It would be accurate to say that 2020 has been (and continues to be) an unforeseen, unprecedented, and grueling year for many of us. COVID-19 has morphed ordinary life into a readjustment odyssey without exceptions. Due to this rapidly-growing pandemic, my family and I have been geographically separated for the past seven months. While my Marine husband is currently serving at Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay in Oahu, Hawaii, my son Liam (twenty-two months old) and I are in Lima, Peru.
Last March, like every year, I geared up to deliver school supplies on behalf of SnapHope, a Christian non-profit I founded in 2015. We aid underprivileged children in Belen, which is a small town alongside Peru’s Colca Canyon. Unfortunately, this year bad weather and the irrepressible arrival of the virus forced me to cease operations unexpectedly and flee back to the city. Meanwhile the Peruvian government had implemented rigorous security and public-health measures, some of which demanded the immediate closure of the country’s borders. As a result thousands of foreigners and naturalized-nationals, including my son and I, were suddenly immobilized.
Being a US Navy veteran and a Milspouse for a decade, separation has never been an unorthodox concept to my family. However, my experiences as a seasoned traveler and former servicewoman could not have prepared me for the trials we would soon endure. Throughout this period we have been mentally stretched, physically tried, and emotionally challenged in ways we could never have predicted. Nevertheless, we have also learned to quickly overcome and adapt, a pivotal requisite for grappling with insurmountable adversity at any given time. It would be absurd to dismiss the intricacies of the process or the aftermath. Personally, it has opened a door to invaluable self-discovery and growth. The following are three simple practices I have been utilizing to aid my daily physical and mental health in these unfamiliar pandemic times:
1. Practice Honest Gratitude
The pandemic, and its rapid spread, has affected us all inevitably. Some have been stripped of financial stability as a result of unemployment, business closures, and overall global uncertainty. While others have experienced the even greater loss of human life and its consequences (for families and communities) as the health and human toll continues to grow worldwide. Despite the common climate, I choose being intentional by channeling my focus into gratefulness. Daily, I record five things I celebrate and cherish, small victories turned vital during this time. I have also incorporated nightly prayer with Liam, which instills a healthy spirit of thankfulness in him.
2. Nourish Body and Mind
Stress is a physical and mental reaction to life experiences. In small doses it primes a sharp brain, conversely, under frequent extreme circumstances it can prove fatal. Hence, why a healthy balance between physical activity and mental nourishment is paramount for survival during this time of confinement. Within the first three months of the state of emergency in Peru, a mandatory curfew and stay-at-home order were issued. After a couple of weeks the repercussions were rather evident for both my son and I, as we began manifesting signs of insomnia, anxiety, and frequent mood changes, among other things. Fortunately, we could enjoy green space in our house, exercise religiously, and get plenty of vitamin D. In retrospect, it was these specific habits which preempted latching onto any unhealthy coping mechanisms.
3. Invest In Lasting Relationships
In the midst of chaos, I took a thirty-day social media cleanse. I must confess that temporary cyber hibernation was rather therapeutic. I was significantly more productive, I became more present and engaged with those surrounding me physically and not just figuratively. I realized that good friendships are a valuable investment, which require nourishment and time, not mere “likes” on media. While quarantining away from home, I have farewelled friends who became family, sang birthday tunes over tiny screens, and watched life happen for those I love and miss. I have cried tears of joy, sadness, and gratitude alike. This has been (and continues to be) a season of absorbing, digesting, and discerning incredibly valuable lessons. Yes, often times those cute squares are entertaining but they are not synonymous with healthy associations. We have lost our ability to be vulnerable in exchange for being platform-proper because our personal social skills are in danger of extinction. Be present, time is a gift.
Claudia is a USNavy veteran and a USMC milspouse currently stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay, Oahu, HI. She is mom to Liam (23 months old) and to Elsa (8 yr old Siberian Husky mix pup). She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and a Master’s degree in Industrial Organizational Psychology. She is the founder of Snaphope.org, a Christian non-profit featuring the orphaned and the poor through the art of journalistic photography. Some of her passions include social work, photography, building milspouse community, traveling, culture immersion, and healthy lifestyling.