Most Americans are either ordered, or at least advised, to stay at home. This can become a daunting task. The first few days may have been filled with binge watching television and lots of sleep but now it is time to have a different response. The extra sleep is probably good since many medical professionals tell us that most of us operate somewhat sleep deprived all the time. Catching up is good. But then what?
Routine. That’s what.
If we want to stay well through this crisis, and stop the deadly spread of the virus, we may need to find ways to manage living separately for quite a long time.
There are the basics that need to be part of daily routine. First, sleeping and waking schedules. Sleeping a little later is good but establishing a routine for when you wake and when you head for bed is the first step toward a new routine.
Second, there is food. Starting with the acquisition of it, followed by preparation and eating. Getting the food you want when you want it can be a challenge. Finding out the routines of your local grocery stores is key. Some offer special hours for older adults. These are usually the first hour in the morning when the store has been cleaned and fewer customers are shopping at the same time. Then you have to settle for whatever is available that day to buy.
It seems many people might actually be eating better now that they have more time to cook. You might find that eating is more relaxed when no one is rushing off to other activities. That is good. If you care for older parents, hopefully you bring them food to protect them from unnecessary exposure.
But then there is the rest of the day. You don’t want to just let the minutes and hours slip by. Instead you can plan to include these three things every day:
- Exercise. Ideally you can go outside to take a walk in your neighborhood or a nearby park. You will not only have the benefits of sunshine and fresh air, but it is a relief to the feeling of being held captive in your home. On days when you can’t get outside, spend some time with exercise at home. You can find online exercise classes and routines. Or, you can simply walk around your home. If you have stairs, walk up and down several times. Just move in an organized fashion. See if you can add some exercise a couple times of day.
- Mental stimulation. Stimulate your brain. Every day you should spend time doing something that stimulates your thinking or your creativity. The Internet is very helpful with this. There are TED talks, instructional videos and loads of other resources. There are University classes you can take online – some are even free. Pull out playing cards or board games. Learning how to do something new. Try cooking something different or starting a new hobby. Get to work on projects – like we all have on the back burner. Read a challenging book. Solve a puzzle or a problem. Anything that brings in new ideas and concepts is good.
- Connect with others. Reach out every day to at least one person. This is a good time to catch up with friends and family you don’t talk to very often. And especially remember those who live alone – regardless of age. A phone call or a video chat helps reduce the sense that you are in this all alone. There are thousands, actually millions, of people discovering ways to stay connected during this time of isolation. If someone you care about lives in supportive senior housing this is particularly important. These centers prohibit visitors right now. There are creative ways people have found to stay connected including visiting through a window. Find ways to show you care and that they are on your mind. Encourage everyone you talk with to make a connection with one other person every day. Instead of spending the time complaining or worrying, encourage conversations about how you and they are adding exercise and mental stimulation to the day.
In many other previous times of crisis we have often been able to come together to support each other. This time is different. Successfully getting through this crisis means we need to find ways to move forward while at the same time staying physically distant from others. The better we handle this the better the outcome for ourselves and those we care about. So exercise, stimulate your brain, and connect.