Self Care

How Six Sarasotans Are Taking Care of Themselves Right Now

From exercising to baking to reading, here's how they're coping with the effects of the pandemic.

By Heather Dunhill September 2, 2020

Covid-19 has turned our normal daily routines upside down.

Covid-19 has turned our normal daily routines upside down.

Image: Shutterstock

The Covid-19 pandemic has radically upended the way we live—from our daily routines to our travel plans to our general lifestyle. A quote that recently resonated with me: "We are all in the same storm, but we are not in the same boat."

So we reached out to a few locals to find out how they're navigating Covid-19 right now. Here's what they had to tell us—from their exercise routines to the words that are inspiring them.

Barbara E. Edelin.

Barbara E. Edelin.

Barbara E. Edelin, 70

Semi-retired special event planner/consultant

How are you taking care of yourself right now?

I am among the thousands of individuals who live alone. Several years ago, I lost my husband of 35 years to cancer.  I had to redefine and push myself to realize living alone required a new approach to everyday existence. 

When the pandemic became a reality, I was already in a space of taking care of my mental and physical health. I just fine-tuned it with a workout regimen five or six days a week, online meditations and religious services to support my spiritual health, and a healthy meal-planning delivery service so I could eat right and avoid the grocery store.

Whoever created Zoom is a genius because that resource closed the loop for me. It helps me continue the much-needed social interactions with friends that were taken for granted.

What inspires you?

Friends and family who show their love for me with regular check-ins—often just a happy face or a text with a heart—and the recent attention to the issue of systemic racism and social injustice, which hopefully will foster much-needed change in our country and guide us toward a healthier global community for all.

Roberto Villanueva.

Roberto Villanueva, 56

Senior systems analyst for Great Bay Distributors

How are you taking care of yourself right now?

In March, I started a list of all the things I’ve done around the house to keep track of my progress knowing that once I went into lockdown, I would struggle. My wife Clara and I bought a new house in September 2019, so there were lots of improvements to take care of my wandering mind.

Three noteworthy accomplishments: restoring two old kayaks to seaworthy condition, which allows us to get out on the water for some nature time; building personalized longboard for a friend’s son, which brought him to tears when we surprised him with a spontaneous, socially distanced delivery, and is a nice reminder that it is better to give; and building a 16-foot-by-12-foot pergola to create a home for my orchids and the many plants that I start (or try to) from seeds. It's a passion I inherited from my grandmother, so her memory is always with me.

What inspires you?

Trying and succeeding at new things is a source of growth and inspiration.  I derive great joy from giving.  Recently, I started baking bread and will randomly deliver a loaf to my neighbors. One shared how her toddler yelled, “More, more, more!" Pure joy.

Molly Schechter.

Molly Schechter, 79


How are you taking care of yourself right now?

While the pandemic has given us lots to mourn, it has also blessed some of us, myself included, with the free time and brainpower to be thoughtful, contemplative and, most of all, grateful for the many blessings we enjoy. Awareness of that side of the equation is my self-care. It keeps me from the doldrums, and it’s an antidote for my cabin fever and a justification for my excess of caution. 

More conventionally, and somewhat guiltily, I have reinstated my hair styling and nail appointments in CDC-guideline-observing venues. I'm still struggling with my bushy brows.  

What inspires you?

Michelle Obama’s speech at the virtual Democratic National Convention last month, and the occasional discovery of a real “upper,” like this story called "Gardening in the Apocalypse" in The New York Times. 

Javi Suarez. 

Javi Suarez, 48

Architect and fine artist

How are you taking care of yourself right now?

As for many, 2020 has been a difficult year.  Fortunately, business is strong, but the political climate combined with the pandemic and raising a family has stressed me beyond my limits.  To be honest, I don’t know if I recharge fully every day, but I do my best to get up and have a positive attitude.  

I try to paint as many resistance pieces as possible, do some push-ups with my son, engage in philosophical conversations with my 12-year-old daughter, and water the amazing garden that my wife and mother-in-law created. And every so often, I slowly sip on some Diplomático Reserva Exclusiva rum on the rocks.

What inspires you?

When I really want to get the rage out and get some positive inspiration, I listen to Run the Jewels' RTJ4. It lyrically addresses systemic racism and musically captures the energy and angst that propels the Black Lives Matter movement. The speeches by Michelle and Barack Obama and Kamala Harris at the DNC have also re-energized me to keep fighting for the soul of our nation and strive towards that more perfect union.  

Brenda Belsito.

Brenda Belsito, 65

Retired medical office administrator

How are you taking care of yourself right now?

I feel that self-care is more important now than ever. I go to a fitness boutique twice each week for strength training, and when I’m not there, I walk the Payne Park track. Like so many others, I attend [virtual] meetings for my volunteer organizations. My husband and I also enjoy preparing new dishes and sharing them with friends—they drive by and pick up a to-go dinner. I'm even getting in a bit more pleasurable reading, instead of just publications related to my volunteer work. And my two-year old cavapoo, Bayley, and I cuddle and play more, too.

What inspires you?

I am currently inspired by a sermon entitled "The Ministry of Manna" by Rev. Dr. Howard-John Wesley, pastor of Alfred Street Baptist Church in Alexandria, Virginia.

Barbara Banks

Image: Barbara Banks

Barbara Banks, 65


These  times invite a new level of self-care, so I have doubled up on my daily appreciation and living-in-the-present practices. I have also become hyper-aware and accepting of the increased intensity of thoughts, emotions, life’s ebb and flow, and what I might do to help others. It is a tremendous opportunity for self-growth and love for others, and I’m riding with it through contemplation and meditation, diet, exercise, nature, music, meaningful conversation, work and creative expression, and much more.

What inspires you?

Those in the national media and here locally who are doing the challenging work of [writing about] those who have lost loved ones to Covid-19, gun violence, illness and economic drought, as well as those who are fighting for the rights of all humans to vote, and to live free of fear.

And I'm inspired by the late priest and poet John O’Donohue’s words in his book Anam Cara: Words of Celtic Wisdom: “What we call the negative is usually the surface form of contradiction. If we maintain our misery at this surface level, we hold off the initially threatening but ultimately redemptive and healing transfiguration that comes through engaging our inner contradiction. We need to revalue what we consider to be negative and bring the same hospitality in meeting the negative as we bring to the joyful and pleasurable. Rilke said that difficulty is one of the greatest friends of the soul. And Nietzche “rebaptized” the negative. Rather than banishing what is at first glimpse unwelcome, you bring it home to unity with your life. This is the slow and difficult work of self-retrieval.”

Also, these simple yet powerful four words from the Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hahn: “No mud, no lotus.”

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