By Cara McCown
The world and how we interact with each other have changed dramatically in the past year. In many ways, we have been at what seems like a standstill for over a year now. On top of added stress from the pandemic, many of us feel isolated and cooped up. It has been easy to fall out of healthy routines, and yet, we should be kinder to ourselves instead of feeling bad when we are having a hard time coping.
While I am fortunate to have remained busy with school, work, and family, I have still been stuck at home and experienced my own feelings of loneliness and loss. During this time, I have figured out a few of what I like to call my three “Pandemic Best Practices” that may make spending your time at home more about relaxing and enjoying the moment. The practices have been especially helpful for me through this time, but are also really great when we are pandemic-free too!
Pandemic Best Practice No. 1….Get Outside!
A study in the Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology states that, on average, people in the United States spend close to 90% of their time indoors (Nwanaji-Enwerem, Allen, & Beamer, 2020). When we think about our workdays, spending time at home, and the time we are sleeping, that really adds up!
Spending time in nature is its own kind of medicine. Natural environments are an important health resource and have been linked to disease prevention. A scientific report from Nature.com states that “Spending at least 120 minutes a week in nature is associated with good health and wellbeing”. That is only three hours each week to help you reduce stress by spending time in a natural space.
During the pandemic, two of my very favorite outdoor activities has been:
Going for a walk around a neighborhood – any neighborhood will do. I love to check out new sights and go exploring, but a stroll around your own community is fantastic too. I notice something new every time I go out!
Tip: If you are out for a stroll, it is extra sustainable to bring a small trash bag with you and pick up around your neighborhood. It will make you feel great, and your neighbors will love you.
Hanging/picnicking in the park – This is a fabulous option where you can spend 20 minutes doing or 4 hours. I love being able to hang out with loved ones while remaining at a safe distance.
Tip: If the ground is dry, I usually sit or lay barefoot, right in the grass, which also makes me feel connected to nature.
Pandemic Best Practice No. 2….Pamper Yourself!
You deserve it! Indeed, we all deserve it. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to go out and get a facial or a pedicure. Sure, you can do these things, and they will probably make you feel good, but what I am talking about can be even simpler than that. It can even boil down to general care, which will make you feel good too – here are a few examples of both:
Shower regularly – It seems obvious enough, but when you don’t leave the house much, it can be easy to get into the slump of not showering as regularly as you would if life were back to “normal”.
Tip: If you decide not to shower, it helps to wash your face and brush or style your hair. This can help you feel prepared to seize the day and not feel the no-shower slump.
Care for your skin – It’s your money-maker, right?! Give yourself an at-home facial with a loved one or a roommate. When you care for your skin, brush your teeth, wash your face, shower, or anything else that may seem like a general practice, you show the world that you care for yourself, and it may make you feel more empowered. I know it works that way for me!
Tip: Be sure to look for sustainable products that don’t have phthalates in them as they are linked to reproductive health issues and are endocrine disruptors (Paoli et al., 2020).
Groom your hands and feet – You are absolutely welcome to get yourself a mani/pedi, but if you are still wary of enclosed spaces, soaking your hands, trimming your nails, and clearing the dead skin off your nails and cuticles will make your hands look and feel refreshed.
Tip: You can rub the dead skin off easily if you do it right after taking your fingers or toes out of the water. This practice will make your hands look and feel fresh and clean.
Pandemic Best Practice No. 3….Take Time for You!
This might sound obvious, but many of us have been feeling a great deal of pressure on top of the usual, and we need to give ourselves a break. The fact is that humans haven’t faced a pandemic this transmissible and damaging in over a hundred years. Some of us are going through the five stages of grief, while others seem to manage better at navigating through these stressful times. Either way, the time you spend alone can be put toward effective practices that can help you be more in touch with yourself and your feelings. Below are my three main “time for me” practices:
Journaling – We have all heard about journaling as a way to deal with your feelings. It is fantastic for this but also can be a great tool outside of that. By writing things down, you are not just reflecting but validating that you and insights, feelings, or whatever it may be are real and have a place in the world.
Tip: It’s ok to go into journaling not knowing what to write at first. It will come with time. I recommend writing when things get tough, and also when things are good. This is helpful when you feel low to remember the people, things, and experiences you are grateful for.
Meditation – If only I had known about the benefits of quiet thought years ago! Meditation is the art of clearing your mind while remaining mindful. It is not easy to do for extended periods of time, and it may take a while for you to get to that point, but boy, oh boy, does it offer mental clarity!
Tip: Try to cut out 15-20 minutes for yourself before or after work a few times a week. This way, you won’t have as much on your mind, and you won’t feel the pressure of trying to meditate for extended periods or that it just cannot fit into your daily schedule.
Crafting – I know, I know, it sounds cheesy – but it’s not. I spent quite a few hours painting rocks and sewing little fabric animals, and it was very relaxing while great at keeping my focus. Using materials around the house is a sustainable way of creating anything.
Tip: Start off small. For me, it was with the rocks. Everyone I painted was better than the last. Then move onto sewing (unless you already know what you are doing, of course!). You can look up how to sew anything. I chose the animals because I found a simple book on them, but my cousin makes different kinds of fruit, and they are gorgeous!
It’s time to Take Care of YOU!
There is no denying that this has been a hard past year for everyone. We have all experienced loss in some form or another. Still, we cannot forget that we are adaptable beings, and we are capable of reconnecting with ourselves and each other, even in highly challenging times.
I hope these suggestions will serve you as well, as they have helped me while navigating through this “new normal.” You don’t know what works for you until you try, so get outside, take a little time for self-care, and pick up a hobby that relieves stress! These are great and sustainable ways to decompress, and I hope you can take something helpful from this blog – you deserve it!
Nwanaji-Enwerem, J., Allen, J., & Beamer, P. (2020, July 08). Another invisible enemy indoors: COVID-19, human health, the home, and United States indoor air policy. Retrieved March 11, 2021, from https://www.nature.com/articles/s41370-020-0247-x
Paoli, D., Pallotti, F., Dima, A., Albani, E., Alviggi, C., Causio, F., . . . De Santis, L. (2020, October 21). Phthalates and bisphenol a: Presence in blood serum and follicular fluid of italian women undergoing assisted reproduction techniques. Retrieved March 11, 2021, from https://www.mdpi.com/2305-6304/8/4/91