With mass quarantine rippling out worldwide in the wake of the Coronavirus, I thought I would share some tips on surviving being stuck at home for long periods of time. As many of you know, I've suffered chronic health issues for over a decade and have a lot of personal experience in making the most of life in the same four walls for weeks or months on end. So if you are looking on how to preserve your sanity along with your health, this article might just be a lifesaver!
Not all of these are applicable if you are actively, seriously sick, and your energy should always be firstly on providing yourself and your loved ones with rest and nutrients. However, mental health remains important as well, so if you are in recovery, staying home to minimize exposure, or if you have a light case, or trying to keep your kids busy while you rest up, here are some ideas that I have found to be real sanity savers over the years.
Your Home is Your Sanctuary
The single most important concept of surviving intense geographical limitation is to make sure that the area you inhabit is an area that makes you happy. Peace and joy are immune strengtheners while stress and depression knock you down. So tidy up. Organize. Get that new piece of wall decor you've been eyeing. Wash the windows. Paint the room. Add mood lights. Get a plant. Wash or replace the curtains/furniture covers. Toss the clutter. Rearrange furniture to help the house feel 'new.' When you are sick, tidiness will slide, so make it a priority when you are feeling well, and keep your housemates/family on the same page.
Be clear about your health and ask about the health of others. But beyond that, spend intentional time connecting with others. Write an email to someone you haven't seen in awhile. Fill them in on your life and ask about theirs. Schedule video chats. Call your mom. Start a virtual book club. Join some facebook hobby groups that are focused on non-COVID topics. Follow some uplifting tags on Instagram, and make sure to leave meaningful comments on social media photos of friends and family. You never know when you might reconnect with someone!
If you have housemates or family members living with you, you might suddenly find yourselves spending a LOT more time together. Talk about what everyone needs in terms of personal space and time and figure out how to manage everyone's needs. Worry and sickness can make it more difficult to remain neutral and pleasant in conversation and you may find yourselves snapping at each other. Be mindful. If you slip up, apologize. An apology is such a heartwarming thing. Don't let the sun go down on your anger. Use "I feel" language instead of "you did this" language. Extroverts need to give introverts their space, and introverts need to mindfully initiate contact with extroverts. Take care of each other.
If/when you get sick...be kind to your caregiver. Say thank you. Be the patient for them that you hope they will be for you.
If you take care of someone else...be cheerful. Check in on them. Help them get better faster. Be the caregiver you hope they will be for you, if only in the sense of being clearly aware of what THEY need.
Innovate in the Kitchen
Between being stuck at home, finding finances tighter, and needing to fill yourselves with healthy and not junk food, you may find yourself getting really bored of your diet really fast. One of the best things you can do is use your energy to cook some meals that are healthy and delicious. Cook in bulk so that you have plenty of leftovers in the fridge and freezer, so that you have good, enticing food at home to eliminate the desire to go out and buy cheap, unhealthy craving food in germ-transmissable areas.
Streaming is Your Friend...When You Laugh
While it may be a good time to cut back on excessive streaming services, keeping one or rotating a few may be key to getting through this pandemic, especially when you are too sick to do much else. However, keep in mind that laughter is healing and stress is weakening! So skip the horror and suspense and keep to the hilarious and heartwarming. Rewatch old favorites and ask friends for recommendations. Swapping DVD sets now before Coronavirus hits your community might be wise, but DVD cases are also fairly easy to sterilize and dropoffs can be prudently managaged.
E-Books Don't Carry Germs
I love a good book when I'm sick. I've got a whole host of recommended titles over on this page. While I haven't stopped borrowing library books, it's probably wise to stock up BEFORE you have to go into quarantine and before your community gets hit, to minimize germs spreading from person to person contact. Once COVID arrives in your community, it's probably wise to let your books sit unread and untouched for a few days after picking them up, to ensure any germs sticking around are dead. If even that contact isn't a good idea for you, check into your library's system for borrowing e-books. Even if you don't have an e-reader, you can read on your phone or laptop. Amazon Prime members can borrow some books for free (I just enjoyed "The Mark of the Raven" this way), or you can subscribe to Kindle Unlimited for many more titles (my own novel, "The Mermaid and the Unicorn" is available in KU). You can also sign up for Bookbub, which sends you a list of new ebook deals (free or very cheap) every Sunday.
Audiobooks, podcasts, and webcomics are also excellent timefillers to amuse and enlighten.
Check Your Pinterest Backlog
Bored? Open your pinterest and start going through your boards. You might be surprised by the diy projects, family game ideas, and housecleaning tips that you pinned five years ago and never got around to doing.
Marie Kondo It
As your house seems smaller, you'll find more and more impetus to throw stuff out and create space! Might be an excellent time to sort through your wardrobe, bookshelf, or collection of shotglasses to clear things out. Just don't donate anything until you are well and the items no longer contain live viruses.
As toilet paper disappears, your budget crunches, and you have some sedentary time to fold laundry, it might be a good opportunity to implement some new processes in your house. Family Cloth is rising in popularity these days as a toilet paper alternative...but if that is too extreme, you can switch to cloth napkins and use your paper napkins as backup toilet paper. Sewing your own cloth napkins could be a satisfying project, and easy enough for any sewing novices or youngsters in the household to assist with.
Family Game Night
I'm not talking Monopoly. Remember what I said about stress and the immune system? (And probably not "Pandemic" either, as much as I love that game!). However there are a bajillion and four tabletop boardgames to enjoy these days. I particularly enjoy cooperative games such as the Harry Potter "Battle for Hogwarts", however I'm always down for raising sheep and wheat in "Catan", building railways in "Ticket to Ride", or hoarding coins as Prince John in Disney's "Villainous." Facebook is a great way to crowdsource recommendations from people who know you personally, and you could swap games with friends as well, as long as you thoughtfully mitigate germs hopping along. If you live on your own, or run out of two-player options to play with your one housemate, you can register for an account on Steam or a similar service and play remotely with friends and family.
Go On Adventures Without Leaving Your Living Room
...and on a similar note, perhaps it's time to look into starting an Role Playing Game via video chat or an old-fashioned email chain? During the six years of our marriage, one way my husband and I coped with being extremely housebound was hosting a regular role-playing group with our friends. Although I could rarely physically leave my living room, I still managed to rescue victims, explore new cities, start rebellions, and exchange witty repartee with my friends. If you have a large family/roomie situation or one other household you can exclusively meet with, you can manage an in-person group. However I've also had great fun with video chat sessions, or text-based rpg via chat, email, or forums. There are many systems you can play for free, and dice rolls can be generated via apps, so there is little to no financial barrier.
Get started on exploring these options, or check out my second post of more specialized suggestions!