by Karina Giglio
Most of us didn’t expect living through a pandemic to be part of our bio, but here we are in 2020 on day whatever it is (now that time has somewhat lost its meaning) doing just that. Whether you're single and missing that human touch and energy of being out in the world, or sheltering in place with a spouse and kids and feeling trapped with no "me time" in sight, here are 5 tips to make this new normal, not just normal, but even enjoyable.
1. Be Socially Close, but Physically Distant
The term "social distancing" is a complete and even dangerous misnomer. We don't have to be within six feet of someone to be an active part of their lives, and we should continue to be. Thankfully, we’re living in a time when “there are a lot of ways to connect with people outside of the traditional face-to-face outing. And it’s a great time to get creative with how you stay connected,” explains Julie Holgate, LPC, Psychotherapist, Co-Owner, and Senior Director of Administration at Atlantic Counseling Group in Sterling, Virginia.
You likely have a routine for meeting up with friends, coworkers or dates after work. Or maybe you’re all about coffee and brunch dates. Make a point to schedule regular FaceTime, Zoom or Hangouts so that you can literally have face time while socializing. If you're used to meeting a certain group of pals for happy hour, put that on your calendar and do it virtually. Encourage friends to invite their friends to these events and you'll even enjoy the extra benefit of meeting new people. Or schedule a "spa day" together--put on a mask, make a smoothie or a cup of tea, and catch up on your lives. “You may be surprised at your ability to slow down and focus on each other when there are less demands of your environment,” explains Holgate. That means that you can fully be in the moment and tune out distractions in a way that wasn’t possible before. If you’re dating someone, start a remote morning routine with coffee and breakfast. “Although it’s not the same as in person, it still gives us a chance to strengthen our emotional connection and intimacy,” she says.
2. Get Your Steps In
There’s a pretty funny meme going around about someone ‘bragging” about getting in 123 steps while quarantining. You’re probably realizing now just how many steps you get in during the average workday, between commuting, walking around the office, running out for lunch. Studies have found that the average American takes 5,117 steps each day without added workouts (with the target range being between 4,000-11,000 for a healthy adult). Now, stuck at home with gyms closed, it’s more important than ever to stay strong, keep that blood flowing, and keep the extra pounds from creeping on.
When you do your daily calendar (and you definitely should, so that one day doesn’t just blur into the next without purpose or focus), leave 5-15 minutes every hour or hour and a half to run up and down the stairs in your building, or do a set of sit-ups, squats, lunges, push-ups, jumping jacks, or whatever your thing is. Now’s your chance to make a playlist that pumps you up and play it loud. You know how they tell you to dance like no one’s watching? Well, this is that time! And of course, there are great work-out apps and in-home video classes to take advantage of.
“Having a friend, partner, or family member help with daily check-ins, keep you focused, remind you to care four your physical health, and even hold you accountable,” adds Holgate.
3. Manage Stress Eating
So many people are posting about gaining the Covid-19, as in the amount of pounds they’ll pack on while sheltering at home. It’s not surprising: stress + boredom + refrigerator 10 feet away is not a great formula for eating clean (or self-control).
If you're reaching for a snack, ask yourself if you're truly hungry. If the answer is no, then it's mindless or emotional eating. "You need to find out what you’re feeling when you’re doing it,” advises Holgate. “’Am I bored? Tired? Lonely?’ Then choose a solution to solve the feeling rather than eating out of comfort.” If the culprit is loneliness, try connecting on video chat with a friend or family member. Or put on a funny show—no tear-fests allowed. Bored? Tidy up a room, clean out your closet or bathroom cabinets, or try playing online games with others. Tired? Take a long bath since you’ve got plenty of time to not rush.
If you still want to eat, make it the healthy stuff. Keep baby carrots, pepper slices - whatever your vegetable of choice is - prepared and easy to grab (instead of the chocolate bars, chips, etc.). Drink (water, that is). Get your 8 glasses in and that will help cut down snacking.
One of the best ways to tackle emotional eating no matter what you're feeling: exercise. You'll release endorphins that help you feel happy, calm, and energized. Added bonus: You won't stress when you do indulge.
While you're undoubtedly stocking up on stuff, take the opportunity to detoxify your place and yourself. Aside from proper cleaning, a great, feel-good chore is going through all your pantries and getting rid of stuff that’s piled up. If it's been opened and you haven't used it for a year (and don't see using it in the very immediate future), toss it. If it's not natural (whether it's food or beauty stuff), toss it. If the color has changed, toss it.
Psychological decluttering can be more challenging, but even more important. “Sit down with an actual pen and paper (our brains have a great and different way of processing info when using multiple sensory applications),” explains Holgate. She recommends making a list of anything you’ve been avoiding—be it a person, task, skill or event. “Our anxiety can very quickly be understood in identifying the things in our lives that we avoid, Then, identify the barriers for facing these items.”
Studies have shown that people who procrastinate have higher levels of stress and less positive feelings about themselves. So now is a great time to cross those to-do items off of your list. That may mean people too. Other research has found that "exposure to stimuli that cause strong negative emotions"—like what it feels like to be around toxic friends—caused the brains of volunteers in the study to have a "massive stress response." Now's arguably the best time to ask yourself if it's really worth having this person in your life. This type of big break is an ideal opportunity to walk away.
5. Get Alone Time
For those who live with a significant other, and/or kids (kids under age 7 should definitely be its own quarantine category), we don’t have to tell you that you've lost the “me time" you had when you could leave the house. You know that every minute of every single day. You’ve lost social time at work and time with your friends. You’ve lost time at the gym. In other words, some of the simple freedoms that help make you a better spouse and parent. In China, reports are that the Corona virus has sparked an increase in divorce. So, how to ensure that you come out of quarantine not consciously uncoupled?
Work with your partner and kids on respecting each others' alone time. The key is to get agreement in advance lest your partner or kids think you're being insensitive. The more you communicate about what you need and when, the better and the stronger you'll be reconnecting with your loved ones. That means you may need to schedule a walk by yourself (if that’s an option), extra time in the shower for your own spa hour (or two), watching what you want on Netflix alone after the kids go to bed.
The Raw Truth
Sheltering in place can be about way more than survival. It's an opportunity to manage our lives--and our relationships--in deeper, more meaningful ways. And emerge happier and healthier than ever.
Do you have some tips on overcoming challenges and living your best life right now? Share them in the comments.