We’ve been through a real ~journey~ with housekeeping and mental health this year

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Photo: MediaNews Group/Boulder Daily Camera/Getty Images

Back on (checks notes) March 9, Elemental ran an excellent piece by writer and wellness-world expert Rina Raphael about how cooking, cleaning, sewing, and other old-school chores were being elevated as new forms of wellness: opportunities to take care of oneself and one’s space and practice mindfulness. As the pandemic progressed and eventually exploded throughout the country, many quarantiners found themselves even more drawn to these comfortingly repetitive actions—remember the flour shortage?—which, per research cited in Raphael’s story, “increase a person’s belief that they can manage a situation that is otherwise out of their hands.”

Now, if you’re anything like me, the charm of housekeeping has ebbed and flowed depending on your level of frustration and despair about the state of the world — and I would love to never have to repair my own dishwasher ever again. Still, I hope the tidying up, baking, and general holiday-magic-making of the season (if that’s your thing) have provided some much-needed small joy and satisfaction during a difficult time. If nothing else, you know it’s going to feel damn good to vacuum up all those pine needles once you’ve said farewell to your tree. …

In case you get sick, you’ll want to have this ready

The prospect of becoming sick with Covid-19 is scary for anyone, but for parents and caregivers, the thought of loved ones not quite knowing how to fend for themselves — or care for you — while you’re out of commission adds a whole new layer of stress. As writer (and parent of two teens) Alexandra Samuel explains in Forge’s exhaustive guide to Google Drive, her family Covid readiness manual doc helps alleviate some of that anxiety. In it, she provides instructions for how to order groceries, a meal plan and basic recipes, basic cleaning and health guidelines, and other advice for caring for Covid-19 patients. …

Could the secret to more restful nights be hiding in Google Drive?

If you frequently have trouble sleeping, have you considered making a spreadsheet? (No, this isn’t a spreadsheets-are-boring joke, although if it works for you, go for it.) As Maria Bengtson…

Losing him has given me the strange luxury of reveling in just how funny and weird and loving and spectacular he was.

I don’t know what to say about Ryan Brady.

I also don’t know what not to say about Ryan Brady.

The truth is that it feels like a small miracle he was in my life at all. He could easily not have been.

We evidently circled each other throughout four years of college, but we didn’t meet until the very end: a formal event (a dance? I don’t remember dancing) for graduating seniors. June in Chicago — the absolute best time of year, in any place (though Ryan later told me the best time and place in the entire world was fall in New York, which is probably true). …

Numbers can inform and motivate us. They can also sabotage our bodies and brains.

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Photo: Javier Sánchez Mingorance/EyeEm/Getty Images

You can put a number on just about anything health-related these days: not just blood pressure and heart rate but also steps and movement, hours of sleep, time spent in front of a screen, and, yes, calories and weight. (Let’s just state upfront that measurements like weight and BMI are actually poor predictors of health, and tracking them is of questionable utility and unquestionable potential danger for some.)

In an ideal world, these markers of health would just be stats: a simple way to figure out where we stand and to track progress toward wellness goals. But in the real world, our brains love to categorize numbers as “good” or “bad” and to conclude that the value of those numbers says something about our own worth; we also see measurements as something we can control, which is a powerful promise when we’re feeling out of control. …

Even eight months in, this can still be so touchy

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Photo: John Moore/Getty Images

Back in March, you may have noticed an odd… apathy? complacency? willful ignorance? among family members of a certain age — people who, despite being among the most vulnerable to Covid-19 (we knew this even then!), seemed generally unworried about the whole thing. Whatever has happened in your family in the interim, it’s possible that as the holidays approach, your older relatives’ understandable need for love, connection, and tradition is once again outweighing the many hard lessons these long pandemic months have wrought. (As The Onion put it, Mom Completely Understands That Coming to Thanksgiving Is Risky and That You Don’t Love Her Anymore.) If that’s the case, consider revisiting this story by Rina Raphael that Elemental ran on March 13. (Side note: On March 13, we apparently thought this would be over in “a few weeks.” OMG.) …

Let’s normalize the social-media Covid disclosure

Emoticons with face masks on a phone screen.
Emoticons with face masks on a phone screen.
Photo: Markus Winkler/Unsplash

For health journalists like me — and, I suppose, for basically any well-informed person who believes in science and cares about public health and, like, the greater good — social media has become an utter minefield. (Social media has always been a minefield, so this is really saying something!) Everywhere you look there are alarming behaviors and questionable, or nonexistent, personal protective equipment.

Even in person, saying something to a stranger not wearing a mask, or wearing one improperly, feels uncomfortable at best, bear-poking at worst. …

Self-care hits different now

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Photo by Jared Rice on Unsplash

On Saturday afternoon, after a tall glass of Crémant and a great deal of screaming out the window, I did something a bit odd for such an enormous moment: I took a shower. One of those delicious, long, thorough showers where you come out feeling impossibly clean and fresh. I washed my hair! I shaved my legs! I did a special face scrub! And it didn’t end there: I blow-dried my hair, put on a cute outfit (a skirt!), applied lipstick. The next day, I drank utter gallons of water and did yoga and ate kale. …

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Illustrations: Xinmei Liu

The Covid Audit

A team of epidemiologists rate a pastor’s safety measures for his staff and congregation

Wouldn’t it be nice, as you go about your confusing, nerve-wracking, coronavirus-avoiding days, to have an epidemiologist on call to answer your many questions? Consider the Covid Audit the next best thing. This project, a collaboration between Elemental and the Epidemiology Covid-19 Response Corps at the Boston University School of Public Health, asks real people to keep a diary about what they’re doing to avoid Covid-19 and gives friendly feedback from the Response Corps team on actions you can take to support public health — and your own.

This week’s reviewers are Leona M. Ofei, a graduate student in the Master of Public Health program at BUSPH, and Ellie Murray, ScD, MPH, an assistant professor of epidemiology at BUSPH. …

This is what to pay attention to, according to an epidemiologist

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Photo: Brian McGowan/Unsplash

For a layperson, national, state, and local Covid-19 data pages seem pretty straightforward (high numbers are bad! low numbers are good!) — until you really start thinking about what this data means for your health and your behaviors. Which numbers are actually important? How do you interpret an increase or decrease in Covid-19 cases or test positivity rates? And how should the data inform what actions you should — or shouldn’t — be taking? …


Anna Maltby

Executive editor, Elemental. Past: Real Simple, Refinery29, SELF, etc. Certified personal trainer; prenatal and postnatal exercise specialist. Cat & person mom.

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