COVID 19’s Struggle Bus: How I Manage to Disembark Occasionally
Over the past year, I’ve been hearing from people both inside and outside the academic world about feeling stuck on the dreaded struggle bus. Realistically speaking, this is no surprise.
I’ll spare you the typical advice about diet, sleep, and exercise that we’ve all heard. These are all important, but I’m going to share some of the other strategies I’ve tried that have been helpful.
Journal: I write “Morning Pages.” I’ve done this for years, and it is particularly helpful for venting. For a simple explanation of this, look to Google. For more information, look for Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way.
Meditate: I recommend any type of meditation: guided mediations, mindfulness meditations, walking meditation, mantra meditation, or even just closing your eyes and exploring your breath. It doesn’t have to be complicated or esoteric. Just slow down and focus on your breath—it literally keeps you alive, so I think it deserves a little appreciation. I also appreciate drifting off to sleep using sleep hypnosis sessions. Some free YouTube channels I like are:
- The Mindful Movement
- Joe. T.-Hypnotic Labs
- Michael Sealey
- Progressive Hypnosis
Take a break from social media and news: I quit regularly logging onto social media in October 2020. While this was a personal decision, it can pay to be aware of the feelings engaging with this content can elicit. It took me a while to realize that I get information from many sources, and I’m unlikely to miss out on the onset of the apocalypse because I’m not on social media 84 times a day. My clarity of thought and ability to focus have improved exponentially, and I feel happier and less anxious.
Professional Self Care:
Productivity: Since 2020 was my first year in a tenure-track position, I felt immense pressure to be productive despite the struggles COVID presented. Cal Newport’s books have been particularly helpful. Newport is a professor of Computer Science at Georgetown University and a productivity expert. He absolutely “gets” the demands and lifestyle of the academic world, unlike many productivity “experts.” Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World and Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World are practical, useful, and eye-opening.
Daily self-care: I’ve added a few more small habits that have been helpful including taking breaks during the workday to stretch—particularly muscles associated with computer use in the upper back, neck, and shoulders and getting outside whenever possible, even if just for a breath of fresh air. Lastly and most importantly, I accept that I’m not a machine. I’m going to have good and bad days, we all do. Do these strategies solve everything and make life perfect? Absolutely not—but they do provide brief escapes into calmness, and tools for processing and coping.
I have many more strategies and thoughts on this topic. Feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to chat.
–Anita Slack, Communications Editor, Kent State University
–Guest-Edited by Maureen E. Barry, Membership Chair, Bowling Green State University