I have seen many posts encouraging people to be super productive while sheltered, and just as many posts arguing against pushing ourselves to make things happen.
The thing is, there is really no right way to do this ‘stay home’ thing we are called to do. Other than people who have had to quarantine themselves for things such as diseases, wartime shelter at home orders, or freezing/hurricane weather, most of us have no examples regarding how to live in limited spaces and in isolation. Many people are not only completely at a loss as to how to BE right now, many of us are also scared about the uncertainty of our future.
We are in a global pandemic, the world is changing rapidly, and for many people the idea of being extra productive in this time of uncertainty and fear is just outrageous. While I do not believe that we have to be super heroes trying to continue our lives at a high pace, I do think it is important that we take care of our emotional, physical and spirituals selves during this time.
My husband and I have an ongoing joke; when he wants to do something that he will not love later, e.g. eating some junk food that will leave him feeling horrible, or not completing something he wanted to finish, when I ask him if he feels OK about the effects of those behaviors he generally says, ‘Hey, that is a future self problem’. If I add something such as, ‘How do you think your future self will feel about this?’ he generally says, ‘&*$K that guy! He can fend for himself!’
Well, now is a time to not only do what we need to do to be living in the present, we also need to consider the effects of our current behavior and actions on our future selves.
It sure seems like we may be in this state of quarantine for awhile. It may not be just for a week or two, this could possibly a month or two or more. How do you want to experience it? Who do you want to be right now? How do you want to feel when it is over? How will you feel at the end of this if you do nothing but sit on the couch, watch TV, eat and drink?
Self care as a part of our normal lives is always a good idea. YES! Take time to rest, rejuvenate, relax, get used to this huge adjustment in all of our lives and in the world if that feels right to you. And as a part of self care, I am all for some mindless movies & television as well as educational or thought provoking shows. I also am a fan of just plain goofy entertainment and surfing the internet and social media. However, what about your spirit, your mental & emotional health, and your body? Those all need your attention, perhaps now more than ever.
Since most of us have been at this ‘shelter at home’ thing for awhile now, perhaps you are past the initial shock of it. It has been important for all of us to just get used to this, to make adjustments, to be sure that our family and loved ones, and our communities are safe. It has been important to have food and supplies and to get used to huge disruption and change in our daily lives. But now what? How can you stay sane, and even thrive in this environment without feeling the pressure to produce or to be the same person living as you were before this began? For some people who are alone, isolation and loneliness are some of the main challenges you face. For others who have children or extended family living with them, creating some boundaries and personal time can be really difficult.
Here are some ideas to consider that may be helpful for you in being deliberate with how you spend your time and what you experience.
MENTAL HEALTH & ATTITUDE
Choose a Slower Paced Lifestyle
Many people have been running along at high speeds for as long as they can remember. This may just be a time when we are all forced to slow down. Since this IS our lives now, choosing to function at a slower and more deliberate pace can go a long way towards making your situation more livable. If you have children, of course their education is important, however, if they aren’t keeping up perfectly with their schoolwork, a few months of a slower learning style is not likely going to sabotage their future, especially considering that most others are going through the same thing.
Be Authentic. Embrace Your Experience. Don’t Pretend to be Positive if you don’t feel it
Give yourself time to grieve, to be angry, or to be upset and scared if that is what you are feeling. Find some personal space, and also share with your loved ones and children as appropriate. We are all changing from this quarantine. The world is changing from this quarantine. By allowing yourself to authentically feel fully and by allowing yourself to change, you may find that your feelings will actually congruently shift. You may find more acceptance, freedom and appreciation in new experiences. Our lives may not necessarily return to how they used to be, but hopefully we can find a new, better normal.
Acceptance & Choice; not defeat or giving up
Like it or not, this is our lives now and perhaps for the next few months or longer. The more you can really choose this and accept it, the better your experience will be. Rather than just sinking into a feeling of defeat or giving up in the face of the uncertainty and powerlessness we are all feeling, make a clear decision to take care of yourself and those around you, and make a choice to do the best you can with what you have now.
Conserve More – Use Less
Conservation has always been important, but now, for each of us personally, it is vital. The less you use, the less trips to the store you have to make. Many people have a lower income in this rapidly changing economy, and using and needing less can really help us live within our budgets.
ACTIONS & BEHAVIORS
Having structure can really help your mental attitude, your mood and it can give you the feeling that your life is in your hands. Structure can assist you in feeling empowered, having a sense of order, and it can help decrease the sense of unreality that sheltering at home can leave you with.
Structuring your days can help you be deliberate, and can give you back a feeling of ownership of your day. You can include unstructured time or unstructured days in your plan, which is great, however by choosing it, you are empowered and at choice, rather than just floating along and feeling at a loss because you have no focus.
Children really need structure and boundaries, as well as unstructured time. Giving them some structure can also create some free time for you to take care of yourself.
What structure you choose, and how you fill your days, is not as important as is simply having some plan that works for you.
Daily Actions & Rituals
As part of your structure, it can really help to continue with daily rituals. Things such as waking up at a reasonable time, having your morning coffee, tea, or silent time, having regularly scheduled meals and times to get exercise, to be outside, to shower, etc, all will help you shape your time and your days. Simple things such as changing your clothes, keeping your house clean, doing your hair, and taking showers can really make a difference in how you feel each day.
HEALTHY WAYS TO STRUCTURE YOUR TIME
Stay Connected: Online Groups, Friends, & Family
- Facetime, Zoom, Skype, Text, Email, Social Media are all easily available
- Parties, 12 step meetings, education, children’s classes, singing, dance, exercise groups
- Online classes for your kids or family members: give yourself some personal time
Move Your Body
- Alleviate depression, sleep better, reduce stress & anxiety, improve your mood, be a better parent and partner.
- Make it fun! Play, Dance, Walk, Run, Yoga, online classes: do what feels great to you
- If you are with family members or others and have a yard or safe place to go, throw a ball around, play Frisbee, use rackets and/or play some other group sport activity
Meditate, Read, Journal, Nourish your Spirit
- Engage in Silent time, meditation, writing, and other activities that replenish your soul.
- This can be really challenging if you are dealing with a full house of children and family. Creating some boundaries and structure for everyone, can give you space and time to go inward.
Get outside (*if it is safe and you can social distance)
- Fresh air matters! If you have a way to remain safe and distant, get outside.
- Walk, run, hike, or play and read in your backyard.
- Find a way to do something that is enjoyable and feels renewing
Change it up regularly & have some fun
As you can tell from this post, I am a strong believer in structure, consistency and boundaries. However, it is also important to change it up regularly, for both you and for your family if that is your circumstance. Doing the same things everyday can result in boredom and monotony. At times, let go of the rules; eat breakfast for dinner, watch TV all day, paint your faces, dance around the house, or eat dinner in bed. Play games. Plan some funny activities for yourself or with your family, and play around with ways to be different and unusual.
CONSISTENT MEAL TIMES, HEALTHY FOOD, NEW RECIPES, BOUNDARIES
*Use this time to improve your relationship to food, rather than make it worse.
Having had an eating disorder for much of my life, and having worked with people in healing their relationship to food for many years as a therapist, I know that food is a particular challenge for many people, especially right now. Having extra food around, boredom, lack of structure, fear, anger, chaos, lack of self care, and so much more can easily contribute to overeating, eating horribly, and simply feeling out of control. People who are already in some sort of recovery are struggling, and others are really forced to confront their relationship to food in a whole new way.
One of the worst things you can do right now is just eat in an out of control manner. I know for me, I would feel absolutely horrible if I did that. Add that to the fear and uncertainty of the future, and our disconnection from others, and compulsive eating can be a pathway towards a downward spiral that could take a very long time to overcome.
The simplest way I know of to maintain some level of sanity around food is to keep eating structured meals and eating mostly foods that you believe to be healthy. In other words, eat 3 meals a day at regular times without snacking. Set alarms if you need to. Or eat 2 meals a day and a snack. Stop eating in between meals. Refraining from eating in between meals can be life and sanity saving.
Get out of the ‘looking in the refrigerator for entertainment and consolation’ habit. If you have snack food and comfort food around, save those for 1 time a day or better yet, 2-3 times a week only, perhaps as your snack meal, or as dessert. For the longest time, I made it a policy to NOT have any junk food around, because if it was there, I would eat it. Plain and simple. Always. Even now, with over 35 years of recovery, I keep most snack food out of sight, so that when I do eat it, it is an active choice, not just an impulse binge.
We all have varied ideas of what is healthy eating. There are wildly different perspectives and food beliefs regarding what it means to eat well, from the Keto Diet to those who eat Vegetarian or Vegan, to a Low Carb or Paleo Lifestyle, the Mediterranean diet, Low Protein diet, and more. Whatever your beliefs are about food, and whatever your beliefs are regarding what is healthy eating, what is important is that YOU are eating in a way that is alignment with YOUR beliefs and that you have some structure to support you in doing that. Plain and simple. That is what will keep you sane during this time, and actually in the rest of your life.
The topic of food and having a having a healthy relationship to food and your body are much bigger issues than I can address in this post. I do however ask that you consider using this time to improve your eating and to consider and explore your relationship to food, rather than let it run you. Taking this time to learn boundaries in relationship to how you eat and to gain some healing rather than just spiraling out of control can go a long way towards keeping you sane during quarantine.
MONEY & FINANCES
The global economic issues resulting from this ‘pause’ in our world are yet to be fully seen. How this will play out for each of us and in our world is a huge unknown. Most of us are scared, our incomes have dramatically decreased, and how and even if we can pay our bills is a a source of fear for many.
After our initial freak out about this, my husband I decided to take charge and be proactive and it has really helped. Take time to create a bottom line budget. Figure out what you can do to cut out everything possible. Reduce every possible expense. Cut out subscriptions, decrease weekly and monthly expenses, take advantage of the loans that are available, get your car payments & tax payments paused, and get full refunds on trips.
All of this took has taken an unbelievable amount of time, determination, and persistence. I was on hold with Airbnb for over 4 hours to get a refund on a trip we had planned, and it took 3-4 long wait times and various emails to get it handled. We did eventually get our money back, in full, by getting help from the Airbnb administration rather than the company we were renting from and by not giving up. And we were seriously on hold for extended periods (OVER 6 hours) at least three times with the bank working to talk to someone. But it has been worth it.
Be proactive. Get educated, get help, make it happen. I can’t stress this enough. Yes this takes time, energy, and a level of focus that you may not feel able to handle. Get help. Taking charge of your finances can go a long way to helping you feel grounded, safe, and more able to face the unknown.
FIND WAYS TO CONTRIBUTE
How can you contribute to your world in small ways? Getting involved helps us all. I am talking about simple things. Reach out to a friend who is struggling and say hello and offer support. Bring food to a neighbor and leave it on their porch. Post something supportive. Contribute even $10 to the food bank or a good cause. Thank your post office delivery person. Thank your grocery person, thank every vendor you come in contact with for their service and commitment. Anything you can do that is uplifting for both you and others will feel empowering. If you want, consider what your gifts are and what you can offer, and create some online ways to offer something to others.
IF YOU HAVE ENERGY FOR MORE
Just getting through each day with some level of sanity and empowerment may be plenty for you. I have found that I have a ton of energy, and want to stay involved and engaged in other ways. For some people who are on their own, or as a way to keep your children occupied, you may want to consider some of the following ideas.
- Engage in personal development of some kind: books, online courses, support groups. Many of these are available for free or at a greatly reduced cost.
- Hobbies – pick up an old hobby, or start a new one.
- Projects: Perhaps this is a time for you to finally get those house projects that you have been waiting for the right time to do. Pushing myself to get some stuff handled feels great and leaves me feeling accomplished and complete.
- Plan your next business adventure. Our work lives may be dramatically changed for the foreseeable future. What can you create, plan for, or do? How can you get involved now?
Along with having some structure, taking care of your emotional, physical, and spiritual well being, and staying authentic, having a sense of humor in the midst of all this can go a long way towards keeping you sane. Remember to laugh often and well, and remember to find the funny in our human frailties and radically altered daily existence.
Take care of yourself and those around you.
Stay home, stay safe, and stay healthy!
Blessings & Namasté,
~Inspired Girl aka Barbara