Are we doing it to ourselves again?

It’s about a month into quarantine, and you may be thinking, “Wow, I feel just as busy as I was before, maybe busier.” Sound familiar? Is it possible that we are so used to filling our time that even when a forced slow-down is upon us, we very creatively and resourcefully find ways to fill our time anyway? You may be seeing all of the amazing, community-centered efforts people have been putting out there to help us all get through this strange and unfamiliar time: virtual workout classes, virtual painting classes, virtual tours, virtual academic courses, live chats, craft ideas, Facebook games, community movements…..literally anything and everything to keep us active. And it’s all fantastic. In fact, it would be incredible to see many of these ideas survive the quarantine and become part of the new normal. So much innovation and community spirit has come from such a devastating blow. But, how are we managing our time during what would otherwise be a pause in our lifestyle? Are we pausing? Are we taking time to just be?

This is a unique time in our history, a moment surely none of us are hoping to repeat anytime soon. But, could this be a once in a lifetime chance to just stop? The benefits of taking a beat and practicing quiet time are well-documented. Meditation, self-care, quiet, are all things that ground us and give the body a chance to catch up. But, most of us are typically so busy that it’s the last thing we consider until it’s too late. Stress takes over and causes anxiety, depression, poor health, bad sleep, poor eating habits, etc. When was the last time we were forced to stop our daily treadmill and just stand still? How many of us do that voluntarily as part of a daily self-care regimen? Being busy is a habit, and habits are hard to break.

 

Even if we think we’re doing nothing, often our brain still thinks we’re working because we’re looking at our phones while we’re “doing nothing.” Scrolling Instagram is not nothing. The brain sees it as work and keeps on chugging along. And how many of us feel guilty for “doing nothing?” The guilt nags at us until we get up and find something to do. Are you finding yourself a month into quarantine and still feeling “exhausted?” Why is that? It may be hard to be dealing with the anxiety of being cooped up and feeling the need to connect. This drives us to social media where we can find others who are equally miserable and maybe share a laugh. It’s understandable. It’s hard to give up a lifestyle cold turkey and suddenly just live in isolation. But maybe there is a way to create balance and still take a piece of this downtime to truly rest and recharge, to refocus and heal. We don’t have to do ALL of the quarantine activities just because they’re out there.  Is Quarantine FOMO seriously a thing?

 

If you’re feeling too busy during your downtime, here are some ways to practice truly slowing down and giving your mind and body a much-needed break. And these are things that you can continue to do once life gears back up again.

  1. Daily meditation– Sometimes five minutes is all you need to sit completely still and silent and try to center your mind.
  2. Yoga or Tai Chi– These are “active” ways to ground yourself, getting exercise while getting centered at the same time.
  3. Quiet walks alone– Take 10 minutes and go by yourself. Don’t feel guilty about not taking the dogs or the kids. Just go.
  4. Take a bath– Moms NEVER get time alone in the bathroom. Once a week, plan with the support of your spouse and kids, to have 30 minutes in the tub, with just quiet or some soft music.
  5. Read a book– Reading in bed at night is a great practice in good sleep hygiene and it’s a great way to calm your brain before sleep.
  6. Sit outside by yourself– Go into the woods if you can or just to your back yard at a time when your neighborhood is quiet and just sit for a bit. Early mornings are a great time to do this.
  7. Journal– At the end of the day or the start of the day are great times to either journal about the day, or your hopes and goals for the day. Clearing those thoughts from your head or giving clarity to your day is a great way to give your mind some peace.
  8. Knit, crochet or sew– Yes this is a craft or activity, but it is a meditative one. Doing something with your hands in a quiet space is a centering activity and is known to reduce stress.
  9.  Tea time– Find a space in your home that you love, that brings you positive energy and sit there quietly with a cup of tea. Don’t have a space like this? Make one!
  10. Clean or do chores– Again, yes this is technically doing something, but if you can do something like folding laundry in a quiet space for just 20 minutes, sometimes that’s all you need to recharge.
  11. Play– Play with your kids. Especially if your kids typically go to school and you typically work outside of the home, there will never be another time like this to just be in the moment and play with your kids.

The key is quiet. Find ways to allow your brain to have quiet, little or no stimulation, with one or less tasks to focus on. Doing this every day, while we have the time, may be the best thing that ever happened to us. When it’s time to go back to business as usual, we’re going to want to be re-charged and ready. So, don’t forget to take the gift of time you’ve been given and just do nothing with it. Also, put your phone down. Really, it’s ok. The memes will all be there when you get back.

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