Episode 4: A Look on the + Side of Life

On this episode of Making it Count, hosts Cristina and Will are joined by the author of Addition Financial’s On the + Side blog series, Valerie Moses, and a local licensed mental health counselor, Hilary Bornstein, to share some advice on how to deal with the effects of COVID-19 shutdowns. In this unique episode, positive stories from listeners are shared in hopes of lifting your spirits and giving you some great ideas on how to stay sane and safe during the pandemic.


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Guest Interview


Cristina asks Question 1: “Can working from home really be a positive thing?”

Valerie responds: “I think it really can be. It’s something that a lot of people, I think, were really pushing for before the pandemic took place so companies have had to shift how they do business. Personally, I’ve really enjoyed being able to work from home and not having the commute time allows me to meet with more people, and have more of an impact on the community. Working from home can definitely be a positive if people know how to set their boundaries correctly.

Hilary adds: “Absolutely, working from home allows people to have a lot more autonomy over their work environment, which can be a really great thing for people. I think it can be a positive thing if you know how to do it properly.


Will asks Question 2: “I’m wondering about the flip side. Working from home sounds good until you’re getting emails after you’ve logged off for the day. What are some ways you can protect that time off that you need once you’ve “left work”?”

Hilary responds: “I think Valerie touched a little on boundaries and I think that is by far the most important thing for people to keep in mind. I think that when we go to an office every day those boundaries are sort of baked in already. You’re mentally preparing for your day on the drive to the office and then you sit down and you have a routine, and then you’re sort of unwinding on the drive home. We’ve lost some of that is there organically. It’s just going to take a little more effort on our part to go out of our way to reintegrate some of those boundaries.


Cristina asks Question 3: “I definitely need to do that myself. What are some tips about setting those boundaries at home?”

Hilary suggests: “One thing that I tell clients that can be really helpful is to have a designated work area and that it’s nowhere near any of your relaxation spaces. We really want to keep those relaxation spaces sacred. So if you can avoid working in your bedroom, that’s really key. Making sure that you sign off when 5 o’clock hits or whenever you are off the clock, you’re off the clock.

Valerie chimes in: “I completely agree. I think having spaces in my apartment that I'm going to be working makes it a lot easier to set those boundaries. Some people might even set an automatic out of office if they have trouble not responding to emails after a certain point in time.”


Cristina asks Question 4: “I feel like a lot of positive stories have been coming out of all of this. What interpersonal relationships have really come out of all of this?”

Valerie answers: “We’ve asked for a lot of stories from our members. One member who was quarantined with her daughter and grandchildren so she’s been getting to enjoy family dinners and playing with her kids. It really is a great time for reconnection. For me personally, two of my best friends from college live in Seattle and Nebraska. We celebrated one of our birthdays on Google Hangouts and it was a really nice way to get together when we might not normally do that. Getting friends together from all over the country was really a powerful thing for me and something I want to continue doing when this quarantine is long over.”

Hilary adds: “I’ve heard a lot of both professionally and personally stories from people who have really been enjoying this extra face time with their kids. Especially people who have small kids and work full time. I have a friend who was so excited because she got to witness her baby crawl for the first time when she probably would have missed that. Kids don’t tend to save their milestones for the weekend or after 5pm so there are definitely some things that people are getting to experience that they wouldn’t get to if we were as busy as we are normally.”


Will and Cristina tackle Question 5 together: “Speaking of people that we love; one area of wellness that I think is important in figuring out is how to cope with so much togetherness. Even when you love someone, it can be a lot to be with them 24 hours a day. What are some tips for this?”

Hilary suggests: “I think speaking up and voicing when you need that time is really important because we all have different thresholds for togetherness. Some people are more extroverted and can tolerate being around those we love more, and some are more introverted. Being able to communicate with the people in our home and let them know that you need space, that’s okay; protecting those moments, especially for parents if they hear their kid yelling for them but it’s not an emergency while you’ve dedicated time to yourself, don’t think that you have to rush out - really protect that time for yourself.”

Valerie adds: “On the flip side, I have a different situation from the rest of the group. I live by myself and there are pros and cons to that. From a work perspective, it’s great because I’m able to really concentrate and set up my work wherever I need to. But it is isolating on the weekends and not being able to socialize in the same way. So for those who do live on your own, I think it’s so important to look for that source of connection, reach out to friends that you haven’t spoken with in a long time. And if you have friends that live by themselves, I encourage you to reach out to them once a week and do a check in, see how they’re doing. It can really make all the difference.”


Cristina asks Question 6: “What are some unique ways that people are becoming more active?”

Valerie says: “I’ve seen a lot of people getting out in nature, going for walks or runs outside. Plenty of gyms are doing online streaming on social media, University of Central Florida is doing Work Out Wednesdays where they offer classes on YouTube and Instagram Live. I’m doing kickboxing classes at home every day and that’s really increased my productivity and boosted my mood. 

Hilary adds: “Sometimes we feel like we have to be super productive when we’re getting out and moving our body. Sometimes just making your sandwich for lunch and putting it on a plate and walking outside to eat on your porch or in your backyard is enough to mix it up and get a fresh perspective. Studies show that it’s a lot harder for us to be anxious when we’re outside. For people who are struggling, just getting outside for ten minutes to drink your coffee can be really restorative.”


Will jumps in to ask Question 7: “I’ve been reading a lot about mindfulness, yoga, and meditation. How can those things help people cope with the challenges of staying home?”

Hilary says: “Mindfulness is all about being present in the here and now, the present moment. That can be what we all need to be able to get through this tough time. I think it can be really overwhelming for people so attending to what’s happening in the room and the present moment is really important because in the room, we’re usually safe and okay. It’s important to remember that. That can go a long way for people.

Valerie agrees, adding: “Absolutely. I think when a lot of people think of mindfulness and meditation, they think it needs to be this religious experience or something that they have a lot of experience with that can be really challenging. But there are ways to make it a little easier and more accessible. Even just putting down your phone and sitting outside like Hilary was talking about before can really make all the difference. Another form of meditation, if you’re looking to pick that up as a practice, is looking at free guided meditations that are out there. Right now, Audible is offering sleep time meditations. They even have celebrity guests like Diddy and Nick Jonas doing some of the meditations. So if it’s something that you’re thinking you might want to try, that might be a good gateway into it.”

Hilary adds: “Changing your breathing can be really helpful, too. If you exhale longer than you inhale, whatever is comfortable for you; it can down-regulate your entire nervous system. It’s a shortcut to calming down and regulating everything. If that is too difficult, you can try singing. When you sing, you exhale longer than you inhale. It can be whatever music you like, it doesn’t matter as long as you are exhaling longer.


Cristina asks Question 8: “What are other fun ways to relieve stress and get out of the house?”

Valerie says: “We’ve seen a lot of our members adopting and fostering pets right now. One of the really heartwarming things that I’ve seen is that animal shelters are emptying out right now because people are adopting and fostering. You have to think about what your responsibilities will be when things open back up but even fostering a dog or cat for a little while can make you feel better. And you’re helping someone out that needs it.”

Hilary shares: “My brother is fostering a puppy who is going to be a service dog. He gets to have him for four months and do all the basic training. It gives you something to do and it’s been really positive for him and the pup.”


Will asks Question 9: “It’s so easy to get sucked into the 24 hour news cycle and it’s just so heavy sometimes and so negative. Valerie, what’s one of your favorite positive stories right now?”

Valerie answers: “One of them that you can watch online is the Orlando Fringe Festival. Many events are getting cancelled and we’re looking for ways to entertain ourselves while we’re at home and not able to get out as much. Events are starting to go virtual. It’s a great way to stay connected and really cool to see these cultural institutions providing content for free that we can all enjoy.”

Hilary chimes in: “I would encourage people. This is really a time where we can reconnect to the things that bring us joy. Consuming positive entertainment whether that’s rewatching a show from childhood or watching something new with your kids. This is a time where we have the time to do those things. Take advantage of it.


Cristina asks Question 10: “Right now, some of us have time to volunteer and do some of those things. Hilary, what are some of the mental health benefits of doing that?”

Hilary explains: “Anytime that the output of what we’re doing or saying is positive, it’s going to only increase mental health benefits.  So if we’re helping others, we’re going to increase self-esteem, we’ll sleep better, we’re going to feel better overall which is really the most important thing when nurturing our emotional wellbeing and mental health.

Valerie adds: “You may not think there are ways to give back right now but there are a lot of ways to volunteer virtually. United Way has an article on their website but you could also google virtual opportunities. Even just offering to pick up groceries for someone who may be a little more vulnerable or unable to get out of the house. Look for ways that you can help, ask other people what you can do for them.”

Hilary chimes: “The organization Six Feet Closer lets you volunteer to make videos for frontline workers, thanking them. That’s something that doesn’t take much time and can definitely brighten someone’s day and brighten yours.”


Will asks Question 11: “What’s a simple practice that people can do to feel better about the state of the world?”

Valerie says: “I’ve actually been doing something that Hilary suggested in one of the On the + Side blogs. Having a gratitude practice and really thinking about what I’m grateful for in this time where life may look very different from what we’re all used to. So I’m writing down three things that I’m grateful for at the end of the day and then looking at it the next day and really thinking about those things throughout the day. Really reminding myself about all the positive things that are out there. If we take the time to notice them, it makes all the challenges of the day a lot easier to get through.”

Hilary adds: “I’m so glad that was helpful for you. I think it’s really important to remember to practice gratitude. There’s overwhelming research that shows it’s physiologically impossible to be anxious while we’re practicing gratitude. It is a really effective way to feel better. Personally, if I’m having a really bad day, I turn three things into ten things. I just keep listing things until it doesn’t seem so bad anymore. I would add it’s really important to unplug when we can. Even if it’s just during meal time with our family. Or when you go to take a shower, don’t bring your phone with you. It’s important to unplug and it’s something that is easy to do that we all can do more of.”

Making it Count Essentials


Cristina starts by asking Hilary Quick Question 1: “What is a great mental health boost that you can think of that we should incorporate?”

Hilary answers: “Sleep. Getting enough sleep. I think we all know how important sleep is for our overall physical and mental health but for some reason, it kind of goes unnoticed and undervalued. We need to make sure that we’re getting a good, solid eight hours of sleep every night.”


Will asks Quick Question 2: “What’s a positive financial change people can make right now?”

Valerie responds: “Definitely spend this time making a fine tuning a budget. If possible, pay down debt or work on your emergency savings.  A lot of us are spending less right now or less in certain categories. I know for me, working from home, transportation. Realign your spending and get your finances in order.”


Cristina asks Quick Question 3: “Right now because a lot of us are working from home, we feel there is added pressure to prove that we’re being extra productive. Is that a good thing or a bad thing?”

Hilary says: “I think it depends on how it makes you feel. I think if our productivity is tied to our self-worth, then that’s not healthy. Being productive can feel good but if it’s at the expense of our mental health, then it’s not worth it. The reality is, we’re all sort of figuring this out and if you need to lower the bar, now’s the time.


Will asks Quick Question 4: “A lot of people are looking for ways to support small business owners. Valerie, what in your opinion is the best way to do that?”

Valerie suggests: “I think a great way to support local businesses is to buy gift cards and put them away to give as gifts later, possibly gifting to first responders or essential workers. Or order from local restaurants when you can afford to. We’ve even seen some stories of businesses using some of the proceeds they’ve received to purchase gift cards from other businesses.”


Cristina asks Quick Question 5: “What is one simple thing that we can do to feel better every single day?”

Hilary answers: “I think getting outside and breathing fresh air, feeling the sunshine and remembering that our whole world is not the four walls of our home. Getting out there and re-centering ourselves.”

The Sum Up


Cristina shares a positive story about the Windy Ridge K-8 school that is using 3D printers to face shields and ear savers for medical workers. 

Will shares that the Kennedy Space Center is offering at home education resources for kids. Valerie jumps, sharing how cool it is since parents are having a tough time keeping their kids engaged. Learning STEM from actual astronauts and people who work for NASA is a great way to get engaged. With school ending, this is a great resource to use throughout the summer as well.

Cristina tells us that celebrities, including Daniel Radcliffe, are reading chapters from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone online.

Will shares that the Doubletree Hotel has made their cookie recipe available to the public.

How to Make it Count


At the end of every episode, we like to leave our listeners with resources. All of the stories shared today are in the show notes.

We also want to let you know about Addition Financial’s On The + Side blog series, which Valerie writes. Anyone can subscribe to get email notifications for when a new post is released. It’s a combination of positive news stories and wellness tips.

If you need more positivity in your life, Addition Financial’s Facebook and Instagram accounts ask people to share positive stories.

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