The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to stop so much of what used to be routine. The sudden change can be jarring, but there is a silver lining. For many people, staying at home can be an opportunity to focus on yourself.
Giving up some of the hustle and bustle of commuting, going out with friends, and planning shopping trips and playdates may allow some extra time and energy to work on your health. We cover some aspects of physical health in a separate post, and here are six tips to work on mental, emotional, and social health.
1. Spend more time with your family.
It may already feel like you are spending too much time with your family if everyone is stuck at home. The last thing you may feel like doing is actively seeking out time to spend with them if you are spending most of your day wishing your family members go somewhere else and leave you in peace. However, spending some actual quality time with them can make you happier if it brings you closer together and allows you to feel the shared experience.
Spending time together means focusing on a common activity. This is different from other parts of the day when you are “together,” but may have conflicting interests, such as you needing quiet while in a meeting, your spouse watching TV while getting in a workout, one child asking for a snack, and the other child needing help with homework. In contrast, your time together can be more harmonious, such as cooking and eating dinner together, gardening, taking a walk, watching a movie, playing a game, planning a post-covid vacation, or working on a during-covid home improvement project.
2. Spend some time “apart.”
Yes, it is possible to work, play, and sleep within feet of your housemates and also spend some time apart. The trick is to agree with your family or other household members to, well, ignore each other for certain periods of time. Rather than being rude, this arrangement can allow everyone to relax and focus on their work or whatever else they are thinking about, rather than worrying about what to say to each other or whether they will be interrupted by someone in the household.
If your housemates are unrelated to you, your agreement might be to be “on your own” during business hours, and to “come together” for dinner and the evening hours. If you are living with your family, such as a significant other and children, your agreement may include more “together” time, such as having two hours in the morning and two hours in the afternoon, while being available to each other for interactions at meal times and evening hours.
3. Learn something.
Without seeing as many people or having as many experiences outside of the home, it may be healthy to stimulate your brain during COVID-19 by exploring an interest, such as art or gardening, learning something, such as a language, or working on a hobby. If you need inspiration, you might think of something you used to do as a child, such as play an instrument or draw horses, or think of things that fascinate you now, such as cooking or how the plumbing works. Online resources and books can help.
Studies have suggested that benefits of meditation can include stress reduction, improved sleep, better mood, less binge-eating, improved focus, and better pain management. It can take only a few minutes per day to get the benefits of meditation. Anytime that you are alone can work, and right after waking and just before bed may be good times.
5. Be social.
Video conferencing platforms such as Zoom, Google Duo, Skype, and WhatsApp, to name just a few, let you keep in touch with friends without hosting movie or game nights or going out to a bar or restaurant. You may even find yourself being better about staying in touch with old friends when you meet virtually, and it can help to set aside a regular time to meet. These and other platforms tend to be easy to use and they usually have options for free accounts.
In-person clubs, conferences, parties, and classes may no longer be options if you are trying to expand your social circle, but there has never been a better time to get involved in pretty much anything. There is sure to be a group ready to speak Latin, a class for perfecting your cake decorating skills, and a virtual tour of your dream vacation destination…and if not, you can start your own group.
6. Cultivate creativity.
Staying at home all day deprives your brain of some opportunities to think, so it may be healthy to challenge your brain in other ways. Being creative in whatever way you can can further stimulate your brain. Trying new recipes, painting, drawing, knitting, sewing, decorating the house, and journaling are all ways you can be creative. Doodling and coloring books, online crafting sites, and themed cookbooks, such as vegan cooking or one-pot cooking, can help you get started if you need inspiration. Creativity can be practical too, such as rearranging drawers or closets and planting a garden.