The first few days of quarantine can feel like a vacation. Finally you have an excuse to say no, stay home, and watch reality TV, and there’s nothing anybody can say about it. Freedom to just relax. When quarantine becomes your lifestyle though, it doesn’t have the same sparkle. You will start to miss your routine of people watching on the subway, coffee dates with friends, looking forward to going out on Friday night. You will need to fill your time with something worthwhile to you to make the time feel valuable, and to mitigate stress exacerbating the crisis. Part of quarantine means staying mentally healthy, and that means avoiding unnecessary stress. No matter what, self-care is necessary more than ever. Maintaining it in your home may just mean some slight adjustments.
The rare disease community has some experts for the quarantine living experience because many have been living it for years. I’ve read through some of our in-home experts advice who have put together their own guidance for adapting to living life indoors.
- Set yourself a new routine and stick to it
- When you first start to be housebound, it can feel like freedom. Now you can get up late, work whenever, eat at any hour. After a few days though, it feels chaotic. Routine helps makes sure we do everything we’re supposed to and gives us a rhythm. It seems simple, but getting up at the same time, taking the same hour for lunch, having hours for work with breaks for treats, and clocking out by evening lets us maintain that this is our life for a while, not just an aimless vacation.
- Dress like yourself
- As Lorna McFindlow wrote, don’t just wash your hands, wash everything. And get dressed, not in the same pair of pajamas everyday. When you’re not leaving the house and seeing people, it can be easy to give up on the basic hygiene and fashion etiquette. We don’t just do this for others though, you also want to feel like you’re living your normal life. For the first few days of quarantine, I stayed in my oversized sweatshirt and sweatpants, but today I put on jeans. I used my expensive rosewater oil that usually I save for special occasions, because I realized this is one. I’m scared and sad for what this virus will do to the world, and my floral oil makes me feel elegant; my jeans make me feel like myself. Living in the gloom of the media right now can get to your head when you’re trapped at home wondering for the safety of your friends and family. It helps to not let yourself spiral into feeling like a second rate version of yourself. By continuing your life as it would be out of the way in smaller ways, you remind yourself that this is temporary and you are still you.
- Don’t get drowned in the drama
- Staying home gives us plenty of time to get carried away into the internet frenzy speculating on how the coronavirus could take us down, often based on a flurry of misinformation and different sources. It can be easy to spend the day scrolling through every piece of news on the virus. At a certain point if you are already following self-quarantine, are stocked up, and feel prepared, the saturation of news content can magnify the burden. It can be more productive to put down the phone or use it to be social, but off of social media. As QZ recommends, you can add web blockers like Block Site which prevent you from mindlessly checking negative media that will feed anxiety with fear. If you’re going to use your phone, call a friend you haven’t caught up with in a while, consume positive media, and watch stand-up comedy. Reach out to friends and family who might need a call right now. Your grandparents and rare disease friends may be extra scared right now, and hearing from loved ones can take the burden off. This is a moment of fear but also a moment to reconnect. We are all sharing a very extreme and novel experience right now, and we can use it to look after each other. We are isolated, together, and could all use a little extra chit-chat that will be missing from the normalcy of daily life.
- Use your body
- When you’re stuck indoors, it can be easy to forget about the parts of your routine that kept you physically healthy. If you’re not walking to work or playing basketball anymore, it’s good to consciously find ways to incorporate this into your home routine. If you’re permitted and you have a path you can walk on near your house where you don’t have to worry about having close contact, try to take one each morning to start the day. Youtube is also full of yoga classes you can do in your living room. Alternatively, you can finally try meditation using apps like Headspace that guide you into the practice. We do all of these things to make ourselves feel good, and without them, life can feel much worse. Planning a routine that works your body is important to preventing the slump of sedentary living. Spending ten minutes pumping your blood will give you a burst in energy you may crave or need in this time. Take some time to jam out to some reggaeton in your shower— you might find that you really needed it.
- Creative eating
- It may not be as easy to eat your full diet right now, and you might find yourself running low on ingredients. This is an opportunity to be creative. You may have more time to cook, which is a healthy and calming way to use what you’ve stocked up in the cupboard. There are apps like CookBrite and Supercook that let you enter the ingredients you have and they give you recipes you can make with them. You can make recipes on your own and find out how frozen peas and year-old wasabi sauce go together.
- Have a relationship with nature
- The natural world is our first home, and right now, we’re all going to be living in little bubbles that feel stuck outside of it. If you have the ability, do your work on your deck or pass time in your garden if you’re fortunate enough to have one. Open your curtains, live with natural lighting, or play bird calls and ocean sounds from your phone. Being in green spaces is literally good for your health and making sure to stay connected to it is always important.
- Finally have a hobby
- A hard part of spending time at home may be that some of your favorite hobbies are not options for a little while. This is an opportunity to try something you’ve always wanted to try, or invest yourself more in things you enjoy but haven’t dedicated time to. There are probably activities that you probably have never gotten around to that could take place in the house. Practice your instrument more, paint with acrylics, read books, or play more chess. You’ll find you wanted to do these things because you enjoy them, and without your commute, you might have those 30 minutes to practice ‘Stairway to Heaven’ each day and finally master it. It may have even been that socializing was a bit of a distraction, and now you can invest in yourself at home without these concerns breaking your focus. Developing at-home interests also helps to build goals to feel yourself working towards. These are things you can look forward to, watch yourself grow in, dedicate yourself to, and enjoy.
- Have something to look forward to
- Part of what can be difficult is that what many people look forward to may be outside the house, like catching up with friends. Others might have been wanting to watch the sports that are now cancelled. For this, it is important to keep variation in your routine and preserve time for something special. It helps if you have rewards to look forward to. You can give yourself half-day Wednesdays, take a small hike on an empty trail near your house, plan a weekly video call date with friends you haven’t caught up with in a while, plan a book club, have a Friday games night with the household, or save sweets for the weekend. Planning activities allows you to feel the rhythm of the week and create a community inside. It also helps to have the long-term perspective that this will end. For most of us, this is a surreal temporary way of living, but our goals outside of the home will continue soon enough, and we’ll understand what that means in a new way with this contrast.
- Now that you’re spending more time in the home, you might realize how many cabinets and drawers you told yourself you’d sort out later, and now you’re really all out of excuses for why not now. This is the perfect time to reorganize to a way that feel comfortable for you, and you’ll be glad to have finally unearthed those papers you were looking for at the bottom of that drawer, and get rid of that old Chinese take-out under the seat in your car. This can also mean cleaning out photos, your garden, or music storage. This is the time to take the box of old photos and label them, put them in albums, digitalize them, scan them and send to others to make them smile. You can clean up your yard just in time for Spring and have your own fresh greens for the time indoors, while spending some extra time outdoors.
- It may feel harder to do right now, but taking a moment each day to be grateful can really make a difference to realizing it. The circumstances of today can make us more grateful for our normal freedom, but we also have plenty to be grateful for in this harder time. If you have someone to pass time with or a good book, these are all privileges to feel glad to have at home. Now we can take a moment to be grateful for what we do have and recognize what freedom means. Taking time to journal may also give an outlet for these novel feeling, and taking time to find the light never hurts.
As we carry on life indoors, we can take time to plan our new routines to make it healthy for our mental and physical selves. Keeping calm means staying connected and engaged in life, and in the 21st century we are lucky that we have many avenues to do so. So wash your hands, stay indoors, and see if any of these tips can make that time a little more fun and rewarding.