Social Distancing: 10+1 Productive Ways to Keep It Together During the Coronavirus Outbreak
“Social distancing” has become a key phrase in the past few days as cities and towns across the United States confront the growing number of COVID-19 cases. Public Health officials have asked that we limit close contact with other individuals in order to avoid catching the virus or passing it on.
Many people will stay home to prevent infection. It will get tough—emotionally—because, for most of us, being close to people is what makes life pleasurable.
Here are some suggestions to effectively deal with the isolation that comes with increasing the distance between people.
CLEAN UP YOUR HOME
Cleaning has been found to have positive effects on our mental health by helping us gain a sense of control over our environment. Download a cleaning check-list and schedule on Pinterest and clean your home, applying Feng Shui principles to rearrange your furniture and style your rooms for a change. Better yet, order Cassandra Aarsen’s Real Life Organizing, in which the guru from YouTube’s ClutterBug channel, reveals her tips, tricks and secrets to a clean and clutter free home in just 15 minutes a day. (Cassandra’s The Declutter Challenge is also available for pre-order). Clean out your junk drawer. Reorganize your book shelves. Clean out and restock your fridge. Do some laundry and wash those scarves you wear occasionally. Clean out your closets and arrange them according to color, occasions, or outfits. Review your wardrobe and make a few piles: put into storage, sell, donate, and keep. Sort out your shoes and get rid of the ones you haven’t worn in the last five years while thinking obsessively about what the perfect shoe is for you this season. Organize your makeup and beauty products. Clean your jewelry and keep your favorite pieces shining like new. Get rid of everything that you do not know to be useful, or find to be beautiful.
Organization helps you sleep better; reduces your stress, depression, and anxiety; improves your relationships; frees up time and energy to improve your life in other areas; and helps you make better choices. Make a master list of everything you need to do—Yes, everything—and start crushing those tasks you’ve been avoiding. Review your calendar and plan a schedule for the week. Paula Rizzo's Listful Living will help you create your morning and evening routines. When getting organized, don’t forget your electronics! Delete old contacts from your phone. Sort your photos. Organize files on your phone and computer. Clean out your inbox: Reply to all of your email. (All of it! The madness!) Back-up your computer, delete any unnecessary documents, and install a password encryption service on your laptop. Update your social media profiles and download useful apps on your phone.
WORK ON YOUR CAREER, YOUR FINANCES—AND YOURSELF
Since you’re staying at home for several days, spend some time to paint your home office with a new color. Organize your desk, including all papers and bills. Update your resume and LinkedIn profile. Research your dream career, make a list of your professional goals, and create a plan to achieve those goals. (I highly suggest Karen Arrington’s Your Next Level Life for goal-setting). Create (or adjust) your budget, and devise a debt payoff plan with the help of Brynne Conroy’s The Feminist Financial Handbook. Google ways to make some side money. Review your retirement options. And while you’re on a kick to improve your financial future, work on becoming a well-rounded, all-around better version of yourself. Read a motivating book like Badass Black Girl. Start collecting quotes of successful / inspiring people. Listen to motivational podcasts. Write down your “perfect self” statement and what you need to do to make it real. Pull out all your old magazines, then cut them up to make a vision board to help you redesign your entire life (you can also use Pinterest.) Keep a mindset journal and/or a gratitude list.
LEARN SOMETHING NEW
Researchers tell us that one of the best things we can do to protect ourselves from certain types of dementia is flexing our mental muscles. This includes using our brain in new ways and continually challenging ourselves to learn new things. Enrich your general knowledge and surf the internet to know more about some interesting topics or facts. Read online newspapers. Learn something new on YouTube. Watch TED talks and take notes. Watch a documentary about someone truly fabulous. Listen to a new podcast or audiobook. Sign up for a virtual class or watch useful tutorials. Visit an online exhibit. Get lost on Quora and read about conspiracy theories. Learn to code on Codecademy.
USE MOVEMENT AND MUSIC
Movement and brain health are inherently interconnected, and research suggests that physical exercise is just as beneficial for the brain as it is for the body. Learn new yoga poses and do some sun salutes in your living room. If your children are home with you, try Cosmic Kids Yoga (and check out Yogi Cats while you're at it.) Learn one of Beyoncé’s dance routines. Hula hoop! Arm-wrestle! Do 20 push-ups. Build Muscle. Stay Lean. Get Stronger. The psychological effects of music can also be powerful and wide-ranging. Music therapy is an intervention sometimes utilized to promote emotional health, help patients cope with stress, and boost psychological well-being. Music can relax the mind, energize the body, and even help people better manage pain. Make a new song playlist. Order a disco ball to decorate your living room, and have a family music night. Open a video tutorial and learn some new dance moves. Learn the words to your favorite rap song, or channel your inner poet and write down the most random song ever!
GET COOKING AND BAKING
Mental health experts credit cooking with helping to relieve depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and other conditions, and many counselors are now using cooking or baking as therapy tools for people suffering from mental-health problems. Create a weekly meal plan that involves baking or cooking something special/insane/over-the-top from time to time, and even creating your own recipes. I suggest making ice cream in a bag (Recipe here), rock candy (Instructions here), or bread. Try a new recipe from Cynthia O’Hara’s Cooking, Baking, and Making: 100 Recipes and DIY Ideas for All Seasons and Reasons or check out Jana Douglass's A Cookie to Celebrate, set up a camera or smart phone and film a cooking show! Other ideas include having an extravagant breakfast in bed (eggs, bacon, pancakes and your own version of hot chocolate with some delicious toppings), having an indoor picnic, having a tea party, and dressing up in your best clothes to have a fancy slow-cooker dinner or a pizza party (DIY Pizza Bagels recipe here). Make your own popsicles. Try out a new green smoothie or a milkshake. Chew an entire pack of Hubba Bubba & blow the biggest bubbles possible.
STAY CONNECTED—TO OTHERS, TO YOUR PETS, AND TO NATURE
Humans are social animals: We crave feeling supported, valued and connected. Stay connected. Call your mother or your best friend.Facetime with an old friend a call and revive old memories. Order monogrammed stationery and send handwritten letters to family and friends; postcards will do too. Write short text messages to your loved ones to tell them how special they are. Make paper dolls, then put them in envelopes & send them to your best friends. Host an online book club or writing group. Get yourself some pen-pals. If you play video games, connect with playmates via online communities. Spend some quality time with your family at home and ditch all kinds of social media. Remember the old times and take out your old baby photo albums. Play board games, learn and play a new card game, or create your own bingo cards and have a tournament. Let your kids write and direct a stop-motion movie. (Learn how it works here.) Play 20 Questions. Make a mancala counting game with an egg carton (Instructions here). Have a movie night filled with popcorn or tell ghost stories. Make shadow puppets. Cut out drawings of Where’s Wally & stick them in secret corners of your house. Remember that the companionship that a pet offers is a great way to reduce anxiety and stress. Play with your pet and teach them a new trick (maybe using Sassafras Lowrey’s Tricks in the City: For Daring Dogs and the Humans That Love Them). Take photographs of them wearing costumes and/or hats and start an Instagram profile for your pet. Watch funny cat videos (always works). Take your pet for a walk in nature. In fact, Interacting with nature is recognized as one way to improve mental health so, while you’re outside, enjoy every minute of fresh air. You can also bring nature to your home: Plant a fragrant herb garden on your windowsill; repot your home plants; plan a family garden; plant some flowers and let them decorate your room with a lovely scent; sing to your plants; create a nature scavenger hunt in your back yard; and build a treehouse. Find many more ideas in Becca Anderson’s The Crafty Gardener: Inspired Ideas and DIY Crafts from Your Own Backyard. No background? No problem. Camp indoors!
Those of us who pay attention to their own physical and emotional health are better able to adapt to changes, build strong relationships and recover from setbacks. Self-care is important. Improving your relationship with yourself makes you more resilient.Here are some suggestions for personalizing your self-care strategy. DIY something beautiful. Snuggle on the couch—or put on all your sequins—and read your favorite books. (Check out The Book of Awesome Women Writers as a reference, or go on an adventure with Cody Franklin's dystopian alternate history, The Alantropa Articles). Try adult coloring books or Anxious Art. Daydream. Pamper yourself with the bubbliest aromatic bath you can create, light some candles, and call one of your best friends for a long overdue chat. Put on your bathrobe, set up an in-home nail salon and try some elaborate nail art techniques (Ideas here). Learn new make-up and beauty techniques on YouTube. Take some time to take care of your hair, nails and skin using some homemade remedies. Tweeze and glitter your eyebrows. If you want to go for something a bit crazy, try dying/trimming your hair at home and transform your look. Or tease your hair really, really big. Moisturize your entire body. Make faces in front of the mirror. Put on a clean pair of pajamas and catch up on your sleep. Get lost in nostalgia and Google all your favorite old movies or TV series, and watch them again to enjoy your time. Alternatively, watch a genre you never watched before. (May I recommend The Film Buff’s Bucket List or Films from the Future as great resources?) Start a new show. Organize your music playlist and add new songs. Do some online shopping without breaking your bank account.
Creativity reduces anxiety, depression, and stress. It can also help you process trauma. A creative act such as crafting can help focus the mind, and has even been compared to meditation due to its calming effects on the brain and body. So, start a craft project—make a scrapbook or a family tree, create friendship bracelets or other jewelry that you can either donate or sell, make ombre curtains, or practice origami, the art of paper folding (Ideas here). Paint a vase or a wall pink. Learn to knit. Revamp your old denim jacket and turn it into a chic vest just by cutting its sleeves. Accessorize your old white shirt or jeans with studs or embellishments. Decorate a T-shirt. Make your own Snuggie by hand-stitching a bunch of old sweaters. Dye your lingerie in the bathtub. Spray your shoes with glue & roll them in glitter. Glue crystals onto a pair of sunglasses. Practice drawing the perfect cat’s eye. Write a poem, or keep a diary. Make a zine. Make your own book-ends. Create a couple of photo collages of you and your best friends and hang them in your room for decoration. Stick glow-in-the-dark stars all over your roof.
Be prepared for the full-blown quarantine and make a plan for emergency situations (what to do? where to go? who to call?).Put together an emergency bag. Shop for all useful things online. Read the news. Do a maintenance tour at your home, clean appliances, and check whether anything needs fixing or updating once social distancing is over. But also be prepared for your return to normalcy. Fresh starts feel good! Put your camera in your handbag so you don’t forget to take pictures when you finally get to leave the house. Research and plan a road-trip to ensue as soon as your self-imposed cabin fever is over. Lament the number of stamps in your passport & resolve to up your international playgirl game. Plan your dream vacation. Book yourself on a cruise. Go on! Start planning — and purchasing — birthday and holiday gifts for your favorite people. Plan a family or friend meet-up.
AND ALSO… BE GENEROUS
You can help during the Coronavirus outbreak.
The homeless, elderly, and hungry will need your help. Donate to charities that support them such as Meals on Wheels, Save the Children, The Center for Disaster Philanthropy, and your local food bank, which may be struggling with fewer donations and unable to get some staples due to stockpiling.
Do not let food go to waste. According to Feeding America, each year 72 billion pounds of food goes to waste. A few simple ways to cut down on food waste include "storing food in the proper place (and at the proper temperature), waiting to wash produce until you’re ready to use it (to avoid mold), freeze anything that you don’t expect to use in the near future (if freezing is possible), make a stock, compost, and for crying out loud, eat your leftovers!"
Support the Arts by making a donation to your favorite museum or local arts organization. Many organizations were force to interrupt programming and close their doors. Whether they’re on the front lines of the fight to quell the coronavirus, or their mission is entirely unrelated to the current crisis, your dollars will make a big difference.
Buy from small businesses; they are currently struggling as people are staying home.
Donate blood. With people staying home, blood donations are expected to fall and the Red Cross will still need lots of donors. Here is what they have to say about the current situation:
“Right now, the American Red Cross encourages healthy, eligible individuals to schedule a blood or platelet donation appointment at redcrossblood.org to help maintain a sufficient blood supply and avoid any potential shortages. Donating blood is a safe process and people should not hesitate to give or receive blood. The need for blood is constant, and volunteer donors are the only source of blood for those in need of transfusions.”
If you are not vulnerable, check in on others, particularly elderly neighbors who might need something picked up from the store. Because self-isolation can be very lonely, offer to Skype tor Zoom with others.
Call your senator to approve paid sick leave and paid family leave.
Speak up against xenophobia and racism, particularly against Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) posted this message on its “Share Facts Not Fear” website: "People of Asian descent, including Chinese-Americans, are not more likely to get COVID-19 than any other American. Help stop fear by letting people know that being of Asian descent does not increase the chance of getting or spreading COVID-19."
Be responsible: Keep your distance, wash your hands, and stay informed. Stop the spreading of false information and rumors. Ensuring that you’re making safe and smart choices is a civic duty of the utmost importance.
Check out Badass Black Girl: Quotes, Questions, and Affirmations for Teens
Publishers Weekly Select Title for Young Readers ─ A Daily Dose of Inspiration for Badass Black Girls
Explore the many facets of your identity through hundreds of big and small questions. MJ Fievre tackles topics such as family and friends, school and careers, body image, and stereotypes in this journal designed for teenage girls. By reflecting on these topics, readers confront the issues that can hold them back from living their lives.
Embrace authenticity and celebrate who you are. Finding the courage to live as you are is not easy, so here’s a journal designed to help readers nurture their creativity, self-motivation, and positive self-awareness. This journal celebrates girl power and honors the strength and spirit of black girls.
Change the way you view the world. This journal provides words of encouragement that seek not just to inspire, but to ignite discussion and debate about the world. Girls, especially, are growing up in a world that tries to tell them how to look and act. MJ Fievre encourages readers to fight the flow and determine for themselves who they want to be.
Reading Badass Black Girl: Quotes, Questions, and Affirmations for Teens will help you:
Build and boost your self-esteem with powerful affirmations.
Learn more about yourself through intensive and insightful journaling.
Resist the mold that outside opinions have put into place, and become comfortable and confident in embracing your authentic self.