“You are 1 Workout, 1 Meeting, 1 Walk around the Block, 1 Chat with an Old Friend from a Better Mood”

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Well, this title is great inspiration, but easier said than done, eh?

I am hard timing it this week trying to work while on COVID-19 quarantine (like most of us!). Why is it so hard to do what we know helps us feel better? Some days, I feel like oatmeal or glue is in my skull rather than a post-graduate educated brain.  I only hear my lizard brain (which is the basal ganglia and brainstem1) commanding me like Frankenstein with a bad accent: “Must eat chocolate now”; “Drink hard seltzer in refrigerator soon, before daughter finds it”; “Watch an episode of Schitt’s Creek in bathroom while pretending to shower”; “Must look for bird feeder to buy online now, otherwise birds will never stop at your house again”. Buying something on Amazon is the closer for my Frankenstein Lizard brain refrain. After that, I shame myself back to work. Also super-not-great.

Stephen Guise in Mini- Habits explains it just right for me2.  I hate looking for motivation to do the right thing.  All I find is dark chocolate I hid in the freezer. Doing little tiny nourishing actions help us to get the brain chemistry going in the right direction (e.g. more serotonin dumps for better mood jolts3). My mini jolt options (Note- these are awesome for Parents trying to shuffle online schooling with the 49 other things you are already doing every day):

  • Do ten jumping jacks (or any exercise) outside for a few minutes in day light
  • Sing 1 refrain of a silly song (“On Top of Old Smoky” and “Frosty the Snowman” work for me) at the top of my lungs
  • Stand up and drink two tall glasses of water (just pure water, no ice, no mixer, and no shots of pineapple vodka… darn it)
  • Walk outside to the end of the block and back
  • Write 3 things I am thankful for
  • Meditate for three minutes
  • Free-write 50 words based on a 12-step program slogan

These two minutes are just enough of a serotonin jolt to get me moving upwards again in that optimistic spiral of energy.  I feel better! So I have this list posted on my office door to get me through tough afternoons.

I am tethered to my computer and phone for work. This is very anti-helpful for productivity. It is like giving tours in a doughnut bakery on a daily basis while on a diet. I often find myself searching for must-have throw pillows to cheer up my dingy living room (that I have to look at all the time since I don’t escape to an office), or impulse-buying a whole rain barrel system for the yard (Those things are not cheap! I don’t get how it can cost $200 to buy a plastic barrel with 2 spigots on the sides and a hole on top) is two finger flicks away from my very justifiable and recommended Pomodoro app4. Don’t get me started on the news apps I get rabbit-holed into.

My longer-lasting jolt options to see me through the week:

  • Workout with sweat for more than 30 minutes
  • Walk outside without phone, with the intention to feel my feet
  • A creative project at 5 pm (I am not artsy so the bar is quite low, e.g. plant flowers, paint a birdhouse, color in a mandala)
  • Attend an Al-Anon meeting
  • Meditate longer, more consistently
  • Set up a 5 pm phone chat with an old friend
  • Set up a 5 pm meeting to make plans to socially distance camp with friends
  • Promise myself time to read novel in the sun for 15 minutes

We don’t know if, when, or how this will subside.  I have stopped thinking of it as ending, ever.  We will only evolve to new behavioral normals as we continue to take in the information and weigh our own risks and benefits. So I am needing the serotonin and dancing tomatoes to fend off the herds of lizards.

You got this!! More soon.

1 Don’t Listen to Your Lizard Brain. Andrew Budson, 2017. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/managing-your-memory/201712/don-t-listen-your-lizard-brain

2 Mini Habits: Smaller Habits, Bigger Results. Stephen Guise.  2013. https://www.samuelthomasdavies.com/book-summaries/self-help/mini-habits/

3 Six Ways to Boost Serotonin without Medication. Debra Rose, 2019. https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-increase-serotonin

4I self-diagnosed myself with ADHD four weeks ago while procrastinating online.  It may not be true, but it cannot hurt to behave as if I have a short attention span since I find myself acting like a rabid squirrel in my office when alone with my phone, computer and undefined work expectations. I am attempting this 25-minute Pomodoro technique to force productivity with dancing tomatoes. Small but measurable progress so far, but I will take it! https://allthatsaas.com/roundup/best-pomodoro-apps-timers/


  1. I’m back at work now so things are pretty much normal for me but this really made me chuckle and think about how I was when we first went into quarantine. I wrote so many random to do lists just to get me to stop wandering around aimlessly all day. I still had work to do but it was soooo hard to focus! Now I’m back at work and wish I was back in quarantine again so I can’t win. Haha!
    What sort of job do you do?

    1. Hi Hayley,
      I will feel the same way I am sure when I get back to office. I am in consulting and do govt compliance and permitting. So every day is different and has its own needs. I have to stay super motivated and engaged to stick to it. What do you do?

      1. I can imagine you would have to stay motivated in a job like that. Are you able to work outside in the garden or do you have a dedicated space in the home where you work?
        I’m a teacher at an alternative education centre and I also have my own performing arts school where I teach musical theatre, piano and singing. I’m still unable to do group classes at the moment but I can do private lessons so that’s one good thing! 😀

      2. Yes, I love gardening so much, and I do bribe myself with garden breaks. And I have an office, so really no excuse. Your job sounds literally lovely! Songs and music, and kids happy to see you online even probably! You bring joy, that is so important. I write long technical reports about environmental impacts.
        Back to my pomodoro app on my phone, I get a beautiful ring when I stick to work for 25 minutes. If that isn’t job satisfaction…

      3. That’s great that you are able to take garden breaks and it’s so important to make the most of it while you’re able to. I definitely feel fortunate being able to do the job I do. I only started my performing arts group up last September and have around 50 students now. It’s just a shame I have to put it on hold for a bit.
        Your job sounds super interesting even though it’s probably boring for you and I’m sure it’s a worthwhile thing to do.
        I’ve not heard of a pomodoro app. Will have to check it out.

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