I climbed out of bed reveling in the glorious “Ahh” feeling that accompanies any Spring Break, much less a Spring Break that magically produces a stay-at-home husband. But my “perfect break” reminds me just how un-perfect this week – most likely these next several weeks – will be for most of us. San Jose was put into “Shelter at Home” status starting at 12 am this morning due to COVID-19. For those of you living in areas that are less impacted by the virus, “Shelter at Home” means we have to stay inside our homes except for essential activities like buying groceries, caring for relatives and pets, etc. School, work, church, and other social activities are canceled…hence my stay-at-home husband. (For the record, he is still teaching his classes online 😉 )
Being trapped indoors for several weeks sounds daunting – perhaps even terrifying, depending on your baseline activity or anxiety level. However, I’ve been “trapped” indoors for around three and a half years due to my neurological disabilities and I’ve learned plenty of tricks to keep my days not just full, but meaningful. Some of these I learned in occupational therapy, some I learned from managing online school, and some I learned from plain ol’ trial and error. Hopefully they can help y’all relax and view this time as an opportunity instead of an obstacle.
- Make a plan. I was never a to-do list sort of girl before my accident, but I quickly became one afterward. Writing out a list of things to accomplish each day keeps you from feeling bored and also gives you a mood jolt every time you cross something off your list. “There’s nothing to do” is a dangerous slogan. There’s always something to do if you look hard enough. Besides, the more you say something, the more likely you are to believe it.
- Set goals. This goes hand-in-hand with your daily to-do list but is more fun since it gives you concrete markers to aim for. Is there a book you’ve been wanting to read? Give yourself a certain number of days to finish it, then schedule a certain amount of reading time into each day. What about that Spring Cleaning project you’ve been threatening to start? Now’s the perfect time! The great part about being inside for a few weeks is that you don’t have to tackle everything all at once unless you want to. Instead, you can spread projects over multiple days by scheduling just a chunk of time per project per day. The important part is to stay consistent. Ready for the fun part about goal-setting? REWARDS! True, your reward bank might be a tad limited at the moment, but I bet you still have some rewards you can enjoy when you meet your goals. Or, if you really want something exotic, make another list of rewards to enjoy once you can go out again.
- Stay active. This is a HUGE one for me. I have to exercise around an hour a day due to residual physical deficits, but did you know the average adult needs 30 minutes of moderate exercise 5 times per week? None of us will be going to the gym any time in the near future, but you can find plenty of exercise videos on YouTube. For those of us who are fans of walking or running on the treadmill, Spotify has exercise playlists organized by BPM. I’m trying the 140 BPM playlist for at-home walking (I can’t run)…my only disclaimer is I’d be careful about this option if you live on the second floor of an apartment complex! And friendly reminder, “Shelter at Home” doesn’t mean you can’t go on an outdoor walk by yourself or with a family member. Fresh air is always the best medicine…just stay away from strangers while you’re taking it! 😉
- Set time limits. This one is both a “do” and a “don’t.” Scheduling activities to occur at certain points throughout your day and deciding how much time you will spend on each of them is a great way to make time fly. I’m frequently surprised at how quickly the time passes between my alarm ringing at 5:40 am (thank you, Ivan!) and my medication alert clattering at 5:30 pm. That being said, it’s a good idea to set limits on screen time as well. Vacations are notorious for Netflix and gaming binges, and there’s nothing necessarily wrong with that. But we’re in this for a lot more than one week, and staring at screens for hour upon hour as you lounge on a lumpy couch is NOT good for your mind and body. So, enjoy your “guilty” pleasures but set a timer on your phone and make sure you’re getting up to stretch or…ahem…exercise. Even wiser would be investing an equal or greater amount of time interacting with those around you and exercising your mind through activities like reading or learning something new (podcasts are a great place to start!)
These are just a few of the tips and tricks I’ve discovered over the past few years. Feel free to comment below or on Facebook if you have some of your own that you’d like to share. It’s true that we’re in for a difficult few weeks, but I also think it’s an excellent opportunity to practice “making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:16).