It’s harder than ever to keep a positive state of mind. Things we once took for granted like going to a store or meeting friends after work now require consideration and planning. “Should I go to a bar?” “Is the gym safe?” “What’s best for my kids?” “Can we drive there without stopping?”

Mental health experts say everyone reacts to stress differently, and how we work through stress is just as unique. INB staff members are just like everyone else: vulnerable and looking for ways to cope. Here, some of our staff share their stories on dealing with stress during a pandemic.

Kicking out Covid Thoughts with KarateTake time for yourself sign with an alarm clock

Accounts Payable Clerk Charron Hack found herself getting bored and restless. After several months spending nights and weekends at home, she saw a Facebook ad for a “senior” karate classes. “Out of desperation, I asked my husband to go so we could do something we wouldn’t normally do – add some excitement to our lives!! He didn’t want to go. I asked a girlfriend and she said she would try it.  Well, talk about no balance and coordination.  It is more difficult than I thought, but I’m sticking with it for now…”

Exercise, Zoom and Hobbies Make It Bearable

Financial Analyst Evan Billington describes himself as an avid gym goer, so when gyms shut down, he purchased resistance bands, a jump rope, and a pull-up bar for the garage. He says, “While it wasn’t the same as going to the gym, it was nice to be able to get in some kind of workout when I could. As another avenue of exercise, I picked up playing basketball in my driveway. My gym has since opened back up, but I’m glad I was able to get some form of exercise in while it was shut down.” While Evan is back at the gym, he admits he’s one of just a few people there most evenings.

Aside from his standard workouts which help him both physically and mentally, he’s had to find a way to connect with his friends who live in different parts of the country. He says, “We always tried to make an effort to see each other as often as we could.” Since in-person meetings were virtually impossible early on, his cluster of friends have found a new way to stay in touch.  “Every Friday night, after everyone gets done with work for the day, we all join a zoom call and talk as if there wasn’t a screen or hundreds of miles between us as a barrier. Being able to still see my friends in these uncertain times has made quarantine a much more pleasant experience.”

Evan adds that the quarantine has also allowed him to focus on a hobby he had neglected.  “I taught myself to play guitar in college . . . with more free time, I was able to dedicate more time to playing. Going forward, I’m not sure if I’ll allow myself to put off playing guitar like I did after college because it’s been such a great way for me to relieve stress.”

Escaping Through Books

Communications Director Marilyn Titone Schaefer says she’s always been a big podcast listener.  “As more and more NPR stories have highlighted the coronavirus, it got to be too much. I was thinking about joining an audio book club when my sister told me about borrowing audio books from the library. Our Lincoln (pubic) Library in Springfield allowed residents to get a library card on line in the early days of Covid-19, so I signed up and was given immediate access to several audio book services.  Since mid-April, I’ve ‘read’ 16 books. Most are about 11 hours of listening time; I try to alternate between fiction and non-fiction . . . often landing on ‘historical fiction.’ Each story takes me away from reality, which is very good for my mental health.  And since I primarily listen while walking, it’s good for me physically, too.