Things are getting increasingly lonely, and boring. Sometimes we have to turn to the little things. So, here are five small routines that help me fight the restless feelings of a month of quarantine.
I’m a big writer, so this was something I naturally gravitated towards. I write down not just feelings – like journal entries – but the things I think other people could find solidarity in. Even if it’s just an Instagram caption or story, it gives me a way to sort through what I’m feeling. It’s incredibly therapeutic, and sometimes you get beautiful words out of it, too. It’s something you can look back on and be like, “I beat that. I got through it.”
Say what you want, but reality TV is entertaining. It’s escapist TV – there’s not much emotional labor that goes into watching it. That’s what I need – anxieties are high right now, and I tend to get emotionally invested in shows and movies. Not intentionally, they just sometimes leave me with lingering feelings – when I watched Alien for the first time, the subject matter left me feeling a little anxious. Breaking Bad always left me a little shaken. Right now, I’m already feeling a little overwhelmed by everything, and don’t want to add to that. That’s why I’ve gravitated toward things like Keeping Up With the Kardashians, Catfish and America’s Next Top Model – there’s no suspense, there’s not an emotional investment. They’re perfect ways to keep my mind off of all the bad stuff.
3. Walking to get things.
Or walking anywhere. I know not everyone has the ability to have things be within walking distance, but there are times you can challenge yourself. Being outside is such a blessing right now. Sometimes it takes a lot of effort to even get off the couch, but whenever I will myself to get up, I always feel refreshed by the air. Right now is peak good weather season, before we know it, it’ll be dreadfully hot and gross. I walked to get donuts the other day. I walk across the street to get coffee. I walk to get plants from the hardware store. It’s a way to support local businesses during all this, and a way to stay moving.
4. Cooking new and intimidating things.
I usually go for a quick and easy recipe. I don’t bake because it’s so time-consuming and I’m impatient. But right now, it’s all about trusting the process. Take solace in the time it takes to do something intricate. I’d never used yeast before – as I said, I’m impatient, and you have to wait for the yeast to rise. But there are so many great recipes that are worth the wait. I made cinnamon rolls. I made steamed buns. I’ve been really into making Indian and Asian food – it’s generally healthy, with the added bonus of often being vegan. I made a carrot cake. It’s the sense of accomplishment you get when you make something delicious that matters.
5. Looking forward.
This can seem kind-of counterproductive. Dreaming about when this is over only makes us pine for it more. The reality of the situation is that we don’t know when this will be over, so trying to guess can be a little exhausting the full of false hope. But, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with making little lists of ideas you have for when life “begins” again. For me, it’s little tattoos I want to get – making little Pinterest boards are a way to pass time and get creative. I’m thinking about all the places in Europe I’ve wanted to travel – I’m not trying to make concrete plans, just making little lists of restaurants or beaches that I stumble across. It’s not getting my hopes up, it’s giving me something to think about that’s not all doom and gloom. Looking forward to things is one of the best ways to cope with a depressing, anxious present. Things will get better, and we’re gonna be okay.
There are other small things I’ve tried really hard to take up – reading the books on my shelf that are collecting dust (but I’m really bad at focusing on books), drawing in a sketchbook (I always end up writing in them instead), or finally tackling Duolingo to brush up on my French (or, you could just watch Portrait of a Lady on Fire on Hulu). But sometimes we don’t fully get around to it. And that’s okay. You don’t have to use every second to be productive. It’s about what makes you feel content and not-anxious. Sometimes the pressure to “hustle” every waking moment can cause more anxiety. So just chill. Breathe. Like I said, trust the process. Let go of the situations you can’t control, and start leaning into the ones you can.