So how have you been? Unless you're an essential worker during this COVID-19 crisis, I think it's safe to assume that you are spending a lot of time at home. By "a lot" I mean all of your time. You're spending pretty much every waking and sleeping hour in your home, most likely with your partner and perhaps children.
Home-officing. Homeschooling. Homecooking. Homecleaning. Homedwelling.
I get it. I do. On the one hand, it’s kind of nice to have fewer appointments (ok, no appointments), no social pressures, no school events. It’s nice to not have to get dressed so early in the morning and see that colleague that is way too happy in the morning.
It’s nice to be home more. With your loved ones.
On the other hand, your spouse is now sitting next to you talking so freakin’ loud on the phone that you’re pretty sure you just burst an eardrum. Your kids are asking you to help them understand calculus and physics. (um…. Youtube anyone??), you also have your own work to do (which is proving increasingly difficult sitting next to that loud new colleague of yours), and you’re also in charge of making meals, keeping the house – er, office – clean. So basically you’re suddenly not only a marketing consultant/sales rep/accountant/IT guy/banker/psychologist/fill-in-the-blank-job, but you are also teacher, cook, janitor, policewoman or policeman (after all, the siblings are driving each other crazy and the teens are truly suffering from their lack of peer group – more on that in another post)..you’re also school nurse, and obviously mom, dad, husband, wife. All at the same time – and in the same place. No wonder your nerves are so thin that even Kate Moss from the 90’s is worried about you.
So how can we deal in this very unique time in our lives? How can we manage to stay centered while in social isolation and lockdown? It’s not like we all have space to retreat to. Although if you do, all I can say it count your blessings. It’s hard to stay centered when everything is upside-down.
I’ve compiled a list of self-care activities you can do to NOT go coo-coo during this Corona Crisis.
Stick to your normal routine. Get up early. Yep. I know some of you might be thinking I’m crazy. (In fact, part of me thinks I’m crazy for suggesting this) Why not sleep in if you can? Take advantage! I LOVE to sleep in. But I am still setting my alarm at 6:30am and getting my ass out of bed. Why? A study published in The Lancet Psychiatry found that people are active during the daytime as opposed to the nighttime have healthier sleep cycles. (More later on why sleep is healthy) Other studies have found that family routines help to reduce impulsiveness and other behavioral problems in children. So, try as hard as you can to stick to a normal routine, even if it is tempting to sit at that video conference call in a business shirt and your underwear. Just don’t.
Get enough sleep. Getting a good night’s sleep on a regular basis is important for your physical and mental health! The study published in the Lancet Psychiatry journal showed that healthy sleep habits are associated with better mental health and minimize the risk of developing emotional difficulties. Those with an interrupted sleep cycle, on the contrary, have a higher risk of developing a variety of mental health problems. So all you night owls out there (and I’m talking to myself too here.) don’t be tempted to stay up. Call me a party-pooper, but: See number one: get up like you normally would and go to bed early enough.
Go outside. If you’re an introvert who’s loving all this cocooning at home, I’ve got bad news. You still need to go outside. It not only gives you a good dose of oxygen, provides your body with a little exercise, but it also has been shown to reduce anxiety and depression.
Put yourself on screentime! Limit the amount of time you are spending on your phone. This was already a huge problem before corona virus. Now this problem has only compounded since we have, oh…, NOTHING to do. So what can you do while your phone is blocked? Read on, or refer to number 3.
Be an opportunistic pig. That sounded a little harsh, didn’t it? Sorry. But you know what I mean. You have to take this crisis by the horns. You could see this time as being stuck home with nothing to do. OR you could use this time to finally clean out the basement? You know all those digital photos that you’ve been wanting to print and put in albums? (for me, that was about 500,000,000 digital photos ago). Well now’s the time. Go for it.
Look around you. Take time to notice things. Since everyone is isolating, time has seemed to slow down. Take your time. Go to the window, or while out on your walk, look up at the sky and just notice it. Look. Really look at it. Look at the trees. Look at all the empty playgrounds, empty streets. Reflect.
Write. All this time for reflection can feel overwhelming. Sometimes reflecting on paper can give you the distance you need from your thoughts. Start journaling. Or, write 3 pages a day without stopping or editing. Write down every thought that pops into your head. No filter. Even if the thought is “I don’t know what to write”. Then write it down. Allow yourself the time to just be and reflect. Go ahead. No one’s watching anyway.
No feedback in the moment. If you have some issues with your spouse or kids (because if you don’t then you are obviously not in quarantine, shame on you), here’s a wonderful rule I heard from author of the book "Fairplay", Eve Rodsky: “No feedback in the moment”. During a conflict moment, emotions are high. And cognition is low. Don’t give feedback in the moment. Wait a minute (or more). Give feedback when emotions have gone down and cognition has returned.
Start with your WHY. Eve also suggests that, if you want something done or if you want something to change, or you need your spouse or kids to change a behavior that is bothering you. Start FIRST with your WHY, and then move on to the WHAT.
Nightly check-in: Check in with your partner every night. Ask them how they are doing. How they feel. What’s going on at work, even if you know all about it because he’s been talking loudly on the phone all. Day. Long.
BONUS: Go easy on yourself. Go easy on your partner. Go easy on your kids. Everyone is stressed, everyone is experiencing something we’ve never ever experienced before. Have patience.