This is the third post in a five-part series providing tips and recommendations to adjust to our ‘new normal’ of embracing the home office and keeping COVID-19 at bay. The stress and anxiety the circumstances of self-isolation, social-distancing, and lack of physical contact has caused need to be managed and easily undertaken for them to stick with each persons’ unique self/ daily routine.
With this post I’m focusing on some core pillars I’ve been making a priority in order to manage through the last 10-months, with a focus on managing fundamental things that can have an impact on our thoughts, feelings, and well-being, such as: movement, food, connection. I’ve divided these into tools/tips for bringing in calmness, positivity and balance to what can feel like a never-ending non-routine during the best of weather, let alone the dark winter months.
Movement, Food, Connection:
As someone who has worked from home on and off for the last 14 or so years, it is remarkably easy to forget to move during the day when you’re sitting in a space you feel, well, at home in, and are focused. Outside of the ‘get up and stretch’ every hour, and ‘make sure you get some fresh air’, there are other things you can do throughout the day that count as moving. Dancing for example. Take a 10-minute dance break, if you’re good or not, any style, in the middle of the day (depending on where you work, if you’re still physically present you can do this too. I’ve been known to dance down the sidewalk when the music strikes). If you are lucky enough to shovel snow, that counts too. Or volunteer to shovel your neighbours. Climb stairs instead of using an elliptical. Gardening if you have one. Walking instead of driving for groceries or to an appointment. Doing something fluid like Tai Chi. All the little movements add up if you’re mindful about not remaining sedentary at work, and couch-locked at night.
Part and parcel of movement and being healthy physically and mentally is of course the food we eat. I do my best to maintain healthy food habits, but I’ve recently discovered baking. Which is where I’m going with this and it involves movement too. Take pride in what you’re putting into yourself – I know how to cook basically, but I’ve been on a journey to improve my skills in the kitchen and I’ve recently (pandemic second wave recently) started to take up baking. In fact, oatmeal raisin cookies are on my agenda for later today. Food is such a comfort, cooking can become a meditation, it fosters connections, the scents are fantastic, and it’s a healthy hobby mentally and (not over-doing it) physically.
I’ve taken to watching cooking shows – educational and fun. The Food Network, YouTube, blogs, cookbooks, meal kit companies, and cooking shows all over the streaming internet offer tons of inspiration. Curating recipes to try (I have Pinterest boards I’m building along with my physical cookbooks & recipe folder) is something that really is a non-stressful activity and allows me to just be and mindfully set intentions for the week to come. I take 30 minutes on Sunday to plan out the meals for the week (also allows me to comparison shop & set a budget), and now I’ve added in baking bread and making treats to the mix. I look at it as a way to learn and don’t stress if it’s not perfect. You can always add hot sauce to a dish, and on the sweets side, well, if you’ve got sugar and flour and butter it can’t taste that bad. If it does, try again and just flow with it.
It’s also a great opportunity to learn a new style of food, eat seasonal and local, learn to use pantry staples in more than one way, and if you can, grow your own herbs and produce. All in all it’s been a fun activity to learn do while actually eating good food.
The last pillar, which is oh so important, is maintaining connection. Connection doesn’t necessarily have to mean physical, or even with your family and friends. It can be via an interest-based virtual club, a volunteer group, social media interest groups (healthy ones), or with yourself by journaling. Of course, it’s important to reach out to people you know and care about, even at random to someone you haven’t spoken to in a while to touch base. Schedule socially distant walks, volunteer to check in on the vulnerable, deliver some of that baking to a senior, someone vulnerable, or single parent before it goes to your waist (this also allows you to keep baking to your hearts content!). If you are a parent, give yourself a break and use the “Dial-a-Story” services many cities have through their 211 lines for your little one. Speaking of 211, give them a call to find mental health supports, or community resources as well.
And when all else fails, have a stuffed animal on hand and give it a squeeze to your chest. It helps your body/ heart feel enveloped. There’s a reason kids’ do it. :)
I admit I’ve been lax in the third department, there’s been a lot going on the last year+ and I tend to be a private person as it is, so once COVID hit I just didn’t think about it much because I adapted to a new normal flow… not seeing people regularly or randomly running into friends when I was out on the Danforth working or hanging out. My 2021 goal is to actively change that while remaining safe. Even in lockdown you can, depending on the neighbourhood, exercise 2m apart with a friend with a mask on. Yes, even in winter (*I may not take that piece of advice as I’m a sucker about the cold).
It’s hard to remember sometimes for all of us how fundamental these three pillars are to our overall well-being, especially with the heightened anxiety and stress of our collective situation. Trying to incorporate fun into these normal human activities, and a sense of community, can help your ‘I just want to zone out and order take-out’ brain think of it slightly differently. You may get a new hobby out of it as well.
Which leads me to the next post in the series: arts, crafts, hobbies.
Until next time, I hope you found this helpful!
Yours from home, in lockdown Toronto,
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