5 COVID-19 Habits I'm Keeping

5 COVID-19 Habits I’m Keeping

COVID-19 made us all adapt huge portions of our lives – including our habits. Some of these habit adaptations were negative (Netflix, we really need to stop meeting each other like this). But some of these new habits were pretty positive.

Here are five habits picked up during COVID-19 that I’m planning on keeping: 

Religiously Sanitizing Gym Equipment

I definitely already used hand sanitizer religiously when at the gym but, gross admission, I was pretty lax when it came to thoroughly sanitizing my gym equipment. Then COVID struck. Fast forward to today, and the idea of touching gym equipment that hasn’t been wiped down grosses me out. 

Normalizing Canceling Plans When Sick

It was incredibly easy to cancel plans during COVID-19 when you felt sick – just add in a, “Sorry, but I want to be cautious, especially right now.” But why do we need that disclaimer to cancel plans or use sick days? You’re sick, germs are real, and healing takes rest – cancel the plans with no remorse. 

Spending Extra Time Making Pets Happy

When you’re away from your pets for a lot of time during the day, you miss many of their habits and what makes them happy. The part of COVID-19 I have LOVED is working from home and getting to see my dogs for much more of the day. I now know exactly how much they like to sleep during the day, what toys they will play with, and the number of times my dachshund wants me to give him scratches (note: it is far more than reasonable). And knowing these things, I WANT to do what makes them happy. They’re a part of my life – I am their entire life, so I want to make it good for them. 

Listening To Your Body When Planning Workouts

Before COVID-19 I would usually push myself through hard workouts, even if my body was telling me not to do it. Now, I can recognize when I need to keep pushing and when I need to adjust. Hard workouts are good – they aren’t good ALL the time. 

Making Things From Scratch

I would bake from time to time before COVID-19, but the number of things I made from scratch during this stretch exploded (at least, by my standards). Normal bread? Sure. But cornbread, frozen Greek yogurt, homemade mug cakes, hot chocolate mix, and more too. Everything tastes better when you make it yourself…and, you know, do it well. 

What are the COVID-19 habits that you want to have stick around?

About to pet my dog without permission? Just don't.

Don’t Pet My Dog

When I take my dog for a walk, I’m really tempted to wear a sign around my neck that says, “Don’t pet him.” 

I would follow this up with a second sign that reads, “Our dogs are not friends – don’t act like they are.” 

But, signs around the neck are a little overboard, so I thought I would explain this to you, my readers. Then, it is your job to tell your friends so that they tell their friends, and the friends tell their friends until the whole world knows not to pet my dog. Or, for that matter, ANY dog. 

One thing COVID-19 put to a halt was being approached by strangers while out on walks. Sometimes it would be somebody who decided to pet my dog without asking permission. Other times, it would be somebody who allowed their dog to run up to mine without permission. But during COVID-19, keeping a six-foot distance prohibited that. 

However, more than a year into the pandemic, fewer people are religiously abiding by the six-foot rule. Thus, the return of my frustration. 

You should never, NEVER go pet a dog without talking to its owner. And you ESPECIALLY should not let your dog approach it without seeking the same permission. 

I’m going to use my dog as a classic example of why forgoing permission is a problem. I rescued him when he was picked up off the streets, and while I don’t know his background, I do know his triggers. He hates being approached suddenly, dislikes tall men, and gets really aggressive with big dogs. All probably for a reason, but for a reason unknown to me. 

Aside from just being rude, people and dogs who approach my dog without asking could cause someone to get hurt. My dog doesn’t have teeth (again, no idea why!) but still has the ability to clamp onto a person or a dog pretty painfully. And, if he does that to a dog that responds aggressively in turn, my little dog could get really hurt.

Some people may be okay with you and your dog visiting with their dog – that’s great. I’m not one of them. Either way, here is your public service announcement for the day: Always, ALWAYS, ask permission for you (or your dog) to approach another dog.*

*Obvious exception being dog parks. Go crazy there.

Here are five pointers to help you plan the best (BUDGET FRIENDLY) trip yet:

Kelvey’s Five Point Trip Planning Guide

Here’s something very few people know about me: I LOVE planning trips. Love it. I love finding great deals, getting hyped to go to new places, and, above all, I love planning the trip agenda. 

So, as someone who would totally plan other people’s trips for them just to do it, here are my five pointers for planning a great trip: 

Establish Parameters Based On Who You’re Traveling With

Who is traveling with you? Your family? Your friends? A lot of people? One other person? Traveling by yourself?

Nailing this down makes all the difference. One thing it impacts is the location – I typically save super outdoorsy trips for when I’m traveling solo and try to emphasize more local, cultural, and food options when I have a group. It also impacts budget – you may be able to buy a ticket to Europe right now, but if you’re traveling with a group, you need to know what they can afford. 

Set A Budget

Set. A. Budget. Do not spend on a whim – you WILL spend way too much. But at the same time, don’t set your spending limit too low, because that’s the fastest way to guarantee failure. When I plan for trips, I usually have a housing budget and a travel budget.

I also have a spending budget that includes a realistic amount for every meal I will eat, coffee money, the money for all the planned events, and some flexible spending money. For example, on my recent trip to New Orleans, the flexible spending was put toward artwork for my home and local chicory coffee. I would have bought these things with or without the budget because I loved them so much, but having them in-budget protected the rest of my finances.

Do NOT Only Look At One Option

If you’re rolling with the first option you see, you’re not getting a good deal. Compare airlines, or, if you’re loyal to a single airline for the points (like me!), compare flights. Is it less expensive to take a super late flight out a night early versus a morning flight the next day? Do the same with housing and car rentals. I’m constantly flipping through hotel versus Airbnb prices and if I can’t take public transportation like the Metro, comparing car rental companies to things like Turo.

Read All Sorts of Reviews

I literally planned a trip last night, and you know what I had pulled up? Yelp, Google reviews, Reddit, and all sorts of local review blogs. Getting perspective and hearing what other people (ESPECIALLY locals) think will help you prioritize where you should go. While not always foolproof (some NOLA reviews ended up letting me DOWN), this process has proved useful 90 percent of the time. 

Block All Your Time In A Trip Doc, But Leave Wiggle Room

Finally, the part I love most – pulling together a trip document! When I travel, EVERYTHING goes into one document. This can either be accessed on your phone or, if you’re worried about a lack of service or your phone dying, can be printed out. I always go the phone route because that makes life easier, both for navigation and for updates on the fly. 

All my research gets pulled together in this document, along with all addresses (because just having to go one place for your phone GPS serves wonders) and any tips or notes I may have. Since I apparently lost the last couple of trip docs and am not about to share the one from my upcoming trip with the public (sorry folks!), here is an example of a morning in one of my trip plans: 

NEW ORLEANS

MONDAY

8 am: Get ready, walk over to the coffee shop for breakfast. 

9 am: Head out for swamp tour (address here)

9:30 am: Arrive at swamp tour. (Parking for free around the corner, check-in at the gift shop)

11 am: Wrap up swamp tour, head to French Market (address here)

11:30 am: Arrive at French Market, shop

12:45 pm: Grab coffee + beignets at Cafe Du Monde (leave car where it’s parked – it’s walkable)

The trick to this? ALWAYS leave wiggle room. For trips I’m taking solo, I just leave enough wiggle room for if travel time or a planned item takes longer because I get to plan exactly how I want. When you’re traveling with a group, everything that can go wrong will go wrong. Leave a LOT of flexibility for if you’re running late, if the mood of the group doesn’t match the mood of the plans, etc. 

Happy travels!

Don't Try To Learn Like Them Just Because It's Popular

Don’t Try To Learn Like Them Just Because It’s Popular

I don’t have YouTube downloaded on my phone. 

Any app I use regularly (with the exception of social media in an effort to deter use) is downloaded. Any app I even use semi-regularly is downloaded. So what is the logical conclusion here? That I don’t watch YouTube videos regularly. 

And that conclusion is correct, much to the confusion of many of my friends. 

If you remove the percentage of my friends who use YouTube simply for entertainment, I am still left with a high number using it as a means of education. Learning new recipes, makeup tutorials, music lessons, academic lectures – you name it, they’re pulling it up. 

We could look at podcasts in the same way. My friends (along with the rest of the planet) are avid podcast listeners. It’s very normal to hear a thought from them begin with, “I was listening to a podcast and…” 

For a long time, I felt oddly guilty about the low number of YouTube videos I watched and podcasts I listened through. On the surface, that would seem like a weird thing to feel guilt over. But when a learning method is popular, when a lot of the people you’re surrounded by are into it, it’s easy to fall into the trap of, “I must do this thing or be looked down upon.” 

Or maybe it’s not that extreme. Maybe it’s more like the interactions I’ve had where you’re asked all sorts of questions on your thoughts about a YouTuber or podcaster…but you’ve never heard of any of them. 

It’s taken me a while to be okay with the fact that while I watch YouTube videos and listen to podcasts from time to time, that’s not how I learn. I had to figure out what works for me. 

And I have! I don’t naturally turn to podcasts or YouTube videos to teach me something. Instead, I pull up instructions and do it. I talk about the things I’m trying to think about, learn about, or develop my opinion on with other people. And my favorite: I write about it, and use the research process behind the piece I’m writing to fill in the gaps. 

If you don’t learn best through audio or visual, don’t hop on the video or podcast trends just because they’re popular. Put that time into learning the way that works FOR you. You may not have answers to all the questions lobbed at you during parties, but you’ll certainly be in a better place educationally for it. 

My Top 5 Wellness Hacks

It’s not a secret that an overwhelming amount of Americans have health-related resolutions. Whether that be weight loss, gym time, drinking water – whatever it is, someone has committed to it (and probably already broken down by now). 

You’re not going to see me writing for goop or Well + Good anytime soon, but for several years I’ve tried to lead a pretty healthy lifestyle. Here are 5 hacks you can steal that help me get there: 

1. Don’t Force Yourself To Do Exercise You Hate

Don’t read what I’m not saying – I’m NOT saying that you should always avoid a hard workout. What I am saying is that if you’re continually forcing yourself to do a type of exercise that you despise, you’re going to have a hard time maintaining it in the long-run. I have hard power yoga workouts, hard lifting sessions, and hard boxing rounds just like I used to have hard runs. The difference? I love the first three and that motivates me to power through – I HATE running. 

2. Write Down What You’re Eating

This is harder than it sounds to keep up, but it’s one of the best mindfulness and accountability tools I rely on. Whether you’re using a program like Noom, tracking your macros, or simply keeping a food journal (I’ve done it all and turn toward different things in different seasons), it will keep you honest. And, it will help you identify gaps. Need more water? Vegetables? Fruits? Eating out a lot more than you thought or picking up junk food frequently? Now you’ll know. 

3. Have A Backup Plan

On an ideal day, I would be hitting the gym at 5:15 am for a workout class or at 6:45 am for a lifting session. In reality, if I’m not signed up for a class that will ding me if I miss, it’s a toss-up whether I get that early workout session in. And that’s okay – I’m working to prioritize sleep as a key part of my health and well-being. Instead of stressing, I always have an alternative plan. Maybe that means I’m working out at home; maybe that means reserving both a morning class and an evening class and knowing I’ll make it to one of them. Whatever it is, don’t let a missed alarm derail you – have a plan B. 

4. Keep A Cute Waterbottle Around 

This is so cliche it hurts, but so effective it can’t be left out. If you have a water bottle you like looking at (for me it’s my sticker-covered Hydroflask), you’ll be more likely to lug it around with you and drink enough water during the day. That, and you’ll be less likely to leave it places. 

5. Decide Your Food “Musts” and “Passes” 

This varies by season, but it’s helpful to create food indulgence rules. For example, I know that I am never going to go to a party or celebrate a birthday where there is great dessert and not eat some – doing so would feel like deprivation and these are uncommon enough events that it is totally worth it to me. On the other hand, I will always pass on soda and drinking my calories, and rarely bring home cheap desserts. I know what my indulgence musts are, and I know what I can pass on, and while I don’t always stick to these rules, they’re very helpful in the long-run. 

Are you going to try one of these in 2021? Or do you have tips of your own? Tell us in the comments!

Rebuilding Stronger in 2021

I’ve had two words on my letterboard for the last couple of weeks: 

“Rebuild stronger.” 

(Actually, right now it reads, “Rebuild sronger.” My sister pointed out that I was tired when I spelled it out and missed the t, and have yet to add it. Full disclosure.)

Each glance at those two words is encouraging. Why? Because 2020 broke me, broke us down in every way possible. But in 2021, we can rebuild even stronger.

I always pick a word or phrase to return to over the next year, and “rebuild stronger” is what I’ve picked for 2021. It would be easy to simply say “rebuild” and to work on returning the status quo. But what if that isn’t where we need to return?

For all the atrocities it has contained, 2020 has done a very good job of making all flaws, whether in our personal lives or our society, exposed. It has ripped down a curtain, exposing everything that was not serving us well and all the areas where change should be encouraged. And 2020 in its very essence will alter the way work and life and community function in the future. 

2020 broke us down, but we shouldn’t be rebuilding back to 2019. Instead, we should take a good long look at what life looks like right now and what it should look like at the end of 2021. 

What habits and practices no longer serve you and should change? What does your workflow need to look like? Your wellness routines? Your financial management?

How should your spiritual rhythms and habits be rebuilt to urge you more toward Jesus in the new year? 

Psalm 71:20 says, 

“You who have made me see many troubles and calamities will revive me again; from the depths of the earth you will bring me up again.”

We have been broken, but revival and restoration are around the corner. It’s time to rebuild and to rebuild stronger. 

How will you rebuild in 2021?

Words from Ephesians 5 for Thanksgiving 2020

But Instead Let There Be Thanksgiving

What passage from Scripture makes you cringe? I’ll give you one of mine – the word “cringe” is even scrawled in the margins of my Bible next to it:

“But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.” 

-Ephesians 5:3-10, ESV (emphasis mine) 

Wow. I find myself swallowing a little harder every time I read this passage. There are so many places where I have partnered with the dark in my own life, and it often seems innocuous enough that I don’t even see what it’s doing. 

But while this is a weighty passage and reveals a lot about what Jesus followers let slip into the cracks of their life, there is a part that has always struck me as an odd choice to include. Read back through the above passage. See what I bolded? 

In the midst of commands to get rid of sin, a seemingly oddly placed command is given: “…but instead let there be thanksgiving.” 

At first glance, it seems like an odd shift from speaking about sin, to urging thankfulness, back to speaking about sin. But when you think about this, it actually makes a lot of sense. Have you noticed that when your life is full of joyful gratitude, the dark lure of sin fades a little? 

I find it extremely hard to praise God for a beautiful morning and then curse my neighbor the next second. 

There’s a weight of conviction that comes when you praise the goodness of God with a family member and then slip right into a conversation laced with jokes that make it look like you don’t know him. 

A universal truth is that one becomes what they behold. Behold the goodness and glory of God constantly, and your life will start to align with his. And, from this passage, I think another truth can be implied: You’re drawn toward what you meditate upon. 

Think deeply about what makes your heart grateful and watch yourself be pulled away from dark lures toward the light of Christ. 

This Thanksgiving, turn toward Jesus and strive to put aside the sin that clings so closely. Instead, let there be thanksgiving. 

The 5 Stages of a Social Media Detox

Social media impacts the mind the same way a slow I.V. of poison impacts the body. 

At least, it does for me. 

Whether social media has such an obvious negative influence on you or not, I think everyone benefits from a social media detox. I regularly try to step away from social media for a day or two a week for my own sanity, but my brain and soul need a longer detox at least once or twice a year. 

If this isn’t something you’ve done before, let me walk you through the five stages that come with a social media detox: 

RELIEF

After the buzzing happening on Facebook and the fighting happening on the dumb bird site and the overhyped and overfilted life posted on Insta, deleting apps from your phone will feel like RELIEF. Suddenly, the political conversations you have will happen in person (and hopefully with a lot more civility). You can live in a moment instead of taking photos of it. People will just have to compliment your new look IN PERSON. Anonymous trolls would have to do a lot more to get your attention. The relief feels good. 

ANXIETY + EXCUSES

This is the most difficult part of a social media detox, and it highlights the very reason why you start one. The timeline is different for everyone, but it sets in at some point: A slight buzzing anxiety that you’re missing something, which leads to ridiculous reasons why you should log back on. Power through, it gets better. 

TWEETING IN YOUR MIND

If anxiety and excuses are the most difficult part of a social media detox, this is probably the most humorous part. This is the point where your brain starts coming up with incredible social media content. Seriously – I have come up with my best tweets before remembering that I couldn’t post them. I have taken amazing photos that didn’t end up on Insta. This too shall pass. 

SURPRISE

I love the moment when you realize that you’ve been off social media for a while and for the last few days…you HAVEN’T MISSED IT. It takes a while, but that surprising realization feels good. You recognize that you don’t need it, and it doesn’t need to dictate your day. 

PEACE

And finally, the best stage of a social media detox: peace. When the notifications stop coming, when you’re not constantly reaching for your phone, when the anxious twitching and longing for false connectivity fades away. The goal of a social media detox is not to simply step away – it is to reset. To reset with less dependency on your devices; with a clearer head; with a calmer heart; and with a better focus on Jesus. 

Let this be your encouragement to step away from social media for a bit – it’ll feel weird, but it’ll be great in the end.

You calendar could be your new favorite tool.

Why Your Calendar Could Be Your New Favorite Tool

When I was in college, the calendar on my iPhone raised some eyebrows. It perfectly color-coded and divvied up my life, from waking up and heading to the gym in the morning to getting ready for bed at night. It allowed me to make sense of all the homework, classes, work schedules, and social events that I was juggling. 

After I graduated, my weekly schedule got much more predictable. I wasn’t juggling multiple jobs and classes anymore. My work schedule was the same every day, and most events in my life happened on a weekly or regular basis. So, I abandoned my color-coded calendar. 

It wasn’t until the last few weeks that I brought it back. COVID-19 took away any regular routine I had for a very long time, and I was left floundering. Even now, with some of my schedule returning to normal, working from home and adapting to this pandemic way of life has taken away a lot of the external rhythms and routines that allowed me to function regularly. 

So, I brought my iPhone back out and plugged my week in. 

When I was heading to the gym. 

When I was writing. 

When I had appointments.

When I had meetings.

When I was working. 

When I had church gatherings. 

It all got entered back in. 

And you know what? I realized that I missed having this tool in my life. 

People who like flexibility may protest trying out a calendar habit like this. It may seem like it’s too rigid to allow for freedom. But having things laid out so clearly actually provides a lot more flexibility. 

You can move things around as you need while still  knowing that everything is accounted for and written out. You can meet a friend and know you’re not missing a meeting. You can schedule out convenient times to run errands because your calendar shows you where you’ll be and when. 

I thought that when I was out of college, I wouldn’t need a calendar like this anymore. But in getting rid of it, I got rid of my favorite tool. Life is a lot better with having such a clear-cut schedule back at my fingertips, and if you don’t already do this, I would suggest you try it out. 

You may just find it’s your new favorite tool.

hands typing on desk with text

5 Positive Impacts of COVID-19

How long has your community been in some sort of lockdown or quarantine? It’s been over six months for my area. 

What began as a doable “15 Days to Stop the Spread” campaign turned into a harder-than-expected cycle of lockdowns, isolation, and disruption of routines. As things begin to open, talking heads are professing this to be the “new normal,” but there is NOTHING normal about this season – it’s just weird. One day we’ll be back to normal(ish), but right now we live in the weird. 

But thankfully the worst type of weird can bring some good things with it. In an attempt to stir up gratitude within me, here are 5 positive impacts of COVID-19: 

MOTIVATION TO TURN MY HOUSE INTO A HOME

I had been in my house for less than four months when COVID-19 struck. And as the weeks since then have passed, it’s motivated me to get boxes unpacked, walls decorated, furniture rearranged, and really turn the space where I live into a home. It’s made me think more deeply about things like my workspace, how to keep everything cozy without being cluttered, and how best to arrange the space when hosting (something I have happily been able to do, albeit in small groups, throughout COVID). 

TIME SPENT WITH PETS

I have a rescue dog with separation anxiety, and my sister’s anxious little dog also lives with me. It has been so good for both of them to have so much time with me, and I have loved it. While it might be a little bit more challenging during work meetings (they don’t quite grasp my need for them to stay quiet during my Zoom meetings), being able to curl up on the couch and write while they sleep at my feet is a delight. 

LOTS AND LOTS OF BOOKS

I reignited a childhood love of reading a year or two ago. I LOVE books. But there are so many other things pulling for my attention on a daily basis. Having a lot of the special events, regular meetings, and reoccurring calendar items canceled has opened up time that (when using my self-discipline to keep me away from Criminal Minds on Netflix) can be used to devour book after book. 

EXTRA TIME TO FOCUS ON HEALTH

My commute is gone, and my time to get ready every day has been slashed. This means that when I don’t sleep well, I can really focus on getting enough sleep by setting my alarm for later. It means that I have the time every day to get a really good workout in. I have the time to cook healthy meals. And, if I’m not getting enough steps in during the day, I can pace around my house while on that conference call with zero judgment. 

NEW PERSPECTIVE ON THE ROUTINES AND OBLIGATIONS I TAKE FOR GRANTED

I miss my alarm going off earlier than preferred on the weekend to wake me up for church. I miss a commute that guaranteed carved out time to listen to audiobooks and podcasts. I miss regularly meeting with others in the evenings, even if I was exhausted from the day. COVID-19 has breathed new appreciation into these regular happenings, an appreciation I would not have had otherwise. 

How about you – are there things that you can be grateful for, even in this weird and awful season? Let me know in the comments!