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DIY distractions can help you process the pandemic

Tackling a project takes you on a journey away from your troubles.

INDIANAPOLIS — Before the pandemic started in early 2020, Dr. Mitesh Patel purchased a very old Chevy Savana van in hopes of flipping it into a very cool mini-camper. He didn’t know it at the time, but he was about to get a LOT more time to work on his hobby.

As the reality of the pandemic set in, Dr. Patel, who is a psychiatrist at Ascension St. Vincent, began recommending ways to pass the time to help retain one’s mental health. 

“I recommend to my patients to pick up a new hobby or cultivated interest to occupy their time and focus on other things in the pandemic,” explained Dr. Patel. 

He decided to take his own advice and get to work on his van. Over a 7-month span, Dr. Patel spent countless hours on YouTube learning how to flip his van. He completely gutted it and added insulation, new walls, lights and electricity, a ceiling, a new stereo system and more. He also gave the outside a facelift. 

“I was going to turn it into a camper so that I could go all across America and hike and camp,” he remembered. “You know, do all the fun things in the outdoors that one would do with a van like this.”

But just as the inside of the van was transforming into his dream camper, Dr. Patel realized that the van’s engine was hopeless. 

“The engine started misfiring, and that's when I knew the project was dead,” Dr. Patel shrugged. “For a camper of this kind, it has to be reliable. It has to go long distances and with the engine in the shape that it was, it just wasn't a viable option. So I had to abandon the project.”

But as Dr. Patel tells his patients, distracting yourself from the troubles of our world is not about the destination, it’s about the journey. 

“Even though this this project wasn't a success, I look back on this experience with memories,” he said. “I learned some skills that I'll be able to use going forward. And so I would say even though the end result wasn't a success, I'd say that the process was a success.”

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