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How 4 technologists practice self-care during colder months of the pandemic

From setting aside time each morning to reflect on your life, to playing virtual exercise games with friends, these tech pros share how they take care of themselves during the fall and winter months.

Two men exercise outside during the pandemic. (Photo by Barbara Olsen from Pexels, used via a Creative Commons license)

As the daylight hours get shorter in Philadelphia and the weather begins to get colder, it can be hard for professionals dealing with the pandemic and those working from home to stay sharp at work. Seasonal affective disorder has only been exacerbated by the pandemic.

So how do you find inventive ways to fight the winter doldrums and practice self-care?

Red Hat Solution Architect Angela Andrews has used exercise and communicating with loved ones to keep herself energized as the fall has started to segue into the winter. Enjoying life in the moment while having things to look forward to has kept her spirits up.

“I get up [at] the same time everyday either to workout, sip coffee in bed and listen to podcasts or read,” she told via email. “Midday, it’s a must to get outside. I walk my dog and use this as an opportunity to think. It’s usually the first time since the workday began that I have to myself, so I try to use it wisely.”

Andrews added that she finds ways to communicate with loved ones as a way of staying grounded as work gets hectic.

“It’s also important to stay connected to people that mean the most to you. I’m not talking about doom scrolling, but maybe writing a note to a friend, texting someone you haven’t talked to in awhile or making brunch plans for the weekend or even better, your next vacation,” she added.

Wharton IT Director Timothy Allen considers his wellness regimen to be “absurd,” but conceded that it has gotten him in the best shape of his life. Allen takes 45 minutes each morning to do intensive cardio — in a virtual reality environment.

“I do a workout game called Oh Shape, and then Beat Saber as well,” he said. “I often play with my best friend, which lets us work out together in the morning in VR and chat as we listen to some awesome electronic music.”

Allen also recommends using meditation apps that give users the feeling of being outside through their immersion and recommends investing in a self-contained VR unit if possible since they start at $300 — one-fifth the cost of a base-model Peloton.

Tech consultant Marissa Taffer also exercises, but instead keeps her four-legged canine friend by her side as she practices building her agility.

“My dog and I take agility lessons and I keep him on course with cheese,” she said.

Louis Miller is the managing director of strategy at eCity Interactive and started running again to relax during the pandemic. He prefers running in the cold in 40 degree weather over running in scorching heat during the summer —”anything to get me away from screens,” he said.

Whether you are finding fitness in the virtual space or develop yourself physically with your pet, there are a number of ways you can stay sharp at work amidst extenuating circumstances and avoid the winter doldrums. Outside of hearing how these Philly pros manage this time of year, check out this list of 79 resources, hotlines, books and mental health professionals.

Michael Butler is a 2020-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Lenfest Institute for Journalism.

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