Have extra time on your hands because of a shelter-in-place order? These five tips will help you navigate uncertain times.
This year for Self-Care Sunday we’re exploring goal-setting and how setting goals in ten different domains of our lives will help us improve our self-care. January’s posts dealt with the different aspects of goal-setting. February’s posts dealt with goal-setting in the relational domain. The posts in March will explore goal-setting in the avocation domain.
Time to Learn
“I saw a new bird today,” my son-in-law texted me.
“Oh, yeah? What kind?” I texted back.
“I’m calling it a black-headed, white-bellied, hopping bird,” he joked.
“Haha,” I replied as I scrolled through my bird app looking for a photo of a dark-eyed junco. Pedro started a tradition of ‘naming’ birds a few years back, and now our son-in-law had joined him. I snapped a screenshot of the bird and texted it to him. “This the bird you saw?”
“How did you know?!” he replied.
Eight years ago, I would have looked in awe at anyone who could identify a bird based on such a rudimentary description. But I’ve spent a lot of time with my avocation in the last decade, and based on location, size, and description I’ve improved at identifying birds I haven’t seen.
Still, I wanted to know more. When expert birders discussed auriculars, primaries, anisodactyl, and undertail coverts, I wanted to know what in the world they meant. For months I’ve had my eye on a National Geographic course on birding—but haven’t had the time or money to invest in the course.
Now that schools have closed, it seems as if everyone has a free or low-cost deal to help out teachers, parents, and students (and other people stuck at home).
Great Courses Plus has a one-month free membership, and you guessed it, they have the National Geographic course on birding that I wanted to buy. Now I can learn about tertiaries, rictal bristles, and what zygodactyl means while I exercise in the mornings or eat lunch in lonely solitude.
These tips might help you figure out what to do with YOUR extra time.
1. Don’t Default to Bing-Watching Netflix
Face it, we’ll all do a little binge-watching for the next several months. But while we have time on our hands, we might as well use it to explore our growth mindset and learn new skills.
The Great Courses Plus membership offers drawing and painting classes, too (as well as other things like linear algebra that don’t interest me much).
If you have young ones at home, have them choose a course and learn along with you. I’ve put a gardening course on my watchlist. The experts say the social distancing could go on for months—plenty of time to plant a garden.
My daughter started gardening indoors months ago—and she lives in Alaska! Who knew you could grow rhubarb inside?
Trust me, I haven’t given up watching solely entertaining things, and you don’t need to either. Try to have a good mix of comfort viewing and educational viewing.
2. Keep Your Routines
My dad always says, “If you have time to kill, work it to death.” We can easily waste our quarantine or shelter-in-place time on things that harm our mental health.
Ruminating about the rapid spread of the disease, reading every article a friend or family member posts on Facebook, or thinking we can single-handedly hold back the tsunami of economic changes won’t help us. Trust me, those endeavors only produce anxiety.
Instead, bring order to the chaos of having time on your hands (who knew it would disturb us so much?) by keeping routines.
Make a list of your daily routines, and decide which routines you can keep with your new reality. If you have kids at home due to school closures, remember that they will feel comforted by keeping routines, too.
You can work your time to death to your advantage, or you can waste it with fruitless ruminating. Choose to make your time work for you.
3. Set Goals and Add Them to Your Schedule
The free membership to Great Courses Plus only lasts for 30 days, so I’ve set a goal of watching 60 minutes of instruction each day. By the time I finish the one on birding, I’ll have the supplies I need to start the watercolor class.
Just setting a goal won’t do any good until you schedule it into your day. I’ll watch one installment of the birding course while I walk or run on the treadmill in the morning, and another when I go for a walk outside in the afternoon.
When I finish one course and start the one on painting, I’ll schedule 30 minutes a day for watching and practicing at the same time. I don’t think painting and treadmill exercise pair well together.
Your plan should include self-care activities for each domain of your life—Mental, Physical, Academic or Artistic, and Spiritual. Take the time to write out a schedule for your day, and try to keep it similar to your normal schedule and routines. Having a purpose helps us corral the chaos.Having a purpose helps us corral the chaos. #shelterinplace #time #goals #hobbies Click To Tweet
4. Do Something Kind for Someone Every. Single. Day
I’ve always had a nostalgic feeling every time I read a novel set during wartime. Especially when the heroines meet at the local Red Cross to roll bandages. During this time of the Coronavirus, we have an equivalent opportunity: Sew face masks.
You can join the #millionmaskforce and commit to making surgical masks for medical workers. You can make them at home, yet contribute to those in need.
With all the extra time on my hands, I’ve recommitted to doing a random act of kindness for someone every. single. day. Today, I’ll help the horsemanship teacher muck out the barn. Tomorrow I’ll work in the school’s garden. The next day I’ll sort through my sewing supplies and start making masks.
5. Pray Together—Virtually
As a person of faith, I strongly believe that my prayer life shapes my thought life. Prayer doesn’t have to happen on our knees, in a closet, or at church. We can pray anytime and anywhere, silently or out loud.
I have a lot more time for prayer because my school has closed for the foreseeable future. When I think of a student, I offer up a prayer for him or her. Seeing a co-worker across campus (we all live on campus) sparks a prayer for that person’s health and family.
Fearful thoughts about finances (how long can we pay our mortgage if our renters can’t pay rent?) get shoved out of the way with prayers of thanksgiving for all we do have. Prayers of praise stomp out fear of job-loss, family members’ health, and uncertain times.
Find a group and join the 7-7-7 club. As a staff, we have committed to praying together by praying at the same time each day—seven in the morning, seven at night, for seven days a week. We pray with our families and in unity with our faith community. God understands that we can’t actually get together.Have time on your hands? Join the 7-7-7 movement and put your time to good use. #prayer #shelterinplace Click To Tweet
Take the time to draw closer to God. Remember that he promised that we would have troubles (John 16:33), yet we need to see trouble as an opportunity to grow our faith.
Mourn, But Don’t Despair
The changes and uncertainties presented by the Coronavirus pandemic could easily make us despair. Take time to mourn the loss of life as you knew it. Feel sad about what your child misses each day because schools have closed. To feel otherwise would deny our humanity and emotional needs.
But we don’t have to stay there. Choose one spot-on-the wall to look forward to. For me, learning more about birding keeps my spirits up. That and the fact that my beloved pets (hummingbirds) will arrive within a few weeks.
And when they come, I’ll admire their anisodactyl feet, their white auriculars, and marvel at their tiny primaries.