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I just completed my sixth week of this “new normal” — otherwise known as “living at home as much as you can” — and am here to provide some of my top tips for navigating the next few weeks (or months?) of your life. This will be tough, but it does get better, I promise.
Working from home can be great. I enjoy the morning conferences that involve spraying in dry shampoo, putting on a sweater, but staying in my pajama bottoms. I didn’t put on makeup for weeks. I completed chores I’d put off for months. I started a new hobby of bread-making.
But spending so much time alone, especially with constant news updates and a climate of fear, makes me anxious. I stayed up all night wondering what the future looks like: When will I go back to work? When can I go home to America? Will I get sick? Will anyone I know get sick? Am I taking this too seriously? Am I not taking it seriously enough?
Turns out there’s a lot of time in the day. I realized I have no coping skills. I don’t really have any hobbies that don’t involve a screen or running around outside. And I might not have it as all together as I thought I did. I got sick of my own company, I learned that a face mask is uncomfortable and my breath does smell, I wasn’t washing my hands enough, and I touch my face ALL the time.
This was hard to realize until I did a teacher-y thing and made a list. As you start looking at the next few weeks of quarantine or social distancing, here are some things I’ve learned and some hopefully helpful tips:
1) Don’t panic buy: People did in Hong Kong about toilet paper because there was a random rumor that the factories in China stop making it in favor of making masks, so people freaked out. But people bought so much TP, it’s now going moldy in their houses, which causes other problems. Rats like it too. We created a crisis in a crisis. There will be TP. Or just take a shower after. Calm down. You also need everyone around you to have soap and hand sanitizer, which they cannot have if you buy 400 cases.
2) Get a routine: Keep getting up in the morning at the same-ish time. Set up a home office. Set working hours. Make a designated space.
3) Set small goals: It feels like a small accomplishment to tick things off a list. Make a list of things to clean and organize. Clean out closets; rearrange your shelves. I made a Thanksgiving cornbread recipe in March because I found the mix one day. It was a delight.
4) Read: Read all the physical books in your house before you download new ones.
5) Watch movies: Do NOT watch Outbreak. Challenge yourself with a theme. We had a film noir night, and now we’re watching all the Will Ferrell movies. Include flavored popcorn blind tests.
6) Get plants: They’ll brighten up the indoors and give you something to talk to. And oxygen! Hashtag win.
7) Adopt a rescue pup! You’ve got time at home now to train them.
8) Go through your Pinterest boards: Try something you “never have time for.” I’ve done makeup and hair tutorials! Get crafty. Cook a new dish.
9) Talk on the phone: As we spend more physical time apart, it’s important to remain connected.
10) Get organized: Do the mundane things we always put off: Check finances, unsubscribe to old email lists, change the oil, clean out your purse, and clip your fingernails short to repel germs. Another tiny thing that gave me joy: organizing my iTunes. Capitals in all the right places, deleting songs I realized I hated, making playlists, filling in all information. Delightful.
11) Phone purge: Delete all bad photos, apps you don’t use or need, and contacts you don’t want. While doing so, message a few people you haven’t talked to in a while.
12) Call your mom.
13) Dust off the board games: Their time has come.
14) Invite over a friend for dinner: Someone whose job is truly affected by the changes, i.e., anyone in customer service, retail, restaurants, or tourism.
15) Get cozy: Have candles and slippers and sweatshirts. Make inside a sanctuary.
16) Do self-care: Whatever it looks like for you. For me it’s Cheetos and wine and YouTube videos of kids getting puppies for Christmas.
17) Get healthy: Get up and stretch. Relax your shoulders RIGHT NOW. Take supplements. Drink water. Get outside everyday.
18) Get away: When it gets to be too much, take a staycation if you can. Camp in your backyard, get a hotel, turn off all devices — whatever “checking out” looks like for you.
19) Get it done: Make the appointments you’ve been putting off. I’m getting hair lasered, a physical, and a haircut.
20) Get some sleep: I find the nighttime is when I get most anxious, so it’s important to get that under control how you can.
21) Clean your phone and laptop keys.
22) Prepare enough: Assess your readiness for an emergency. But don’t freak out.
23) Give thanks, pray, and vote! If you are reading this list, you are probably better off than at least 90 percent of the world population. Pray this doesn’t kick off in Africa. Pray for containment in Italy and Iran and the health-care workers on the frontlines. Be so grateful for that and make conscious choices to take care of the vulnerable in our society, our earth, the systems that can keep us safe. Vote for responsible people who respect science, who care about people.
We don’t know what the next few weeks, months, or even years might look like. Take care of yourselves and each other.
Rachel Weight was the Santa Barbara Independent’s listings editor from 2006 to 2008. Follow her online at racheldangerw.com.