Alright people, we’re a few weeks into quarantine now. The “stay at home” new car smell is gone. If you’re feeling stagnant, bored, and tired of watching netflix then this is for you.
Why you feel the way you do
Before all this started you had routines for most of your life. You had places you went, times you did things, and in many ways you knew what to expect from life.
Most of that was taken from you. You can’t move freely, you can’t follow your usual schedule, and it’s not clear what life should look like now. But you don’t have to be the victim. You can recreate the normalcy and stability that your old schedule used to offer you.
How a routine will make you feel better
A great IAmA with Vietnam POW Navy Capt. J Charles (Charlie) Plumb had a great response to this situation. He emphasized making a schedule and concentrating on things you can control.
You can create a new schedule. You can make a new normal. You don’t have to feel helpless because you can give yourself purpose. Going to the gym across town or eating out isn’t what creates positive feelings. It’s seeing yourself make progress towards your goals and doing things you enjoy that creates positive feelings. You can work out at home. You can learn to cook good food at home. You can learn things and use technology to connect with people and grow in whatever way is fulfilling for you.
Use this as an opportunity
Reframe this into an opportunity. What goals have you been putting off? What things have you wanted to work on but you haven’t had time? You have time now. Actually sit down and make a list of all the things you’ve been wanting to do. Pencil and paper. They might not all happen exactly the same but you can still leverage the emotional investment you had in those plans to enjoy the present.
I wanted to visit Europe this spring. I can’t fly now, but there’s endless travel vlogs and documentaries and gorgeous footage on YouTube. I’m not stuck staring at my apartment wall unless I choose to be (I don’t want to choose that).
I wanted to eat healthier. Now I can cook breakfast, lunch, and dinner at home and try lots of new things. I’m not living on pizza and cheetos unless I choose to be (I don’t want to choose that).
I wanted to build apps and write blogs and read books and finally do the home physical therapy to heal some old IT band issues. We can take advantage of quarantine to do everything we were too busy for before. We can choose that.
Create a space that creates positive feelings
Give yourself a space you can feel good in. You might not realize it but there’s probably a lot clutter or mess or disorganization taxing you in your life. Not giant things, but every time you see that one stack of papers or that one pile of shoes or that one messy cabinet….it withdrawls some of the happy out of you. When you’re home all day, that’s a lot of withdrawals.
I can’t emphasize this enough: The space you live in can give you great joy if you maintain it. Seeing clean counters, organized shelves, a clear desk, etc. These can all be little happiness deposits instead of withdrawals.
Call your friends. Try a video call if you can, the extra body language will make you feel way more connected. This quarantine is challenging, but it is way harder if you get stuck in your own head. Honestly I’ve felt closer to most of my friends in the last month than I did for the whole year before. We have more time for calls. The usual hubub of life isn’t filling our schedule. We can follow up and support each other and relate to the difficulties we’re going through.
Take care of your body
Maintaining health is critical right now, and there are responsible ways we can do that. If you can go take walks and maintain social distancing/safe practices please do. It will get you some air and sun which are critical for feeling your best. There’s also no end to home workouts on YouTube and getting in a routine here will pay massive dividends. There’s never been a better time to start healthy habits. Let’s take care of our bodies so they take care of us.
We can do this
There are far fewer limits on you right now than you realize. The flights being cancelled doesn’t mean you can’t experience things you’ve never seen before. The bar being closed doesn’t mean you can’t connect with friends. The gym being closed doesn’t mean you can’t get fit.
Life is not easy right now. But you are not powerless. You are not alone. You are a resourceful human being with a different group of opportunities and challenges than you are used to. How great would you feel if you look back and see this as the time you made a lot of changes for the better? What a relief would it be, if quarantine ends and you are a month or two established in new habits that are great for you? What if you look back and instead of seeing a stagnant, uneventful blur you see the start of a journey towards things you always wanted?
You can have that. Quarantine is not holding you back. And I don’t want you to hold yourself back either.
Further reading: The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday is a fantastic book that really helped me to reframe challenges and help me learn from them in all areas of life. Highly recommend it if this post resonated with you. It takes a little effort to learn but once I saw that I could find opportunities to grow even in hard times, it was way easier to stay positive because even when life gave me a curveball I could get something out of it.
Disclaimer: Following the guidelines of health professionals is always priority 1 and none of this post is meant to contradict official best practices or presume medical authority. Please be sensible. Hopefully you can find ways to apply this advice in a safe way and we can make the most of what we have.