Sometimes when we’re feeling hopeless, the most useful thing we can do is offer hope to someone else.
Ten Tips for Successful Quarantining
I am not good at very many things, but quarantining is one of the few activities at which I excel. Many writers do, as we spend much of our time alone, in our heads, largely unaware of what time or day or even month it is. I’ve been at it for almost 30 years now, and I feel all of this practice has led to this moment. With the majority of my friends experiencing various levels of boredom and restlessness now that they’re faced with this unfamiliar way of life, I have suggestions for how best to cope with the situation based on adapting my work-at-home principles for our new stay-at-home world.
1. Maintain a Routine
At the end of every day, I make a schedule for the next one, including everything I want to get done, from the number of words I want to write to doing the laundry and catching up on favorite shows. Crossing these things off the next day gives me visual proof that I’m making progress on projects and getting things accomplished. With work grinding to a halt for so many of us, feel free to include things like “research careers in beekeeping” or “compile a list of mortal enemies” as needed.
2. Get Showered and Dressed
The temptation to stay in your pajamas or sweats all day is difficult to resist, I know. But getting cleaned up and dressed helps set your mind to a different channel, which in turn can help create a mood where you feel as if the day has purpose. Plus, if you get bored, you can put on a fashion show for your pets.
3. Eat Well
Eating should not be a way to combat boredom. However, it can be a fantastic way to keep yourself engaged. Instead of snacking or resorting to meals out of cans because nothing matters anymore, if you have access to ingredients, experiment with new recipes. Try things you don’t normally have time for or have been hesitant to try. Come out of this knowing how to whip up pasta alla Norma or make pie crusts Mrs. Smith would envy.
4. Keep Moving
Quarantining, like writing, involves a lot of sitting. And the longer you sit, the more tired, bored, and depressed you can get. When I’m working at my desk for long stretches, I try to get up once an hour, even if it’s just for a few minutes. Since you have the time, consider recreating the dance sequences from your favorite movies in your living room.
5. Go Outside
Spring is here, and it’s a time of rebirth. Our yard, for example, is positively bursting with daffodils right now. Several times this week I’ve gone out and just sat, looking at them, reminding myself that beauty flourishes even in times of chaos. If you live in a more urban setting and don’t want to risk it, stick your head out the window and call the time for the benefit of your neighbors.
6. Indulge in Comfort Activities
We all have things that help us regroup when we’re feeling sad or angry or otherwise unwell. Favorite books, music, and movies, particularly those that remind us of times when we felt hopeful, can all help. Make a blanket fort and reread that Beverly Cleary book you loved when you were 10.
7. Limit Social Media
Social media is fantastic for staying in touch during this time of isolation. But it can also be a huge source of stress, anxiety, and anger. If you find things you’re reading are upsetting you, or that you’re becoming prone to leaving outraged comments, step away from the phone or computer. If the daily news is leaving you feeling worse about the world, turn it off. There is not going to be a pop quiz, so don’t worry about having all the answers.
8. Help Others
Sometimes when we’re feeling hopeless, the most useful thing we can do is offer hope to someone else.Reach out to friends and neighbors, asking if there’s anything you can do for them. Be a positive voice in this time of negativity and fear. If we learn nothing else from this whole experience, we should recognize once and for all how deeply interconnected we all are. Leave cookies and a thank-you note for the UPS delivery person.
9. Ask for Help
Just as we can all reach out to ask what others need, it’s okay to ask for what we need ourselves. Most of us are terrible at this. We don’t want to be a bother. We want to appear strong. It’s okay to say when you’re not okay. If you wake up at 2:00 a.m. afraid and worried, check social media to see if anyone else is up and wants to talk. They will be.
10. Plan for the Future
Many of us have seen plans cancelled and jobs upended, and right now we don’t know when life will return to a more familiar pattern. It’s easy to fall into a spiral of worry and fear about the future, but I find it helps to proceed, as much as I can, with the outlook that things will be okay. Don’t be afraid to have hope.
Michael Thomas Ford is a much-published Lambda Literary award-winning author. Visit Michael at michaelthomasford.com