There are over seven billion people in the world, and every single one of us has had a different COVID-19 pandemic experience. Lives were lost, families were uprooted, and there is no question that society simply cannot just go back to normal once restrictions are lifted. Yet, as we've all grown relatively comfortable with the habits and routines we've picked up over the last year, there are some things we're actually excited to bring with us into the After Times™️. We're not talking about the anxiety spiral that ensued when someone cleared their throat and it sounded like a cough so we ran the other way in the grocery store; we're talking about the practices we've adopted to take care of ourselves and our mental health during an incredibly scary and dark time.
Taking away the chaos of commuting, nights out with friends, and work-life separation forced us to face all the above behind a screen. It forced us to create boundaries in ways we've never had to before. It forced us to step out of our comfort zones and create a new sense of normalcy with circumstances that were anything but normal. We had an administration that did nothing to assuage our fears, and so we, as a collective society, had no choice but to learn what worked for us individually. What we each needed to do to protect our headspace. Personally, I learned how magically cathartic a long walk can be. Some perfected their meditation routines. Others turned to sourdough recipes. We all found whatever it took to maintain that peace of mind, and that right there is something to be proud of.
As vaccines roll out and the reality of a post-shelter-in-place summer feels more and more within our grasp, POPSUGAR editors have shared the mental health habits they've picked up over the last year that they are bringing with them once restrictions are lifted.
"One of the best habits I started during the pandemic was challenging myself to cook a new recipe once a week. Setting aside that time to put my phone down and focus on creating something with my hands was cathartic and made me feel productive (even on days when I could practically hear my Seamless app taunting me). It was also an easy way to feel like I was doing 'an activity' and taking steps outside of my comfort zone, whether it was attempting an intimidating skill or cooking with an ingredient I hadn't used before. Discovering new restaurants with friends is one of my favorite aspects of living in New York, and I can't wait to start doing that again, but I'll keep trying to level up my game in my own kitchen, too." — Becky Kirsch, managing editor
Regularly Meeting With a Therapist
"I was unbelievably nervous to start virtual therapy sessions during the pandemic — Would I be awkward over Zoom? What if I didn't connect with my therapist right off the bat? — but whew, am I glad I overcame those fears and took the plunge. I've been consistently seeing my therapist since October, and I'm definitely planning on keeping at it for the foreseeable future. She's helped me learn how to dissect my negative thoughts and practice self-affirmations in a way that feels natural to me, and she's offered so many helpful and personalized tips for coping with my anxiety. I still consider myself a work in progress, but just knowing I have someone to lean on has made all the difference during the pandemic." — Victoria Messina, editor, Trending and Viral Features
"Living in New York City, I used to walk a lot to and from work, but I never took walks just for the fun of it — every walk had a purpose. During the pandemic, I've gotten into the habit of taking daily walks to the park by my apartment after spending the entire day working from home. It's given me a chance to stretch my legs, clear my mind, and take a break from technology for a little bit, and I hope to continue with the habit even when life returns to 'normal.'" — Jessica Harrington, associate editor, Beauty
"Pre-SIP, my 'walks' involved the few steps between public transport and the office, then back again at the end of the day. Since SIP began, I've been treating myself to regular walks around the neighborhood when I'm in a good mood, in a bad mood, or just need to feel some fresh air and the sun on my face after being cooped up inside. Even 10-20 minutes of getting out of the house has given me time to clear my head, reflect, and just appreciate the place I live in a little bit more." — Chanel Vargas, assistant editor, Trending and Viral Features
"With my workspace and my bedroom being a mere three inches away from each other, leaving my apartment to go for sanity walks has been essential to my mental health over the last year. During the Before Times, I loved long walks, I just rarely had the time to take them, but as the weather gets nicer in these After Times, I'll be prioritizing this peaceful time for myself. Whether it's one mile or six miles, being able to step away from the screen, get fresh air, and be present with my thoughts is key." — Perri Konecky, senior editor, Trending and Viral Features
"In the beginning of the month, I bought this half-gallon water bottle to help me stay motivated to maintain my water intake. Throughout the pandemic, my mental health has suffered, and doing simple tasks like keeping myself hydrated seemed arduous. This water bottle has made that part easy and, in a way, really has become a small act of self-care over a year into the pandemic that gives me peace of mind. It's a hack I wish I'd adopted earlier in the pandemic and one I won't want to give up afterward." — Sam Brodsky, assistant editor, Fitness
"Since the start of SIP, my five-minute skin-care routine has turned into a 10-minute skin-care routine, which doesn't sound like much, but it's made all the difference in how I feel. Taking the time to hydrate, moisturize, and even wash everything off of my face at the end of the day has become almost therapeutic, and it's given me time to try new products that I otherwise wouldn't have taken the time to use. How I feel physically definitely affects my mental and emotional well-being, and I look forward to keeping up with my skin-care routine even after SIP." — CV
"One habit I've created that I hope to never give up is making time for reading every single night. After a final scan through my phone, I set my alarm and leave it on silent for the rest of the night, then I spend my last 15 minutes to two hours (depending how tired I am!) reading in bed. It helps relax my body and shut off my anxious mind, and since I started doing it, I've realized I have fewer stress dreams, wake up feeling less mentally foggy, and have gotten through so many amazing books on my TBR list that would otherwise still be unread on my bookshelf. Highly recommend, especially to my fellow anxious bookworms!" — Alessia Santoro, editor, Family
Giving Ourselves Grace
"Wearing sweatpants 24/7, forgetting how to interact with other people, and constantly being tired have become huge memes over the last year. But I've also noticed that people, myself included, have given themselves more grace when experiencing these common SIP changes. Even as SIP lifts, I would love to continue being kinder to myself when I need more time to get going, can't bring myself to clean my apartment, or eat more chocolate than I initially intended. We are all human, and even if there isn't a pandemic looming over our heads, we should give ourselves the grace to exist, which includes having good days, bad days, and everything in between." — CV
"I started meditating last summer to help with anxiety, and I loved it so much that I made it my goal to meditate every day of 2021. Meditating first thing in the morning settles my mind before work, and it's taught me habits (like breathing techniques and visualizations) I use throughout my day now, whenever I feel stressed, anxious, or jittery. This one habit has helped me stay at least somewhat grounded over everything that's happened the last year, and I don't plan on giving up that relief after the pandemic." — Maggie Ryan, assistant editor, Fitness
"Meditation and gratitude journaling were admittedly habits that I'd try to make pre-SIP, but they didn't really stick until I took the time to make them part of my everyday routine. Now, more than ever, taking the time at the end of the day to reflect on my highs and lows has given me more time to digest life events, process how I'm feeling, and appreciate small wins here and there. During a time when it's easy to get caught up in all the negatives, those few minutes of meditation and journaling at the end of my day have been monumental in keeping me grounded." — CV
Unfollowing People on Social Media
"Block, mute, and unfollow have been some of my best friends during SIP. Whether it's celebrities I truly can't stand and don't remember following in the first place, influencers whose messages no longer resonate with me, or old acquaintances I have no business being in touch with anymore, it's nice to give myself permission to let go of as much negative (or even just neutral!) energy on social media as possible. Social media is a huge part of my everyday life and has become even more so since SIP started, so curating my feeds to make sure that Instagram, Twitter, and the like are positive and educational places has been crucial to maintaining my mental health." — CV
"I invested in a shower radio, essential oils, and nice shampoo and conditioner so I actually enjoy decompressing and taking a long shower after a stressful day of work. Not only does it help relieve stress, but it also sets me up for a restful sleep." — Christina Stiehl, senior editor, Fitness
"Baking banana bread, gardening, embroidery, playing the ukulele — I've tried it all during SIP. While some hobbies have stuck better than others (sorry, ukulele!), giving myself the time to try new things has been fun and relaxing and made me feel more in touch with my artistic side, something I don't think I've properly let out since middle school. Pre-SIP, it was easy to shrug off hobbies because I always told myself that I didn't have the time in between work, visiting family and friends, hitting the gym, and catching up on all of my favorite shows. But taking the time to read, bake, or make something with my hands just for the sake of it always puts me in a better mood, and I hope to keep up those hobbies even after the chaos of 'normal life' picks back up again." — CV
Keeping in Touch With Friends
"One of the highlights of my SIP has been keeping in touch with friends and family via Zoom, FaceTime, Skype, or even just on the phone for a chat. My friends are spread out across the country, which means seeing each other in person even prepandemic was difficult. So SIP has given us an excuse to schedule regular calls with each other to catch up, play games, and just check in on one another, which has made me feel closer to all of them and provided some much-needed human interaction that even I, as a self-identified mega-introvert, have found incredibly cathartic." — CV