Writing Prompt: Pandemic Reflections

It’s been quite a year — tell us your story

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Photo: Noam Galai/Getty Images

On Leap Day last year, I went to my friend Matt’s ninth birthday party. (To be clear, Matt is a full-blown 36-year-old, but because he was born on February 29, he’s only had nine actual birthdays. I find this terribly funny, and he’s a good sport about it.) I still remember standing in a warm, crowded bar that afternoon with Matt’s friends and family, sharing bowls of potato chips and chatting about the sinister virus making its way through Asia and Europe and how it was affecting our travel plans and grocery lists.

Suddenly, I found myself having a strange…

Monday Move

Can’t squeeze in a whole workout? You have time for this.

Animated male figure doing “skater” exercises from left to right.
Animated male figure doing “skater” exercises from left to right.
Animation by Jaedoo Lee for Elemental

As February continues battering much of the country with freezing temperatures and (frankly, unwelcome) snow, the cold seems to be settling deep into my body. My joints feel creaky, my torso is stuck in a perma-hunch, and I keep throwing out my neck and back with stupid little movements that shouldn’t cause me such trouble. My mood isn’t so great, either, and I’d actually consider going for an endorphin-boosting run — something I’m no fan of normally — if the sidewalks weren’t such a mess.

I clearly need to do some mobility and injury-prevention work, but I’m also craving the…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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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