On this episode of Radio Active, I talk about life during the COVID-19 pandemic, delve into using exercise and meditation to stay calm, and then geek out with the Nintendo Switch, Animal Crossings: New Horizons, Roll for the Galaxy, and more.
- The last podcast was in May 2020. A lot’s changed since then. A lot hasn’t.
- Like many, I’m working from home. My daily commute is still just a matter of getting up, getting a shower, and making myself go to my home office. (I really miss hanging those summer days spent on the back patio)
- Our epic 12-day, 60-mile backpacking trip to Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico was postponed to 2021. The delay bought us time to get in better shape and go on a few backpacking trips. In theory, we’re going in July of this year … we’ll see what reality brings.
- Summer is long over but the summer reading list continues as I finish the last book on the list, The Black Lung Captain (Tales of the Ketty Jay, Book 2). It’s about a band of misfit sky pirates dealing with political and demonic powers they don’t understand. Fun read!
- I may not have finished the list … but I did write about it!
2020 was a stressful year. 2021 is shaping up to be more of the same. My way of dealing with it? Keep calm, and focus on what I can control.
My Approach to Staying Calm
- Be mindful.
- Pay attention to the here and now.
- Don’t get swept away by what if’s. There’s an infinity of things that could go wrong. Worrying about them won’t help.
- Stay Focused
- Don’t get caught up in other people’s drama. It’s a difficult time and there’s plenty to worry about within my own extended family unit. Borrowing trouble from folks beyond that is unhelpful and exhausting.
- Don’t lose sight of what’s fun and enjoyable … even if that’s just a quiet Sunday afternoon of podcasting.
- Maintain goals … but be flexible.
- Stay Healthy
- Make time for exercise, even if it’s just short walks between meetings.
- My bullet journal is the cornerstone of my “keeping calm” strategy.
- A bullet journal is a hand-written journal that I use to keep track of daily meetings and tasks, maintain a week-ahead view, and sketch out my months. I also use it to jot down notes about the day, from challenges with the kids to the passing of a relative to accomplishing exercise goals.
- For the first six months of the pandemic, the distinguishing feature of each day was that it was the same as the day before … and totally different, as the virus forced us to constantly shift plans.
- I have just as much to do (if not more) than in the pre-COVID days.
- Everything keeps changing, but the bullet journal keeps me organized.
- Recently started adding my team’s stand-up cadence to each day (what I did yesterday, what I’m doing today). It adds some much-needed reflection.
- Overall, it keeps me tethered to reality and helps me avoid getting overwhelmed.
- You can learn more about my approach to bullet journaling on Nuketown.
Meditation via the Calm app
- Meditation isn’t often considered a geeky thing, despite the fact that many of our geeky heroes do it (e.g. Jedi)
- My own focus is on mindfulness (e.g. being more aware of the here and now, not getting caught up in circular thoughts, not kneejerk reacting to people or situations)
- My tool of choice is the Calm app for iOS. I liked it enough to buy a subscription, which comes with:
- The Daily Calm – daily 10-minute meditations
- Relaxing music and soundscapes (e.g. rain on leaves)
- Guided meditations for beginner, intermediate, and advanced meditation
- “Sleep stories” to help fall you asleep (or get back to sleep)
- It helps. A lot. If I start stressing out too badly, I meditate.
Exercise at Home
- For the last five to six years, exercise has been a critical aspect of stress management for me. The COVID-19 era is probably the most stressful time any of us have experienced, so it’s more important now.
- For me, exercise gives me a break from my everyday worries. It lets me focus on a particular activity, and gives me a good reason to avoid thinking about COVID-19 for a while.
- Ultimately, I treat it as a mindfulness exercise – something I do specifically to maintain a routine, focus on my own health, and make progress toward goals that are largely within my control.
- So what’s the approach?
- Run three times a week.
- Walk 2-3 miles up to five times a week in the morning. Listen to podcasts while I do this.
- Core strengthening exercises, bodyweight exercises, and a variety of stretches.
- Once it stops raining and the temperature stays above 40 degrees F, include bike riding.
- During the day, build in 15-30 minutes between each meeting and use that time to walk, even if it’s just running downstairs for some water.
- Move my work area around so I’m not sitting in the same place continuously. I have a jelly cupboard that I use as a standing desk on the first floor, and the back patio makes for a good work and meeting place if the neighbors aren’t out and the neighborhood dogs aren’t barking.
- Overall, this strategy is working. I’m still stressed, but I feel better. I lost 20 lbs with this routine, and by maintaining it, I was able to keep the weight off.
… and Geek On
- Roll for the Galaxy
- The dice-based version of the card game.
- Like the card game, it’s all about science fiction empire building. You explore the galaxy, colonize planets, establish various corporate and governmental interests, and score enough points to win.
- I got it for Christmas 2019, and NeutronLad loves it (so much so, that we got two expansions)
- During the game, you get a certain number of dice, which represent workers. You roll the dice, which randomly determines which workers are available, and each player chooses a work phase, which determines what work actually gets done.
- Heck of a lot of fun. And yes, there’s a lot of smack talking.
- Nintendo Switch
- Just before things when into lockdown in March 2020, my daughter and I got Nintendo Switches (my son already had one).
- We knew we’d need the distraction, and we were right. Great handheld system; it’s not as easy to stash as a Nintendo 3D6, but it’s got beautiful graphics
- Animal Crossing: New Horizons
- My daughter’s first video game – at age 4 – was Animal Crossing. Now 17, she still loves it. So does her soon-to-be 14-year-old brother. And so do I.
- Each of us has our own towns (which avoids the mayoral debates we had in the 3DS version).
- It’s fun to see how the kids’ Animal Crossing sensibilities have evolved over time.
- StarGirl has a fun, comfy little town with a homemade coffee shop and tree-lined streets.
- NeutronLad is terraforming his entire town to meet a much more structured vision of how things should be. He’s also very interested in securing certain cat-like villagers, like Bangle (the tiger).
- My own town features a downtown and a small, dense village with an adjacent outside diner and performance center. It’s largely wilderness though (no doubt a projection of my own desire to get back outside).
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- A few of my bullet journals, one of my favorite tools for staying calm, focused, and mindful. Credit: Ken Newquist