Covid-19 forces us to recognize that for so long we’ve constantly overbooked, over-committed and over-exhausted ourselves. We do this because that’s what we were taught, that’s what we saw others do around us, and that’s what we thought was normal. This time of quarantine takes us out of long commutes, boring meetings, happy hours and late night hangouts with friends, and causes us to take a step back and examine the value of our time. Many of us suddenly have more free time after living for so long with little to none of it. This makes us value and appreciate our time more. We’re starting to learn what is really important and what’s not. What we have room for in our lives this week, and what is too much. We’ve started to understand that we only have so much bandwidth in a day, and that every single thing we do uses up a little bit of it. Once we run out, we’re running at a deficit that can only be paid back by recharging our batteries (i.e. borrowing bandwidth from another day). We must allow ourselves time to recoup or we will inevitably “hit the wall” at some point. It’s not sustainable for us to cram so much into our lives and not give ourselves an equal amount of time to recover.
Before the pandemic, many of us used up much of our precious weekend free time scrolling aimlessly on our phones or lounging on the couch watching Netflix. We didn’t do this because we’re lazy, we did it because we didn’t have the physical and mental bandwidth to do anything else. We had every intention of going for a morning run, doing the laundry and getting an oil change, but when it came down to it our bodies just wouldn’t let us. Instead we engaged in lounging activities because they were just about all we were capable of doing since we had overspent ourselves during the week. However, recently some of us are experiencing for the first time in years what it feels like to end a week and still have a little bit of bandwidth left. We’ve found that suddenly we have enough energy to paint, bake, play catch with the kids, go on a bike ride, or build that plant wall we’ve always wanted. Many of the things we’ve wanted to do but couldn’t find the energy or time to commit to are now becoming more and more possible. I’m hoping we all stay mindful of this change so that when this is finally over, we don’t fall back into the habit of constantly running on fumes.
We need “me time”.
It’s an odd concept to think about, but yes, during this time of quarantine when we cannot get together with friends and family (which can sometimes make us feel really alone), we have discovered that we need to set aside time for ourselves. It’s easy to get wrapped up in making dinner, homeschooling the kids, working, doing chores, and whatever else we have going on. All that plus the added weight of everything that is going on in the world is enough to drive anyone crazy. The pandemic pushed us to the limits of what we can handle in so many ways (in regard to our physical and mental health, our finances, safety, relationships, and so much more). Many of us are “stuck” in the house with our loved ones day in and day out. We love them, but let’s be real here, we get sick of them sometimes. So we have given ourselves permission to take a break from anyone and everyone, and allowed ourselves some “me time”. Maybe we use that time to take a bubble bath, walk the dog, read a book or listen to music or a podcast. Whatever it is, it’s our time and we do with it whatever we want to.
We need nature.
There’s nothing that makes one appreciate the great outdoors like being cooped up inside the house. Many of us are now working from home, some even setting up our home office in the same room where we sleep, so we’re feeling a bit confined. Our options to get out and go somewhere on the weekend are limited, so again, we stay home. Staying home is one of the best ways to stay safe during the pandemic, but it does have its side effects. One of the largest and most common of those side effects is cabin fever, which can be an absolute killer.
Just the other day, I was working happily at home when I received a phone call with some frustrating news. My mood took a complete 180 and I found myself angrily typing away at my computer, unable to focus. A little while later a friend called me to ask a simple question and (after answering her question and asking if she had time to talk) I completely unloaded all of these thoughts and feelings I’ve had bottled up in my mind onto her. I realized somewhere in the middle of my ugly cry that I needed to get out of the house or I was going to implode. So after my phone call I threw on my flip-flops, grabbed my purse and sunglasses and went for a drive. I got some food and sat outside by myself for a while and just let my mind decompress. I realized at that moment that my mind had been cooped up just as much as my body had, and both needed to get out. Being outside allowed me to wash away some of the struggles I had been dealing with, and re-fuel my mind and body for the rest of the day.
We need less stuff.
With our newly found free time, many of us are taking a page from Marie Kondo and realizing it’s time for us to sift through our possessions and find out what does (and does not) spark joy in our lives. As we start to clear the mental clutter of over-crammed days and weeks, we’ve also begun to clear the physical clutter taking up space in our homes. If we’re going to spend more time at home, we might as well make it as spacious and lovely as we can, right? Self-quarantine thrust our culture of over-consumption in front of us, and forced us to finally deal with the consequences of it. We’re spending more time sitting at home surrounded by the piles of clothes, electronics and knick-knacks we thought we couldn’t live without, but now realize we didn’t need.
Many of us have come to realize just how ingrained shopping is in our weekly or monthly routines. No longer can we just make a Target run because we’re bored or go to the mall because of the big holiday weekend sale. We’re now more mindful of going anywhere, and have to consider our safety and the safety of others anytime we leave our homes. So now, as we organize our closets and put a few old appliances up for sale on OfferUp, we’re beginning to learn that maybe we should give it a second thought before impulsively making purchases. After all, we don’t want to be left with another mountain of stuff to go through in the next pandemic (which hopefully will never happen).
We need purpose.
We get up every morning, maybe eat a quick breakfast and gulp down our coffee and then it’s time to start the day. Whatever that day entails, we often don’t have enough room left for hobbies or self-fulfillment. However, many of us are using our time in quarantine to introduce new activities into our lives. We’re cooking, baking, working out, sewing, learning to play an instrument, building things, reading more, learning a new language, and all sorts of other wonderful things. Quarantine reminds us that we can make, create and do things for ourselves. We don’t have to rely on Amazon for everything we need, and we don’t have to rely on our online writing jobs for beginners to give us purpose. We have so much more to offer this world than what we do in our daily work. For once we finally have the time to prove it to ourselves and others.
We need each other.
What I wouldn’t give for a big bear hug from a good friend right now! If you’re anything like me, it’s probably one of the things you miss the most these days. Zoom calls are great and I’m so grateful that technology exists, however it’s not the same as in-person contact. There’s just something about being in the same room with others that cannot be replaced by digital interactions. There’s an energy, a sort of tone and connection that no video conferencing tool can provide. We spend so much time on social media and other platforms trying to connect with others, but many of us know deep inside that it’s just not enough. We’re social beings that aren’t used to being so isolated. It’s not good for our mental health. So whatever little fragments of in-person connections we can have right now (while wearing masks and staying 6 ft. apart, of course), let’s cherish them and take note that we need to nourish our relationships and take care of each other because, plain and simply, we need each other.
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