In these times of social distancing, those of us who are alive, well and at home, have so much to be grateful for. It’s not easy to work from home for those of us used to a routine outside of home. It’s just as hard for those of us who work from home and work at home to not have the solitude of our time and space, or the choice to step out whenever we would like to. It’s hard on everyone. Over the past couple of weeks, I have not experienced a single conversation, personal or professional, where this has not come up. We lose track of time, we end up having a sedentary day, we get bored out of our minds, we miss the social connection, we can’t wait for things to get back to ‘normal’. We have had enough of this situation where we seem to have no choice.
Yet, here we are, safer at home. And fortunate that we have this time and opportunity to slow down, breathe and make some conscious choices for ourselves and the world we live in.
In this four-part series – Self, Work, Community & Ecology – I share my reflections and ideas for what we could all do in this time. I’m drawing from what my family, friends and I are doing, some of the realizations we have had and some of the experiments we are embarking on. So, let’s talk about Self.
What is Self? The dictionary defines self as a person’s essential being that distinguishes them from others, especially considered as the object of introspection or reflexive action. Our essential being. My essential being. Hmm… How often have any of us stopped to think about that?
Right now, all of us are going to have more personal time on our hands. Not because work from home is less work, but because we are not spending time in commute, lunch or coffee breaks with colleagues, meetings that extend longer than they are scheduled for, offline conversations before and after meetings – just all the little and big things that make an ask on our time when we are not engaging in social distancing. If you put it all together, this could be anywhere between 2 to 4 hours a day! Like Stephen Fry said,
You are who you are when no one is watching.
We may be social distancing, but what are some things we can still do with this time, that feel rewarding, meaningful and definitely NOT boring? Here are some ideas:
Your hair, skin, nails everything you always wanted time for and can’t go to the spa or salon for, you can do at home. It’s a great time to explore a whole host of home remedies for hair and skin care. Call your parents, grandparents to ask for what they did at home or simply search online
Give your body exercise
There’s so much to choose from even when you are working out at home, even if you are somebody who typically goes out for a walk, gym or swim and feel like you have no equipment at home. Practice seated exercises while working at your home desk or watching a movie, stretch, jog, do yoga or adopt one of the more intensive aerobic workout.
When we are too busy running around from one task or meeting to another, one of the things that suffers the most is our hydration levels. And the cups of coffee don’t help. Working from home makes it easier to remember to drink water. Keep an alarm every hour, if that helps, and drink up.
Take up a new hobby
Sketching, painting, cooking, blogging, making YouTube videos, playing Sudoku or solving crossword puzzles, lettering or calligraphy, origami, stitching – there are so many hobbies that one can pick-up with nothing more than the things already available to us at home. These will stand the test of social distancing and need no one more than yourself to get started!
Learn a new language
You can learn new languages for free on your phone with apps such as Duolingo. You can even listen to music and watch movies and shows in the language you want to learn, helping you further get a sense of the new sounds and words.
Explore the world from your couch
Spending time on Netflix? Explore movies, shows and sitcoms from other countries around the world. It doesn’t matter what language – there’s always subtitles. And you will experience new cultures, places and social trends. Some that I have really enjoyed recently – Yao based largely in Senegal, The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind based in Malawi and The Servant Of The People from Ukraine. Or get to apps like Google Arts & Culture that offer insights on cultures around the world and virtual tours of museums!
Review your finances
And anything else you have been putting off for a long time. This may not be the best time to make new financial decisions but is certainly a good time to put together a plan for the future. Think about your long-term goals, start to research more about them and put together at least a draft plan to work towards them.
Take online courses
Many online course providers have graciously opened up all of their courses for free in this difficult time. TEDTalk is a useful platform to gain new perspectives, Youtube hosts tons of videos from DIYers and experts on any topic you would like to pick and Scribd has books and audiobooks online. Pick a few topics you would really like to learn more about. They could be topics of personal interest or even professional skills you have been wanting to pick up. Now is a good time to invest time and effort in them.
Sign-up for coaching or counselling
Have you always thought of signing up for career or life coaching or counselling? These are things that can still happen as effectively virtually, as they can in-person. So stop waiting and use this time. Connect with coaches and counselors you know, ask people you trust for references and make your decision. You could even use this time to work with your coach to take up various personality tools, behavioral assessments or interest inventories to gain a deeper insight into yourself and consciously craft your personal development plan.
Clean up your social media
When was the last time you checked your list of friends on Facebook, contacts on Gmail or your phone, connections on LinkedIn or followers on Twitter and Instagram? When did you last update your profile content and images? And when did you last review your privacy and security settings on all your social media accounts? Take some time to revisit each of these things and clean up – opt-in, opt-out, follow, unfollow, block, update.
Extend that online cleaning to your offline world. Use the KonMari method or anything else that suits your fancy. Go through documents, clothes, shoes, knick-knacks and set aside everything you want to give away. A simple rule to use is, if you haven’t seen or used it in a year, maybe you don’t need it. You could even add some sparkle to your cleaning efforts by exploring DIY home décor and new room arrangement / interior design ideas
Read a book
Oh! That lovely habit so many of us have lost or forgotten. Give your eyes and brain a break from screens. Pick up a book, curl up to read and get lost in that magical world. If you don’t have physical books at home, you always have Kindle, even on your phones through the app. Just remember to switch on the blue light filter if you are reading online for a long time or look up and do some simple eye exercises.
Start a journal
Start writing in a book or on your computer. Write a diary entry every day with whatever you feel like. Or if you prefer structure, pick an area you would like to focus on and use that as a theme. You could keep a productivity journal, documenting what, how and how much you were able to accomplish; you could keep a gratitude journal for all that you feel grateful for, a planning journal, anything you feel like. If you really feel like, convert your journal into an online diary or blog.
Learn to take me-time
Social distancing need not mean becoming distant from our own selves. And getting bored, feeling lost or bring frustrated can do that to us. 10 minutes for you to mentally zone out and take a break can do wonders for your well-being. You could design your own rituals. It could be meditation, mindfulness, a cup of tea – something you could do every day, to just be.
A new, positive habit you develop now will stay with you even when your commute, travel and everything else about your everyday hectic life resumes.
Start off with something simple, maybe even just saying I’ll give myself 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes in the evening, to do something for myself. And then, just get going!
What are other things you are already doing to make the most of social distancing? Or is there any idea here you want to know more about? Leave a comment below.