A few weeks ago, I had the worst weekend of this whole quarantine thing. It was the result of a mix of things: news I saw online combined with the overhanging thought that we’re not sure when this is going to “end”.
The reality is that “normal life” as we knew it will likely never return — I’ve even stopped trying to say the word “normal” because what does that even mean anymore?
Admittedly, I’m someone who hates change. So, even though self-isolation doesn’t appear much different than my pre-quarantine life — I was working from home, cooking my meals and my family lives across the country — this has rocked my world.
Like most people, I miss things from the old way of living: being able to plan trips and adventures, getting excited for a concert (that’s not in someone’s living room) and going to yoga almost every day.
When this all began, my approach was to keep things the same as much as I could. I was still working with a full load of clients, so I had work and meetings to fill my days, I was taking yoga classes via Zoom and I was sticking to that routine. I felt like I could survive this forever if I had to.
But, then I lost a majority of my clients due to COVID-19, which changed my schedule and my financial situation. And I quickly realized that the Zoom workout classes just weren’t cutting it — it has nothing to do with the instructors or efforts on anyone’s part — I simply cannot focus on a good workout while I’m in my apartment.
So, when I had this bad weekend a few weeks ago, I got to thinking. I remembered that I’ve built this blog and have lived my life following a set of suggestions (of my own making) to turn ANY situation into a beneficial one.
What do I do when that situation is one the world has never seen? It’s an interesting question that seemed impossible to answer two weeks ago, but I’ve come to a few conclusions.
Before I list them, I’ll say this: I have been struggling with this. I don’t want anyone to read this or any of my other blog posts and walk away feeling like everyone has it together and you’re the only one who isn’t jumping out of bed and knocking things off a to-do list. No way.
Take it day-by-day
Some days, I feel good and I can get lots done, while other days, I struggle to get out of bed. I’ve accepted that this is a stressful time for everyone (on some level) and I’m prepared to take the days as they come. There’s no real reason to make plans, so I’m going with the flow as much as I can.
Part of this has to do with sleep. We’ve probably all had — or have heard about how many people are experiencing — sleep issues. Because I don’t have much of a schedule, I have mostly stopped setting an alarm (unless I have an early call) and I go to bed when I feel tired, and wakeup whenever my body lets me.
Focus on yourself
Staying present and controlling only what is within reach has worked the best for me. I was getting a lot of anxiety when I heard cities were opening up (including those in Texas) and I was worried more people would get sick and we’d be in self-isolation all year.
But I cannot control any of that. I can only control myself and what happens in my home, and I don’t have to leave if I’m not ready. Sure, I miss going out and doing certain things, but the anxiety of everything new — seeing everyone in a mask (and wearing one), following new rules at the checkout counters and having to scrub down when I return home — isn’t worth it yet.
Focusing on yourself also means not comparing your quarantine to anyone else’s. It’s easy to think that everyone else is really winning at life right now (thank you, social media) and that people are going to come out of quarantine with new bodies, new homes and a buttload of cash. Whatever. I’m fine with none of those things happening for me and I keep it moving.
Make a few lists
Instead of making daily to-do lists, I’ve started making more general to-do lists for those items that have a loose timeline (back to taking this day-by-day). Because I’m in a position where I need to look for more clients or figure out ways to make money, I made a list of ideas that will contribute to my bank account and made a goal to check off one item from that list each day.
I also keep an ongoing grocery list. I have been going to the store about every 3-4 weeks and I plan to keep it that way for awhile. By keeping the ongoing list, I’m more prepared when I go in and unlikely to forget something I wanted.
I also have a list of projects around the apartment I can do, if I feel like it. I haven’t had the urge to clean out my closet or organize my massive collection of craft supplies, but I’ve started sprucing up my patio (ordering every single thing online) and have been ordering printed pictures from my previous travels to put in albums.
If you find satisfaction from checking off lists like I do, you can also put things on your daily to-do list that will give you a sense of pride. Don’t be afraid to list “eat lunch” or “shower.” I have “listen to podcast” on my daily list, and it feels good to check it off.
Have a stash of mindless activities
This could go with the previous tip, but I’ve found that having a little pile of things I can do that aren’t really “productive” but can ease my mind in times of panic is helpful. My pile includes a coloring book and colored pencils, Lego sets, and a load of embroidery floss in case I get the urge to make some old school friendship bracelets.
Your pile may look completely different and maybe you’ll never touch it — I have only dabbled in the coloring book — but it’s nice knowing it’s there if I need it. If I ever feel really bored or like I can’t concentrate on anything else, there’s still stuff I can do.
Turn to old favorites
About a week ago, I started to get a craving for things from the past. I dug out all of my old favorite movies from the early 2000’s — “10 Things I Hate About You” and “Drive Me Crazy” and I’ve watched “She’s All That” no less than five times in the last two days.
I also made a playlist of cheesy boy band songs from that same time period and have been listening to it all the time. I even hung colorful string lights in my bedroom. I’m 34, but no one sees this stuff but me. I always think if it brings me joy and isn’t harming others, then it’s fine.
So, I wasn’t surprised when a childhood snack came to my mind: Triscuits with melted cheese. I added it to my grocery list and it’s everything I remembered and more.
I don’t know if my body has just hit trauma-level and is reverting to happier times, but I’m going with it. If I’m going to be forced to cancel all of my trips and skip concerts and festivals this year, then I’m going to hang the fucking string lights and eat cheesy crackers, okay?
Pay attention to what you’re consuming
I am not talking about food. If you’re feeling anxious or depressed, it could be you’re taking in too much news and social media. It’s tempting as hell, but now that we’re seven weeks into this thing, I realized there’s really no reason to pay much attention to the outside world (as bad as that sounds).
I take a quick look on Twitter to get the headlines, but there’s not much I need to know if I can’t leave my apartment. I do still get on social media, but it’s much less… I honestly started feeling like I don’t care what everyone else is doing and I certainly don’t feel like looking at the perfect, clean homes of bloggers and seeing what unnecessary items people are buying.
Even watching my usual TV shows has proven to be a downer, which is why I’ve been watching more movies and listening to more music. I’ve also been reading a little more and using the Calm app for meditation.
Write in a journal
Even if you’re not a writer or a regular journal-keeper, it’s not a bad idea to write down what’s going on during this time. I have never been good at keeping a regular journal, but I do have one that I turn to when I feel like I need to mentally work something out.
I have also found that, as nice as it is to talk to friends and family, everyone is going through it in one way or another. Sometimes a journal can be a nice place to vent without fear of judgment and when you’re done, you can slam it shut and hide it under your bed.
So, those are my tips. I know they may not work for everyone, but I wanted to put it out there that thriving in life doesn’t always mean booking the big trips or fancy nights out. Sure, I want those days to come back — I’ve been craving a trip to New York, New Orleans or even Vegas — send me anywhere with all the stimulation.
But life isn’t just about those big moments — it’s a lot of the small ones all strung together. While I don’t plan on becoming a body builder or a gourmet chef during lockdown, I don’t want to look back on 2020 and think of total darkness. So, I’m going to do what I can, when I can, and I’ll give myself a break when I feel like I just can’t.
At the very least, I’ll come out on the other side with a bunch of new playlists and possibly an in-depth analysis of Freddie Prince Jr.
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