During this time of a worldwide health crisis, where all of us are encouraged to shelter-in-place and distance ourselves from our loved ones for an indeterminate amount of time, we at YBB are looking to our students and incarcerated teachers for role models. We shared with them our personal vulnerabilities around being isolated, and, with their permission, we would like to share their advice on getting through this crisis.
Who would’ve thought that the actual coping skills learned in prison would be useful to a nation in a time of crisis? [People] are right about creating a routine, but it is more than this:
Get up every day as if you have someplace to be. Get ready for the day, even if there is a chance you won’t be going anywhere. Many of us put on makeup and/or do our hair even if we are just going to sit in the dayroom or go outside. Shave your legs! Put on perfume…whatever your deal is, do it. Your state of mind is heavily affected by the way you feel about your appearance, so I promise this is key to sanity.
Make a point of getting fresh air for at least 10 minutes every day. Lots of people hardly do this because they work indoors anyway, but there is something that reminds you that you cannot be contained by a building or rules or sickness or “the man” when you feel the sun on your face.
MAKE LISTS! I don’t think this is just my minor OCD. It is a part of setting goals and a way of acknowledging that your time is valuable no matter how you are living. What is one thing you want to achieve today? this week? and given the free time of a month or two, what is something you could do that would make you feel like your time was well spent? I craft, sewing or crocheting, just because it gives me something tangible to measure…also literal measuring, doing math, brain activities that crafting often requires will make you feel smart. Yoga is awesome because it offers you insight into your body’s progression when you invest in your practice every day, but so do so many other endeavors.
We all have the potential to be good at things we’ve never tried…you’re at home without an audience, so do something you have wanted to try. (If I had the house to myself, I would crank my music and try to learn some cool dance moves while no one was watching…I want to be good at it so bad but I swear I have two left feet!!!) What is something you have been wishing you knew more about? Rather than pick up a history book which might prove boring, get a fiction novel about the topic so you can be entertained and educated.
Give yourself rewards for a day well spent. People inside break up their weeks by either meals they will cook, shows they watch, the anticipation of Fridays because our movie channel changes films that day, the weekend. Bottom line is that routine helps you know what to expect and gives you little places to celebrate. Also, regardless of how you break your week up, you should be busy enough to look forward to the day you set aside to not do anything.
…Give yourself a break and don’t judge the moments where it feels like you will go crazy. All of us feel that way! When you are super busy and full and overwhelmed the feeling is the same. At least no one is going to fail at boredom. You just learn ways to entertain yourself. What I have discovered in this journey: Crossword puzzles feed my soul. I do them unapologetically in pen. Painting big pictures makes me happy for a short while, but if I get too judgy of my work, I walk away. I add my shopping list up in my head rather than use a calculator because I feel like it makes me smarter in the long run. And I love the challenge of lifting weights and balancing (generally as separate activities), so I do both almost every day. And if you haven’t had a massage in a while, order a foam roller and spend 20 minutes on it every day. It will change your life.
Know that you are thought of and highly regarded. We will come together as a community to help those that suffer the most in the aftermath of this virus. This will sound brutal, but it is a truth all of us in prison live with and that offers some peace when things get really hectic here: We are all weathering this storm, all suffering, all stuck… THEREFORE we are not alone.
Stay safe and care for yourself,
Alyssa, Trauma-Informed Yoga Teacher Behind Bars & Certified Yoga Instructor