Finding Routine and Small Joys in Quarantine Life

Here’s a post I’d never anticipated writing: what to do when you voluntarily self-quarantine during a global pandemic.

First, for those that may not be totally bought in on the gravity of this situation:

The best article I’ve found on Flattening the Curve.

So if you aren’t already choosing to stay home in all but the most essential situations, please do. What’s essential? Going to work if working from home isn’t an option (and I know it’s not for many, and I respect that, just do your best), getting food when needed, and for medical reasons. That’s really it. That isn’t to say you can’t go outside (more on that in a minute), but whenever you can be in your own home, do it. For the good of EVERYONE, and to help our already overburdened health care system.

Now that we’re all stuck at home, what are we doing? All weekend I was obsessively reading and watching everything I could get my hands on about the virus, how it was spreading in our area, how it compares to other places. A lot of horror stories, and a lot of anger. Naturally, this had a pretty negative affect on how I was feeling. I spent most of Monday feeling hopeless, overwhelmed, and sad. I’d convinced myself that every possible bad thing was going to happen to me and the people I care about and I couldn’t shake that feeling of terror (full disclosure, I was also trying out a hormonal birth control pill that was having some serious effects on my mood at the worst possible time, so the feeling of being out-of-control was really amplified). My motivation to do anything “hard” was non-existent – and in this instance, “hard” meant things like reading books, doing work of any kind, writing, anything that would fall into that self-development category. I wasn’t having it.

It was very clear that I couldn’t continue on like that in isolation for 2+ weeks without losing my whole freakin mind, so I had to take my own advice and tell myself to STOP and reassess. Why am I panicking at this level? Because I’m spending too much energy watching and reading the news. For better or worse, the only thing within my control when it comes to the pandemic is my ability to self-isolate. I’d already made the decision to do that, so to continue obsessively reading about what’s happening is pointless. I am NOT saying to not be informed, but if you’re sitting slack-jawed in front of a 24-hour news channel all day long, you’re not actually gaining control over the situation. You’re just feeding into your own stress. I was just feeding into my own panic. So I had to stop.

I also made an agreement with myself to create an adjusted daily routine for this period of isolation. I could easily fall into the pattern of not getting out of bed (except to walk the dog and use the bathroom) and zoning out to the news or Netflix or whatever. I know I don’t like how I feel when I do that. Here’s what I’m doing instead:

  • Turn off the morning alarm. I’m not going anywhere, so I may as well get as much sleep as I can! It’s so soothing to wake up naturally and with the sun in the mornings.
  • Go through the rest of my normal morning routine as if nothing had changed:
    • Hygiene things
    • Big glass of water with salt
    • A few minutes of yoga
    • A short meditation
    • 30 minutes of drinking coffee and checking the news
    • List 5 things I’m grateful for, and then make a daily to-do list
  • Before ANYTHING ELSE, I work out. I find it difficult to motivate myself to workout at home, so my goal is to just DO IT before I even have time to think about it. Usually 30-45 minutes of basic bodyweight movements, some band work (I don’t have much equipment here), mobility. The thing that makes it easier is that I still listen to the most ridiculous trap music I can find while I do it, and that makes it feel like a normal workout! 
  • Follow that up with some time outside: either a run OR a longer walk with my dog. The fresh air helps.
  • Shower time. And I take this as an opportunity to spend more time on that extra self-care stuff: full body exfoliation for example.
  • Put on a real outfit. Something that wouldn’t be embarrassing to wear in public. Accessories too. I want to feel like it’s a normal day. I’ll probably choose yoga pants over jeans, and that’s fine.
  • Breakfast. Something healthy, maybe something that takes a little longer to cook because again, I have the time.
  • Work. The ultimate goal is to knock out all of my to-dos early so I can spend as much time as I want on fun distractions. It motivates me to get through my coaching tasks efficiently. 

Following these steps, by the late afternoon, I’ve accomplished all I needed to do in that day. I moved my body and took care of my clients. 

I’m a simple person; I like prizes. My prize at the end of an isolated day? Video games. 

It’s been YEARS since I’ve really played video games (and my taste is pretty basic) because I’ve always been too busy. But they’re perfect for right now, while I’m still feeling some anxiety and could use something fun to distract myself. So I dive into something strategy-based and enjoy it (maybe with wine), guilt-free.

I do have one small caveat, to keep myself moving: every 30 minutes I set an alarm to get up and do 15 Push-ups, 15 Air Squats, and 15 Leg Lowers, just to keep my body feeling good. Every hour or two I get up and take BB on a walk around the block.

I’m still struggling with motivation to a certain degree. I have no interest in doing a ton of reading right now, and I’m accepting it. I suspect that will change over the course of the next week or so. For now, I’m enjoying the pure leisure of laying on my couch playing games, and trying to let go of the judge in my head telling me I’m not productive enough. It’s a work in progress.

Take care of yourself, in every way. Eat as healthy as you can, get some movement in, do what you need to do, and otherwise? Enjoy yourself somehow. This is what guilty pleasures are for.

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