It’s strange times. There’s no question.
As the COVID-19 pandemic (hopefully) begins to reach it’s peak more and more people are being asked to stay at home, avoid social gatherings, and overall have much less contact with others. It’s easy to see the introvert jokes here, finally, a reason to stay home. But even introverts begin to go stir crazy after a few weeks of social distancing.
As of this writing, I haven’t left my neighborhood in three weeks. Largely, I haven’t even left the house given some of the recent weather. It gets daunting. At first, the days started to bleed together for a while. Fortunately, I’ve been able to work from home for years so essentially I’ve trained my body and mind for a version of this. This routine, however, was complimented with a heavy social life, outings with friends, eating out, and all the normal things we now know we take for granted.
As time dripped on I was (in a great way) forced to find ways to not only calm my mind but also to release stress, stay physically active, and keep tensions as low as possible. A lot of people have lost their jobs, a lot more people may not have a job in the next few weeks. It easy to go a little crazy gaming out what may happen next and yelling at that teenager walking his dog to give you your suggested 6 feet of space on a path more than large enough for two. (may or may not have happened)
That’s why I wanted to share with you some of the ideas, hobbies, new tools, activities, and best practices that have helped me get through some of the rougher patches over the past few weeks. Some of these may seem quite obvious, others I hope will surprise you.
A “Look Forward” Jar
At this point, I’m not exactly sure what I’d do for a high-quality sushi roll. Sushi is one of my absolute favorite things to have… really anytime. Even Kroger sushi will do in a pinch. I imagine how awesome it would be to call up the crew and play a few rounds of pool at our favorite dive and maybe have just one too many beers.
When I get excited about these things it used to piss me off. What the hell man. Why does this have to be happening? “Will things ever go back to normal? Things will never go back to normal… this is just our world now!”
Luckily, that’s not true, things will eventually go back to normal. The human race will bounce back, but we might be in for the long haul. To help keep your mind focused on the positive future and not so much on the depressing current circumstances, create a “look forward” jar.
This one is a two-fer.
Thing a swear jar but with the added benefit of helping you stay healthy and clean. Every time you do something that is either going to help keep you sane or keep you healthy. Put a dollar in your “look forward” jar.
Wash your hands? – There’s a buck. Go for a long walk? – Here’s fifty cents. Did you sit back down and finish that book? – 5 bucks, why not!?
The idea is that when you do something out of your norm or find a way to fit your normal healthy habits into your new circumstances, reward yourself. Also, when you do something you wouldn’t normally do to protect yourself from exposure (let’s be honest, no one washed their hands this much) throw some coin in there!
This not only compels you to stay healthy and follow pandemic protocol but also keeps your mind focused on what you plan to do with that money once this has passed. Directly and subconsciously just looking at that jar is going to pump you up and give you something to look forward to. The longer social distancing lasts, the more money you’ll have to blow on a fantastic feast, a new gym membership, some classes with a community.
One rule – whatever you spend this money on. Make it social. The more people around, the better.
Don’t want to handle cash? Write the amount down on a sticky note and place it in the jar anyways. If you want to be a pro, place that money in a separate account to make sure it’s on its own and waiting for your epic outing.
Duh. But this is a big one.
Look, I get it, you can’t go to the gym anymore. I feel you.
But this can be a time to get creative, get outside, and push your body and mind in ways you had never previously explored. Look up trails near you can go for an intense run if the weather is right. See how many lunges you can do down your sidewalk. Maybe it’s time to hit up the couch to 5k program and take that next step.
It’s easy to get wrapped up in the things you can’t do but take this time to wipe them from the usual options and see what’s left. What can you come up with?
I’ve had a random collection of gear and weights I’ve managed to drag around from city to city over the past decade. Many a time I thought, “screw it just leave this dumbbell here! It’s too much of a pain to move!” but now I’m glad I have it. Crafting my own little house of pain to get a sweat in each morning.
There’s no shortage of bodyweight workouts out there. Nearly every fitness influencer has released some type of Instagram live, video, or series that runs through some daily bodyweight routines.
My absolute favorite (for a lot of things) comes from Onnit. They have a bodyweight series that’s a one-time payment and the whole series is yours forever that hits hard and takes under an hour to complete with warm-ups and cooldowns.
If you’re like me and you work from home then it’s likely you do a bit of stretching in your daily routine. It’s not like you have the luxury of going to hang out with some semi-friends at the water cooler to chat about Tiger King on Netflix. You have to actually make time to get up, get some blood flowing in your legs, and get some steps in.
Despite working from home I used to go out on a lot of meetings that kept me moving. Now that nearly every meeting has turned into a call or video conference there’s really not any reason to get up. The first week of this at the end of each day my knees were killing me. I’m talking feeling my pulse in my knees type pain. I was having trouble going up and downstairs and was fairly common I was about to tear my ACL.
Until I began to pay attention to how I was sitting and the fact that I was so tense after doing nothing but sitting during the day. That’s when I began stretching every hour or so, just for a few minutes. This practice along with keeping my feet out from under me while sitting knocked out the pain in just a matter of days. I still catch myself now and again but stretching is essential to keeping your joints healthy when you’re working from home.
Now, I’m no stranger to meditation. Like many things, it was a practice I would dive into wholeheartedly for a period then ease out of. Then, when things got dicey, I’d find myself back on the clutch of meditation.
At the end of this section, I’ll link to some resources to help you get started but the one thing most get wrong about meditation is the science. Many who haven’t had experience or the time to dig into meditation see it as some “woo-woo” bullshit practice for monks and weirdos. False.
Meditation has been proven to have a measurable impact on the brain itself and numerous other health benefits as well such as lowering anxiety, anger levels, stress levels, and overall contributing to a better sense of well-being.
Take some time with your breath. Look, you aren’t going to be able to jump in right away and do a 3-hour meditation session. Nor should you, but take some time even if it’s just ten minutes and be alone with your thoughts and your breath. I have a personal framework here I’ve really enjoyed but here are many other resources to help you get started…
- The Skeptic’s Guide to Meditation with Dan Harris
- Unleash The Power of Meditation
- Meditation for Beginners
- 10 Things We Know About The Science of Meditation
Video Conferencing – It’s not just for business anymore!
A few friends and I were sharing a group chat and bemoaning the fact that we weren’t able to meet up for drinks or have any time to hang out. That’s when a friend of mine asked well, why not? Why don’t we hang out virtually? Before I knew it I was a part of two virtual happy hours (one of which got a little out of hand) and several video catch-ups with friends I hadn’t seen in some cases in months.
There’s something about seeing someone’s reactions and face in real-time that deepens the bond and conversation. Sure, you aren’t going to get your handshake or hug in, but it’s the next best thing.
This also opens up your mind to the possibilities. Do you have a friend you only see once a year around the holidays? Why is that? Why don’t you see each other more often? Try using Zoom or Google to get that face time in. Do you have a group of people you normally hang out with on the weekends? Why not keep it up, you can have dozens of people on the same video chat and keep the conversation going.
In many cases these interactions can be more effective and personal that in person as there is no siloing off, ignoring the person speaking, etc.
This is not a new technology, but for many, it’s the first time you’ll use it for something fun and personal.
Does anyone have a shirt that they’ve had in their drawers for years but only seem to wear when everything else is dirty. See, I have known I should throw it away but I mean, it looks alright. I wear it now and again. And then it sits there for another month.
Being stuck at home is a great opportunity to get some of that shit out of there and start anew. I tried my best to stick with Marie Kondo’s advice in that if the item in question does not ignite joy, toss it.
Although, I may have expanded the emotion range to include a few other emotions to save some of my personal favorites.
Use this time to get rid of some of the things you no longer need and donate them. Clear your space, clear your mind, and ensure the space you are now occupying so much more often is one you can thrive in and that keeps you energized, not going crazy.
A Few Quick Ideas…
So here goes, a list of some of the things I’ve taken a stab at learning. All of which have the added benefit of being entertaining, challenging, and engaging.
- Video Games – Problem-solving at it’s finest baby! In moderation of course…
- Cooking – I’ve actually really really enjoyed this. The downside is that not a lot of ingredients are available, and dishes…
- Gordon Ramsay has some pretty legit free guides on YouTube. Get after it!
- Board Games
- Tai Chi – …kinda
Instead of looking at this time as a punishment, take it as a chance to pick up some new habits, hobbies, and tools for life post-COVID.
It could be weeks, it could be months, but by focusing on new tasks, new ideas, new thoughts, and rewarding these with something to look forward to you can not only stay sane but emerge with even more skills at your disposal.