The COVID-19 situation has changed rapidly for the worse almost everywhere. As of late April, most of Europe and North America have restricted movement in some way, mandating social distancing in some form in major cities. The reality of the situation is that to flatten the curve, most of us will need to remain indoors.
One thing that we need to acknowledge is that any form of quarantine comes at a price and not just an economic one. We are already witnessing many of the more serious consequences of quarantine, such as increases in domestic violence.1 There are immediate disruptions to our daily life that need to be addressed properly. While much of the aftermath of COVID-19 are outside of our control, there are many personal choices that you can make to improve your well-being.
Protecting Yourself: Update
Many cities in North America are still under some type of restriction enforcing social distancing, and with the infection rates still on the increase, it’s more important than ever to remain vigilant with social (physical) distancing. There are still many unknowns about the novel coronavirus, such as how long it can survive on various surfaces, so at this time it’s better to err on the side of precaution.
- Handwashing remains the most important and effective preventative measure against COVID-19.
- Clean surfaces that you commonly touch such as your desk, keyboard, and cellphone.
- Clean surfaces that come into frequent contact with your shoes like a doormat. If you wear shoes inside your home, now is the time to change your habits.
- Wash your hands after going outdoors for any reason. Use soap, scrub your hands thoroughly, and wash for 20 seconds.2
- Have a representative for your household do all of the grocery shopping for the household to minimize the risk of catching the coronavirus.
One major change in North America is the health organization’s official position on the use of non-medical masks. While medical-grade masks are in short supply and should be reserved for medical professionals, there is new evidence that even non-medical masks can confer some protective benefit in preventing asymptomatic spread.3 If social distancing is difficult (such as transit use if you are an essential worker) or for shopping, you may want to wear some type of mask.
For the vast majority of people living in the cities, there will be significant disruption to daily life. Even for those that still have their jobs intact, and are financially stable, the mundane rhythms of life are being disrupted. Staying at home, working or not, is likely a drastic change from the norm for most people. Some common concerns include:
- Less social interaction
- Eating different foods
- Less exercise
- Increased stress
- Sleep disruption
- Less sun exposure
Essential workers who are still out in public doing their work are also affected by daily disruptions. These are not normal circumstances, and the daily routines are likely changing, and they likely face significant changes in their procedures, volume, or type of work that they perform on top of the heightened stress of working under these unusual circumstances. You may notice that subtle dynamics in the family change as well. Depending on your local situation, schools may be closed as well, leaving your children at home. Your pets won’t understand that you are in fact, working although you are home. Disruptions are happening at many levels that you may not notice.
Many people don’t handle sudden changes well. Sometimes even positive changes can become a source of stress. Although we can’t force normalcy to resume, there are many personal decisions that we make, that can shift how we face disruption.
One strategy is replication – to try and emulate as close as possible, what your normal life would be like. Take some advice from those who work remotely. They have all undergone the challenge of working from home. It’s easy to lose discipline or to fall back in other areas of life, like health, exercise, and nutrition.
- Maintain a similar schedule as you normally would even if you work from home
- Schedule the challenging tasks at the beginning of the day
- Plan out and structure your day
- Communicate boundaries with other members of your family – don’t let family time slip into work time, and just as importantly, don’t let work creep into your family time
- Meal prepping will help to organize and manage time and health
- If you can’t go to a gym or a fitness class, replace it with a similar activity at home. If your gym isn’t offering online classes, there are many free workout videos on YouTube.
Try to maintain a routine that is healthy both mentally and physically. In the face of sudden change and stress routines can help to stabilize you.
Maintaining a semblance of normalcy is important but perspective-shifting is also effective. At the time of this writing, there are 22 million unemployed Americans. Even if you are working from home, you likely find yourself with more time than you are used to. It’s a time when stress and anxiety are normal, regardless of your financial circumstance.
Change is frequently stressful, but it can also help change our thinking. Sometimes a change, even if it’s forced upon us, can end up being positive if we can reframe it. Take advantage of the time that you have. If you are at home with too much time, this is a perfect way to spend more time with your family, to learn a new skill, or perhaps, to start a new hobby. These are all positive things that we all strive to do, but often get cut in the bustle of a fast-paced life.