This year, spring arrived a little earlier than usual. Cherry blossom flowers have been blooming with vivid shades of pink and white all over New York. Under normal circumstances, most people would have loved to bask in the warmer weather and admire the mesmerizing beauty of the spring blooms.
Instead, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic is weighing on everyone’s minds. The news is all doom and gloom. Reading, watching or hearing about the latest case numbers, hospitalizations, and deaths is unavoidable. And anxiety-inducing. Being under quarantine and stuck at home makes everything even more stressful.
During these times of increasing uncertainty, economic depression, isolation, and loneliness, it can be challenging to
stay sane. So, to learn how researchers and other experts within the Earth Institute at Columbia University have been dealing with the stress and anxiety, we asked them to share their coping mechanisms. In the slideshow below, they explain in their own words what helps them to de-stress and stay positive and productive.
Paulina Concha Larrauri, senior staff associate, Columbia Water Center
For distraction, I have been playing a lot with my cat, Felipe. Also, learning how to play the ukulele, drawing, attempting to do handstands, and doing on-line ballet classes. I have also been cooking and experimenting with recipes a lot more than normal.
Nicole Davi, paleo-climatologist and adjunct senior research scientist, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
During the lockdown and while being under quarantine, it’s tough to find the focus and get work done. Writing papers and proposals requires a lot of brainpower. Our kids are also at home now from school. While it’s interesting to see what my kids work on and where they excel or where they have challenges, it also takes up so much time as we are pretty much home-schooling them at this point.
To de-stress, I have been doing a family Zoom happy hour on Sundays. I am also doing some boot camps like exercises with my kids. I have an obsession with jigsaw puzzles. We have also been doing some family music time, though I just play the shakers. Sidewalk chalk is surprisingly relaxing and fun and makes me feel productive!
Jaishree Beedasy, research project director, National Center for Disaster Preparedness
As far as coping mechanisms go, mine is to do yoga every morning, read books and dabble in haiku writing in the evening. I use technology quite a bit for work and play. I stay connected with family, friends, and colleagues in the U.S. and across the globe. I plan to try my hand at cooking some mild Indian dishes soon.
Weston Anderson, postdoctoral fellow, International Research Institute for Climate and Society
Recently, I’ve been sculpting and drawing to de-stress during these times.
Robin Bell, polar scientist, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
We live in Upstate New York and have a little cabin. So, during our free time my husband, Karl Coplan (shown in the photo), and I have been making maple syrup without leaving our property. I also love to knit so that’s another activity I’ve been enjoying during the lockdown.
Elisabeth Kago Ilboudo Nébié, postdoctoral research scientist, International Research Institute for Climate and Society
The main thing I do during my free time to de-stress is cooking with my baby on my back! I love cooking West African and French food and while doing that, I also get to spend some quality time with my baby.
Steven Cohen, director of the Research Program on Sustainability Policy and Management, Earth Institute
I’ve replaced my gym time with a stationary bike and free weights at home. My wife and I are starting and ending the day with walks in Morningside and Riverside parks.
Jully Merino Carela, director of the Women in Energy program, Center on Global Energy Policy
I haven’t picked up any new hobbies, but I have been cooking. I made dark chocolate chip cookies from scratch for the first time, and I have to say, they turned out good! Also, reading by my window because it almost feels like I’m outside. Almost. That helps me relax.
William Chan, research affiliate, Center for Sustainable Urban Development
One of my hobbies is being a volunteer lifeguard. But during this time, I’ve been keeping fit, involved in online training and leadership programs, and keeping in touch with fellow community volunteers.
Dannie Dinh, program officer, International Research Institute for Climate and Society
I’m very lucky to have my own space. And so, it’s pretty manageable to be able to separate my workspace and my creative space. The day goes by smoothly as long as I don’t let the daily news creep in.
For me, sticking to a routine has helped a lot. I wake up early, I make my coffee and then make breakfast. I cook a lot. During weekends, I try to do either online yoga or other activities like painting, drawing and playing a little bit of music. They keep me occupied enough to avoid constantly scrolling through social media.
Hugh Ducklow, professor of biogeosciences, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences and Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
Most of what I do from home is sit at my computer and work on data, write proposals and papers, review other people’s proposals and papers. The virus has probably made me more productive because there are fewer distractions for me at home. Plus, I can sleep an hour longer and still start work at the same time as in the old days before COVID.
We are very lucky to have a house on Cape Cod near Woods Hole, Mass., in a very low-density neighborhood and close to a 20-mile long walking/biking pathway, so we get out quite a lot. We feel really lucky to be away from NYC, but I’m pretty concerned about my students who don’t have a place out of NYC to flee to.
Benjamin S. Orlove, co-director of Columbia University’s Center for Research on Environmental Decisions and senior research scientist at the International Research Institute for Climate and Society
I usually grow flowers in my bedroom window box in the spring. But with the local plant shop closed, I am tending to the ivy that survived the winter and nurturing it back. A dove landed close to the ivy recently and seemed to like the greenery as well.