What have you learned about community this year? I know that I’ve learned a lot. As someone who prides themselves on independence, I naively thought I’d ride the waves of this pandemic solo. This thought lasted 10 days, tops. It’s true that absence makes the heart grow fonder- just take a look at the list of minute daily exchanges that we now long for. In the same way, my need for community was born out of isolation…let me explain.
March 2020. It’s the moment when the United States got the jolt of a lifetime; the onset of a pandemic. Panic. Uncertainty. Scarcity. Like many, I initially reacted from a place of fear and thrust myself into an isolation pod in an attempt to stay healthy, just me, myself, and I. Having dealt with asthma as a young adult, I saw myself listed amongst those in the “high-risk” category for contracting COVID-19, and that scared me. As a kid I was hospitalized more than once for asthma attacks and I know the feeling of not being able to breathe, the same feeling being described by COVID patients, a little too well.
I was afraid of getting sick and decided in a moment on March 16th that I would eliminate all human contact, would not leave the house except for groceries twice per month, and do everything in my power to keep my immune system optimal.
After a week or so of self-induced isolation, working from home, and being plugged into my laptop for 10 to 14 hours per day (leading a social media team through the national shut-down is a story for a different time), I was entirely depleted and in desperate need of something, but couldn’t quite put my finger on what. I reflected on all the things that were suddenly unplugged from my daily life, and realized that what I was missing was human connection.
The old adage of not knowing what you have until it’s gone had been instantly magnified. A simple smile exchanged with a stranger as they pass by on the sidewalk, a glass of wine at a local bar, a hot yoga class, a carefree visit with grandma, a rejuvenating massage. When all of these experiences leave at once, it hits hard. The lesson? Navigating a pandemic without the support of others would actually make me ill quicker than the risk of human interaction. In order to get through 2020, I needed to be in community.
Over the course of several months, I shed the fear that ran my days last spring, and made it my mission to pull myself out of isolation, rebuilding a supportive community virtually and safely in-person. Seeking experts in all areas of health and wellbeing, lifestyle and self-development, here’s a round-up of the support system that got me through 2020 and that I’m bringing with me into 2021.
A Personal Trainer
Gyms have been hit hard this year. With more than one round of closures, accessing a gym in 2020 has become nearly impossible. Some gyms were able to pivot quickly to offering virtual training options and classes on-demand. For me, this was the first level of community I added back to my routine. I’ve been working out twice weekly with a personal trainer virtually since March and it’s become the highlight of my day each Tuesday and Friday morning. With minimal home equipment, my trainers Tanner and Colton have helped me get creative. Squats while wearing a backpack full of dumbbells? No problem. Bicep curls with wine bottles? Coming right up. These workouts are fun, challenging, and effective in maintaining muscle mass, but the best part is knowing that I can continue exercising, even from home, to keep my body and mind healthy during this time.
Ava’s Pick: Discover Strength Virtual 1:1 Training
A Nutritional Therapist
As someone who has been gluten and dairy-free for a few years now, I consider myself a pretty healthy eater. However, I do believe that there’s always room for improvement, especially since there’s a direct connection between gut-health and the immune system. This year I enlisted the support of a Nutrition Coach to help me fine-tune. The process involved an in-depth assessment system that Nutritional Therapy Practitioners use to diagnose imbalances with the digestive system and all major organs. The outcome? A personalized health plan which for me included increasing my protein intake, adding more high-quality supplements, and cleansing my liver and colon through a whole-food detox. Feeling good feels really good, and having the guidance and knowledge of a Nutrition Coach has helped me look and feel better.
A Life Coach
When lost out at sea, sometimes you just need a lighthouse to help you see the shore; and let’s be honest, 2020 in many ways was one big, raging storm. That lighthouse for me was my intuitive life and business coach. Our virtual coaching & meditation sessions and the action items that follow keep me mentally focused and tracking towards the vision I have for my future in a time where it would otherwise be very easy to come to a stand-still. Working with a coach delivers a strong level of guidance and accountability, and was exactly what helped me take the leap from corporate America into full-time entrepreneurship. Whether it’s a coach, or simply a friend who wants to be your accountability partner, having someone in your community to help you track towards your greater vision is imperative.
Ava’s Pick: Vanessa Feils, Lifestyle Guide
What one service did you miss the most during shut-down? Okay, I’ll go first. Acupuncture! I’m a big fan of natural healing, and originally gravitated towards acupuncture with a goal of managing my energy to kick a case of chronic fatigue in my late-twenties. The experience has become a sacred ritual of mine, and I am often overwhelmed by the healing and love I feel after each session. My practitioner leverages a variety of therapies and each session often includes acupuncture, cupping, moxibustion, and herbal remedies. If you’ve ever been curious about acupuncture, I’d encourage you to try it. Acupuncture promotes the body’s natural healing abilities, and improves physical and emotional wellbeing. So much to love.
Ava’s Pick: Jalashree Pradhan, L.Ac., MS (Minneapolis + Telehealth)
Education is one of the values I hold closest to my heart. I believe that if you’re not constantly learning, you’re deteriorating. Learning happens in many forms, making it accessible to everyone, even in quarantine. This year I found myself turning to books, webinars, and online courses to feed my passion of continued learning. I learned a lot this year, but the most impactful program I enrolled in was a virtual event called Amplifii Influence, led by my friend and keynote speaker Rene Rodriguez. This program teaches you how to increase your personal leadership through speaking in a sequence that helps to connect with others in a more impactful way. From the curriculum to the virtual experience and community connection created within, I was extra inspired by this experience, and am excitedly incorporating my key learnings into a social media course offering that I’ll be debuting in early 2021. Whether it’s this program, or something completely different, I hope that you’ll invest in yourself through the process of learning in the coming year.
Ava’s Pick: Amplifii Influence by Rene Rodriguez
So, there you have it, the round-up of the support system that got me through this year. I fully recognize that everyone has different needs when it comes to community, and hope that these ideas have sparked a new thought our curiosity for you to try on in the new year. Although I still access my community mostly virtually, it feeds me with a sense of accountability, support, love, healing, joy, and motivation.
As we undoubtedly face new challenges in the year to come, please don’t go about them alone. Surround yourself with a support system that nurtures your mental, physical, and emotional wellbeing. If there’s anything I’ve learned this year, it’s that community is immunity.