that works best for you. It is our sincere hope that by sharing as many perspectives, recommendations, and stories as possible, we can all grow a little stronger together:

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Like many people, I felt a lot of anxiety at first (and sometime still do). I spent a lot of time in the first month baking, which while delicious, ended up making me feel even worse because of all of the sugar. Though I still bake from time to time, sourdough being one of my favorites, I knew that if I was going to get through this with a healthier mindset, I needed to find some coping mechanisms that gave me a sense of purpose. So, I started a podcast with a good friend, I started studying for a certification that scares the living daylights out of me, and I have spent a lot of time trying to become a better driver using a driving simulator (I race cars in my spare time!). I still have my moments of course, but I have found that the best coping mechanism for me ultimately was finding and having a sense of purpose. I am thankful to still have my job and be able to work from home, but these additional things I have been doing have given me a chance to improve myself which has greatly improved my daily mood and productivity levels.

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My husband and I are both working remotely in our not-so-spacious loft. Because all of our days run together, we've been making an intentional effort to make weekend days feel different. The biggest game changer: not making the bed on Saturdays or Sundays! We are very loyal bed-makers so leaving it unmade feels oddly... rebellious. And, it gives us a convenient excuse to crawl back in to read or take a nap. Win, win.

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I have a 15 year-old daughter in high school in Los Angeles, so I know that having a schedule is so important for her to remain sane and motivated as a teen who is now feeling lonely. She'll do her school work, no prob, but I just don't want her sitting around all day. It's so crazy but we just bought a whiffle ball set. We are not a sporty family (my sport is Tracy Anderson Method lol), but every day at 4 we go to a park with my husband and play whiffle ball for an hour. I know my husband is loving this. I was not sure if this is fun for my daughter or torture for her, but the other day she looked at me and said, "This is pretty fun. I guess a benefit of quarantine is more family time."

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I'm a family portrait photographer, and most of the families I photograph have been shooting with me since their children were tiny babies. Not being able to be out shooting has been hard - but I am also just really missing all of my families and their kids! I spent the first couple weeks of shelter in place designing photography workshops for kids to do at home, and it brings me so much joy every time a family I know sends me a photo of their child with a camera, or a series of photos that their child has taken based on my workshop's prompts. It's been a really special way to stay in touch.

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I am in Phoenix, AZ as a single, 30-something who is unemployed for the foreseeable future.

Since I don’t know if I will ever feel safe returning to my pre-COVID career, I am using some of this time to take online classes and to revisit my art/graphic design portfolio from my college days. I’m also serving as the campaign manager for my friend’s current philanthropy project. We are getting creative by hosting virtual events to raise money in lieu of a gala and other in-person events. In addition to these ‘projects,' I have been finishing 2 to 3 books per week using Libby and my iPad. I’ve found that a combination of productive tasks and lazy ones (TV, movies, naps) keeps me happy and sane.

I’ve always been fascinated by WWII reading as my dad’s side of the family was heavily involved. I love Libby since I can read for free. I sometimes have to wait up to 6 months to read newer and more publicized books, but the savings is worth it to me.

[Editor's Note: Melinda has excellent taste in books, and was kind enough to let us include some of her favorites so far:]

Save Me the Plums by Ruth Reichl
The Muralist by B.A. Shapiro
The Huntress by Kate Quinn
Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
The Winemaker’s Wife by Kristin Harmel
The Valedictorian of Being Dead by Heather B. Armstrong 
The Paris Architect by Charles Belfoure

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Taking time to work out has been a game-changer in coping with quarantine throughout the last ten weeks. I’ve kept up my routine of ‘going to the gym’ after work by heading to my home gym as soon as it’s quitting time. I’ve taken advantage of Peloton’s free trial of their digital app and have been alternating between treadmill runs, run/walk combos, and hikes using my treadmill. I love the HIIT and Interval treadmill runs and log my miles using the Nike Running Club app. Seeing the miles stack up week over week has been super motivating in keeping up my routine, and I can have a friendly competition with other friends to see who can get the most miles.

On days when I’m not feeling a run, I opt for Yoga with Adriene or do a strength workout on the Studio Tone It Up app. Having a familiar routine keeps me from feeling too out of sorts, and I can change it up depending on my mood. The TIU girls are great when I’m feeling down, but if I’m ready to kill it, I know Becs Gentry or Robin Arzon will be there to kick my butt on the tread!

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I have found such joy in doing art projects even if they don't turn out very well! I have made a papier-mâché candle stick holder and a fox mask. I have tie-dye'd a handful of sweatshirts. I am working on making a quilt, and have colored and doodled for fun. I typically watch Youtube videos or search Pinterest for tutorials and order supplies from Amazon. I love making something but also learning a new skill is so cool. It has been so therapeutic! Next up: embroidering on clothes!

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I think my schedule feels like summer vacation, a long enough extended period to have its own relaxed, but nevertheless, routine. Sleeping in but not in a guilty way, a fun new craft experiment every day from beading to tahdig to handmade udon to stove top kettle corn, sitting outside for hours doing absolutely nothing. Keeping a calendar of what I did each day. Working out usually only 20 minutes a day, oftentimes during a group facebook video call where we do the same youtube video (Emi Wong, Chloe Ting, Yoga with Adriene). Caring about what I feel more than what I look like, a balance of not restricting myself but still a sense of regimen (like eating whatever I want but at meal times versus snacking all day, which my Invisalign helps with also!)

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I moved back home to live with my parents for the first time in a decade, so a lot of adjustment here! I'm still working for a US-based organization, so some time difference calculations are also a part of my day. That said, I find solace in my unchanging, ever-constant morning routine. I do an eye mask to soothe my screen-exhausted eyes right after I wake up, while listening to my favorite podcast: NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour. A great way to calm oneself while also getting a bunch of stellar pop culture recommendations. After this, I'll do my skincare: a quick rinse followed by many, many layers of squalane oil <3 . I'll switch on a Spotify playlist featuring artists from a music festival in Spain that I (obviously) can no longer go to, and dive into work with a steaming cup of coffee. Makes my day, every day!

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I live in a college town, and since the classes have all been remote, the students have mostly left. Consequently, there are way less people. we have quite a few green spaces, and every day, I take my dog on a 2 to 3 mile walk at various trails. I listen to podcasts or books on Audible. While we did this before, doing it EVERY DAY and for much longer really fills me up. I swear I am chemically different after being surrounded by trees. I play a mental game called "five new things," where I try to notice five new things on our familiar walks for mindfulness. We've had the most incredible spring (the past few years it's been hot since March—we had a real spring this year) and the flowers are insane. My joy triggers are the animals I've seen! There is a fox hole on one trail with fox kits and everything. I've seen a lot of snakes now that it's gotten warmer, but I joined a snake ID group, and it has mitigated my fear. Plus I've read 33 books and have started doing MadFit workouts on Youtube, and lifting weights consistently has helped me rehab my shoulder. 

I've really understood this as a time of being rather than doing. Since I work in film and TV and my entire career is on hold, which at first was frustrating because I had finally built some momentum. But i've enjoyed having the time and space to process and work on personal things I've set aside for so long: emotional procrastination, really. 

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I am living in a costal city in Spain with my husband in our tiny apartment. For a good 50+ days, we weren’t even allowed outside for exercise. I kept myself positive (for the most part... I had a lot of bad days too) by using my Aaptiv App to workout, do yoga, meditate, etc. I also happened to lose my job in the midst of the lockdown so I needed to find things to keep my mind off the situation. I’ve been reading a lot, taught myself how to knit, picked up embroidery again, and chilled every so often with a couple of glasses of yummy, Spanish wine. There isn’t much you can do in a small space, but I looked for the small things that brought me joy, and focused on those. We are now allowed out for walks and I can’t begin to tell you how much it’s transformed my day. Being out in the sun has helped my mood tremendously!

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I have been doing a lot of baking during this time. I know many other people have been enjoying this too, which inspired me to start an Instagram account posting some of my favorite recipes (@bakingbybabys). I love when Emily and Jessica post their baking process too! I wanted to feature simple and delicious recipes that even beginner bakers can make. When I bake, it takes my mind off things and I focus on creating something that will make me happy. It has brought me so much joy to see other people creating the recipes that I have posted. Hang in there everyone & eat the cake!!

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I have been coping by giving myself permission to feel and do (within reason) whatever I need to in the moment. Some days that's a really good work out, and some days that's watching 7 hours of the Great British Baking Show. Some weeks that's not drinking alcohol and focusing on water and tea, and other weeks that's crying into my glass of wine at night. I'm taking the shame out of the decisions I would usually feel bad for making (ie ordering Dominoes on a Tuesday night).

What I have realized is the power in truly giving yourself permission to do and feel exactly what you need. I didn't know how much I hadn't allowed myself that luxury until now. It's really liberating to have the thought "I'm having a tough day and I just need to just watch TV on the couch" and have your next thought be "Okay. Then that's what we're going to do."

I also find that C&C content and forcing my dog to snuggle with me provide an instant mood boost.

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I've reverted to my teenage-self and started writing a diary again! Whenever I feel overwhelmed or anxious (which is pretty regular these days), I open up an old notebook and let it all out. I always feel a little bit self-conscious at first, but as soon as I start, it all just flows and I always feel better afterwards. Even though I'm entering into the last year of my twenties (I turn 29 on Friday, eek!), there's something comforting about reintroducing this old ritual into my life. Also, there's something fitting about it since I seem to have reverted to being 15 again during all of this; back in my teenage bedroom, speaking to girlfriends on the phone for hours on end and the most important question of the day being 'Mum, Dad- what's for dinner?'

[Editor's Note: Happy birthday, Sophie!! We hope it was a great one!]

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I take daily walks around my neighborhood and as of late I’ve been listening to Beyoncé’s HOMECOMING Live Album through my headphones. What started as a walk has now turned into huge, long jumping skips and a ridiculous looking solo dance party down my neighborhood’s sidewalk (I LOVE IT!). I’m sure any passerby-ers are like, “what. is. she. doing?” (I like think it’s more what 👏🏽 is 👏🏽 she 👏🏽 doing!) It’s the absolute best hour of my day — I focus on how my body wants to move while listening to a really upbeat live album, and, let’s be real, feeling like a queen and not thinking about anyone/thing around me (except keeping the appropriate 6ft distance from other walkers). After that, I am HAPPY and I like to call that a win for my day in such a weird and difficult time.

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I am still working full-time with 4 and 7 year old daughters at home (and a cat & dog). My husband was laid off, but he struggles with managing the home schooling so I am guiding that too. Also, school is in Spanish (which I don't speak, so I am incredibly thankful for Google translate). Needless to say I am in a constant state of feeling overwhelmed, and I literally take things one day at a time. Anxiety levels skyrocket if I think too far ahead. Here is how I am coping...

Before COVID I started most days at a local Pilates studio while my family is still sleeping. It was the one hour of the day no one asked me for anything and the only time someone used my name was to tell me I was doing a great job :). They transitioned to Zoom and I still join a live class at 6 in the morning during the week. Took me a while to get used to being at home and making a lot of modifications, but I am so happy I still have this!

Cooking and Baking. I have basically been living out of the Magnolia Home cookbooks from Joanna Gaines. I bake with my daughters and then pack up boxes and drop them off to neighbors and family. Since I am not commuting, I can actually be involved in making dinner now. I am the person who would cook more if I had the time. We try to sit outside as a family for dinner once a week (still can't seem to manage more than that), but I do love it. 

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Lockdown has been an absolute nightmare for me. From the start of us sheltering in place, I worried about my dad, who had been in a nursing home the last four and half years. Nursing homes have been devastatingly affected by COVID-19. My worst fears came true last week when I learned dad had tested positive for the virus and then succumbed to the virus a few days later. When my mom told me the dire news, I paced around the house, collapsed on the floor, and kept repeating to myself I could have done more to prevent this and how unfair the whole situation was. I had spoken to him hours before. He was asking me to ask the nursing home to get him apple juice. I didn't know that would be the last time I would speak to my dad. He had only exhibited an elevated fever a few times. It breaks my heart to know he would still be with us today if he had never gotten the virus. 

With my grief, I'm trying to make sense of everything that happened. When my dad had a stroke four and half years ago, we were estranged. I immediately forgave him for everything when he got sick. He was my dad after all. I still have good memories of us when I was growing up. I know some people aren't lucky enough to say that about their childhood. My mom and I were by his side through everything. I did my best to at least visit once a week and get him good food at least twice a week. I'm glad that we got that second chance for a relationship.

Going forward, while I still mourn the loss of my dad, I'm trying to find meaning and purpose. I want to advocate for those who are in nursing homes and for the staff who take care of them. They deserve better than this. I truly believe a country is judged by the way they take care of their most vulnerable. We can do better than this.

I love you, Dad. I will miss you every single day. I'm not going to let people forget about you. 

Thank you for sharing your stories and for being a part of this community.    x

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