Hobbies, Mindfulness, Kindness Help Survivors During Pandemic

Kevin Thompson got a puppy, Sla'inte (pronounced slan-cha), during the pandemic to keep him company.

Hobbies, Mindfulness, Kindness Help Survivors During Pandemic

By Eliza Marie Somers

During the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic, Joanne Cohen kicked off the Brain Injury Hope Foundation’s Zoom Survivor Series seminars with 13 rays of hope and tips for mTBI survivors.

  • Get BIHF Vice President Joanne Cohen’s book “Getting Hit, Getting Up, Moving Beyond: My Journey Through Brain Injury” at
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 The foundation circled back and ended its 2020 seminar season Nov. 13 with an uplifting session -- Life During Covid: What To Do When You Are Stuck At Home? -- as survivors described their experiences on how they are coping and staying sane during the pandemic.

Jena Taylor takes an uplifting, mindful approach to calming the pandemic’s unsettling waves of turmoil.

“I’m an extrovert,” Taylor said. “It was hard to balance my social needs and social distancing. I’m on the cautious side, so I have been struggling with that. It’s been hard to have my social needs met as the numbers of (Covid-19) cases increase.”

Jena Taylor says the pandemic is a journey similar to path TBI survivors take to recover – slow and steady.

Her solution? “Positive attitude and mindfulness,” she said. “Be in the present moment. Take one step at a time. The pandemic is a journey like our TBIs. Every day begins and ends. Something happens slowly over time. We will get through this pandemic just as we get through our injuries - slowly.”

Doris Sanders focuses on joy. “I take joy in the little things,” she said, such as blocking those annoying phone calls and taking delight in a friend’s accomplishment in publishing a book.

If you are new to mindfulness try one of the many free apps that feature meditations, calm music and talks. Insight Timer and Calm are two free apps to get you started.

Kevin Thompson is also an extrovert, and found it hard during the first months of the pandemic.

“I’m a people person,” he said. “Not being able to be around people, and I live alone … It’s hard to find the new normal. We need to be social but physically apart. Hard to do that from a living room.”

Thompson spends time outdoors riding his motorcycle, camping, hiking and hunting to help him cope with the isolation, but maybe his biggest liberation was getting a pup to ease the separation from humanity.

“I got a puppy that’s gotten very big,” he said. “It’s been such a joy watching him grow up, and he’s a great companion.

Jeffrey Therrien takes walks by the river with his dog to remind himself of the beauty of nature.

Jeffrey Therrien is renting a small office space to concentrate on his writing, and to give himself some “me time.”

“I have trouble focusing, so I rented a small office space,” Therrien said after taking some time off from writing to “give my brain a break and the ability to understand what I want in life.”

Therrien also spends time outdoors taking in nature to cure cabin fever.

“I walk by the river as much as possible,” he said. “I listen to the birds chirping, take in the trees. … It reminds me that this Covid thing is just temporary. That it’s just sliver of time that will be in our past.”

Before her many concussions, Doris Sanders was an avid athlete, who scaled mountains on all seven continents and became a member of the North and South Polar Bear clubs.

“Members of the North & South Polar Bear clubs are people who have witnesses that saw them get all the way underwater as close to each of the Poles as possible,” she said. “It’s just a fun thing and really cold!  There was ice in the water each place I went in.”

But because of medical issues, Sanders cannot exercise, so she turns to borrowing books, watching TedTalks and using the website seniorplanet.org, which has a book club, exercise videos, articles on technology skills, and a coronavirus resource guide.

“I’m taking a speed reading course, right now,” she said.

Sanders is also concentrating on being an elder vs. being elderly. “I like being an elder, and the benefits of learning to identify as an elder.”

New Habits and Hobbies

Going out to eat has been tabled during the pandemic, but our panel is relishing the time spent in the kitchen.

“I’ve been researching high-protein vegetarian meals,” Therrien said.
“I’ve lost weight relearning to cook.”

“This Covid thing has expanded my cooking horizons,” Thompson said. “I’m learning new recipes, and sharing with friends and family.”

Some other new hobbies our panel picked up during the pandemic include knife-making, birding, singing and playing chess.

“What made a big change for me is singing,” Therrien said. “Singing is good for the soul and the heart. And dancing! I just dance with my dog and girlfriend, and the world melts away even though I’m stressed.”

Doris Sanders picked up new hobbies during the pandemic, such a puzzle-making and birding.

“Puzzle-making has been great for me and my husband of 53 years,” Sanders said.

Taylor writes every day in a gratitude journal and practices yoga to help her cope with the stress of Covid-19.

Therrien’s research led him to Dr. Daniel Amen’s website where he discovered a free brain assessment test.

“It made me look at my whole life and not just the accident that caused my brain injury,” he said. “I played hockey when I was younger. I’m now discovering solutions.”

Sanders is taking a break from social media as a means of creating calm in her life.

“I quit social media because I didn’t feel any better when I got off it,” she said.

Taylor reminded all of us that we have options when using social media.

“We have a choice to look at things or scroll past it,” she said. “That’s very empowering.”

Maintaining Relationships

Being in close contact with our significant others can bring about tension and anger over little things, especially with people who are recovering from brain injuries.

“I’m renting a separate space to work and maintain my relationship,” Therrien said. “I also am mastering making amends, apologies. It’s a skill I’m learning. Because I have anger issues, sometimes I speak without thinking, and Jill takes the brunt of it. This helps to keep us together.”

“We practice patience more than before,” Sanders said of her relationship with her husband. “It’s kindness that has been the answer for us.”

Thoughtfulness, compassion and empathy seem to be the keys to surviving the pandemic as we move into the long, dark winter months. And that brings us to a famous quote that we can all use during the pandemic and afterward.

If you can be one thing, be kind.