It’s safe to say that over the past five months, there probably isn’t a single person who hasn’t gone a little stir-crazy at one point or another. As our world grapples with two global crises — systemic racism and the COVID-19 pandemic — tensions are high. And while the hope for change and a better tomorrow is inspiring, this period has been emotionally and physically testing for us all.
Many of us have spent the majority of what’s now nearly half a year indoors. And given the uncertainty of what lies ahead in the year to come, many of us will find ourselves spending more time than usual inside for the foreseeable future. Whether you’re heading back to college in the fall, attending classes remotely, or somewhere in between, it’s not a bad idea to start thinking about how you will put yourself (and your health) first this fall.
Get your routine down.
When quarantine started back in the spring, many of us experienced a sharp shift in our schedules. For some people the pandemic meant longer work days, fewer hours with family, and a heightened risk of infection. Others, however, experienced the privilege of what felt like too much time at their disposal. Sleep in until noon? Don’t mind if I do. Want to go without pants all day? Go for it. Late night snacking in bed? Sure!
While this lack of structure and no-rules mentality was fun for the first week or so, it got old pretty fast. Without a consistent structure, the days can start to feel purposeless, which sooner or later can make your mood plummet. As quarantine went on, we managed to construct better routines. However, with school starting back up again in the fall, many of us will be confronted with the task of establishing yet another routine (and one that’s predominately indoors).
What should your new routine consist of? Wake up at a decent hour. Set your alarm (or three, if you need), and hold yourself accountable for waking up. Once you’re up, chances are you still aren’t fully awake yet, so have some water and do a little stretching on the floor to activate your muscles and get your blood pumping. Break down your obligations for the day and try to distinguish specific spaces for different activities. For example, if you have a remote class, it’s easy to pick up the habit of working in bed. Resist the urge, trust me. Especially during these emotionally charged times, it’s important to have a place that is solely for relaxation and peace. Allow your bed to be that space and hit the books at your desk or kitchen counter instead.
If you’re worried about staying busy, one trick to try is writing out a list of tasks for the day. Rank the tasks in order of highest to lowest priority. You’d be surprised at how the amount of time it takes to do a lot of little, everyday chores like laundry or closet cleaning can add up. Keeping busy is a win-win-win! It helps limit your screen time (which we could all use right about now); it can add to your non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT), if you are moving up and down stairs with laundry or emptying the dishwasher; best of all, it can be a great way to leave you with a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day.
Reflect. Re-evaluate. Repeat.
One of the double-edged swords of quarantine and social distancing is that there is a lot more time to think. Like a lot. All the over-thinkers out there know that an excuse to be thinking more can be more of a negative than a positive, but hear me out. These coming months offer a silver lining of self-reflection, something that there was far less time for before the events of 2020. Update your Goodreads account, or better yet, start a virtual book club with friends. Take a pause out of each day to write in a journal. This year will undoubtedly be remembered as one of the most tumultuous, unexpected, and revolutionary moments in history. You’re going to want to remember how you were feeling, what your plans were, who your crush was, and more when you look back 20 years later.
Along with self-reflection, use this period indoors to reassess the people in your life. We’ve all dealt with a problematic friendship or two, but in the hustle and bustle of daily life, we often lack the energy and the time to evaluate what people, places, and things need to be cut out. Now more than ever, relationships both with friends and partners are being tested. If you can make it through the pandemic with your boo and your besties still by your side, you’ve probably got some real keepers.
Feed your mind and your body.
Remember when everyone and their mother was baking banana bread as a coping mechanism? Unfortunately, we can’t live off of banana bread (if only), but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t nourish your foodie spirit with your excess time indoors! Have you always wanted to meal prep your food, but were too lazy to research it? Interested in giving a vegetarian diet a shot? Now is the perfect time to explore new, healthy food avenues and broaden your palate.
Food and exercise are both central to healthy living. Now, by no means do you have to re-enter society as a reformed health nut or marathon runner, but consider creating a workout routine that meets your fitness goals. Maybe you want to start doing yoga twice a week. Look for classes on YouTube (it’s free!) and write out a timetable for when you want to practice. If you want to build up your endurance and get into running, start by running as far as you can the first day and then add a little bit more each day after that. Jot down your daily workout in a notebook or look for a workout tracking app on your phone.
Most importantly, remember that eating and exercise are all about balance. Recognize that these are stressful times and cut yourself some slack. So, you miss a few workouts or eat chips for dinner. You’re human. Take the pressure off a bit and allow yourself to enjoy what you put in your body.
Shut the screen off.
It’s unsettling to think about how many extra hours of screen time we’ve all accumulated during quarantine. From reading news updates to frantically trying to escape the news on Instagram, TikTok or Twitter, our eyes are getting a whole lot of blue light. Obviously, there are times you have to have your screen on more than usual — we now live in a world where Zoom is the new IRL. But for the non-essential bits, like checking your socials, playing Fortnite, or watching Netflix until 2 a.m., try to ease up a little.
If you know you have no willpower, take your screen time usage out of your own hands. On most smartphones you can set controls for different apps in your settings. As a starting point, shoot for no more than an hour each day. You will be blown away by how much time you free up when you aren’t spending six hours on your feed.
Make room for others.
The one thing almost everyone has had in common over the past few months is much, much more alone time. We all vary in the amount of time we like to have for ourselves, but we all need human connection. It’s vital. While many now have to keep in touch exclusively through a screen, focusing on staying connected to the people you love is essential right now. Give your mom a phone call, text your sister that meme you saw on Twitter, schedule a FaceTime date with your ride-or-die every Friday. These all sound like simple things, but the reality is that these small moments of friendship, laughter, and love are what will keep our heads on right during these perilous times.
Maybe life indoors will be the reality for another few months. Maybe it will be another few years. It’s a slightly unnerving thought that no one truly knows the real “end” to this new reality. In the meantime, we all have to be mindful of our health, look after ourselves and look after each other. We may emerge on the other side with a little less color in our cheeks, but we’ll make it through. And hey, we may even come out with a full journal, a new favorite author, and a mastered Pinterest recipe.