Those of you who have been with me for awhile know that my usual office is my local coffee shop. Up until the last few weeks, that is where I wrote everything you’ve read so far. And it was ideal for me. It got me out of the house, for one thing, and I was exposed nearly every day to that calm, friendly café vibe that I’d gotten so addicted to.
Well, no one saw a plague coming, did they?
And so, for now, my office is my kitchen.
But let me take this opportunity to say how lucky I really am. In a time when staying home is the safest and most responsible thing we civilians can do, I don’t have a job that requires me to leave the house. We all know people who do, and we should give them their due appreciation (as in, they should be getting livable wages and appropriate protections from their employers).
Shoutout to my beloved husband, who is a pharmacist, and who is working extra hard right now to help people stay safe and well. And he says that people who thank him really brighten his day, so make sure to thank your pharmacists, everybody.
If you’re lucky like me and are currently in a stay-at-home situation, I know that it can feel like you’re cooped up. Trapped, even. People were getting cabin fever after Week 1, and we’ve still got some weeks to go. But don’t despair. That’s what this blog post is all about. Here are some tips for making this experience, not just bearable, but beneficial.
This might seem trivial at first glance, but oh no. You have to understand, first of all, the number one rule of skincare is moisturizer, always. But now, in a time when we are washing our hands and sanitizing everything a lot more often (which is just what we should be doing), our skin needs this more than ever.
We’re already stressed. Dry, irritated skin is the last thing we could possibly need. I recommend lotioning up right after you shower–that’s when you’ll get the most out of it. Before bed is a good time, too. In fact, I do my entire skincare routine just before bed. It helps me feel refreshed, especially after a long or stressful day.
Another fun thing about sitting in a coffee shop nearly every day was that it was such a great opportunity to dress up. People like to look cute when they go to a nice café, and I’m no exception. But social distancing isn’t exactly conducive to that sort of thing, and staying at home can often mean staying in your pajamas. Who is there to dress up for?
Well, ideally, the answer is…ourselves.
Even on just a psychological level, putting clothes on tells our brains, “Hey, we’re starting our day now.” And that alone can make a huge difference. It has for me. I’m not saying you have to do it every single day without fail, and I’m not saying you have to get fancy (unless you want to, in which case, you definitely should). My point is that you’ll feel much more awake with day-clothes on, and that will work in your favor if there are things you want to get done.
Find Your Makeup Balance
On the one hand, this is a golden opportunity to go makeup-free for awhile. And that could be just what you need. It would give your skin a break, and you wouldn’t have to hassle with it. One less thing to worry about.
But on the other hand, makeup can be awfully fun, and it can have the same effect on us as getting dressed. If it gives you pleasure to freshen up in the mirror, there’s no reason to stop. Some days, I just don’t feel ready until I’ve got some eyeliner on. And it would be a shame to let all my pretty lipsticks go to waste. You don’t have to be seen by the public to get cute. It’s just as pleasant to get cute for yourself.
In the end, clothes and makeup and everything else we decorate ourselves with, it’s all just a means to an end. That end being the enhancement of our confidence. That’s been the central theme of this entire blog. Confidence. Self-love. Authenticity.
Those things shouldn’t come to a halt just because we’re at home.
You Don’t Have to Exercise
It’s true that working out is pretty much the healthiest thing you can do, and I definitely recommend some kind of light exercise at least once or twice a week. Under normal circumstances.
Listen, I don’t have to tell you that exercising would be good for you right now. Plenty of people are saying that. But we’re currently in the middle of a crisis, and it just doesn’t make sense to put extra pressure or guilt on yourself at this time. Some of us will come out of this a little heavier or a little skinnier, but the important thing is that we get to the other side.
Besides, exercise shouldn’t be tied to our insecurities in the first place. It should be an activity we do purely out of the love we have for our bodies.
You Don’t Have to Be Hyper-Productive
If you’re dealing with an unprecedented level of free time, you may feel like you’re failing if you don’t fill that time. Allow me to release you from that obligation.
You don’t have to learn how to sew or take up bread-making. You don’t have to read a dozen books or start a DIY project. Those are all good things, but look, this isn’t a test or a competition. We’re living through a weird time, and you don’t have to “make the most of it.”
Postpone spring cleaning. Leave the laundry for tomorrow. If you don’t feel like doing something, just don’t. Let a day or two pass while you watch Netflix. It won’t make a big difference in the long run. You’re safe at home, and that’s all that really matters.
Listen to Music or ASMR
One of the biggest reasons I enjoyed sitting at the coffee shop with my laptop or journal or book was that it provided a sense of ambiance. Lattes being made, people talking, it was all a pleasant backdrop as I did my own thing. Noisy, but not distracting. So just sitting in a mostly silent house wasn’t really working.
And my dog, as it turns out, doesn’t like silence, either. He barks if it’s too quiet.
We both needed some noise.
Look up ASMR Rooms on YouTube. There are a bunch of ambient videos, all based in fantasy realms like Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. They’re very soothing. My favorite one for blog-writing is The Green Dragon Inn–it’s quite similar to the usual noises of a coffee shop.
On that same note, I have a dozen or more playlists for whatever mood I’m in. And I learned something recently…
You can’t be sad or lonely if the volume is loud enough.
My birthday has come and gone in the middle of all this, and you might think that made for a pretty depressing time. WRONG. I simply don’t have unhappy birthdays, and I wasn’t going to start now. As soon as I woke up that morning, I blasted party music through the house, and I kept jamming the whole day through.
Music affects our brains like nothing else, so put on a song that makes your blood run hot and the vibes run high.
Dose Up on Nostalgia
Disney movies were the foundation of my entire childhood, and it’s almost uncanny how all those old feelings can come rushing back.
Nostalgia has been absolutely critical to my mental health lately. Disney+ really could not have happened at a better time. I have access to any movie or show, everything I grew up with, and I can nearly guarantee that I would have to be getting on anxiety meds right now if I didn’t have it.
Take yourself back to happier days. Simpler times. Find ways to laugh and to smile. It helps.
It helps more than I can express.
Nurture Your Spiritual Side
This isn’t so much about religion as it is about your own inner peace. Now is a good opportunity to explore your spiritual needs. Life often gets so busy that we don’t give our souls any attention. We have more time now. Time to reflect…maybe time to heal.
If prayer or study help you to feel fulfilled, you should make time for that. If meditation or daily rituals or anything in particular helps you find balance, don’t hesitate. Get started today.
Our personal needs are highly unique; every individual has their own struggles and their own path to happiness. This could be your chance to work things out.
Anxiety Will Happen…and That’s Okay
As I write this, I am on Day 20 of my social distancing journey, and so far I’ve had two days (not in a row) of total anxious stupor. And on those days, I felt hopeless. I lost my appetite; all I wanted to do was cry–because in my mind, the world was ending.
But I’ve learned some ways to help myself through days like that.
First of all, take naps if you feel like it. I’ve always tended to resist naps, but here’s the thing: stress is exhausting. We’re all feeling the fight or flight response, except we can neither fight nor fly. So our bodies turn to Option C, which is ‘play dead.’ It’s fine. Sleep is good for you, anyway.
Next, limit your media intake. A person can only take so much bad news, and that’s all that’s ever on TV. As for social media, it depends. Facebook is a toxic waste dump at this point (it was going downhill anyway), and I’ve all but stopped looking at it. But I’ve cultivated a much healthier, much more positive community on Instagram, so I still spend some time there. It’s all about creating boundaries.
Keeping in mind that it’s allergy season, I still heartily recommend stepping outside every so often. Sit out on your porch, your balcony; take a short walk, or even just open your windows. You need to stay away from other people, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fresh air. Get a little sunshine. It’s Spring!
And finally, there’s no shame in responsibly used medication. On the really bad days, I would take a Xanax before bed, and it helped a lot. Sometimes, I eat one or two CBD gummy bears. That’s an effective way to relax, and it also helps with muscle tension. And in a somewhat less medical sense, two glasses of wine with dinner instead of one has also helped keep things pleasant. You can make things easier for yourself without becoming an addict. Just be pragmatic.
All of this falls under one blanket statement: self-care.
Self-care. Self-care. Self-care.
Those days when everything seemed to be crumbling around me were bad days. But then the sun would come up the next morning, and I would feel better. In fact, I’ve had a lot of good days during this quarantine.
Feel your feelings. Humans have them, good and bad. It’s normal. And I’ve realized…I’m not dead yet. So I’m determined to live until life actually ends.
Let Kindness Reign
There are plenty of things that are simply out of our control. Let those things go, and focus on what you can control. Namely, yourself. If you are quarantined with housemates (spouses, kids, roommates, parents, etc), please be understanding. We have to recognize that things are just weird right now, and nobody is handling it stress-free. But we are capable of supporting and encouraging one another. Now more than ever, we can extend our love outwards.
And if you wish you could help in this time when so many are in need, there are several ways. Staying home is a big one. You are helping just by laying low. Mass quarantine greatly reduces the spread of disease and keeps hospitals from being overwhelmed. You can also help small businesses stay afloat by purchasing from them online or buying gift cards. Donate money to local food banks and homeless shelters. If you’re privileged enough to have extra funds on hand, you could make a big difference to someone who doesn’t. Some people are even sewing medical masks for hospital staff (due to recent shortages). There are a million little opportunities for kindness right now.
(And of course, the obvious: don’t hoard food and supplies. That’s the absolute least you can do. It creates shortages that otherwise wouldn’t happen, placing terrible strain on low-income families. And it makes you a selfish, uncivilized asshole).
If all of us collectively choose empathy and kindness over fear right now, we can get through this, and we can minimize the damage for everyone. We might even realize that we need empathy and kindness all the time, not just in a crisis. It’s my hope that we’ll come out the other side of this as better people, with stronger bonds and more open hearts.
Stay safe, everyone.
Have a beautiful week.