Making your own sunshine on a gloomy day (or year) with photos

A few small things that have made a big, positive difference in my solo lockdown experience

Salut !

That’s how you say hi in French. I’ve been learning French officially for about 6 weeks. In public!

I’m over a month deep into my new job at LingQ (pronounced: link). It’s a highly-innovative language-learning platform that stole my heart and thus, stole me from my former job at Vacasa.

Switching jobs, industries, specialties, and going from a large company to a startup is stressful. But good stressful. That’s called eustress.

There’s also a lot of “bad stress” going on in the world, called distress. I don’t have to name it — you all know what I’m referring to.

I’ve been locking down 100% alone since mid-April. People have asked me how I’m managing. This reminds me of a conversation I had with a friend, who once told me that he feels down on gloomy-weather days. He said, “When the sun’s out, I’m in a great mood! But not so much if there’s no sunshine.”

I told him: “You gotta make your own sunshine.”


How to make YOUR own sunshine

Truth-bomb time. Just because restrictions have loosened and the sun actually is out, doesn’t mean the pandemic is over. In fact, it’s far from over. We have a long road ahead before we can safely gather in groups — especially at parties and bars.

“WHAT?! I thought this newsletter was about making my own sunshine, and you’re depressing me with this bad news!” — I know, I know, and I’m sorry to be the bearer of “bad news.”

But that’s something interesting. Why is it news at all anymore? I’m just saying, it’s July, and the pandemic broke out in March. Once COVID19 became a pandemic, there was a common awareness that we were at least 12-18 months away from “going back to normal.” Of course, since then, we’ve realized we’re never going back to the way things were before, but that’s a tangent for another newsletter.

All I’m doing is reminding you that we’re just a few strides into this marathon. And while the pandemic causes unavoidable stress, we can implement methods to turn the distress to eustress. i.e. Making your own sunshine on this long, gloomy day.


The first way I make my own sunshine is by tempering my expectations. This is in all areas of life. See this formula:

Happiness = Reality - Expectations

By this formula, if Reality = 100 and your Expectations = 50, but the reality is that you can’t do what you expected, then Happiness = 50. That’s an F in US schools.

If your Expectations = 0, then no matter what happens, your happiness isn’t affected by external circumstances beyond your control.

If you expect that you’ll “go back to normalcy” within a few months of a pandemic breaking out, you’re going to be disappointed. On the contrary, if you expect that you won’t get that normal life back anytime in the near future, you can actually be very happy in this lockdown. This is why I remind people where we’re at — not to be a Negative Nancy, but to be a Realistic Rachel (whose Expectations = 0 and Happiness = a lot).


Ok, enough of the abstract.

Let me give you 5 straightforward tips that have drastically improved my lockdown blues.

  • Try something you’ve never done before. It could be congratulating yourself out loud for accomplishing a goal, or having a full-on dance party for one in your living room. I’ve done both of these things several times and I HAVE NO SHAME. If there’s a “random” creative thing you think would be fun, try it! Now’s the time. Recently, I spontaneously decided to make lavender extract using homegrown lavender given to me by my delightful mother, and my French press.


11 seconds of peace

Also, here’s a video of an adorable Maryland inchworm that one of my best friends shared with me (best with sound on):

Isn’t this nice? To take 11 seconds away from devices and vices, to connect with something so small? A tiny organism that is blissfully unaware of all the chaos in our society…

When things seem like they’ll never end, zoom way out or way in.

Zoom way out = Imagine the world from 50,000 kilometers above the atmosphere. Imagine all humanity has gone through in the last 10,000 years. How minuscule this gloomy day becomes when put in perspective. We know we’ll get through.

Zoom way in = Introspect. Engulf yourself in a creative project. Get down at the level of this inchworm; imagine the world from its point of view. Completely unaware of you, me, COVID19, the economy, and the latest breaking news. Sunshine on a gloomy day.

Day by day, we’re getting through it.

Til next time,
Shelby