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I am going to be honest. Writing this month’s Dana’s Edit has been a struggle. I have reached the six-month mark of sheltering at home, limiting a lot of my interactions with friends and family and only going out when I really need to get something. On top of that, I have begun teaching all my classes virtually and taking all of my graduate classes virtually. To say I am already Zoom’d out is an understatement.

Couple these things with the bleakness of the news and it can all be a bit anxiety-inducing and stressful. This month I thought I would share some of the things that are helping me cope with the isolation and stress that a lot of us are feeling especially as we start to realize winter is coming.

Give yourself some grace.

My focus isn’t what it typically is and I often feel like I am all over the place. Then I feel guilty for not giving my all or putting in my normal effort, but I have to remind myself that these are not normal times. I have to give myself a little grace and understand that I am adjusting and perfection is not required. I am giving a little grace to the people around me—especially my students. I think the pandemic is impacting everyone in a different way, so I try to be kind and understanding when things don’t go as planned.

Get up and get moving.

I will admit I have had periods of time where I am a lump on my couch, but that just makes it all feel so much worse. I have a dog I can take out for a quick walk to help me get moving and reset my brain after staring at a screen for hours but all of us can just take a walk around the block or to our local park to get up and get moving. I am also trying to motivate myself to really put exercise into my daily routine to help boost my mood and feel better overall.

time to move.

Brighten up your home.

Since I am home all the time, I have been slowly adding new pictures to the wall and I swapped out my carpet tiles in my living room. I want warm, bright and happy things in this space because when the days get darker, so does my mood. I want my home to be inviting and happy so that I don’t feel like I am stuck in a drab space. Something as small as new candles and a throw can make a huge difference in changing how the room feels. Even painting a single accent wall in a vibrant color can perk up your mood.

now that’s more like it

Keep knitting.

Knitting has always felt a bit like a daily meditation for me. The rhythmic clicking of the needles, the way I focus on a pattern and cancel out the rest of the noise. It was difficult to knit for a while, but I finally started to feel like I needed yarn in my hands again and I am trying to knit every day at the end of the day. Knitting helps to clear my mind of the negative things, it calms my brain after staring at a screen for way too long and it is something I do for myself that makes me feel good.

I am currently knitting Shay Johnson’s Homecoming Cardi for myself. I am knitting myself the most vibrant and happy cardigan I can to boost my mood. Added bonus—it will be great to wear on chilly morning walks in October. I am also plotting out other things I want to knit to keep giving myself something to look forward to as the days get darker. I’m pulling out the yummiest yarn in my stash to knit a Nurtured by Andrea Mowry, and a friend and I are talking about knitting Rainier by Kate Gagnon Osborn as a mini knit-a-long.

This year is an odd year, full of changes, but I just keep telling myself if I take small steps I will make it through. If you have tips of your own that help you cope and de-stress, share them! I am sure they might help someone else too.

About The Author

Dana Williams-Johnson knits every day. Knitting is what brings Dana joy, and she shows that through her use of color (hello, rainbows) and modifications of favorite patterns into replica sweaters for her dogs.

You can read about it all on Dana’s blog, Yards of Happiness, and watch her video podcasts on YouTube.


  • Thanks for the reminder to grant myself some grace. You mentioned it already but I have been saved so many times by Buttons. He is company and gets me to move, wagging all the way!

  • Thanks for putting your calm encouragement into words for all of us. Hearing you say I don’t have to give life my ALL, takes pressure off. I’ll do what I can in each moment. Thank you!

  • Thanks for this. Love that new living room floor – wow! It inspires me to maybe add some bright color to my ok-but-too-neutral walls and/ or floor. Knit something really colorful! I’m working on Kaffe Fassett’s throw from Field Guide #14. A wonderful picker-upper!

    • I’m working on the same throw, and it’s perfect for these times! Easy TV knitting, vibrant colors, cozy to be under while continuing to knit…and eventually a bright accent for the family room!

  • A friend of mine and I swap gratitude lists everyday, and she has taught me to really dig into the appreciation of everyday: the first sip of coffee in the morning, the smell of basil in the kitchen as I make pesto, my husband reading beside me in bed, my daughter’s sassy humor, admiring the wild colors and development of zinnias, willingness to do my #&@^#% PT exercises.

    I also recommend Yoga with Adriene on Youtube for just moving your body (and spirit) even if you only have 15 minutes. And it is free!

    Remembering to be of service, and I mean this in the smallest ways possible, because it is something I am far from perfect at remembering. Picking up the phone to stay in contact with a friend. I like snail mail so I write snail mail, especially to people who might be isolated. Working on a campaign (lots of ways to do this in isolation!).

    • I agree with lots of things said, but especially this – stay in touch with others! You never know how much that may lift another’s spirit. It’s a gift you can give the world – just a word, a smile, a phone call, a cartoon in an email, a smile & wave, at a 6ft distance, on a walk. Community large & small.

    • I love your idea of sharing gratitude lists with others, especially gratitude for the smallest things. Shout-out for Adrien – her yoga classes always make me feel better.

      • agreed– brilliant!

  • Thank you for posting this and reminding us that we are not alone in this pandemic. Your posts and photos are always uplifting and inspiring. These tips will help us get through and hopefully have some beautiful knit pieces to share.

  • I use knitting as color therapy, too! I deliberately knit my favorite bright colors as the days get darker, and it really helps. LOVE the sweater Jellybean is standing on!

  • Love love love your posts! You have a way of putting words to what I’m feeling and leaving me with hope. Thank you?

  • Such helpful words you put together. Thank you. I have recently added a little end of day journal. I write the answer to the question, “what did you learn today?” I was amazed at how it really quickly jerked my mind to attention. I’m amazed at what I make note of. I amazed, when I look back, at all the new things I already forgot. There is joy in not “losing” that new peephole into a new world. I notice that I am more conscious of the aha moments and more conscientious about seeking the aha. Thanks again for your encouraging words.

  • Thank you! Your carpet squares are an inspiration for an idea for my kitchen. Can’t afford a kitchen remodel. But, boy, I can have fun with the flooring!!

  • I knit, knit, knit, and listen to audiobooks, outside on the patio when it’s nice. I also go on birding walks most mornings, which gets me outside and focused on nature. I still have my moments, but doing these things I enjoy really helps.

  • I loved this one. Very good ideas, too. I am going to start thinking about making our home more winter-friendly now. New candles, swapping out the couch blankets, and putting up new decor seem like great ideas.

  • Great words of encouragement. Thank you……….and cute slippers!

  • Yoga, knitting, and grandsons….oh my!
    As always your posts add a ray of sunshine. Thank you.

  • Jellybean always makes me smile!

  • What a comforting post, we are all there with you. I will try to be mindful of giving myself And others some grace during these extremely stressful days.

    You also have the best smile ever, it actually lightens my heart to see it.

  • I woke up in a blue funk this morning and this was the first thing I read. Thank you for kick-starting my day and probably my winter (or at least fall ;). I hope you also find an unexpected spark from somewhere in the universe today.

  • Still trying to find a way to connect with the people I love, especially those at higher risk who we can’t physically see. I learned that trying to keep your stress to yourself to spare your partner can make it worse. Sharing actually brought resolution quickly.

  • Pokemon Go walks at lunch have been boosting my mood the past couple of weeks. I probably spent way too much time at the park yesterday playing this game , but I seriously needed some time away from my laptop, work, and to get out of the house.

    The other thing I started doing to reduce the “doom scrolling” of news was to put duolingo back on my phone and start working on Spanish again. It has helped. If I come out of this a better Spanish speaker, that would be an added bonus.

  • I was pleased when I saw that you were the columnist on MDK today….I always enjoy your contribution! But today was different from what I expected….and in many ways even better. You have given this group of like-minded people a constructive conversation on a situation that is consuming all of us. Thanks for this….

  • It’s helpful for me just to know I’m not the only one having trouble focusing. I’m trying to give myself grace, but then I start asking myself if I’m giving myself too much and just making excuses! Sigh. My dog is the brightest spot in my isolated existence—words can’t express how grateful I am to have her. I’m also not complaining that fall seems to have arrived a little earlier than usual in the DC area, because the weather change has brightened my mood! I love fall, and I will be able to wear the poncho I’m knitting very soon. I’ve been knitting up a storm—I started this poncho a week ago and I’m sure I’ll finish this weekend. I never thought I’d knit it that fast! I have been exercising nearly every day, and it’s great to feel successful at something! I’ve also been playing Dungeons & Dragons online with my siblings every weekend, and getting to spend time with them even though we are spread across four states and thousands of miles has been wonderful.

  • Dear Dana, May I suggest sitting by a window? As the weather gets colder, I find that keeping an eye on a bird feeder through a window is very entertaining and inspirational in its own way, even on those gray days. Susan

  • Thank you, Dana, for being so real with us. Whether it’s knitting or more important topics, I always look forward to your posts.

    This one is the perfect reminder to be good to ourselves, to be gentle in these difficult days.

  • Dana, this is a very timely post. Thank you for sharing these tips and how you feel. And….where did you get that rug! I love it!

  • Thanks, Dana, for this essay which I really needed this morning. I’ve had my crankypants on all week and have been feeling BLAH about everything. I needed to hear some ideas for small things that can make a big difference. Also, I think the fact that I thought your “before carpet tiles” picture was the “after photo” is a sign that I *really* need to rethink my floor coverings! Haha!

  • Great perspective, thanks Dana. Maybe I will add some color to my Halloween decorations. I decided that Halloween started on September 1st this year.

  • My heart pitter pattered when I saw that there was a new post from Dana. I love everything about this woman, and this post was so very real and kind.
    Thanks for sharing.

  • Reading Dana’s piece and then enjoying people’s reactions made me realize I am actually doing ( a bit better than) OK! Knitting, yoga, outdoors, birds— I am lucky to get to enjoy all of those things. Thanks Dana. You always bring me a smile.

  • Thank you Dana. Appreciate your candor and valuable recommendations. Inspiring as ever! I’ve dived into a new (to me) craft—crochet—inspired by UK color wizard Sue Maton and the gorgeous blankets she and her workshop participants create using the romp of a rainbow that is Rowan Felted Tweed. Check out her Homage to the (Granny) Square online color workshop (sign ups end September 30) at or on Instagram @themercerie if you want to experience a riot of color ❤️

  • Thank you, Dana, for this post today.
    We just put up a lot of photos of our boys, their spouses, and their children. I now look up and there they are!
    I also stopped knitting at the end of April. Couldn’t do it. Also stopped reading books. ( haven’t read a newspaper through in months).
    However, just bought a sweaters worth of mohair/ silk at my lys.
    Also put away some fall gold yarn for a good friend whose husband died from Alzheimer’s after 10 years. I thought yarn would keep better than more flowers.
    Although neither I, nor my friend, needs any more yarn, I wanted to be there for my friend who owns the yarn store.
    I walk. A lot. Every day. I try for at least five miles. Sometimes more, with bad weather, less. I have not murdered anyone since March!
    I try to have a good laugh every day.
    Thank you, Dana, for what you bring to us all.

  • Jigsaw puzzles! ABBA! Indoor plants!

  • Beautiful! Exercise, specifically walking and hiking and doing my best to double down on nutrition have been lifesavers for me. Knitting as well although it goes in spurts and have found myself leaning into the process of the piece and not just “getting it done”. Which means I undo things a lot and start over just because I can and I have the time space to do it. A huge shift for me. I’m so grateful for this creative community and I look forward when we can all knit in groups again!

  • Loved Diane’s thought I need LOUSY Weather plan…hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

  • Thank you Dana for your smile and sharing that wonderful picture of Jellybean!! Jellybean makes me smile. Knitting and cross stitching keep me focused on my projects. I also play the piano and listen to music while on my laptop. Both of these keep my spirits lifted. It can be hard to balance the “I should be doing…” and “I need to take some deep breaths and rest for a few minutes (or longer).”

  • I agree with the previous remarks about gratitude. I found a small almost round flat stone on the beach. I keep it on my nightstand. Every night as I go to bed I roll the stone with my fingers a few times and think of the moments of gratitude during the day. Even the smallest things count.

  • Thank you, Dana. Your writing on grace dovetailed with watching the Apple TV episode of “Dear…” featuring Oprah, as well as our pastor’s online message this morning.

  • I am BLOWN AWAY by your carpet squares!!! So cheerful! I like how you turned them so they weren’t so matchy-matchy. If you don’t mind sharing, what company makes the carpet squares and do you have to glue them down to the floor underneath?

  • Thank you so much for this, Dana! Your adorable dog friend and your cozy ugg slippers on that rug brighten my day too. I feel like I should be used to things by now but you are right … we need to give ourselves some grace. I’m doing distance-learning/homeschool with my kids while my husband and I work from home and it is a LOT. Thank goodness for knitting. For real.

  • I know your photos were intended to show the carpet, but it was your big fuzzy yellow slippers that made me smile. The circumstances of this year prompted me to treat myself to a pair of big furry slippers, and I had never gone in that direction before.

    I also have a little dog who gets me moving more than I would otherwise. I am knitting a lot and catching up on all that is Arne and Carlos on YouTube. I “discovered” them recently and now am spending so much time with them I feel like they could be my neighbors (and I wish they were). There’s something about the way they are with each other, the gentleness and respect between them still, after so many years together, that just makes me happy to see. and that is totally separate from all the great knitting tips! They are my unexpected pleasure this year.

    I have a wall calendar this year that is full of supposedly inspiring and profound sayings by great people, and most of it hasn’t really done that much for me except for one that said something about the most essential elements of happiness being “something to do, something to love, and something to look forward to.” That one I’m keeping.

    Thank you for being here, and for pointing me to the Nurtured pattern (that one’s right up my alley).

  • The biggest thing that worked for me was moving my working situation (that was supposed to be temporary, but is now appearing may be more permanent) out of my dining room and clearing a corner in my sewing room to work. It’s my happy place anyway and made such a difference in my mood during the day. And now I get comments on how cheery my room looks on Zoom calls!

  • Dana, this is great stuff as always. A good list to remember to take care of myself (cookies are great but don’t really do it). Building blocks…or bricks.

    Back in those very dark days of June, you wrote here and on Yards of Happiness about slowly coming back to your knitting with the Painting Bricks sweater. The sweater seemed symbolic to me. What came into my head immediately was the phrase “brick by brick” to mean both taking something apart, demolishing, as well as building something up. This year both are what we need to do. Day-by-day, progressively, consistently. Applied to our national systemic wrongs, to my knitting and weaving, and to myself. So thank you.

    I love your new floor too. So beautifully you! You, and Jellybean, rock.

  • I didn’t realize how important exercise, especially a walk, was to my physical and mental health until I was forced to stop by the wildfire smoke. Now I’m telling everyone to just try going for a walk. Even if you feel you’re unfit and can only walk a short distance, just try it. It’s like a magic pill that doesn’t cost anything but improves everything!

  • Woody Allen was supposed to have said, “80% of life is just showing up.” That’s about a B-, right? Some times are just grit-your-teeth-and-hang-on, and this is one of them. Give yourself points for just showing up today. That’s my advice.

    Seriously Dana, you are doing a doctoral program in addition to all the abnormal extra stuff 2020 is throwing at us. You are made of strong stuff, girl, so no whining about failure to master Urdu during confinement. If your column was only the latest pictures of Jellybean, that would pass for now.

    We love and admire you. The 27 sweaters in a year thing will stand testament to your exraordinariness no matter what. Breathe!

  • I always agree with your style choices in sweaters. I love the carpet tiles – my husband is always eyeing them an an idea and I haven’t ever liked any, but this might win me over.
    The terror of shortening days is real. Having spent more time in my yard this year than ever, I can feel it more than ever, too.

  • Thanks for this Dana. I’m also struggling to be as productive as normal while working at home (even though I mostly did anyway before lockdown), I’m definitely feeling unsettled. I love your carpet tiles and the jumper you’re working on, bright colours definitely lift the spirits. I don’t go outside enough and definitely don’t see other people enough. But I have a really good selection of crafty people I follow on Instagram (including you and the lovely MDK ladies of course) who share a good mix of beautiful yarn and projects, and thoughtful posts that make me think or teach me things I didn’t know. That helps me feel part of a community, like I still have some sort of a social life despite not going out. Thanks for sharing.

  • Oh Dana, thank you so much for your incredibly timely post. We’ve been sheltered at home for over six months now too and with the addition of being trapped inside by the smoke I have really been struggling this week. Hearing your reminder to give myself some grace is so helpful. And brightening my space is a brilliant idea! I’ll have a look around for some bright and happy things to do in our living area to perk it up. Thank you.

  • We are called to show compassion to all. Then we forget to show it to ourselves. Thank you for reminding us.

  • Loved the comments about candles as a cozy add. It made me chuckle. I no longer allow myself real candles since I burned the corner of my iPad cover. I didn’t leave it unattended – I was right there! I wondered about the funny, burning-plastic smell!

    • My husband is thrilled that I now use timed battery operated candles! No scent, but they do give me the bit of romance in the evenings.

  • Try some simple yoga exercises to ease the tension that starts to tighten up your neck and shoulders because of all the computer time… close your eyes and do some simple head and neck movements, slowly to help work out the kinks and stress. There are some nice chair yoga movements that help without needing to be a yoga master.

    Try closing your eyes and cupping your hands over your eyes for a few minutes… breathe slowly and easily, unclench your upper and lower jaws, let your tongue rest in your lower mouth instead of up against the roof of your mouth.

  • Oh, and listening to the birds chirping and squirrels chittering in the morning and to the crickets chirping in the evening helps too… as weird as it sounds, I get a kick out of counting cricket chirps in the evening to see how close it comes to being an estimate of the temperature outside.

  • And another thought, look into a Lampe Berger
    … much safer than a candle and it helps to clean the air and there are so many fragrances from which to choose… the history of it can be found online…

  • Thank you . Thank you. Thank you. We have the very same carpet tiles as in the first photo – turquiose plaid. I showed your new choice to my wife who said, “Wow those look great.” I get a new carpet and no worries about the color! Thanks again.

  • Dana, you always seem to put the finger on my mood at the moment. Six months stuck at home + forest fires (in my neck of the woods) + RBG passing = hard to get motivated. I needed to hear everything you wrote. Blessings to you.

  • Dana – thank you for reminding me that I am not the only one who feels “off” during these times. Love that carpet!

  • Hello Dana, I’ve been working from home since mid-March and it looks like I’ll this will continue for a long time. Thank you for the reminder to give myself and others some grace. This is a difficult time and everyone deals with stress differently. Colour can brighten a day so I just ordered a pair of bright red slippers!

  • This is a nice reminder of self care during these “strange” times. It reminds me to allow for grace for myself and others. Thank you for your insightful and positive thoughts. BTW love the carpet tiles – funky!

    • YES… Agreed.
      Thank you Dana – peace and power to you as always.
      I told a group Kindergarteners the other day: “This IS hard” (They shared about seeing me live-read stories to them “on the computer” on “the at home days.)” Knowing it isn’t easy lets us “take a pause” and “a deep breath for ourselves when we feel crank and frustrated…” They agreed that it’s okay to take some breaks and do “fun things to calm down.” And now with RBG … *sigh*…

      Just saying that out loud and admitting it to a delightful bunch of 5 year olds brought me immediately to my better senses. Knit on… love to all,

  • Thank you for this, Dana! It boosted my spirits just to read it! And yes to warm colors and warm lights and All The Warming Things as we move into winter.

  • ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

  • Thank you so much for sharing your wise words with us. They resonated with me during this unusual time. And inspired me to find something bright and colorful to knit. 🙂 My best to you.

  • You are so soothing to follow. Thank you.

  • Thank you for your honesty & encouragement!!! Gratefully yours, S

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