Whether by choice or by decree, you are probably doing your civic duty and self-isolating in your house. Maybe that means you have to work from home, or, in worse cases, it means you are unable to go to work at all.
Either way, the current situation with COVID-19 is serious, and we all need to take it that way. Just because you’re being called to your couch right now, though, doesn’t mean that time needs to be wasted on watching every episode of The Office three times.
Sure, relaxing and distracting yourself with a little binge watching isn’t a bad idea, especially if what’s going on is making you anxious or stressed. But you can also spend this extra time at home focusing on more productive things than Netflix, like self-improvement.
Here are 11 positive and productive things you can do while cooped up in self-quarantine that are better than vegging out the whole time:
1. Be kind.
These ideas are in no particular order, however this one may be one of the most important during a crisis. When you’re isolated, it can be easy to become bitter and angry, or to be more selfish and look out for only yourself. We’ve already seen it with the incredible hoarding of supplies by people who took much more than they needed, leaving little to no essentials for others. Practice kindness on a daily basis, home alone or not.
Also, call your grandparents. Or your mom and dad, or anyone you know who is especially at risk of complications from this coronavirus. Check in on elderly neighbors (while keeping your distance). If they need supplies and feel unsafe going to the store, offer to go for them. And if you order something to your house, like pizza, generously tip the delivery guy.
Help where you can, and disinfect everything.
2. Read a book.
How often have you said you wanted to read more, but you didn’t have the time? On the bright side of all of this, you’ve just been granted nothing but time! So set aside a block of it each day to read a book.
If you usually read, say, mystery novels, but you’ve always wanted to read more personal development books or one on a certain topic you’re curious about, try swapping your “easy” reads for something deeper, but still enjoyable. Reading will enrich your life, and we all need that kind of uplifting activity right now.
3. Meditate and/or pray.
The benefits of dedicating time to meditation or prayer are numerous and have been proven in studies over and over again. To truly do nothing but meditate or pray can seem impossible to fit in between the rush to get out the door the morning, eight busy hours at the office and getting the kids to soccer practice. Now, with no commute and newfound extra time, you can.
Start small by dedicating 15 minutes to not looking at your phone or giving in to any other distraction. This time block can grow bigger each day. Like with any workout program, you can’t jump in to the hardcore hour-long commitment on day one; you have to build up those muscles.
Meditation is one practice that you can really improve on with your extra time and, with the benefits you will see in your life, you might just want to continue when things get back to normal.
4. Indulge in a passion project.
Not everyone is lucky enough to call their career or job their passion, but everyone has a passion. Maybe you want to start a home bakery; use this time to try new recipes and create marketing materials to introduce your creations to the world. Start planning out how you could turn your baked goods into a real side business. Maybe you have always wanted to write a book? Open up a Word document and start typing.
You don’t have to complete whatever project you start in the amount of time we are on lockdown, but you can definitely get the ball rolling and really create some momentum that would allow you to finish it soon.
5. Learn a new skill.
The business world is rapidly changing and new skills are needed constantly, but it can be nearly impossible to learn something new while you’re just trying to keep your head above water at work. So take that online coding class, practice your video editing skills, or start learning a foreign language now. Imagine the surprise on your co-workers’ faces when you return from this hiatus speaking German!
There are lots of ways to teach yourself, with blogs, apps and online courses at your fingertips. If you learn a useful skill while away from the office, you will return to what may be a difficult job market with a leg up on your competition.
6. Exercise at home.
Going to the gym may not be a great option right now, and you may not have exercise equipment or dumbbells at home. Don’t worry, though, because there are plenty of ways to stay in shape without weights. Browse YouTube for workout videos, or join an online fitness community. If you have an Apple Watch or a Fitbit, challenge friends to an activity competition, so you still have accountability.
The important thing is that you keep moving, get your blood pumping and sweat as much as you can. This will benefit your mind and body equally.
7. Go for a walk or run.
You can safely go outside while avoiding close contact with other people and touching surfaces that may be infected, and sometimes, this is the best thing you can do for your mental health. Soaking up sunshine and breathing fresh air will help rejuvenate you and make you feel better.
Just remember, if you run into neighbors doing the same thing, do your part and keep your distance: Wave hello, but try to stay 6 feet away, and don’t shake hands.
8. Do a brain-stimulating activity.
It’s just as important to exercise your mind as it is your body. Watching TV and scrolling on your phone do the opposite, and the mindless activity can even make you feel depressed and anxious. So break out that big puzzle you’ve been putting off, play a board game with your family, or find some brain games online or in the App Store to stay sharp and boost your mental energy.
9. Practice self-discipline.
There are many different ways self-discipline can manifest itself, but this is key: Go to bed on time, and wake up early.
It’s so tempting when working from home to sleep until the very moment you’re supposed to be at your computer, and eat your breakfast at the same time you’re checking your morning emails. While that is one of the benefits of being remote, it can also inspire a lazy attitude. Which can lead to feeling worse about yourself and your situation.
Waking up early and getting the blood flowing with a home workout, then focusing your mind through prayer or meditation, and eating a good breakfast (sans laptop) will allow you to attack your workday and be at your sharpest when the job calls for it.
You and your fellow employees may very likely all be working from home for the first time. It’s often the employees who show value during challenging times that are rewarded. Having self-discipline will make you stand out.
10. Limit your social media intake.
Social media has its benefits in a time like this, when information is at a premium, so if you follow trusted sources that can provide you with factual, up-to-date information, then by all means, keep yourself informed.
But you also probably follow people who are spreading misinformation like wildfire. Whether it’s the guy who says this whole thing is a conspiracy designed to cause panic, or it’s the person doing the opposite and spreading panic, getting wrong information isn’t helpful to anyone.
Social media stokes outrage in people, and outrage is addictive, but it’s not good for you. Being stuck at home can take a toll on your mental health, and engaging in conversations designed to make you angry, or afraid, is not going to benefit you. So curate your feed, and unfollow and unfriend those people who are using these extraordinary circumstances to be extraordinarily unhelpful.
11. Tidy up.
Spending all day and night at home can make it very easy for your living and working space to become a pigpen. Decluttering and keeping things clean will clear your mind and allow you to feel more comfortable, and happier. Simply making your bed every morning will give you a sense of accomplishment and normalcy, too. And keeping up with your dishes and laundry will remove the stress of worrying about when you’ll get around to doing those chores. Your goal during this time is to make your home enjoyable, not a place you are desperate to escape.
Most people have a list of things in their head that they would do if only they had the time. Go through yours and write down things you’d like to accomplish in the coming days. Maybe we’re all homebound for a week, maybe it lasts much longer, but no matter what, we all want to come out of this healthy, happy, and ready to get back to doing the work that will need to be done in our families, communities and companies.
Wash your hands, cover your cough, and be productive!