Inspiration Lab member Kathryn Cook is vice president of marketing and communications for nCino, a privately held fintech company headquartered in Wilmington. In her role, she oversees the company’s global communications functions, including public relations, media relations, social media, investor and analyst relations, and conferences and events. Last fall, Kathryn spoke at The Inspiration Lab conference about creating community and culture in the workplace. At home, she’s normally just “mom” to children Charlotte and Preston. But now that work and home are very much one and the same, Kathryn is sharing her tips for coping.
Nearly three months into the world of Stay-at-Home, Eat-at-Home, Work-from-Home, School-at-Home, Everything-from-Home, I feel like I have finally found my footing. While there are certainly many things I miss (my amazing coworkers, salon appointments, and girls’ nights out, just to name a few), quarantine has also been an opportunity to discover new hobbies and interests, refocus my priorities, and devote time to some of my favorite passions that were often pushed to the wayside during “normal life.”
Below are five things that are not only saving my sanity, but are also helping me find more joy, calm, and contentment during the COVID-19 pandemic.
1) Books: Like real, actual, turn-the-page books. I’ve ordered a few on Amazon, but most have come from swapping with neighbors and coworkers (just wipe the books down before you drop them off on their porch or mailbox!). I even did a virtual book club with a few of my oldest girlfriends recently — it was a great change of pace from the typical Zoom call. Although professional development books are great and I love a good leadership lesson as much as the next boss babe, right now I’m opting to fill my nightstand with fun fiction reads. They’re a great break from Netflix and a pleasurable escape from real-life worries... even if only for a few chapters. Here are a few of the novels I’ve enjoyed recently in case you’re looking for your own escape:
Summer of ’69 by Elin Hilderbrand
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes
Park Avenue Summer by Reneé Rosen
2) Outdoor Runs: Running has been my preferred form of exercise ever since I signed up for cross-country in high school to help me stay in shape for soccer during the off-season. As it turned out, I preferred long-distance trail runs to short sprints on the soccer field and have been an avid runner ever since. These days, however, running isn’t just about the physical benefits; it’s more about my mental health. I look forward to solo runs where I can clear my head, as well as socially-distanced morning runs each week with a few close friends and coworkers. Fresh air, sunshine, and four to five miles later, I feel strong, healthy, and ready to seize the day.
3) Supporting Small Businesses: I firmly believe one of the most important things we can do during this time (besides practicing good hygiene and social distancing) is supporting small businesses. Whether that’s ordering delivery from your favorite restaurant, shopping online at your favorite local boutique, or purchasing essential items from a family-owned hardware store (my family has owned one for three generations!), every little bit helps. Thanks to technology and social media, it’s easier than ever to support many of these small businesses, and I love how creative they’ve gotten during COVID. Here are several of my personal favorites in the Port City:
ZIA Boutique for great clothes and the cutest earrings and accessories. I am currently living in their jumpsuits and rompers.
The Coastal Succulent for super stylish, one-of-a-kind succulent designs delivered right to your doorstep. They offer real and faux arrangements, and these make great gifts as well!
The Veggie Wagon for fresh produce, local honey, easy take-n-bake meals, and delicious homemade baked goods. My kids are absolutely obsessed with their dark chocolate bread! We are fortunate to live across the street from their Masonboro location and make weekly family trips by bike or foot.
4) My Back Porch: We have a covered back porch that overlooks the marsh and it’s always been one of my favorite things about our home. But now that we literally haven’t left our house in more than 10 weeks (aside from a trip to the grocery store or an afternoon boat outing), it’s become more than just a favorite spot — it’s my haven. Whether I’m drinking coffee in the mornings or wine in the evenings, catching up on work emails, snuggling with my kids, or watching the variety of birds in our backyard (because who isn’t an avid birdwatcher these days?!), I do it all from our back porch. Since I knew we’d be spending even more time here than usual, I enlisted the help of my good friend and local interior designer (back to item #3!) Lindsey Gregg to give my back porch a much-needed refresh. After a new outdoor rug, cute bar cart, freshly painted ceiling, and custom outdoor throw pillows, it’s truly become the porch of my quarantine dreams.
5) Practicing Gratitude: I’ve always been a big believer in the art of practicing gratitude. It’s no coincidence that my favorite holiday is Thanksgiving and that we send out Thanksgiving cards every year instead of the typical Christmas card. My belief in the importance of practicing gratitude has been further cemented during the COVID crisis. There are many quotes out there about gratitude, but this one from Melody Beattie is particularly relevant right now:
“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.”
My simple daily gratitude practice involves saying three or five things every morning that I’m thankful for. Yes, I say them. Out loud. Journaling is wonderful, too, and using an app is great (I like the free Five Minutes of Gratitude app), but actually speaking your gratitude aloud and hearing your own voice giving thanks makes the process more powerful. During meetings (now virtual) with my fantastic team at work, it’s not uncommon for us to begin by each sharing something we’re thankful for. The more you practice gratitude, the more you will find you have to be grateful for.
I encourage you to find your own silver linings during quarantine. It has helped me find my footing during an uncertain time, and it will help you, too.