7 Ways to Choose Joy During Uncertain Times

The choice is yours.

By Kelly Krause
House Seven Home Tour, indiana cottage, cozy cottage, neutral design

The Great Pause. I can’t take credit for this naming. I saw it in a Medium article, and it sums up how I feel right now. While I’ve been looking for creative ways to fill my time and stay connected, one full month and change into this quarantine, and I’m appreciating a slower life and an open calendar. There’s nowhere I need to be, no rushing around to get somewhere, and not a lot of FOMO aside from missing many of my favorite humans IRL.

It’s a pause that I’ve needed for a while, and I very much wish it wasn’t because of a devastating global crisis. I’ve been telling my friends: the pandemic and the people & businesses it’s affected is awful; the quarantine hasn’t been personally bad.

While I’ve certainly dipped my toes into the sourdough craze, got through a few Masterclasses, and did every workout or happy hour imaginable over Zoom, I haven’t felt the desire to be the most productive person or learn every new skill under the sun. Perhaps that’s because I’ve been craving “slow” for a while.

Just because my hustle feels less frantic doesn’t mean that anxiety doesn’t still creep in as I try to figure out how to help with what’s going on, or attempt to understand what life will look like on the other side. It just means that for once, I’m okay not being busy. This time has helped uncover how much of my identity was wrapped up in my work and the busyness of my calendar.

So, instead of coming out of this saying, “Look at everything I accomplished!” instead, I’m focused on what brings me joy and peace right now — and which of those things I want to carry into the next chapter. Scroll on for a few discoveries I’ve made.

heartache, growth, breakups, thinking, happyimage: ashley kane

Clear calendar = clear mind.

As a single woman with no children and a 9-5 job, I realize that this personal truth is a luxury right now. But for me, the simple fact of not having a calendar full of places I need to be feels very freeing. It’s made me realize that I always have control of my calendar and can say yes or no to any invitation — and frankly, I want to say no more. It feels odd to say I want to do less when we’re able to safely gather again, but my hope is that I’ll remember how good this feels and choose to fill my calendar with only those things I actually want to do.

Know what makes me feel good.

The first two weeks of quarantine, I was glued to the news, on social media all day, and connecting with everyone possible via video hangouts, FaceTimes and texts. I drank more wine in two weeks than I had in the past month, ate like I was on a weird vacation or road trip, and slept horribly from anxiety (and aforementioned food and drink choices.) I’d wake up tired and anxious, and the cycle would start again. I started to protect my energy and mood with limited screen time across the board, began moving my body (I can ALWAYS count on movement to shift my mood), and cooked more vs. getting takeout. This time has been a nice reminder to know the tools that make me feel good, and continue turning to them. Though I’ll never be perfect, those tools are always at my disposal, and this time has been good for helping me rediscover them.

10 ways to challenge yourself this month

Daily walk.

Speaking of movement and slowing down. I started taking a “Podcast Walk” everyday as a way to get fresh air outside, move my body, and step away from work. At first it just felt like a luxury to get outdoors for a minute, now it’s become something I look forward to everyday. It makes me feel connected to, well, strangers, and it’s my way of catering to whatever mood I’m in. (PS: right now really into Armchair Expert, especially “Monica and Jess Love” for all my dating advice, “The Daily” by New York Times to catch me up on the news, Brene Brown’s “Unlocking Us” to remind me I’m human, and Heather McMahan’s “Absolutely Not” for pure humor). Going for a walk or run was always my go-to for coming up with creative ideas while getting in a workout, and now, the slow pace of walking and listening to content outside of my own thoughts is a daily ritual I really hope to continue.

cookbook collection

Deeper look into consumption.

Camille linked an article in the New York Times about the things we thought we actually needed pre-pandemic – and now that we don’t have access, question if we ever actually needed them. This is something I’ve been considering a lot as I’ve been cycling through the same 5-7 outfits every week. What do I actually need? Truthfully, not that much. Ten years ago while living in LA, I fell into the indulging/over-consumer category, and for the last few years I’ve been inching towards being mindful of my contribution to waste, opting for more consignment shopping, using subscription services, purchasing more from local makers, and turning down products or goods I know I simply won’t use. During this time, I’ve been getting curious about owning a car; wondering how much food I might be wasting, if a CSA is a better option; and looking into different ways of working out now that I’ve been doing a lot outdoors and inside.

The bigger questions I’m left asking is: do I really need this? Is it necessary? Do I already have something like this? Is this something that is helpful or harmful?

kitchens where appliances stole the show

More cooking.

I have nothing groundbreaking to say here other than, cooking (with a glass of wine in hand) is my favorite form of meditation, and I’ve been doing it more and more. And guess what, I’m actually good at it! I love to support local restaurants and will continue to do so, but the daily act of having a dish or recipe to look forward to making has brought me a crazy amount of joy. I’ve never done so many dishes in my life, and that’s fine by me. I’ve been pulling a lot of recipes from the following: Bon Appetit’s magazine & online (under their “Best of BA tab”) Clean Program’s recipes (I don’t do a cleanse, just like the recipes), cookbooks (Burma Super Star & Gjelina are two favorites) and of course, Camille has so many great ones every week.

Gaby and Thomas of What's Gaby Cooking

More thoughtful dialogue between friends & family.

One of my greatest strengths is being able to carry a conversation and ask thoughtful questions (also: can we call out our strengths more? If we don’t do it, who else will?) But lately, I’ve been breezing through a lot of interactions and not slowing down to see how people are really doing. Perhaps because it all feels heavy, and I want to keep it light.

Recently, I was on a work call that was kicked off with one of the questions by the infamous “We’re Not Really Strangers” card deck that instantly made me reconsider my conversations, and it’s challenged me to consider how I’ll approach dating when I re-enter that space. Life feels so short right now, and I’m realizing more and more how much I value conversations that are able to go deep fairly quick. In other words, I’m ready to cut the small talk.

katie kime, putting on makeup

One frivolous purchase.

Had to throw something light-hearted in here. Though, this is a smart purchase for me as I’m saving on a ton of gel manicures and giving my nails a much-needed break. I purchased Dior’s Nail Glow because I’m awful at manicures and painting my nails, yet I don’t want my nails to look blah. I’m literally going nowhere, yet, looking at that pink hue makes me feel happy.