How One Woman Manages Her Mental Health in Quarantine
In our Day in the Quarantine Life series, we’re chatting with Canadians about their new normal, exploring how they organize their days and balance their home lives with work obligations. Here, Andrea Karr, a Toronto-based freelance writer, shares how she’s taking care of her mental well-being while in self-isolation.
I’m a night-hawk, so I like to get up around 10 a.m. and take my dog, Thumbelina, for a 20-minute walk around the block to get us both some fresh air. My other dog, Bebop, is with my ex, Steve. We share the dogs.
Since I live in Toronto’s downtown core, my area is still pretty busy in the late morning. There’s a lot of people out and about, and I’m finding it really stressful—more so than I thought I would.
When I return to my condo, I make myself some breakfast: a fresh pot of Tim Horton’s coffee and an everything bagel with margarine. I even bought a double-double creamer to put in my coffee so it tastes like my regular coffee order pre-quarantine. I’m trying to save money right now, so I’ve been grocery shopping—my fridge is way more stocked than normal.
While eating breakfast, I start journaling. It’s something I used to do a lot of when I was younger and upset about something. Around the same time quarantine was put into effect in Canada, my long-distance American boyfriend ended things with me. As soon as the breakup happened, I got in touch with my old therapist and she recommended that I start journaling every morning to help process my emotions. I’ve had three therapy sessions over Zoom with her since I’ve been in self-isolation, and I’ve found it super helpful to talk to someone who isn’t a friend or family member about it.
It’s hard. It sucks. I did not want to be dumped. I did not want to go through this breakup—especially during a global pandemic. The fact that it happened simultaneously, I felt as though I wouldn’t be mentally strong enough to deal with being in quarantine while going through a breakup. I thought I would resort back to my old ways and get really depressed, but it turns out I’m more resilient than I’ve given myself credit for in the past.
I’m learning to ride through the different emotions; some days I’m super productive and feel really great, while other days I feel really down and spend most of the day in bed. I now understand that I’m not locked into the way that I’ve dealt with my emotions in the past.
I do BOLO‘s bodyweight workout. I do it five to six days a week on Zoom in my living room, and they’re $5 a session. I really like that there’s a set time. I find it holds me accountable to get my workout in for the day. My day is always so much better when I know I’ve done something good for my body.
I miss going to fitness classes. I used to work out at BOLO and Orangetheory, but I obviously can’t do that right now.
Fitness is very important for my mental health, and I don’t want to lose the momentum that I’ve built over the past couple of years. Especially during this time of self-isolation, I know it’s extra important for me to protect my mental health in whatever way I can. I just feel so proud that I’ve actually stuck with it.
I have a light lunch that consists of salad and some fresh fruit.
After my workout and lunch, I feel energized to get some work done. I’m trying to use this time to focus on my creative writing and not obsess over finding new work. I want to get my creative writing certificate at the University of Toronto, so I’ve been taking some courses. I plan on signing up for the next class in May. It’s my goal to write a book one day, but I need deadlines to motivate myself.
Work has definitely slowed down. I know a lot of publications don’t have the budget for freelance work, so I take assignments when they’re offered to me (usually branded, not editorial). Everyone is in the same boat so I feel like I have permission to shift priorities.
I clean my place. I have a lot of framed art in my condo, and so I dust every single frame. I’ve painted my closet bright pink, and I really want to do the rest of my bedroom, so I order more paint online from Home Depot for curbside pick-up.
I wish I had a more set schedule during my day. I know a lot of people who find that really relaxing, but I like things to be different every day whether or not I’m in quarantine. But being stuck at home makes it kind of hard to have variety in my day. So, I try to keep busy with household tasks.
I make tacos for dinner—just simple ones! Tortillas, beef with taco seasoning, cheese, lettuce, and tomato. I’ve had a craving for tacos lately, so I’ve made them a couple times over the past few weeks. I used to have them a lot when I first moved to Toronto 10 years ago, but I gradually stopped cooking at home and started ordering takeout most nights or dining out.
I do another walk with Thumbelina around the block before winding down for the night. But with there not being as many people around, I find I don’t feel quite as comfortable going out in my neighbourhood after dark like I normally would. It just feels different.
I head straight to my reading nook. I’ve been reading a lot—eight books since quarantine began. I’m just finishing up a book called My Dark Vanessa. We’re reading it for my book club that I have with nine other girls in the media/PR industry. Normally we do it in person, but this week will be our first digital Zoom book club meeting.
I’ve been trying to mix up my evenings, so sometimes I’ll watch 30 Rock or chat with my parents on Zoom. I would normally go two or three weeks without talking to them, so it’s been really nice to have this time to reconnect.
I put on rain sounds for some white noise, hop into bed, and pull down my eye mask to block out the light that seeps through the blinds. Thumbelina cuddles up to me; I don’t feel as alone.
One thing that I’ve really been working on in quarantine is self-compassion—really in the way that I speak to myself. I have a pretty negative inner voice that’s always telling me, “You’re not good enough,” and I just don’t want to think that way anymore. So, before dozing off to sleep, I imagine this all-knowing woman hugging me and telling me, “It’s okay. You’re okay. Who you are is good enough.” It’s very soothing. She’s a lovely person, this woman I’ve imagined. I don’t know why it took me so long to imagine her, but now she’s with me and it’s been really helpful for some reason.
If anything, this time has made me realize that if anyone should be giving us a break, it’s ourselves. Lately, I’ve found it easier to give myself a break by celebrating the little wins every day like painting my closet or completing an online workout. I’m happy that I’ve had the energy to do those things.
As told to Alyssa Ball.