Lyndon Henry is a writer, editor, freelance investigative journalist and analyst, and transportation planning consultant.
Stuck at home while the world is upside-down? When you’re experiencing a “stay-at-home” (“shelter-in-place”) lockdown because of the COVID-19 coronavirus, any similar pandemic, or other long-term social crisis, you might find it beneficial to try looking at your situation as an unusual opportunity.
This can be a step toward building a whole new world for yourself, a new way of life that has the potential to spill over to other people. It’s a chance to find out what you want to do and not do with your life – a better opportunity than New Year’s resolutions, because you have time to establish a new routine with fewer distractions. You can use this as a unique occasion to soul-search and develop new habits.
If all that sounds like a good idea, here are some tips and resources to start with that may help you along that path. Possibly you're already involved in some of these activities and practices. In any case, hopefully the resources discussed below will inspire and motivate you to put your "isolation" time to good use – even if you find only one thing that causes you to take action or inspires you to find other resources of your own. And kids can be involved in many of these activities, too.
►Establishing some goals
This might be a useful time to think about goals – not that you have to be continually doing things, because it's a good time for reflection, but perhaps you’ve thought about setting some goals and have never had time to implement them. It could include major projects, or things as simple as taking conscious breaths more often, drinking more water, meditating daily, or exercising regularly.
►Building body-mind connection
Semi-seclusion, especially in the shadow of a pervasive threat to health, can provide an opportunity to systematically explore the ways our bodies and minds are interconnected. In this respect, discussed below are some resources that you may find helpful.
• Dr. Joe Dispenza — International lecturer, researcher, corporate consultant, educator, and author of the groundbreaking book You Are the Placebo, a science-based explanation of how you have the potential to direct your brain and nervous system to help your body protect itself from serious illness and how to change your beliefs and perceptions about yourself and your life.
• Dr. Dan Siegel — A clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine, who specializes in exploring the power of the mind to integrate the brain and promote well-being, and examining the interface of human relationships and basic biological processes. Dr. Siegel's PEPP (Personal Experience, Planetary Pandemic) talks provide a way to come together socially (and virtually) to seek clarity and feel more grounded and hopeful.
Having fewer distractions can offer you an opportunity for achieving a higher level of self-awareness and self-knowledge, allowing you to connect more deeply with your own mental and spiritual reality. Solitude gives you a chance to enjoy being with just yourself. (If there are others in your household, it’s important to carve out least a little time just for yourself.)
As an example of the resources available on the Internet, the noted philosopher and spiritual guide Eckhart Tolle has posted a number of videos of his teachings and meditations that may be helpful.
Meditation offers a wide array of benefits – psychological, physiological, medical, spiritual, and more. If you've thought about trying meditation, or already have experience with it but have difficulty finding time to really get into it, this could be a good opportunity to experiment with it more deeply.
One of the best online meditation resources is Headspace, which offers a free trial with sign-up, and access to meditations as short as 10 minutes a day. Headspace also offers special meditation series to deal with the COVID-19 crisis.
If your children are too young to participate in your meditation, you can suggest before the next activity that they spend a few moments with their eyes closed, finding the “quiet place” inside themselves. They may giggle at first, but soon they will likely calm down.
Especially if you’re accustomed to meeting everyone at work, hanging out with friends, or otherwise socializing, it may be challenging for you to sit at home in isolation.
It's important to remain connected to each other while we live apart. Fortunately, technology has advanced and enhanced our lifestyles significantly, giving us plentiful online forums for social interactions. Social media, in themselves, are a huge benefit, enabling all of us to stay connected virtually (i.e., in cyberspace), if not in-person. In addition, face-to-face "virtual meetings" are as close as your computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone via software platforms like Skype and Zoom.
You've probably already been using some of these technological tools for your own online "socializing". In any case, here are links to various resources that may be helpful:
• How to gather with friends while social distancing, according to a meetings expert — Priya Parker, master facilitator, explains that we tend to coalesce into groups because we need and rely upon one another.
• 5 Ways to Use Social Media for Connection During Times of Social Distancing — Writer Gary Henderson suggests multiple ways to use social media and communication platforms to keep in touch and organize online get-togethers.
►Relaxing and recharging with music
Simply listening to music can be amazingly renewing and refreshing, potentially helping you become more productive, as this article explains:
And for something really relaxing and inspiring, to brighten up your day or help you relax, say, after an intense Zoom meeting, how about a virtual choir?
• True Colors - Camden Voices (self-isolation/virtual choir cover)
This may be a good chance to catch up on novels or other uplifting, intriguing, or exciting literary works you’ve been meaning to read. You can learn about a new topic; explore other cultures; or read a feel-good or inspirational book. If you need some recommendations, try these links:
►Join or create an online book club
For yourself and friends who enjoy reading, how about joining an existing online book club or setting up your own? Here are some resources with ideas:
• How to Host a Virtual Book Club — Tips and options to choose a platform for a virtual meeting; how to invite participants; selecting books to focus on; setting a date to meet. Also, this suggests a number of top digital book clubs available nationally.
• 'The perfect time to start': how book clubs are enduring and flourishing during Covid-19 — This also includes a list of some leading book clubs you could join.
►Unleashing your creativity
This could be a refreshing opportunity to indulge in creative activities, even acquiring new skills, such as a new craft, language, software … any new skill you can think of. How about starting a new hobby?
There’s no end of things you can learn through online videos. Or you could even make your own videos (or learn to do this) and upload them to such sites as YouTube for others to benefit from.
Here's a link that has some suggestions that might get you started:
This could be a perfect opportunity to find time to start writing that book, or those articles you've been thinking about. If you get in the habit of writing a little a day, soon you will find you have many stories. They can be about your life, your ancestors, or favorite anecdotes that you like to tell about your family.
Here are some writing topics or formats you might consider:
• Short stories
• Stories about your ancestors
• Memoirs or just stories of your life
You don’t need to write your entire life story – just writing stories or anecdotes is a way to start. Writing prompts can often help you get started. Here are links with some suggestions:
And be sure to check this out. In a recent article published by The Guardian website, eight successful freelance writers provide quite useful tips for writing creatively, particularly during the pandemic:
This is also an excellent chance to write letters to people to tell them how much you appreciate them. While email is simple and easy, it may be more meaningful to receive a printed/mailed letter or card than a less personal email, particularly in a time of self-isolation.
►Organizing your photos
Like many of us, you probably have photos (print, digital, or both) scattered helter-skelter in various places. If you've been intending to get them organized, well, now's a very good time to begin. Here are a few tips that might help get you going:
• Start by labeling photos with the names of people and places and dating them as best you can.
• Sort your print photos by people or family and use a scanner to scan them, or have someone else do them for you.
• Store print photos in acid-free boxes or put them in acid-free albums.
• All those files on your computer, phone, or in the “cloud” need to be organized and named to become more meaningful than designations like IMG015.
Here are some additional, online resources that may also help.
You might also consider making photo books with your photos to preserve your memories or for gifts. There are various sites providing this service; Shutterfly is a particularly good one.
►Exploring your genealogy
If you've been thinking about delving into your own family genealogy, now's a great time to take the first steps. Or even if you've already done a bit of this, why not explore more in depth? Ancestry (or Ancestry UK) and Findmypast (or Findmypast UK) are some resources that may help.
You can also do online research about your family beyond these genealogical sites. Archival newspaper articles, for example, can provide an excellent resource for you to learn more about your family.
►Organizing and de-junking
What better time to tackle the home organizing and de-cluttering projects you’ve been meaning to do? Remember to bite off a small chunk at a time – either a room or an area of a room – so you don’t get overwhelmed. This link has some tips to help:
►Eating healthier foods
Most people aspire to eating more healthily, but have little to no time to prepare food. Perhaps now's the time to learn to prepare more nutritious meals, at home. Here's a link with some tips:
And don't forget how important it is to make sure you keep your body well-hydrated in a time like this:
Let’s face it – we all want to exercise more, but most of us never seem to find time. Yet now it’s even more essential than ever. (Be sure you stay within any guidelines given you by a healthcare professional.)
Here are some resources that may offer guidance about personal exercise:
Whether in pots or in the ground, gardening is something worthwhile and satisfying, especially with distractions out of the way. For many of us, this can be a very practical and highly rewarding activity, whether you're growing vegetables, fruit, herbs, or decorative plants and flowers. According to a psychiatrist writing in Britain's Daily Mail, "Growing food and gardening may just save your sanity during the coronavirus lockdown ...." There’s something about just getting your hands dirty in the soil and connecting with the earth that’s very healing and humbling.
►Adjusting to social distancing lifestyle
It's likely that the COVID-19 virus, and its aftermath, will be with us for some time to come. So we may also have to continue with this strange new style of living for a while longer. Here are some resources that may be helpful in coping:
• The Coronavirus Crisis Is Showing Us How to Live Online — Writer Kevin Roose explains how we can utilize today’s digital technology – especially the Internet – to “strengthen our real-world ties” and find our way through this crisis, “rather than just distracting ourselves from it.”
• Social Distancing: 20 Ideas for How to Stay Sane — Some interesting suggestions for maintaining sanity (and perhaps widening your mental and spiritual horizon) while undergoing social isolation.
• Gen Z Under Lockdown: How They're Coping, From TikTok To Virtual Drinks — Maybe we all could learn something from how young people are trying to keep from going stir-crazy.
• 5 Gadgets That Make Social Distancing And Self-Isolation A Lot More Tolerable — Recommendations for several mind-calming tech gadgets that might help you survive in a confined environment.
How else are you making changes that you hope will be lasting to your life?
I wish to acknowledge the extensive contributions, advice, and assistance of Rosalind Bond in the preparation of this article. — LH
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Devi Swamy from London on April 24, 2020:
Resonates with my thoughts on the situation. I do think within in crisis lie huge opportunities both personally as well as for businesses.
Karen Johnston on April 24, 2020:
This is a very informative article! I am reading further with links mentioned and learning a lot. This inspires and gives direction for our "new way of life".
Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on April 22, 2020:
Interesting. And well laid out. If I followed just a third of you links it would take me a full day. Perhaps some easy does it?