11 TIPS FOR

SHELTERING IN PLACE

by

Dreamdeer



As someone home-employed and frequently homebound by disabilities, my experience can perhaps help those of you going stir-crazy right now.  Here’s what works for me; modify to fit yourself.

1.  START EACH DAY FOCUSED IN SPIRIT.  (After you take care of essential morning business like jotting down dreams, using the bathroom, etc.)  If you are religious, begin the day with prayers, including a home-blessing.  If you aren’t religious, write something that affirms your specific values and repeat that every morning.  Clarify your sense of purpose and identity.  Strengthen it so that it can stand without human feedback.

 

2.  EXERCISE.  You don’t realize how much exercise you get, even in a sit-down job, in a factory or office.  Everything in your home is much closer and takes fewer steps to get to than the cafeteria, bathroom, supply-closet, etc. in a collective workspace.

 

You probably have some idea that exercise does your physical health a lot of good, but did you know you need it for your mental health, too?  Your body has an extremely difficult time producing endorphins—the chemicals that enable you to feel happiness—without exercise.  Skipping this can send you on a downward spiral fast.

Not only that, in anxious times like these, your body floods with stress chemicals designed to enable you to exert yourself more quickly, because throughout most of human history and prehistory, most crises demanded extra bursts of energy—for fight, flight, or clearing through the rubble.  If you don’t give those chemicals something to do and thereby expend them, they will accumulate and poison you, little by little.  That’s why stress is so bad for our health in the modern era, when we have so many non-physical emergencies.

 

So where do you begin?  Start wherever you’re at.  In my twenties, when a mental illness left me for years so sedentary that standing up became difficult, I could do only one sit-up and some arm rotations.  From that humble beginning I gradually reclaimed my body, listening to how it wanted to move, and from this I built up an exercise routine that saved my life and helped restore my sanity.  (It helped that my Grandma bought me a gym membership for a few years, but through most of my life I’ve exercised at home.)

I recommend establishing a three-day cycle, repeating it twice a week, with a day off, for several reasons.  One, your muscles need a day or two off after exercise to rebuild themselves stronger, but not too many days or you’ll start to lose what you gained.  One or two days between is ideal.  Doing different kinds of exercises on different days keeps you exerted while giving different muscles a chance to develop.

Two, having a six-day schedule in a seven-day week means that if for any reason you’re forced to miss a day, you’ve got some wiggle room to get caught up and back on track.  If you’re forced to miss several days, just resume on whatever day you can, starting with that day’s regularly designated exercise.  If one part becomes impossible to exert , for injury or any other reason (something I’m prone to, due to various disabilities) just repeat the two routines you can every other day till the troublesome part recovers.

 

Just for an example, here’s my own routine, but do whatever suits you best, even if it looks nothing at all like this.  On Monday and Thursday I lift hand-weights (water jugs will serve if you don’t have weights.)  Tuesday and Friday I do neck and spine flexibility exercises (to keep my arthritis at bay) plus floor exercises (the ones you do sitting or lying on the floor.)  Wednesday and a weekend day I do leg and balance exercises.  I haven’t got the lungs or stamina for aerobics, but if you do, schedule them in as fits you best.  Dance makes a very nice and cheering exercise!

3.  FRESH AIR.  Sometime every day turn off the thermostat and open all the windows in your home.  If it’s snowing outside, bundle up first and only do it for a few minutes, but do it.  You need to periodically freshen up the oxygen when you’re in the same building 24/7 and you don’t have fancy company air filtration systems.

 

For that matter, if you have a yard, or even a balcony, use it.  If your local laws allow it, take walks.  If you’re only allowed to walk to the store and back, do that even if you don’t buy anything.  Nobody’s going to report you if you walk to the store and turn around without entering.  Follow the social distancing protocols—stay a couple yards/meters away from other people but feel free to wave and call out greetings.

 

4.  DIFFERENTIATE DAYS.  When you don’t go to a scheduled job, church, etc., it’s easy to lose track of time.  When that happens, it’s surprising how quickly you can forget simple things like when was the last time you showered; needless to say this can mess with your physical and mental health.  Give yourself a few specific tasks or goals on specific days of the week, just to keep yourself keeping track of time.  (For example, I post story-chapters online on Tuesdays, host a discussion on logic on social media on Fridays, and do a Bible study on Sundays.)  You don’t have to have something for every single day, just so long as you have some reason to know what weekday it is.  This helps you stay oriented.

 

5.  MAINTAIN YOUR APPEARANCE.  (This might seem silly to have to even mention it, but when you’re isolated long enough it’s surprising how you can forget even the most basic routines.)  It’s all right, since you’re not out socializing, to wear comfy, sloppy clothes.  However, you can plunge into depression fast if you don’t do some appearance-maintenance like brushing your hair daily (it can also turn into a tangled nightmare faster than you’d expect.) If you have pierced ears, put earrings in at least once a week, to keep the holes from closing.  Do all the basic hygiene things for your own well-being, not just for other people.  Keep in mind that the quarantine won’t last forever and you will be seen in public again.

 

And now and then, just for the fun of it, dress up.  Dress in fanciful ways that maybe you wouldn’t dare do in public.  If you want to draw lipstick hearts on your cheeks or braid your hair into fun shapes, go right ahead! Or whatever suits you.

 

6.  IMPROVE YOUR ENVIRONMENT.  When you live most of your life outside of your home and only go there to sleep, you often don’t do much to make it very livable.  Then when something comes along like this pandemic, you’re stuck in a place not designed for an extended stay.  But you can change that.

 

First, just catch up on some of the chores that your working life didn’t let you deal with.  Give the place a good cleaning—it’ll cheer you up!  If the thought overwhelms you, don’t worry.  Just do one thing at a time.  Look at one little corner of your home and tell yourself that you’ll clean that up.  Congratulate yourself for doing it.  When you’re ready, do something else.  Don’t even expect to do it all before the shelter-in-place order lifts—yet every little thing you do accomplish is a victory. 

 

If you’re feeling more ambitious, go ahead and do bigger things.  Picture what kind of environment you’d really like to live in, and go for it!  Want to rearrange the furniture?  You’ve got time, and it’s good exercise.  Want curtains?  Make some.  If you want to paint the walls or furniture, I’d recommend using milk-paint (which you can order online, usually in powder packets that you mix at home with water) as it gives off no fumes. 

Decorate freely!  If nothing else, go ahead and walk to the store to buy a cheap box of crayons and a pad of paper, and make yourself some art.  Art critics will not descend on your house!  Suit yourself—why should children have all the fun?  Want lots and lots of rainbow daisies?  I won’t judge.  Prefer vampires?  Again, I won’t judge—go ahead and use up the black crayon to a nub.  Just look around the house and think, “What will make this a happier place for me?

 

(For the record, I’m a terrible housekeeper.  But I can make my home at least pleasant enough for a slob like me.  If you’re going to stay somewhere for a long time, make it comfortable.)

 

7.  TAKE FULL ADVANTAGE OF THE INTERNET.  If you’re reading this, you have some device enabling you to do so.  Congratulations!  You have access to online books, poetry, music, videos, social media, tutorials, gaming and other delights—enjoy them!  You now have time, and lots of it is free.  Keep in touch.

 

Since you’ll be spending a lot of time online, change the background picture on your screen every so often.  There’s plenty of free pictures online in the public domain or in Creative Commons.  Wikimedia is a good source.  This can cheer you up and provide a bit of a mini-vacation.

 

8.  COOK REAL FOOD.  Beware the temptation to subsist on nibbling junk all day—poor nutrition can contribute to depression.  So can gaining weight from nervous snacking.  In fact, you might not want to have snack foods in your house at all, if their constant presence is going to sabotage you—you’re going to be a lot more exposed to that stuff now than if you only encountered it between coming home from work and sleeping.

 

(For that matter, be careful about alcohol!  There’s no such thing as social drinking in isolation.  You could quickly get into a cycle of drinking your troubles away only to have them slam you in the morning with interest, in the form of a hangover, making numbing still more alluring.  The normal social deterrents to alcoholism are gone.)

 

Most of us have stocked up on staples, since we initially didn’t know whether we would even have access to stores.  So use them.  Find recipes online, or just innovate.  Cooking at home might well become a good habit that will survive the crisis and make the rest of your life healthy and enjoyable.


9.  HOBBIES.  Pursue whatever hobby pleases you.  If you don't have a hobby, come up with one.  Do whatever you used to wish you could do but never had the time. Don't wait till you're dying to check some in-home things off your bucket list.


If it's an outdoor hobby that you can't do right now, take inventory of your gear and fix, decorate or improve whatever could use it.  Now's a good time, for instance, for fishermen to tie new flies or surfer-girls to wax their boards.  Watch video tutorials for tips on improving your game.


10,  SING.  Most of us will not be sharing our home with a music critic for the duration, so sing your heart out!  Nobody cares if you can’t hold a tune with Velcro mitts—just belt it out and enjoy it.  You can find the lyrics to your favorite songs online, or new songs to learn.  It improves your oxygen levels and just plain makes you happier.

 

11.  HELP OTHERS.  Just because you're physically isolated doesn't make you useless.  Reach out online to those who are lonely, scared, angry or confused by these events.  Cheer people up.  Write letters.  Join in on collective problem-solving.  Do research for somebody who doesn't know how.  Post beautiful or funny pictures.   Enter helpful discussion groups in your areas of expertise.  If you have the money, pick out an online charity to contribute to; if you're materially broke yet spiritually blessed, pray for them.  If all else fails (or even if not) draft a plan of action for when you can socialize again. 

I believe that so long as you are alive, you have something to contribute, whether it is visible to me or not.  What I don't believe in is insignificance.  The space shuttle Challenger crashed due to the failure of a single O-ring--that's nothing but a largish rubber washer.  If you had asked somebody, before that flight, to point out what would become the most critical piece of equipment on the voyage, nobody would have pointed to one of many O-rings.  But oh did it matter!  You matter, too.  You are here for a reason, whether you can see it or not, and you don't even have to know it.  How much self-awareness does an O-ring have?


I hope these tips help.

 





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