The first two weeks of the lockdown were not bad at all. Kids were happy to be able to sleep in and motivated to do well on their online assignments. House and garage got thoroughly cleaned, pantry cleaned and restocked, gardening and yard work chores completed. We thought it would last a few weeks, maybe a month. It almost felt like a sudden gift of vacation.
By week three, fatigue of the situation started seeping in. Everyone seemed to sleep longer, taking naps, staying up till the wee hours and binging on TV, getting a bit touchier with one another, bored and depressed. Something had to be done to combat the creeping mental and psychological effects of this quarantine, and it had to be done fast.
How to turn the lockdown to your advantage and keep your sanity in the process?
Here are a few fun activities that seem to work for me and my family, and hopefully you can find some of them useful as well.
1. Try a New Way of Cooking
I know, I know. It is not easy to get to the store to get stuff to eat. But it is not that difficult either. At least you can go to a store. You cannot visit a restaurant at this point at all.
I’ve been fascinated with the variety of cuisines and always loved trying on foods from different countries. Having been brought up in Poland, I tend to like the Northern European foods and cook lots of recipes from these areas. But I also love Asian food - Thai and Japanese are my favorite, Vietnamese and Chinese close seconds, Indian of course as well. Probably because these cuisines are so different from my well-trotted territory, I’ve been always afraid to try much of the Asian cooking myself. The ingredients are different, the spices, the techniques.
But this quarantine invites me to try it. I am lucky to live in a multi-ethic city and have an amazing Korean market near-by where I can get all the necessary ingredients to try some new stuff. I made sticky tofu with Asian coleslaw, and Chinese sweet and sour soup with lots of immune-boosting mushrooms.
With Pinterest and Yummly at my disposal, I can try so many things. Some are hits, others are misses, but the fun of trying is always there. Next on the list is true Mexican food. I happen to have lots of Latino stores near-by (and usually with less lines than regular grocery stores.)
So: find a new recipe, make a shopping list, don your mask and gloves, and venture to the ethic store. You might be surprised bow easy and delicious some of this cooking is. And, because many of the “ethic” recipes are ancestral in nature, they tend to be healthy and very nutritious.
2. Try a New Exercise Routine
Ever since the lockdown started, my beloved spinning studio closed down. I have been spinning at least three times a week up to this point, and this regular workout has been my saving grace for physical activity and mental help as well. With the studio closed, I’ve been lost. Luckily with the lockdown becoming a new normal, my studio reopened virtually and if offering now a range of classes on and off the bike, open to anyone. Check them out at Beatbike. They are truly amazing!
In the meantime, though, I have been trying new things in order to keep my sanity and keep the pounds off (all the quarantine over-eating!)
Doing yoga at home is a no-brainer, there are so many free apps and free YouTube videos to utilize.
Here are some of the most obvious benefits of yoga for your physical wellbeing:
increased muscle strength and tone.
improved respiration, energy and vitality.
improved heart health.
supporting weight reduction.
reducing chronic pain.
Additionally, yoga has numerous, scientifically proven benefits for your mental state of being:
promoting better sleep quality.
For my cardio, I invested in a weighted jump rope. It is supposed to lead to improved coordination, agility, footwork, quickness and endurance. Because the handles of the rope are weighted (1 lb. in each handle), workout with it can burn a significantly larger number of calories and can be more effective for increasing strength and promoting weight loss than a regular jumping rope. Here is the one I got, and some other choices:
I have to warn you though, it is not an easy workout. My first attempt lasted five minutes and I was drenched in sweat and utterly breathless. Doing it daily for the past two weeks, I managed to increase the length of my workout to 10 minutes. Let’s see how it continues.
3. Learn How to Play that Game that Always Seemed Too Difficult to Learn
We are a family of four, with two kids of different genders and 9 years apart. Needless to say, it has been a challenge to find an activity in which all of us could participate with the same enthusiasm and engagement. We all have different levels of fitness, different interest, and somewhat different temperaments.
Now, this quarantine time is an opportunity to spend at least our evenings together, trying out some unifying activities that we might not have had the time to try before. One such activity is the longer, time-consuming board games. Some of them like Catan or Risk always seemed too complex to figure out, especially with one of us still being under 10 years old. Now is the perfect time to take these games out of the locker and dig into all the complexities.
Here is what you might consider:
4. Learn a Few Key Phrases in a New Language for Your Next Dream Trip
I speak two foreign langauges fluently and two on a communicative level, and I also teach German for my day job. I have always enjoyed learning a new language, it always seemed to offer such opportunities to connect with people ion different cultures on a deeper level than just relying on them speaking your own language,
If you never tried but wanted to learn a few key phrases that you can use when going on your next international trip, now is the perfect time! You;ve got nothing to lose, the apps are dirt cheap, usually with a free trial. Some are even bundling a number of languages for the price of one. Try one of the apps (Duolingo, Babel, Rosetta Stone, etc.) or sign up for an online course and start planning that amazing post-Covid international gateway.
5. Start a Blog to Talk About Something You Love Doing
Maybe you like to write and feel like you have lots of things to say either about the current state of affairs, or something else you find interesting. My 17-year old daughter, for example, started a blog about films she loves (warfilmsnotlove) and she’s having tons of fun with it. She curates film evenings for the family, we watch them, talk about them, and she then goes on to write about her impressions. Nice way to pass the time.
Possibilities are endless, and it takes minimal financial investment to start a blog. You can even do it for free if your main objective is writing, rather than getting huge audience and/or monetizing it. But even so, some hosting companies are offering discounts to about 3$ a month for hosting a blog. That’s less than a Starbucks Latte which you are now saving on!
6. Make Your Own Skincare and Hand Sanitizer
I wrote elsewhere about how easy it is to become your very own skincare and household products formulator. It’s best to start easy, with formulations that have two, three or four ingredients only. Of course, I am partial to this activity of homemade skincare and household cleaners. I’ve been on a mission to clean up my immediate environment for the past several years and my home is void of any commercially bought products.
Soap is very easy and fun to make. Try it, you might discover a new passion. You can buy the so-called melt-and-pour type of soap, which means you will not have to deal with dangerous lye (remember that scene in Fight Club?) or with measuring oils and butters to get it just right. With melt and pour like this glycerin, detergent-free soap , or this goat milk soap,
a tray of molds like this one and some essential oils for scent, you can make amazing creations at home for yourself and to gift your friends and family once you get to see them again.
I strongly believe that anyone can learn a bit about handmade products for personal care and household. They are natural, non-toxic, easy to make and affordable. See my post about what Clean Beauty means and this one about how I cleaned my cleaning.
7. Spend Meaningful Time With Your Family
This one should be a no-brainer but sometimes it is difficult to get everyone together when there are mounting homeschooling projects, job-related duties via online resources, and the worry about the future. But it pays back tremendously to reserve some time each evening and spend meaningful time with the people closest to you, physically right now, and emotionally always.
Dig out these old family albums and show the kids your life before they were around, and how they themselves have been changing over time.
Play some old family movies and videos (weddings, births of the kids, birthdays, family vacations). We all document these occasions digitally all the time, but do we really ever go back to watch them? Now is the perfect time to change this.
Tell Stories from the past, whatever you know or would like to know about previous generations of your family, have the kids ask questions, research if needed, contact grandma or grandpa to help you out. If you do it via skype or zoom, you’ll get to see them as well and it will make them even more happy.
Make a family book club where you read the saem book and then discuss and/or write about it. Or, curate a film series for the whole family. Pick a genre, or a theme, or a director or actor, and play four or five films form the group and then judge them for gold, silver, and bronze. You’ll spend time together watching, discussing, and negotiation the best of the best from your chosen flicks.
8. Read that Daunting 700-Page Novel that You Never Had Time to Tackle
We are spending a good bit of time with the family since we are all in the house together. Without the doubt there will be times when each of us just wants to be left alone, recharge their own battery, just chill or do an individual activity.
Rather than getting yourself in front of the news or scrolling Instagram or FB, grab a book. Maybe you always wanted to read one of these huge titles like Tolstoy’s War and Peace, Joyce’s Ulysses, Mann's Magic Mountian, or Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow, but felt like it would take you years to complete that daunting task not only because these are long, long books but also because they are complex and require more attention that one can give them in the precious little free time while we have in normal times, commuting, working, socializing, etc.
Now is the perfect time to grab that novel and immerse yourself in a new world. Read or listen to an audio version, let the power of the words export you somewhere away from the daunting reality we are living in now. Books can be magical if you let them in your life, they can become your friends forever.
9. Learn Something Crazy
We are so lucky to be going through this pandemic right now and not a hundred years ago. Just imagine being stuck at home without access to all the virtual offerings we can get now online: museum tours, opera performances, streamed concerts, replays of sporting events, virtual classes on any subject imaginable! There really is a chance in these hard times to find a new passion, and to learn something new.
So why not go for something crazy, odd-ball, or just a silly past-time you never had time for. Learn a new dance with your partner (Tango or Salsa would be my favs), learn how to juggle or play card tricks, learn how to play a ukulele, start making your own jewelry, take drawing or painting lessons, learn how to finally master that winged eyeliner look, etc., etc., opportunities abound.
10. Start Writing a Memoir
With more time on our hands, some might want to plunge into writing. Start a daily journal, maybe someday it will become a chronicle of the strange times we live in. Or, write a memoir, for yourself and posterity. I am finally having a bit more time to devote to transcribing and translating the correspondence between my family in Poland and myself from my first three years in America. Someday, I hope to be able to have it in a book form, ready for my kids to learn about their young mother struggling to establish a new life in the new, strange land.
11. Invest the Time to Learn How to Be More Mindful
This one will pay you dividends for years to come, long after this current situation recedes into memory. I wrote about the importance of mindfulness and gratitude in a separate post over here.
If you never tried to meditate, try it now. Apps such as Calm or Relaxing Melodies are perfect for starters. I use them to help me sleep, and they really can work wonders.
Try Ayurvedic breathing exercises – not only are they an easy way to calm your mind and bring a sense of serenity into your day; they can also strengthen your lung capacity, which of course is crucial to bring up your chance of easier recovery if you were to get infected with any respiratory virus.
Lastly, don’t forget gratitude- even if it seems like with this pandemic and the sheltering-in-place, we goy the fuzzy end of the lollipop, there is still so much to be grateful for: your current health, your family’s health, the fact that you are together, the fact that you are not deprived of necessities, the fact that you can and should hope that it all will change and will get better.
So, here you have it. This is my recipe for weathering this storm. Not really a prescription, but I believe a set of workable solutions to the problems of isolation, boredom, exasperation, and frustration that we all experience at times, and even more so now, under these unusual circumstances.
I’d love to hear how you are dealing with the situation. Drop me a line please.
Until then, stay safe, stay healthy, stay home. xoxo