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Thursday, April 2, 2020

Staying Happy (and Sane) While Social Distancing

Adding some shimmer to our morning 

Make Your Bed. Take a Shower. Get Dressed. 

Every single morning I make my bed. There have been some times in my life that the universe dealt me such emotional blows that it was a struggle to get out of the bed. I learned that making my bed every morning gave me a little win first thing in the morning. It also lessens the temptation that I'll cuddle back in at some point during the day. Later that night, it feels so good to peel back the covers and get climb into bed.

When I first started working from home, I would sleepily make my way downstairs in my pajamas, brew some coffee, head over to my desk and start working. Sometimes I would be so consumed by the projects I was working on, it would be 4pm and I would still be in my pajamas. After a few  weeks of staying in pj's until the afternoon, I realized that I would more productive if I actually started my day as if I was working in an office.  Now that you might be working from home, the temptation to stay in your pajamas may be there but I promise you, you'll have a more work-focused attitude if you actually take a shower and get dressed. Plus, it makes the shift from home to work to back to home clearer.

Structure Your Day Along With Breaks

When you work from home or if you are furloughed, it can feel like the day is just one open block of time. I felt that way. What helped me was to write out a schedule for my day, including breakfast, lunch and exercise times. You may already have conference calls that create blocks of time, but to help you focus, create your own structured day. It helps to follow a schedule, especially when each day feels like Groundhog Day.

Pray / Talk With a Therapist

My faith has always been an important part of my identity. Prayer and the moments with God are sacred to me and as much a part of my morning and evening routines as brushing. my teeth. As a Catholic, I believe in the power of novenas and prayers (even when things haven't gone "my way.") At different times in my life my faith has provided strength, comfort and relief when I needed it the most.  When I feel desolate or scared or I feel sorry for myself, I find a quiet space and imagine myself sitting across from God telling him how I feel. Yes, I will ask for protection or help in achieving what I want but I also ask for His grace in helping me get through whatever is worrying me.

I've also processed some of the worst periods of my life with the help of a therapist. Sometimes there is nothing that anyone can say or do to make the situation any better other than giving you the opportunity to release what's heavy in your heart.

Set Three Goals for Yourself Every Day

I spoke with one of my girlfriends this week and she lamented the fact that she is getting bored and starting to feel a little depressed living alone and working from home. We talked about setting three goals for each day. They can be little goals like emailing someone that you have been putting off or ordering groceries online or larger goals like editing your closet or updating your resume. 

Clearly Define Your Work Space and Your Work Day

If you are starting to work from home, create a space for yourself if you can, that is away from the bed or couch. When I started The Happygirl, I would curl up on the couch and write but I would get distracted, turn the TV on and sometimes even fall asleep. I was so cozy. I had to break that habit so I could be more productive. I made myself use the dining room table (and in time, a desk.) While I wasn't as comfortable as I was on the couch, I was much more productive.

One of my friends who has a studio apartment in New York, propped up his ironing board and is using that as a standing desk (clever!). If you know that you will be videoconferencing, set your phone camera to selfie mode to see what others see behind you. I've had several videoconferencing calls this week and it's such a strange experience to peek inside someone else's life. You get to see their home or kids or pets and sometimes, it's an awkward experience.

Tip: Another great option for videoconferencing is the XSplit VCam (on sale $19.99) which allows you to replace or blur your background without buying an expensive green screen.  More on the XSplit here

Be Gentle With the People You're With

L, and I have been home with each other (and the baby) social distancing now for one month. It wasn't long before we started getting on each other's nerves.   If you're at the point where you are thinking "OK, one of us needs to go back to work. NOW!" then it's time to have a sit down to talk about how you can make this quarantine better for each other. If you're short with someone or feeling the brunt end of someone else's frustration, remember that being with your family members or roommates 24/7 is new for most of us and you'll figure out a new normal.

Carve Out Some Private Time

One of the things that is working for us, is that L and I give each other some space. We are being very strict with social distancing so we won't go anywhere that there are people. I'll put Waverly in her car seat and just take her for a ride. We listen to music and I point out the boats or the trucks or the birds. This give L some private time. He does the same for me. If you can't get out, give each other some space even just to take a nap for a little while. 

Move. Walk. Stretch. Get Out of the House

One of the keys to keeping sane, is to move, to get some fresh air. Go for a walk if you can. Breathe in the spring air (with a mask on). If you can't go out because of the crowds, do an at home workout. I love kickboxing and have started to do it again with a DVD that I loved several years ago. A friend in DC takes an online dance class. Whatever you can do physically, do it. Move and get your blood pumping. 

Eat Healthy

I crave mac & cheese when I'm feeling like I need to be comforted. It's so tempting to cave and eat comfort foods. Sure, have a treat in moderation but strive to keep your nutrition at a healthy balance. Eat fresh food if you have it. Right now I can't get enough strawberries and pink grapefruit. When Waverly naps, I make myself a tea and read through a couple new cookbooks.  I'd like to think that when this is over, that we will be healthier than when we started the quarantine. 

Stimulate Your Mind

It would be easy to binge watch new series or old favorites but we're trying to limit our screen time. I've started doing the NY Times puzzles again as well as taking Duolingo lessons. With Waverly, I love the virtual tours. For several weeks now, we have also been doing a 48 piece United States map puzzle. At two years-old, she can do it all by herself. The capitals are a little harder but at least she is learning something. I can see how proud she is when she completes the puzzle. 

Take the Opportunity to Clean Your Space

With all of us at home, our house started to get super cluttered with toys and books and games kind of everywhere. We had boxes from deliveries sitting in the living room and blankets always seemed to be in piles on the couch. Two weeks ago, I made a list of cleaning projects. Some were small like folding the blankets on the couch at the end of every day or putting the boxes in recycle every night. There were bigger projects too like cleaning out the pantry and the refrigerator, starting from bare shelves. Cleaning up our space feels good. I feel like I have so little control over what's happening in our world. At least our home is clean.

*I also wipe down all of the surfaces we come in contact with every day, from the front door (inside and out) to bathroom and kitchen counters, remote controls and our phones. In addition, I was our clothes on sanitize mode every night. 

Limit Your News Intake

I have insomnia and I often read the news when I can't sleep.  Last night I watched two videos from doctors regarding the virus and how it will kill us. This was such a bad idea. I've decided that while I need to know what is happening with the virus, I realize that I'm overstimulating myself with too much news. I now read the news in the morning and once in the late afternoon before I sign off from work. My mind feels much more relaxed now.

Make Video Dates With Friends and Family

If you're feeling isolated, make a date with your family and friends with a video chat.  This week our family celebrated my niece's birthday and while we weren't there together, it still felt good to see each other. Think about someone who made need a spiritual lift and set up a date of your own.

The Pirate & Vampire Bagel Set from Rubinstein Bagel in Seattle

Support Your Local Small Businesses

One of the things that we are concerned about, is the small business crisis. We are doing our best to support small businesses that we love. both locally and across the country. Last week we ordered a delivery of Rubinstein Bagels from Seattle. It felt like Christmas morning when the bag of bagels and schmears arrived on our doorstep. If you can, support your local restaurants or other small businesses that are still open (online) or for delivery. 

Infuse Your Day with Humor

I have been struggling with the feeling of isolation so I have made a concerted effort to bring more joy into our home. Waverly and L and I have been playing together more than we ever have and we try to remain as happy as we can. Whether it's covering ourselves in super shimmery lotion or singing out loud to "Benny and the Jets," we are striving to keep our sense of humor and levity.

We also make time for dance breaks throughout the day. Just now Waverly and I danced like mad to "Jump in Line" until we fell into a laughing pile of giggles on the floor. These are the moments that I hope Waverly remembers from this pandemic.

Make a Plan for When This is Over

This is what I fantasize about.  I think about L and I taking Waverly to Walt Disney World. I think about hugging my friends. Brunch at my favorite places. Playing with Waverly at her favorite outdoor spaces. I have a long of things I want to do when this is over. I think about all of the people I want to see and the things that we will do when the world is right again.  What are you looking forward to when this is over? 

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