Unless you’ve already been living in self-isolation somewhere under a rock, then you are well aware and updated on the recent occurrences of 2020. To be fair, it’s not like 2020 welcomed us with open arms filled with excitement and enthusiasm from the minute the clock hit midnight. After my countless failed attempts to reset this year to a more positive note (whatever happened to prayers can change anything?), reality sunk in that THIS IS NOT A DRILL! Yep, this is happening, the world is in chaos and, there’s nothing that I can do but adjust my lifestyle and find healthy coping methods to live through it.
After spending 58days in strict isolation, I can’t say I have the answers. Still, I hope to provide you with somewhat useful tips you can use to keep sane while being indoors for an unforeseeable period *hugs all the extroverts out there*!
Tip 1: Allow yourself to feel
Being someone who deals with anxiety, the worst thing you can say to someone in a panic state is “JUST CALM DOWN”. Wow, I had no idea all I had to do was just CALM DOWN!! AMAZING! What a ground-breaking analysis *hands you a Nobel Prize*! Ok, while you may have been glued on your screens staying informed with incidences in parts of the world, you can only fully grasp the depth of this when it directly impacts you. Therefore, in the beginning, allow yourself to react naturally as you feel and dare anyone to tell you to “Just calm down”! Vent however way you like…cry, curse, scream, stay in bed all day, throw a pity party for yourself etc. Whatever that may be for you to wholly acknowledge and take in what is happening.
Now, after you’re done engrossing in self-pity about how the world hates you, because why would this happen at a time you were finally getting your life together after the mess that was of 2019? You’re going to need to ACTIVELY pick yourself up. I emphasize on the word “ACTIVE” because this will require more than just your “wishful thinking” powers and “Today, I’m getting out of bed” affirmations. You will need to actively move your feet out of bed.
Tip 2: Return to your routines
Now the question is what time to get out of bed. What helped me to start getting productive was returning to my usual morning and evening routines. That meant going early to bed and waking up early in the morning. I will probably outline my morning and evening routine in a different post, but this is not for you to do what I do, but for you to return to your already existing routine that you’re accustomed to. While staying up all night on Netflix and waking up at noon because you have nowhere to go may seem innocent and reasonable, there are a couple of benefits to sticking to your routine during lockdown. For myself, the obvious one was getting to return to my morning prayers and meditation which helped to reduce my panic degree. Also, this somewhat tricked my mind not to get too relaxed, and to get productive. “This is just temporary,” it would say “you will be back to work soon enough so stay ready”. Most importantly, there is something magical that comes with the early mornings. Waking up with a cup of coffee in one hand and opening the windows to take the first breath of that morning breeze gives so much hope and purpose that sets clear precedence for the day.
Tip 3: Get cleaned up
Home is usually a place of comfort and our safe place where we tend to be very comfortable with our appearances. After all, who doesn’t rush home to be able to kick off those gorgeous, yet uncomfortable heels and remove all those tight clothing to kickback in their favourite pyjamas and happy socks? You will probably notice how the first couple of days you don’t have much laundry to do because you’ve been in the same comfortable pyjamas for days.
The habit of staying in your pyjamas is counterproductive to the first tip. It doesn’t change much to wake up early in the morning and hang around in your pyjamas. Trust me, you’ll be back in bed by 10am (I would know…)! Cleaning yourself up in the morning and getting into some type of casual gear will not only arouse your mind further into “productive mode”, but also keep you from getting too comfortable to go back to bed. On days that may seem tougher than usual, I would even go to the extreme of putting on some make-up (every woman understands the power of a FACEBEAT!). So wear that suit or cute outfit that screams “MONEY” if you must. Whatever you need to do to compel your mind to SNAP OUT OF IT, do that! Who’s around to see you anyways?
Tip 4: Scheduling your day
I know, I know…you’re probably wondering “Woman, what am I scheduling my day for? Have you missed the part where we are not going anywhere?” Let me guess, part of the reason why you’re feeling frustrated being indoors is because you think you’re not doing anything and all your big plans you had for the year are now on hold, right?! So allow yourself to create and feel progress. Nothing screams “PROGRESS” than ticking tasks off your to-do list. I know you may not be able to work on that BIG PROJECT you were so eager to get started on, but schedule those small projects indoors. Laundry, cooking, cleaning the bathroom, rearranging your wardrobe, changing your bedsheets, reading a chapter etc. have them all down in your planner or on a piece of paper. This helps to create a sense of accomplishment and achievement.
So at the beginning of each day, instead of randomly walking about your home finding things to do to occupy your time with, make a list of everything. And at the end of each day, reward yourself with a nice glass of wine as you pride over everything you managed to accomplish for the day. And just like that, with one small list, you no longer feel stagnant and stuck.
Tip 5: Designating different locations for your activities
So as most of us will be working or studying from home, you may feel relaxed to work from any corner of your house. This takes me back to my tip #3 of the dangers of the comfort of our homes. The way the mind works is powerful far beyond human understanding. So, believe me when I tell you, it knows how to function on its own when it’s subjected to different environments. Let me give you this scenario, you wake up in the morning in bed, take your computer/books and start to do your work. Couple of hours later you start feeling frustrated because, damn, why is it so hard to find x!! Your equation is right after all, and you don’t have your study group anymore this afternoon to help you figure this out! So you put your work aside and try to watch a series. But you’re just so frustrated that you can’t even find a good show to watch. You decide maybe you just need a break, you’ve been at it for the past 3hrs anyways, so maybe just a nap to rest. You try to sleep, 3hrs later, you’re still tossing and turning in bed trying to find sleep. Do you see the problem here? Your mind is unable to switch modes from work and relaxing because the same environment you placed it to work is the same one you’re trying to tell it to rest in. Therefore, allocating space strictly for your different activities in your home is very crucial not only to help you get productive, but also to get that much needed rest when required. Allow your bed to strictly be a place of rest and sleep and find other locations were your mind knows the minute you get there that this is time to work, or eat, or watch Netflix etc.
Tip 6: Investing time improving your skills or learning a new skill
I know it really sounds cliché to say “learn something new”, and I will admit that I was one of those people that would roll my eyes at that suggestion…really, the world is ending and your advice is “learn something new”???? But hear me out..
I didn’t even think I was “learning anything new” until recently when I was talking with a friend and telling them what I usually spent my days doing. Her reaction was “I already love your cooking, but I cannot wait to see all these new skills you’ve been cooking up in that kitchen”. While I didn’t consciously seek to learn new cooking skills, it just automatically happened because I was bored with the selection of available food by our grocery provider and I wanted to find new creative ways to eat carrots. Because the kitchen has anyways always been my therapeutic room, I had a lot of fun staying up watching cooking shows and preparing my ingredients for the following day to create my own version. Go on youtube and learn a new language, learn how to breakdance, get creative with art and play around with colors – whether it’s spending time improving on an existing skill or learning a new one, create in your schedule a time to do something fun that will revive your soul and spirit alive.
There is, however, one thing I advice against learning, and that is something that is too complex and technical. Unless you are also engaging in learning other relaxing activities, you do not want to go from being exhausted from your work to spending more hours figuring out how to code. Engage in something that allows you to still find its beauty in its premature stage.
Tip 7: Deactivating from social media
And I left the most important for last…SOCIAL MEDIA!!! Noticed how everyone is all of sudden an expert on this virus? Everyone is so sure what this is, what it’s doing and where its headed. At this point, I don’t see the need for scientists because social media has cracked the code (well, they have cracked a variety of codes). If its not constant updates on the media of new infections and death tolls rising, its fake news articles telling you that they are coming after you….I mean, the fake news media is thriving at their best right now and they are probably so proud of themselves.
While distancing yourself from social media and people that provoke your peace of mind will not make everything stop, it will help you develop healthy ways to respond to things. At this point, most people know that when they sent me newsletters on “BREAKING-NEWS” my common response is either a laughing emoji (because I’ve now learned to discern facts from fabrication), Kermit-emoji (because that’s really just none of my business) or “Shame, I really hope it gets better” (because that is really all I can do: hope and pray that it gets better). I understand that this is the time more than ever to stay informed and ignorance just can’t be accepted, but at what cost are you willing to pay to stay “woke” and “informed” about current affairs? I believe this is the time more than ever to critically strategize where you choose to get your information and cancel out all other news.
My go-to sources of information that I can recommend is the WHO website (and I don’t mean fabricated screenshot pictures on social media, I mean actually type on your browser http://www.who.int!!!), scientific research papers (you don’t have to be knowledgeable in science and medicine, but just a quick scan of the article or you can forward to a friend working in healthcare to help you interpret the article in simple terms) and a couple of health workers who update relevant posts on their social media.
While you are working to control the amount of time you spent on social media, I also encourage you to stop circulating unverified information to your family and friends. Even though someone else also sent that to you, be the one to break that cycle. If it means explicitly telling those close to you that you do not wish to be sent unverified information, DO THAT! Or simply ignore such posts. Soon enough, people will get discouraged to sent you anything because they know you will not react to it, and nothing annoys people more than not getting the reaction they hoped they would from you.
To conclude, the world may or may not be ending (who’s to really say), but whatever is ahead of us, why would you want to arrive there without your mind?? So these are my top tips that I can scribble down for you and I hope that you will give one or two a try and find them helpful.
Until the next post, leaving you with some of that good-good mental health vibes:)
P.S I hope you weren’t scrolling through this post with dirty hands, if you were, please go wash your hands now! That’s NASTY!