Who knew physical distancing would be so hard? I love peace and quiet, perhaps a little more than most people. I live for lazy days on the couch, though I rarely allow myself the luxury. There’s just so much to do! I have a growing list of literally hundreds of books I want to dive into, TV shows to binge, movies to screen, and podcasts to absorb. I also have a healthy amount of hobbies—indoors and out—so there’s rarely time to properly relax.
When the stay-at-home orders started rolling out in mid-March, it was a welcomed idea for me personally and seemed like a simple enough request. One that I would excel at with plenty to keep me busy.
I’ve worked from home for the past two years, so while everyone else began adjusting to the absolute absurdities of their new lifestyle, I laughed and joked, “Welcome to my world!” The 6pm showers. The 24/7 pajamas. The gourmet breakfasts and lunches you can cook for yourself. The chance to do four loads of laundry in one day. The semi-frequent late-afternoon sessions of wine-while-working. The “did I brush my teeth today?” moments of self doubt. The midday phone calls from mom that you now have no excuse to ignore. The loneliness of not being around people all day…
Then I got laid off. Well, technically furloughed. A temporary lay off.
While I collect unemployment and spend more time than is healthy or normal contemplating life, I’ve admittedly had a tough time staying sane in these insane times.
There are so many unknowns—a lot of them widely shared by people all over the world. While we’re all in this together and everyone’s going through it to some degree, we are all personally affected in different ways. Aside from questions over the short- and long-term economic effects, potential changes to humanity and life as we know it, and so on, I’ve confronted some surprising personal shit in the past few weeks. Like how much of my self-worth is wrapped up in my job. Like how lonely it is when your friends are still working and trying to hold onto their jobs while you’re desperately seeking connection and comforting and distractions from the now empty days. Like, no, it’s not acceptable to drink every night using the excuses of boredom or depression.
In the past month since social distancing started, I’ve wasted a lot of time worrying. I’ve been down on myself for not being more productive. With all this time on my hands now, I should be attacking the to-do lists and making great progress on the website! Except, none of that has happened.
Lately, I am trying to go easy on myself and embrace the downtime without expectations of results. This New York Times story helped, and I have started to implement a few of the below techniques to create healthy routines, positive distractions, and—ultimately, hopefully—peace of mind.
Some of these sanity savers I use weekly if not daily, and some I am yet to try, but you do you. What works for others may not work for you. Try them out. See what sticks.
Move your body
This cannot be stressed enough. It’s no secret exercise provides a whole host of health benefits—both physical and mental. For me, it’s the easiest and fastest way to forget the world and my problems, change my mood, and feel good about myself.
The endorphins are real, and it is completely within our power to tap into them anytime we need them.
While all the gyms and fitness studios are closed, it’s up to us to find ways to get active at home or out in the world. Considering it’s one of the few reasons we’re allowed to leave the house right now, let’s take advantage.
I even busted out the roller blades for the first time in years.
If nothing else, walk around the neighborhood for at least 20 minutes a day. A friend of mine likes to schedule “walk and talks,” when we put in our earbuds and go for a stroll while catching up.
If you’re working from home, it’s so important to create breaks throughout the day to take your eyes off the screen and give your brain a rest. Step outside for some fresh air or stretch your body before getting back to the laptop.
Stream fitness classes online. There are TONS available for free right now. Here are some of my favorites:
- A free selection of new weekly classes are being uploaded from Core Power Yoga
- Orangetheory is uploading a free 30-minute workout video every day
- Tone It Up has a free trail with lots of 10-40 minute videos to choose what you want to workout each day
- Peloton has a free 90-day trial with all sorts of classes—from yoga and meditation to strength training and running
See more free streaming fitness classes here.
Write—don’t eat—your feelings
So many soul-seekers I admire talk about the benefits of journaling. Despite their constant suggestions to start your day with a “diary,” I always thought I was too busy. Not now.
I started writing in the mornings over coffee, and it really has been a game changer. It’s an opportunity to explore random little thoughts and see what comes up. Most days there is something on my mind, so there’s never an issue of not having a “prompt” or something to write about, and I’m often surprised at the connection of thoughts and where I end up four or five pages later.
I was listening to an interview last week with my absolute favorite musician, Nahko, and he brought up an interesting idea I hadn’t considered. When you’re writing in a journal—versus typing or talking to a friend—it forces your mind to slow down. Your brain is processing things only as fast as you are writing them, and this slower speed results in different thoughts and reflections.
Send snail mail
I love sending snail mail because of how much I enjoy receiving mail. I love the idea of brightening someone’s day with something other than bills and coupons in their mailbox. It’s an easy way to put something positive out in the world.
A few weeks ago, I offered for my IG followers to give me their address to receive a little piece of (hopefully) inspirational mail. It was a fun little experiment, and I’d be down to send more, so if you’d like some good ol’ fashioned mail, feel free to enter your info here.
I’ve sent more cards and letters to friends and family over the past month in an attempt to socially connect while physically disconnecting. Try it!
Perform acts of kindness
In that same vein, find ways to be there for people. It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture. It can be as simple as dropping cookies off at the neighbor’s, calling your friends and family to check on them and see how they’re doing, ordering a book on Amazon to be sent to a friend, etc. There are some pretty inspiring stories of how people are showing up for their communities right now. We’ve all got the time, so why not try to think of ways you can bring kindness to a few folks?
Consume positive news
The news is a real downer these days. It’s important to stay informed, but it’s also important not to get wrapped up in the nonstop slew of coronavirus stories.
Try consuming something else, something positive even: books, magazines, inspirational blogs, etc.
This goes without saying, but limit your time spent on social media. It’s a big, black hole—right now more than ever.
Take up a hobby (or five)
Bread. Everyone’s baking bread these days. Of course, cooking and baking are realistic and useful hobbies to kill the time and flex your chef muscles, but if you’re looking for something new, why not try one of these?
- Take an online class from Coursera like The Science of Well-Being from Yale, which I took in 2018 and loved
- Arts + crafts like macrame, string art, drawing/coloring, painting, knitting, etc.
- Puzzles + games
- Spring cleaning! It’s a perfect time to organize the messy pantry, shelves, and closets.
- Home improvement projects! Not a hobby, but a very practical use of time may be finally painting or wallpapering the walls, landscaping the yard, planting the potters (it’s spring!), etc.