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Finding that mental boost

A daily dose of comedy is kicking me into gear.

Ghost Light by JacobYarboroughPhotography is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Finding that mental boost

Estimated Reading Time: 5 Minutes

Like so many people in the world, this COVID-based quarantine has pushed me to my limits at times. I’ve been through it. I could be better, for sure. How can I find something for myself that can help me to flip the negativity that has engulfed me from the uncertainty surrounding this pandemic?

What a heavy question, huh? Well, sure. But at the same time, no. It doesn’t need to be. We’re all getting stuck in the gravity of things at this point. Every decision feels like life or death. You get an overwhelming feeling of “WTF is going on with me?” on a regular basis.

Take a step back. Breathe in through your nose, slowly. Exhale through your mouth, even more slowly. Now tell yourself this: “Things are going to be okay. I can only control what I can control.” These two sentences are what have helped ground me, so I hope it works for you, too.

What am I talking about?

A couple of weeks ago I was knee deep in sifting through my belongings. I’ve lived in Brooklyn for nearly four years, and I had some boxes that always went straight into the closet or under the bed and I didn’t even know what was in them. So I figured it was time to clear things out. Some of the stuff I found? Gems. An elementary school science fair award, pictures from my high school theater group, and some old sports memorabilia (baseball cards, a Joe Montana figure, tickets to White Hart Lane, etc.) all transported me back. And that hit me hard.

As I’m doing this, one of my group chats was talking about Middleditch & Schwartz, that Netflix special featuring the two comedians. A day or two went by, and my cleaning was stalling. I was struggling to accept I needed to get rid of some stuff I’ve had forever. I rolled out of bed around 9AM, made myself some coffee, and turned on the first episode. It was hilarious. I immediately forgot about the difficulties I had been facing, laughed my ass off for 50 minutes, and then turned off the TV.

Guess what? I found it. This was going to be my way to find the mental clarity I’ve been looking for. The main difference? Instead of bingeing, I decided to watch one episode a day for the three day span that it would last. I sat down and made a list (I never make lists) of the things I needed to accomplish.

The plan

  1. Make coffee.
  2. Watch an episode of Middleditch and Schwartz.
  3. Break my cleaning up into parts. Don’t feel like it needs to be done all at once. I decided to empty all the boxes, and sort everything into these categories: trash, maybe trash, definitely not trash.
  4. Parse out my daily Turf duties (We’re trying to send this thing to the moon, after all).
  5. Do something creative. Write a play. Learning a monologue. Watch a movie that inspires me. Pick up my guitar and play around, mindlessly.

This may seem simple. And it turned out to be. But I’ve always struggled with holding myself accountable. It was definitely overwhelming at first, but there were only three episodes. I decided to follow my box-set rule here. If you don’t like a show after watching what would be the first disc of the DVD box-set, at least you gave it a fair shake.

What I found was a big shift in mood. Those three days flew by, and I accomplished way more than I thought I would. I woke up with something super simple – laughter. “Laughter is the best medicine” is a phrase for a reason. They had me rolling, and it was the pulling back of the slingshot I needed to propel me into the rest of my day. Once I shut off the episode, I was in a set of tasks that I was excited to complete.

It’s working

I’m nearing the end of my second week of this process, and I’ve honestly never felt so clear-minded and on top of things. After M&S I found a couple of other specials. Bill Burr filled the void for a day. But I wasn’t sure that full stand up specials was what I was looking for. Sure, it still helps. It’s the same idea. However, I wanted something with more than one personality.

Then I remembered Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. I’ll admit, I’ve never been a huge Seinfeld fan. This show, though? Cake. It’s perfect. Some episodes are better than others, but the way Jerry riffs with his guests is refreshing. Jim Carrey, Jimmy Fallon, Alec Baldwin, Kate McKinnon, even Sarah Jessica Parker. And it’s digestible. None of the episodes are longer than 20-something minutes, so it’s an easy way to start, but not get totally sucked into something.

Now, here I am. Caffeinated, got a nice little ab workout, and I’m rocking through my day. I’ve found that I’m enjoying other things more. I’m watching the old games that weren’t fulfilling me a month ago, and they’re sucking me in. My energy has totally shifted. And I’m loving that.

Is this sustainable?

Living in the epicenter of this pandemic is certainly weird. I’m connecting with people I haven’t talked to regularly in a long time. My apartment has been goofier than ever. Being unemployed through all of this is weird as hell, too. Finding this daily routine for myself has been eye opening.

And this doesn’t mean it only works because I’m unemployed. I’m talking 15-20 minutes every morning. Do you have a routine you already go through? Do you watch the news? Read the paper? Scroll through your phone?

Maybe this isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. But if you, like so many, are feeling lost or confused or low energy or depressed or any other completely valid feeling, give it a shot. Here’s my energy. I hope you can feed off it. And if this doesn’t work for you? That’s okay. It’s more than okay. You’ll find what makes sense for you. Keep your chin up. We’re going to get through this.

Kevin is an actor, director, playwright, and musician who works in tech. He is die hard New England sports and an avid Tottenham supporter. His qualifications include scoring 1 point in his elementary school basketball career, 4 years of mixed little league results, and breaking his arm with a skip-it days before pre-season workouts started for Freshman football.

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