By Merry Austin
Recent events have thrown us all a curveball. You have most likely never spent this much time in your home – and some of us have never gone this long without working long hours or hitting the town. Between losing control over our daily routines and the constant news updates, our new “normal” is a bit of a scary time. It’s easy to become overwhelmed with the pure uncertainty that each day brings. Here are some tips to help you find balance in the chaos.
Schedule, schedule, schedule!
The first few days of quarantine was full of rest and feelings of freedom from the usual grind. It was great, right? But then reality started to hit. It’s easy to let time get away from you when you’re in the comfort of your own home. Keeping a schedule is a great way to stay productive AND ensure you’re taking care of yourself.
- Sunday or Monday: Sit down and write out your priorities for the week. I recommend grouping them into categories, such as: self-development, home, work, etc.
- Each night: Write your schedule for the next day using your weekly priority list as a reference. I prefer to chunk out my time into blocks and write I want to accomplish during that time.
- Daily: Use your schedule to stay on task but don’t be too rigid. Use it more as a guide than an absolute. Make sure to write any additional things you’ve accomplished during the day and cross off accomplished tasks from your Sunday master list as you go.
Keep A Gratitude List
Gratitude is the key to truly living. By appreciating what you have, you automatically fill your life with a deep sense of awareness and love. It helps you to gain perspective and remember the GOOD that is all around us – even during a chaotic time. It can be on your phone, in your head or in a notebook (even on your daily schedule). Try to add at least three things each day that you are glad to have in your life. These can be things, people, or moments you’ve experienced…. Nothing is too small to be grateful for.
If this seems too daunting, try listing things that bring you a good feeling. For example, I’ll write some of my favorite things:
- The first taste of cold brew in the morning.
- Waking up early, opening all my blinds and watching the rest of the city wake up.
- Hearing my nephew’s laugh.
- When my dog scoots closer to me so we can snuggle.
Look for Laughter
If you can find the humor in any situation, you can survive anything. In fact, Steven M. Sultanoff, Ph.D., can tell you that humor actually helps you to build resilience. Which is exactly what we’re all going to need in order to get through this together. Laughing will help lessen the stress and ease your worries. Watch a standup, scroll through Twitter or be goofy with your kids… just make sure to find something daily that makes you smile.
Learn a New Skill
Having this much free time is perfect for finding and learning a new skill. The act of mastering a new concept or skill and then putting it into practice will help you combat the feelings of helplessness that we’re all facing. Many colleges and sites are offering free courses!
Go Outside Daily
Doing any sort of activity (even sitting and relaxing!) outside each day can help quarantine feel less like a cage. We can all be grateful for the changing of seasons; the warm sun and springtime blooms are evidence that new life and beauty always follow times of hardship. Note: While Columbus Recreation and Parks facilities are currently closed, all 19 Ohio Metro Parks remain open (all nature centers are closed and all programs are canceled). Please observe and follow CDC guidelines related to social distancing when you are outdoors.
Let Your Body Find Its Rhythm
If you’re currently unemployed, maximize this opportunity to allow your body to balance out its Circadian rhythm. The status quo “daily routine” isn’t for everyone. There’s a good amount of evidence that each of our bodies has its own efficiency cycle. Some of us may be most productive on a schedule that entails waking up late and staying up late – while others would refer to themselves as early birds, whatever works for you. Even if you are still working, the change in your daily commute and routines provides some flexibility. Take this time to let your body discover what works. Take note of when your mind feels clearest.
Be Gentle with Yourself
And finally, remember to be kind: to yourself and everyone else. This is a scary time. It’s a hard thing to hear, but most of us are pretty great at avoiding our feelings and problems. This quarantine will bring things to the surface that you have stuffed deep down and “haven’t” thought about since. That’s in quotes because all of the things you don’t deal with are constantly on our minds whether we’re aware of it our not: those unresolved emotions dictate our actions until we heal them. It’s okay to be emotional and unsure. Work through your feelings of discomfort and remember that each emotion you have is valid. When you are feeling low, take time to write a longer gratitude list than usual. Reminding yourself of the good ALWAYS helps to beat the blues.
There is no “cure all” solution to staying mentally well. There’s no list that will work for each and every person. The point is that it is possible to use this time at home for growth, if you’re willing to put in the work. These tips, along with whatever feels good to you, will help you to stay calm and come out on the other side of quarantine ready to bloom.
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