5 Surprising Ways People Are Coping During the Pandemic
Every year, World Mental Health Day is celebrated on October 10. This year, with the COVID-19 pandemic, has been uniquely stressful and taxing on mental health. Still, people have found surprising ways of coping during the shutdowns and the economic crisis that have improved mental health and wellness.
1. Baking Bread
When "Stay-at-Home" orders were first issued, people began making bread. People magazine named bread-making the number one viral quarantine trend. The hobby became so popular that bakeware, yeast and flour were sold out for months online and in grocery stores, USA Today and The Guardian reported.
"Stress baking" can help steer thoughts away from worrying about the future by demanding present attention and mindfulness, The Guardian reported. Bread-making also forces people to slow down because it is time-consuming, the report said. It is calming and meditative through the rolling, kneading and mixing. That tangibility is grounding in a world that otherwise has largely gone virtual, The Guardian reported.
2. Picking Out Pets
Pet adoptions and sales have soared during the pandemic, Fox News reported. Fostering dogs made People's top 5 for most viral quarantine hobbies, and AP News reported shortages in many places of pets to rescue. One New York non-profit helping to place fosters has seen an increase from about 140 applications for adoptions per month at this time last year to around 3,000 during the pandemic, the report said.
The constant companionship, love and affection between a pet and its owner has taken on more importance during the pandemic. Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) cited a survey of pet owners, 74% of whom reported mental health improvements from pet ownership. Pets can also help instill routine into an otherwise confused, upturned daily life, U.S. News & World Report reported, and caring for something helps give people a sense of purpose that can stave away anxiety and depression.
3. Planting Through the Pandemic
People have turned to home gardening and buying seeds during the pandemic as a "soothing, family-friendly hobby" to do, Reuters reported. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) listed gardening as one of the home design trends that emerged from the pandemic. Seed demand typically rises in tough economic times as people try to plan against food scarcity and economic hardship, Tom Johns, owner of Territorial Seed Company in Oregon, told Reuters.
Caring for a garden brings many mental health benefits, CNN reported. It can give a sense of accomplishment, community and belonging, and help people remain connected to nature, even while stuck at home. Being surrounded by green or even just looking at it is linked to less anxiety and depression and better stress management, Psychology Today reported.
4. Home Organizing Is Happening
Being at home with so much extra time has also inspired many to reorganize their homes. With home offices and virtual classrooms jammed into existing spaces, the need to maintain "liveable space" has made decluttering a necessity during the pandemic, a personal blog on the trend said.
"When there's lots of clutter, you lose control over your physical environment, which is very defeating and can bring on stress, depression, or anxiety," Catherine Roster, a professor studying the effect of clutter on our psychological well-being, told Everyday Health. On the flip side, decluttering can help restore a lost sense of control and reduce stress and depression.
Decluttering, aside from being energizing, also creates confidence and efficacy, Psychology Today reported.
5. Learning a New Language
In March, U.S. sign-ups for the language-learning app Duolingo grew 148%, reported Business Insider. Other similar technologies have also experienced a boom in interest since the shutdowns, Forbes reported, and investment in the sector has increased.
"We've seen evidence of many people taking up language learning during this period of isolation and quarantine as a means of self-improvement," Duolingo's Michaela Kron told Business Insider. "Learning a new language comes with numerous benefits, including cognitive ones such as improved memory and social ones such as connecting better with others."
Not only does learning a new language provide a productive outlet, but it can combat anxiety and depression, Language Network USA reported. It also can boost confidence, increase multitasking skills and open your mind, Language Network USA reported.
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Clear-cutting a forest is relatively easy—just pick a tree and start chopping. But there are benefits to more sophisticated forest management. One technique—which involves repeatedly harvesting smaller trees every 30 or so years but leaving an upper story of larger trees for longer periods (60, 90, or 120 years)—ensures a steady supply of both firewood and construction timber.
A Pattern in the Rings<p>The <a href="https://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/coppice-standards-0" target="_blank">coppice-with-standards</a> management practice produces a two-story forest, said <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Bernhard_Muigg" target="_blank">Bernhard Muigg</a>, a dendrochronologist at the University of Freiburg in Germany. "You have an upper story of single trees that are allowed to grow for several understory generations."</p><p>That arrangement imprints a characteristic tree ring pattern in a forest's upper story trees (the "standards"): thick rings indicative of heavy growth, which show up at regular intervals as the surrounding smaller trees are cut down. "The trees are growing faster," said Muigg. "You can really see it with your naked eye."</p><p>Muigg and his collaborators characterized that <a href="https://ltrr.arizona.edu/about/treerings" target="_blank">dendrochronological pattern</a> in 161 oak trees growing in central Germany, one of the few remaining sites in Europe with actively managed coppice-with-standards forests. They found up to nine cycles of heavy growth in the trees, the oldest of which was planted in 1761. The researchers then turned to a historical data set — more than 2,000 oak <a href="https://eos.org/articles/podcast-discovering-europes-history-through-its-timbers" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">timbers from buildings and archaeological sites</a> in Germany and France dating from between 300 and 2015 — to look for a similar pattern.</p>
A Gap of 500 Years<p>The team found wood with the characteristic coppice-with-standards tree ring pattern dating to as early as the 6th century. That was a surprise, Muigg and his colleagues concluded, because the first mention of this forest management practice in historical documents occurred only roughly 500 years later, in the 13th century.</p><p>It's probable that forest management practices were not well documented prior to the High Middle Ages (1000–1250), the researchers suggested. "Forests are mainly mentioned in the context of royal hunting interests or donations," said Muigg. Dendrochronological studies are particularly important because they can reveal information not captured by a sparse historical record, he added.</p><p>These results were <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-78933-8" target="_blank">published in December in <em>Scientific Reports</em></a>.</p><p>"It's nice to see the longevity and the history of coppice-with-standards," said <a href="https://www.teagasc.ie/contact/staff-directory/s/ian-short/" target="_blank">Ian Short</a>, a forestry researcher at Teagasc, the Agriculture and Food Development Authority in Ireland, not involved in the research. This technique is valuable because it promotes conservation and habitat biodiversity, Short said. "In the next 10 or 20 years, I think we'll see more coppice-with-standards coming back into production."</p><p>In the future, Muigg and his collaborators hope to analyze a larger sample of historic timbers to trace how the coppice-with-standards practice spread throughout Europe. It will be interesting to understand where this technique originated and how it propagated, said Muigg, and there are plenty of old pieces of wood waiting to be analyzed. "There [are] tons of dendrochronological data."</p><p><em><a href="mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Katherine Kornei</a> is a freelance science journalist covering Earth and space science. Her bylines frequently appear in Eos, Science, and The New York Times. Katherine holds a Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of California, Los Angeles.</em></p><p><em>This story originally appeared in <a href="https://eos.org/articles/tree-rings-reveal-how-ancient-forests-were-managed" target="_blank">Eos</a></em> <em>and is republished here as part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.</em></p>
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