Staying Apart, Together: I'm not wasting any moment I feel good amid the pandemic

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Kelly Lawler, USA TODAY
·5 min read
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Editor's Note: This is a preview of USA TODAY's newsletter Staying Apart, Together, a guide to help us all cope with a world changed by coronavirus. If you would like it in your inbox on Tuesdays and Saturdays, subscribe here.

When I woke up for work this morning, I felt better than I did when I went to bed on Friday night. For me, that's a huge win.

When you're having a hard time with your mental health, when the news is sad and scary, any moment of respite is worth celebrating. I've been open about my personal struggles, but haven't mentioned yet that my mental health has worsened over the past month or so. I had a hard time over the holidays and with the tragedy and chaos of recent events. I've had difficulties motivating myself at work and in my personal life. I've been sleeping more, panicking more, withdrawing more.

Anyone with experience could tell you I was in a downswing in my battle against depression and anxiety. But I've been going to virtual therapy, leaning on my support system, getting outside and taking it one day at a time. This weekend completing a few projects at home, donating to a local food bank and mixing up my routine led to a huge mood boost. I will ride it as long as I can. I'm not imagining I'll go run a marathon or renovate my kitchen, but maybe I'll finally clean up my living room or register for a virtual volunteering event.

I hope any of you who are struggling can also find moments of solace and energy that help you get through it amid our crazy world.

Subscribe to Staying Apart, Together here.

Today's 'Big Bang' of advice

Speaking of mental health, "Big Bang Theory" alum Mayim Bialik wants to help.

"Mayim Bialik's Breakdown," is a new weekly mental-health podcast she launched on Spotify Jan. 12. The podcast blends discussion of topics such as anxiety, addiction and PTSD with Bialik's expertise on the brain and nervous system (she has a Ph.D. in neuroscience) and their connection to emotions. She created and hosts the podcast with her boyfriend Jonathan Cohen, a writer, father and futurist.

"The podcast is me using my science brain to break down concepts and talk about the myths and misunderstandings that we have about mental health," she told my colleague Bill Keveney, adding it's especially timely when so many have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and other tumultuous events.

"It's a way to deal with what came up for me this year and what I'm hearing from a lot of people, that even people who had no history of mental health problems were all of a sudden experiencing anxiety," she says. "I think a lot about what I would have loved to have heard when I was just divorced or when I was a teenager and feeling like I didn't fit in. So, I definitely try and provide that."

You can read more about Mayim and the podcast here.

"The Big Bang Theory" alum Mayim Bialik, pictured in a scene from Fox's "Call Me Kat," has a new podcast, "Mayim Bialik's Breakdown," that explores mental health issues.
"The Big Bang Theory" alum Mayim Bialik, pictured in a scene from Fox's "Call Me Kat," has a new podcast, "Mayim Bialik's Breakdown," that explores mental health issues.

Today's treat: King cake

Mardi Gras will look very different this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but there's one element of the celebration that can continue at a social distance: Eating king cake.

If you aren't familiar, a king cake in Louisiana used to be a simple dessert: a ring of brioche topped with purple, green and gold, the colors of Carnival. In recent years, it has been presented in many variations, such as cakes filled with cream cheese, stuffed with berries or smeared with praline. Buried inside is a trinket, normally a plastic baby. Whoever gets the slice with the prize must buy the next cake.

Bakers in New Orleans are already seeing a surge of orders for the treat, even though big celebrations and parades have been canceled. Chaya Conrad, who owns Bywater Bakery, was prepared for a lackluster king cake season. But so far, the season has been booming.

"People can't travel to New Orleans. This is the one thing people can do for carnival," Conrad said.

King cake will forever remind me of Kim Willis, our movies editor. Every year at our offices in Virginia, Kim would bring in a king cake that her husband gave her and share it with us all. I even got the baby one year.

Read more about king cake craze this year here. And maybe put in an order or two if you're hungry.

A king cake from Hi-Do Bakery located outside New Orleans.
A king cake from Hi-Do Bakery located outside New Orleans.

Today's reads

James Earl Jones, who turns 90 Sunday, stars in "Coming 2 America."
James Earl Jones, who turns 90 Sunday, stars in "Coming 2 America."

Today's pet

Meet Katie, a pup who looks like she's ready to fly a plane with Snoopy any minute now.

Your smile is just what I needed, Katie.
Your smile is just what I needed, Katie.

"Katie is our rescue 12-year-old Old English Sheepdog that never wants her owners to return to the office," says Shaune Younkers of Osseo, Minnesota. "Katie has post-traumatic stress disorder (from trauma before her adoption), which causes her to be hesitant with new people. Despite her challenges of PTSD, she welcomes new opportunities, such as donning goggles and riding in the Jeep. I refer to Katie as my "Cheerful Colleague" because she accompanies me to my home office (okay it involves walking from my bedroom to the spare bedroom) every day. If I have to go to another part of the house or run an errand, Katie is right alongside me."

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Depression and anxiety? I'm not wasting any moment I feel good