We introverts have spent our lives preparing for this moment. When I first heard the term “social distancing” I thought, You mean how I interact with the world and other humans on a daily basis? I realize this time is fraught for most people. I am incredibly grateful not to suddenly be homeschooling children right now. Or trapped in my home with an extroverted spouse who cannot deal with all this alone time.
But there are still plenty of challenges for us singles to be getting on with. The uncertainty, the reality of being stuck inside with a roommate you may or may not especially care for, stories of people hoarding toilet paper and hand sanitizer, adjusting to working from home or having to risk exposure so you can continue earning a living at your service job. Perhaps you are in the camp of defiants out there licking subway poles. But if you’re somewhere in between that and outright panic, let me give you some tips for living your best quarantined life.
I’m here to point out some potential pitfalls to the quarantined life and give you practical ways to make the best of this weird cultural moment. Please don’t try to do all these things at once! Start with one thing, see how it goes, and build from there.
Naming is an important first step in any time of transition and adjustment. Set aside a half an hour or so to journal and/or pray through what you’re worried about and what you’re grateful for. It can be a short list or paragraphs. Just start writing and see what comes out. Try the prompts “I’m afraid of…” and “I love…”
Welcome the Invitation to Slow Down
The first thing I noticed once I moved to NYC was the constant frenetic energy, and how easy it was to get swept up in the non-stop pace of the city. But no matter where you live, I’d argue that as a nation we are very production and results driven. Any time we are confronted with limitations or constraints there are bound to be growing pains--frustration, resentment, and anxiety. But any limit is an invitation to release the lie that we are what we do.
Slowing down allows us to examine the small decisions and habits that make up our lives, and gives us space to assess whether those are working for us or not. How are you feeling about your dating apps these days? Your social media habits? Your work/life balance? What in your life is energizing and what is draining? Take a beat to sit with those questions.
Make Time to Move
Monday I got an email from my gym that it was shutting down for the foreseeable future. It makes sense; gyms are basically petri dishes at the best of times. But it also presented me with a challenge. Movement is vital for my mental health, but having a designated place to workout is a luxury I’m going to have to learn to live without. Yesterday when I got the email, I messaged a friend who is a personal trainer to ask for some creative ways to stick to my workout regime. But even if it’s just five minutes of stretching a few times a day, movement reconnects you with your body and gets you out of your head. If you feel yourself spiraling or overwhelmed by anxious thoughts, that is a great time to move around.
This one is going to be crucial for me. I am the queen of isolating past the point of health, and with so many of my built-in social events, it would be easy for me to fall into that. But instead, I have thought through some ways to connect meaningfully with friends. FaceTime and Google Hangout are great tools for hanging with friends. My community group will be meeting virtually, a couple friends and I are planning to watch a movie together in our respective homes, and my church has a daily prayer meeting at noon. Do you have a friend who lives alone who you could check on? What about a neighbor? Maybe think about starting a book club or other creative ways to engage with others virtually. But definitely have someone you check in with regularly, for you and for them!
Try a New Hobby
I recently received an embroidery kit as a gift. I am not what one might call “crafty,” and by that I mean every time I try to do something like that, I rage quit. But this is a great opportunity to try something new and let myself be bad at it. Think about something creative you could do simply for the delight of doing it. Have a dusty guitar you’ve been meaning to learn how to play? A book you’ve been meaning to read? Why not give it a shot?
I’ll go through this more in my upcoming post “The One Thing You Need When Working from Home,” but just to give you a sneak peek--setting boundaries on how you spend your time is a great way to add some normalcy to your life. Think of boundaries as freedom within limits. When I first started working for myself, the freedom was initially intoxicating. And then it became overwhelming. So I started implementing boundaries on when I would begin working, when I would socialize, how much time I would spend on social media, meal prepping, and setting deadlines. I give myself permission to adjust as needed and have an ideal that I’m working toward. But having a general sense of how I need to spend my time in order to reach my goals has been a game changer.
For some of you, financial uncertainty is a huge burden right now. I'm sure you're already thinking along these lines, but in case you're looking for budgeting resources and ways to set boundaries with your spending, NerdWallet is a great resource. Please do not extend that boundary to a hesitancy to reach out to a friend or neighbor if you need help.
Make a list of projects you’ve been putting off
When’s the last time you cleaned your baseboards (never)? The grout in your shower? Cleaned out your closet? What about that shelf you’ve been meaning to hang or the Christmas decorations which are still up? Or if you’re more ambitious, that book you’ve always wanted to write or financial goals you’ve been meaning to set? Why not pick one and take a single small step toward completing that goal every day? Why not devote 15 minutes to make incremental progress?
Being cooped up in your apartment/house opens the door (metaphorically) to getting stuck in a cycle of isolation and fear. But you have more choice in the matter than you think you do. This list is merely a jumping off point. If you have other ideas, leave a comment and let me know how you’re living your best quarantined life!
If you are feeling overwhelmed or depressed, please reach out to a trusted counselor, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255, or text “Home” to 741741 and a crisis worker will text you back immediately.