These are hard times. Everything is uncertain. The situation is increasingly frightening and tragic. On top of it all, our routines are disrupted, we’re apart from our friends, and sometimes family. We are stressed out and pissed off. We probably aren’t sleeping or eating as well as we should. All these things weaken us.
In any disaster one basic principle is don’t become part of the problem — don’t put yourself in a position to rescuing, don’t complicate things. Even assuming we stay well, our families, friends, and communities will be needing our support.
There are simple things we can each do to keep ourselves healthier, stronger, and more centered. They are easy to forget when we are preoccupied. Here’s a checklist to help us all remember.
Fresh air and sunlight are good for our bodies and our spirits. Unless you are on physical lockdown you can still go outside, just stay well away from others (at least 6′), and don’t touch anything. Follow the latest guidance of your local health officials, of course.
In most areas walking and running for exercise are allowed. Walk to the mailbox, or around the block. Wave at your neighbors. Go for a hike. Or do a little gardening. Sit on the porch. Worst case, you can’t go out at all, open the windows for a while.
Get some sun. Or let a breeze in, even if it’s cold.
Listen to music.
It’s easy to forget when we get caught up in following the unfolding events, but remember that we can listen to music. Go through your old LPs and CDs. Rediscover those artists you haven’t heard for a while. Get on Pandora or Spotify.
Keep it upbeat, invigorating, empowering. Whatever gives you energy and makes you happy. Show tunes, 80s rock, 60s folk, electronica, metal, blues, whatever. If you’re in a household with others, take turns choosing the tunes. Share what you love, and broaden your horizons by listening to others’ favorites.
Crank it up. Dance around the room. Sing along.
Talk to a friend.
Help yourself, and a friend, too. Connect with others. Pick up the phone. Get on Skype, Zoom, or Facetime. Call a neighbor. Catch up with someone you haven’t seen in a while. Check in with family. Ask how they are doing. Show each other your pets. Let them know they haven’t been forgotten.
If you’re more gregarious and adventurous, go live on Periscope and talk to people all over the world. Give a tour of the flowers in your garden. Take folks with you on a walk or hike (away from others). Start a daily Zoom dinner hour for your single friends, so you can all eat together.
One San Diego area Irish musician, Máirtín de Cógáin. did a Facebook Live broadcast, “singing to the hills” and taking requests from those watching. Can you share a tune? Make soup and chat? Color or sketch together?
Turn off the news.
Everything feels important and urgent. We want to keep up on what’s happening. That’s great. We all like to be informed citizens. But we don’t need to watch or listen constantly. How stressed out are you by what you’re seeing and hearing? It could help to step away from the computer for an hour. Pick up a book. Play with your dog. Organize a drawer. Don’t worry, it will all still be there when you come back.
If you’re feeling more overwhelmed consider allowing yourself only one hour in the morning and one in the evening to check in. Listen to your favorite daily news podcast. See what your friends are posting on social media. Then walk away. Set a timer. Don’t get sucked in.
Turn off the TV. Put down your phone. Give yourself a break.
Do something, anything, expressive and creative. Doodle on a Post-It. Paint a mural in the hall. Knit or crochet. Build a chair in your wood shop. Plant a flowerbed. Bake bread. Write a poem. Break out the crayons. Make a collage. Pick up your guitar.
This isn’t about skill or accomplishment. Don’t fret that it’s not “good enough.” It’s the process, the journey. It’s about expression and freedom.
Be your own art therapist. Do something for the sheer pleasure of it.
Eat a real meal.
We’re stuck at home, sometimes on no particular schedule. Our routines are disrupted. It’s even easy to forget what day it is. Many of us are wandering into the kitchen to grab a bite here and there. A handful of almonds here, a tangerine there. Maybe a bag of Doritos mysteriously disappears in under 24 hours.
Even if you’re eating good, healthful snacks it can be reassuring to have a normal rhythm somewhere in your day. Have some “real food” each day, and eat it mindfully. Make a salad. Or waffles with fruit. Cook some chicken or fish. Maybe it’s spaghetti night. Sure, have a couple of cookies, but also get plenty of vegetables and protein.
Making and eating a good sit-down meal for yourself is an act of self care.
Move, dance, play.
The “should” version of this is to make sure you get some exercise each day. True enough. This might even be an opportunity, since you’re not wasting hours on a commute, to finally do those planks and squats you’ve been meaning to get around to. But physical activity doesn’t have to look like doing formal “exercises.”
One benefit to working from home is that you can move frequently. While you might have felt self-conscious in an office environment, now you can do stretches, yoga, weights, whatever, throughout the day, in small amounts. You don’t have to have goals or track progress, just move. Jump rope in the driveway. Play hopscotch with your kids.
Get your blood flowing, keep your body strong, and relieve some stress.
Mix it up.
These things can be done in all sorts of combinations.
- Eat your sit-down meal on the porch and enjoy the sun.
- Shut off the news, listen to music, and clean the kitchen.
- Sketch your sleeping cat while you talk with a friend on the phone.
- Do a video chat with friends and knit, sketch, or cook together.
Take care of yourself.
It’s easy to get bogged down in the drama and sadness of all this. A whole day can somehow go by and all we’ve done is check Facebook and watch press conferences.
Stay awake. How are you’re feeling? How’s your body? Are you holding tension in your jaw? Is your gut in knots? Are you feeling alone? Scared out of your wits? Do you need a break? Do you need to talk?
Take three slow, deep breaths. Beat the snot out of your pillow. Have a good cry. Then put on some tunes or call a friend. Do what you need to do to keep yourself whole and healthy. Eat as well as you can. Enjoy a glass of wine, but maybe the whole bottle. Drink plenty of water. Get lots of sleep.
Hang in there. This is going to be rough.