My daughters, Emily and Julia pictured with their dad. Photo on left was taken 12 years ago during my stay-at-home dad days, which takes on a different meaning today for parents being ordered to stay at home with their young children. Photo on right was taken recently on a hike along Putah Creek, just outside of Davis. Social distancing also takes on a different meaning for my then, younger, and now older daughters. Nevertheless, I love them just the same.

How I’m coping during the pandemic.

I’ve come to realize that my sense of self-worth is very much tied to my emotional health. Before the pandemic I was teaching 18 fitness classes a week, with personal training sessions mixed in. The pay was not great and some days were more tiring than others, but I’ve always found it to be meaningful and enjoyable work.

As was true for many self-employed people and small businesses, everything for me came to a screeching halt 10 months ago. I knew that if I didn’t find a solution soon I could be back to the melancholy days of inconsistent and unfulfilling work. However, in a relatively short period of time, I scrambled to turn my living room into a virtual studio to teach Zoom fitness classes and personal training sessions.

Making the transition to teach classes online has been challenging and I definitely miss the human contact from my in-person classes, but I was soon back doing what I enjoy. I’m also grateful that my wife, who is also working from home, still has her job and benefits.

Another way I’ve been coping with these uneasy times is by keeping my mind and body attuned to what is most important to me. When I’m not teaching my virtual classes or working on my website, I try to get outdoors for daily walks, runs, and to play golf with friends. I’ve also been able to reconnect with my family, especially my daughters. One of the biggest positive outcomes from the pandemic has been that I’ve able to spend more time with my daughters. We have been going on walks and hikes and having conversations that are more meaningful than the staid questions of “how was school today”.

My biggest concerns that I have for myself and community.

Aside from the safety and well-being of my family, I worry that social distancing will become the norm. As a group fitness instructor, I would routinely greet my participants before class by shaking their hand, or giving a high five, or even a hug. The nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said he didn’t think our society should ever shake hands, ever again! Even if he was only somewhat serious, this flies in the face of what most psychologists would tell us. People need to be touched and embraced. Evidence-based research indicates that “touch deprivation can exacerbate depression and weaken our immune system.”

I’m also concerned that when the spread of the virus subsides, and safety measures are lifted, our lifestyle habits will be forever changed. I worry that we’ll continue to isolate ourselves indoors and become even more sedentary and reliant on our digital devices, continuing to make us physically and emotionally sick and disconnected. As a person who cares about the well-being of my community, I will take this as a challenge and hope to inspire those who trust my convictions.

Other possibilities I’m hopeful for.

I also have hope that these troublesome times will be a wake up call to society. Evolutionary biologists tell us that within our DNA, human beings are social animals and truly long for close, intimate relationships with one another and within groups. I hope that we can somehow resist the pressures of society, set aside our digital devices and strive to become more humanly connected with our family, friends, and community. I look forward to the day that we can strip off our masks and gather again with extended family or friends and neighbors. I especially look forward to going back to teaching in-person fitness classes at community centers and not worry about social distancing or class capacity. I know that there will be plenty of hugs and high five’s to go around.

Bonnel Family WalkThe social and economic fallout from the pandemic has been staggering, but I have hope that once the pandemic is over, people in our country, especially our younger generation, will continue to take up the fight for social change. I’m hopeful that our state and national government will finally take serious action on racial injustices, income inequality, lack of meaningful work, affordable housing, and especially the consequences of climate change.

I’m also hopeful that after months of being sheltered in place people will want to get outdoors and be more physically active. I hope people realize that moving around outside and getting sunlight on their face is imperative for good health!

I hope once we’re out of the woods of this pandemic that I can continue to take more walks into the woods with my daughters, because I hope they understand that I love and care for them deeply.

I hope…