Here we are, at the start of week four of Shelter in Place. Feeling restless? Stir crazy? Pulled in a million directions between work, self-care and kids? Us too! While we’re grateful to be safe — knowing our actions are supporting front line workers as we flatten the curve — we still struggle to find balance. Research by the UCL Institute of Neurology shows that simply not knowing when our lives will return to normal is making us all feel extra stressed out.1
Our actions are making a difference – they truly are. But we still have a ways to go. Before we’re allowed to emerge, we’ve amassed the following six tips for taking the cray out of stir crazy and keeping it sane at home.
Create a Routine (and stick to it!)
It was one thing when our mandate was for three weeks, but now that we’re looking more at a minimum of seven, it's time to create some structure. Whether we’re working from home, homeschooling our kids or just trying to keep things going with cooking, cleaning and managing stress, it’s important to note that the body finds ease with a schedule. Waking and going to sleep at a regular hour each day promotes restfulness, as does getting some form of movement in every day. For those with young kids, they need structure too – from outside play to quiet reading time to schooling. We love seeing people get creative, and one mom created a colorful COVID-19 Daily Schedule to help keep her kids’ on track (way to go, mom)!2 Also, this is a time to come together, especially if we have families, so engaging others in cooking, cleaning and playing will promote bonding. Routine eases the mind, and with all the fear and bad news circling around us, our minds could all use a little more discipline. One bit of humorous advise we heard early on: If we do one thing each day, make sure to put on pants. That's an accomplishment too!
Limit Our News Intake
Speaking of news...even though things are progressing quickly, with each day feeling more like a week, it’s essential to take a break from the headlines. There really is such a thing as too much information when it’s filled with sadness and fear. If distraction is what we need, there are shows to binge and books to read. And celebrities are stepping up to help. Check out LeVar Burton, of Reading Rainbow fame, live streaming books for free on his podcast. Setting boundaries around news-watching is key – limiting ourselves to one program or one hour per day is best. Especially before bed, it's important that we avoid watching or listening to these programs. This period is a good excuse to reduce screen time hours (a good idea any day) and opt for an interactive game or Zoom tea with a friend instead.
Breaks are OK
We have to admit, we can be extra hard on ourselves at times, so we’re offering everyone an official COVID-19 “break.” Just because we’re staying indoors, it doesn't mean that we all have to emerge from quarantine having mastered a new skill or organized every square inch of our homes. Just a reminder: we’re all doing the best that we can. In her book, What if This Were Enough, Heather Havrilesky writes, “Our culture exerts a constant pressure on us that severs our relationship to ourselves and each other.” Our routines may have shifted, but we can use this time to give ourselves a break, spend time with family, and reconnect without making it harder or expecting unrealistic results.3
Music. Plain and Simple.
Music heals. Whether we’re moving our bodies to favorite tunes or listening passively in our homes, now is the perfect time to lean into this beautiful art form. With so many digital modalities and artists offering their talents live, we can tune into online performances, share our favorite Spotify playlists, explore new bands or simply blast our favorite classics on repeat. Keeping the tunes at the ready will enable us to release some pent-up emotions and fill our hearts with joy. Bonus points for impromptu dancing with a hairbrush as a microphone (we've taken cues from Ryan Heffington's Instagram Live dance sessions).
Vitamin D and Nature
With nation-wide orders to stay at home, we’re all spending a lot more time indoors. But at least as of now, we’re still allowed to go outside so long as we maintain a six-foot distance from others. It turns out that every tissue in the body has vitamin D receptors meaning it's needed for the body to function properly. Vitamin D not only helps us absorb calcium, it also activates genes that regulate our immune system and release neurotransmitters (dopamine, serotonin), thereby offsetting depression. So, let's make sure to get outside every day, even if it’s just sitting in the sun for 20 minutes (but don't forget the SPF!).4
Whether we’re religious or not, finding a sense of trust in the future can do wonders when facing the unknown. We’re all spinning in a surreal sea of strangeness these days without an end date in sight. Consider taking time each day to get centered and quietly envision a positive place we’ll land when COVID-19 is all behind us. Author and life coach extraordinaire, Jen Sincero, writes, “Faith smothers your fear of the unknown. Faith allows you to take risks. Faith is the stuff of ‘leap and the net will appear.’ Faith is your best buddy when you’re scared shitless.”5 Whether it be the Spanish Flu of 1918, WWII or other global tragedies, people have come through these experiences with renewed perspective, ideas and resilience. Remembering these stories and trying to apply them to this moment is an optimistic way of getting through. Prayer, meditation and visualizations are effective means of tapping into our spiritual sides, and they can be practiced both with and without community. The most important thing is to find a sense of confidence that we will emerge stronger and more united.
“You’ll never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.” John C. Maxwell