Ah, 2020. It began with so many jokes about perfect vision, scoffing at the upcoming election, and speculation as to what this next decade will bring. Well, it’s 74 days in, and what a year it’s been. We got hit with Mercury retrograde in February (still reeling from the effects of that one), and of course we can’t leave out the global panic, societal turmoil, and general paranoia that are the effects of COVID-19.
We’re looking at weeks, maybe months, of being detained in our homes as an effort to stop the escalation of this quickly spreading contagion. Grocery store shelves are bare, toilet paper has left the building (all of the buildings, to be exact), and hand sanitizer is suddenly worth its weight in gold. Needless to say, we are not prepared for this situation. There’s been a certain lack of overall leadership, whether through denial or sheer incompetence, that has not helped to ease the minds of the masses. Schools have shut down, most people are being told to work from home, and as much as we all love to hear that we get a day off, let’s be real, many people are freaking TF out at the thought of having to spend so much time at home.
Those of you reading this probably know me best as your friend, your yoga teacher, or both! While I love and am very grateful for these two roles, my largest role (and excuse me as my 15 year old self shudders in disgust) is as a stay at home mom. Not only am I the primary caretaker of my two year old son, but we live in the woods. Like, no neighbors in sight, twelve miles from the nearest store, no phone service, woods. We spend a lot of time at home; we also spend a lot of time outside as we are lucky to own about 6 acres up in these here woods.
Some of you reading this may be in a comparable situation, while some of you may be secluded in a tiny apartment with no yard. Either way, when we are told that we have to stay somewhere for an extended amount of time, whatever size space we are in is going to start looking a lot smaller, and fast.
So, what can we do to abate these feelings of the walls closing in on us? Well, as someone who battles these feelings regularly, I can share with you some of the ways that I stay motivated and productive.
First, block yourself off half an hour, then go ahead and sulk on the couch. Yes, I said it; just go pout in the corner for a little bit. Embrace the fact that this whole ordeal kind of sucks. Maybe you’ll cry, maybe you’ll curse. Whatever your sulk looks like, rock it for this brief amount of time and then STOP.
Get up, eat a banana, wash your face (and hands!), and be done with it. Sometimes we just need to sit with our selfish feelings, to acknowledge them, and even to let them take the forefront just for a short amount of time so that we can then place them aside. Of course these quarantine measures are going to look like a prison sentence if we view them in basic, selfish terms. When “woe is me” energy is constantly churning in the back of your mind, your entire attitude is going to resonate with that kind of negative egoism. Instead of allowing it churn away, bring it right to the forefront. Sometimes when we allow all of this ego fueled emotion to release itself in a tidal wave, it can go away completely. Or, by letting yourself be very present with it, you can see how much this attitude is not serving you (and might even be a little downright ridiculous).
Once all of the moping is out of the way, it’s time to get down to business. We allowed ourselves to simmer in our selfish thoughts and now it’s time to… continue to be selfish!! Not what you were expecting? As a yoga teacher, I speak to my classes a lot (a lot) about how important it is to be selfish. In our society, we grow up thinking that selfish actions are always bad and only ever self-serving. In my experience, we tend to not take enough time for our selves, which is why lately we are seeing this burgeoning “self-care” movement. The key difference between the selfishness I mentioned before and the selfishness I’m referring to now is the intention behind it. Earlier, when we were busy sulking, we didn’t have the best intentions, toward ourselves, toward the world, toward our situation. Now we have the opportunity to redirect this energy in ways that are productive and meaningful. In this situation which we are all facing of being quarantined at home, we can best do this by making the most of the time that we are being given!
I’m a Virgo sun, so I love a good list. For some of you, that might sound like an exceedingly boring thing to do or even a joke as you know you won’t read it again anyway, but you should never underestimate the power of a good list! I’m not asking you to go over the top here. Instead give yourself 3-4 minutes to write down everything and anything that you’ve wanted or needed to do, but haven’t had the time. Due to the current situation, it’d probably be best to leave out aspirations of travel, but if you want to include them for yourself, go ahead.
Once this list is done, go do something else for a little bit. Watch an episode of The Office or make some lunch, maybe FaceTime your mom. Afterward, come back to your list and get ready to slash. Scroll down and circle or highlight those things that can most realistically be accomplished (ie. deep cleaning the bathroom, writing a poem, oiling your bicycle chain, baking scones, or washing the dog). Those things that are not realistic, maybe from lack of or ability to access materials, can be crossed off (ie. tiling a kitchen backsplash, hosting a buffet party, or recreating a mural of The Last Supper on your garage door (although I wouldn’t necessarily rule that one out)). Narrow it down to five or so tasks.
Now, when it comes to a to-do list, we’ve all heard the cliche about starting with the most onerous or difficult thing to get it out of the way. If that’s your jam and it’s going to keep you motivated, have at it! Scrub that bathroom like it’s never been scrubbed before. I, however, like to start with something a little more entertaining, which in my world, might include something within the range of alphabetizing the DVD collection (menial) or making several sketches to prep for a painting (fun).
For those more menial tasks, it’s not necessary to draw it out, just be present and engaged in the job and get it done. For those tasks that are more enjoyable, the soul work we’ll call it, take your time! Come and go from the project, but while you are working it, be present and engaged.
What does it mean to be present and engaged? We could jump down the rabbit hole and begin theorizing about the nonexistence of time at the quantum level, but I think we’ll save that conversation for another day. Being present with something means acting with purpose, being mindful of how you are moving or working, and allowing yourself opportunities to observe and reflect upon what is in front of you.
Once you see yourself making a bit of progress through your list, you may be able to add more to it. Maybe even some of those more unrealistic projects you had at the start begin to look more accessible (garage door mural, eh?). For my competitive friends out there (fire signs, you know who you are!) revel in just how many things you can accomplish. If you honestly allow yourself the time to sit and reflect over what you want and what you need to get done, the list can be endless. Plus, if you’re feeling a lack of inspo, I’ve heard of this thing called the internet where you can actually search for activities, instructions, methods, recipes, and more! OR you can contact someone like, yours truly, and ask for some help.
Maybe this will resonate with you, maybe it won’t. Ultimately, it’s your choice in how you will spend your time as our global community fights this virus. Rentrer is the French verb for “return home.” Sitting in our homes, biding the time, isn’t the best embodiment of “returning home.” Dwelling on the anxieties, and some of them very real (financial worry, health concerns, etc) allows you to embody more stress. It’s not that we need to deny or ignore that which worries us, but that we need to challenge ourselves to overcome anxiety through staying productive, staying positive, and staying supportive. Social distancing doesn’t have to mean that we are in solitary confinement.
Continue to reach out through other ways, phone calls, emails, photo sharing, etc. Neighbors in Italy are singing together from their windows! We may not be sharing our physical presences, but we are still united in overcoming this virus, this boredom, this anxiety, together.