From a Distance: How We’re Coping With COVID-19

From a Distance is a series of posts from various writers about what they are doing, buying, and loving during the COVID-19 Pandemic. We hope this series provides a sense of relatability and a dash of inspiration during the new normal.

The Writer: Cass, a recent MBA graduate who has used this strange summer to reset, sweat a little, and give in to the consolations of boredom.

Well, 2020, this was not the summer we were hoping for, but this is the summer we got. Despite postponing our honeymoon (a second time), celebrating the end of my full-time MBA program with the six-figures of debt to prove it via a *virtual* graduation ceremony, and doing a lot more sitting at our kitchen table than I ever expected to in my whole life — I’m still here trying to make the best of it.

Here are a few things that have helped me find the silver linings in an otherwise uncertain – but certainly odd – summer.

For the Mind

1. Headspace Plus

As what can best be called a “consolation prize” for graduating students, my MBA program gave us all an annual subscription to Headspace, the app for all things mindful. Despite feeling a bit bitter (a tuition refund felt like it would have been more appropriate in the moment), I was excited to try it out. Frankly, I don’t know if I would have shelled out the $70 for the annual subscription had it not been given to me, but I already know I will be re-upping my subscription next year (although, here’s to hoping next year will be better).

You can try Headspace Plus for two weeks for free to see if you like it as much as I do.

2. Reading Fiction

After two straight years of reading academic papers and nonfiction business books, one of my main goals for the summer was to make up for lost time in my relationship with fiction. My favorite easy, breezy summer reads have included: Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid, Normal People by Sally Rooney, and Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. Bonus points if you can buy from a local, independent bookstore (mine is Roscoe Books).

3. Slow and Steady Cardio (feat. Podcasts)

The summer of 2020 has been one of slowing down, and that rings true in my running life. It has taken me YEARS (like, a long-ass time) to realize that a “good workout” does not always involve gasping for air and drenching my body in sweat. It can also be easy [insert dramatic gasp here]. As I have been increasing my summer mileage, I have kept the “slow and steady” mindset for most of my runs, usually opting to listen to a podcast (inject the theme song for Revisionist History straight INTO. MY. VEINS) instead of my usual loud, high-bpm pop playlists.

For the Body

1. At-Home Work Outs 

While the concept of working out at home is shocking to no one, what has been surprising is how much I have embraced and enjoyed it these days. In March, I viewed at-home workouts as a necessary evil. In April, I was still talking about how excited I was for gyms to re-open. By July, I have grown to look forward to my Sunday afternoon yoga sessions (streamed over Zoom) with grad school friends, seeing Betina Gozo’s familiar face on the NTC app (where premium content is now free!), and sweating along with Meg Turnure, Maggie Umberger, and other friends from aSweatLife by buying reasonably-priced packages of content to support their growing businesses.

Still looking for a way to move your body at home that you love? aSweatLife keeps a growing list of resources here. While we’re on the topic – dumbbells have been stupid difficult to find for months, but resistance bands have been a noteworthy stand-in.


2. Focusing on Skincare

Like at-home workouts, focusing on skincare during a time of semi-isolation is not revolutionary during this time. But honestly, my 2-minute “Zoom appropriate” makeup routine may slowly become my “real life” make-up routine, and I have finally been working my way through all of the skincare samples that I have saved and built up through the years (but really, why do I have so many samples?).

My favorites lately have included this ridiculously refreshing coffee face scrub, this super hydrating honey face mask, and genuinely not worrying about my monthly hormonal acne flare-ups because I wear a mask in public anyways. 

3. Tennis

This has been the summer of golf for many, but truthfully, I have never cared much for the sport despite my annual effort to “seriously consider taking lessons this time.” This summer, my socially distanced sport of choice has been tennis. I recently invested in a new racket (worth it) and playing a quick set has been the perfect lunchtime break and excuse to get outside. 

For the Home

1. Let Me Upgrade (Ya)

The home renovation market has to be through the roof lately (pun painfully intended), and for good reason. All of the home projects that we have put off for months (er, sometimes years) are now commanding attention. True to my current theme, we’ve been upgrading… slowly. Not only does upgrading one thing at a time make us happier(!), it also eases the stress on our wallets.

So far, we have: finally hung up our wedding photos (love these frames), replaced our kitchen faucet for something more temporary, upgraded our rug, and bought our first non-Craigslist couch (and ottoman). Up next: replacing our kitchen light fixtures and the clearance pub table I have had since 2012 (and it shows).

2. Bring the Outdoors Home

The urge to be around nature has never felt so strong as it does in 2020. While we cannot realistically go on an outdoor hike every day (especially in Chicago), being surrounded by some green has been a welcome reprieve the last few months. Admittedly, I killed a few of our balcony plants this summer (not my fault!), but I have not given up hope on my green thumb.

3. Enjoying Breakfast (and Lunch)

A huge perk of not being so on-the-go has shown itself during breakfast and lunch time. As one of my friends once said, “the key to happiness is a leisurely breakfast.” My at-home coffee routine has stepped up along with my avocado toast game, and I boldly claim that my best purchase of 2020 has been this $12 frother from Amazon, don’t @ me. As someone who has tried plenty of meal kit subscription boxes, HungryRoot has been the only one to last past the dating phase for me. I get my groceries delivered every Monday with a page filled with quick 5-to-10-minute, healthy recipes for the week — and I cannot and will not give it up.

Retail Therapy

Last, but certainly not least (expensive), I have fallen victim to some impulse purchases this summer – and honestly, I have enjoyed them all. I will not bore you with all the details, but I thought a few of them deserved a shout-out as they make up my quarantine uniform.

1. Utility Sandals

Sandals that boast function instead of form are taking over and I, for one, am HERE FOR IT. I cannot speak more highly of these waterproof Birkenstock slides (I got them in white) or these Tevas sandals and I honestly don’t know if I will wear anything else on my feet until October.

2. House Dresses

What a concept! I have never been a shorts girl (and I am most definitely not a jean shorts girl), so this cozy trend is completely up my alley. Check out fellow writer Amanda Lauren’s picks here.

3. Matching Workout Sets

Except for the fact that Girlfriend is constantly running out of stock, I am a forever fan. Working out from the solidarity of my own home has also made me question if I will ever wear a t-shirt or gym shoes during my workouts ever again (#sportsbrasquad and #barefootworkouts forever, baby).

My Post-Pandemic Picks

Last but not least, here are the few things coming out of the pandemic that I hope stay for good:

  1. Super fancy take-out (looking at you, Alinea)
  2. Road closures for summer outdoor dining on weekends
  3. To-go beverages served from walk-up windows (specifically margaritas, specifically from Tuco & Blondie)

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About Cass Gunderson

Cass hails from the southwest suburbs as a proud White Sox fan and a graduate of University of Illinois. By day, Cass is a full-time student at the University of Chicago's Booth Graduate Business School. Before deciding to throw away all her money to go back to school, Cass worked for a private equity firm that buys technology companies. Raised as the youngest in a family of older brothers, Cass grew up a tomboy and remains active in sports. To her mother’s satisfaction, Cass learned how to embrace her feminine side in college and has developed an interest for fitness activities that require spandex as opposed to knee-length basketball shorts. In her spare time, she runs a lot because it is cheaper than paying for real therapy. Cass has completed four marathons and one ultramarathon (she claims she'll never do this to herself again, but that's TBD). She can still be found on the basketball courts in Lincoln Park wearing knee-length basketball shorts.