Saturday, April 11, 2020

Staying Home? Keep Busy and Reach Out to Others

You can be alone without feeling lonely.
Beginning in early 2020, large segments of the U.S. population were ordered to shelter at home because of the Covid-19 virus sweeping the world.  By late March, restaurants and bars were closed.  Meetings and religious services were canceled. People were discouraged from having gatherings in their houses. While some people were able to work from home, others lost their jobs and had very little to do each day.

Millions of Americans, as well as those in other countries, have been isolated by themselves at home.  Others have a spouse, or their entire family, staying with them. A few have chosen to quarantine with a close friend or two. Whether they are alone or not, nearly everyone has significantly more free time.  Even those who have a job which allows them to work from home have seen their lives change dramatically, since they are no longer able to go out to dinner, attend a party, or socialize with friends.

A pandemic is not the only reason people may find themselves suddenly stuck at home, with little to do. They may be recuperating from an illness, injury or surgery. They may have become the caregiver for a relative and find they are unable to leave the house very often. They might find themselves in the middle of a blizzard or other natural disaster which makes it difficult to leave home.

When these things happen, and you are no longer able to go out when you want, how can you make the time you are spending at home interesting and meaningful?

Keep Yourself Physically Active

When you cannot go to the gym or attend exercise classes, it is still important for you to stay in good physical condition.  Here are some suggestions:

Take a walk in your neighborhood; if you cannot go outside because of weather or other reasons, walk around your home and climb the stairs, if you have them.  If you need inspiration, a man in Paris ran an entire 26.2 mile marathon on his 23 foot long balcony while under quarantine.  It took him nearly 7 hours of running back and forth.  If you just walk briskly around your home for 30 minutes a day, you will be keeping yourself from becoming too sedentary, and you do not have to run a marathon!

If you are willing to keep a respectful distance of six to ten feet, and perhaps wear a face mask, you may even walk with a friend.  This will allow you to chat in person with someone every day, and reduce your loneliness.  I have done this daily during this pandemic and found it very satisfying.

In addition to walking, add other forms of exercise such as lifting weights (or cans of food), dancing to your favorite music, or following a yoga video. You might also be surprised how much exercise you get when you vacuum the house.  Whatever you do, do not spend your days sitting without making some effort to get up, get exercise, and stretch.

Keep Yourself Mentally Balanced

It can be easy to become edgy or irritable from spending too much time alone.  Here are some suggestions:

Try a meditation tape and practice deep breathing.

Keep a journal. Observe the things happening outside your window ... blooming flowers, nesting birds, neighbors and their dogs.

Even when you are alone, you do not have to be lonely.  Spend time chatting with others on the phone, or do a video chat using WhatsApp or Zoom.   A friend of mine posted on Facebook that she and her husband had their regular monthly "cocktail party" with their friends.  They just did it on Zoom.  Everyone made their own appetizers and poured their own glasses of wine.  Then, they sat in their living rooms with their laptops perched on their coffee tables, and chatted with each other. What fun!  I have also used Zoom to keep up with club meetings, classes and other activities. We have even done a Zoom family reunion with all our children and grandchildren. After a week of staying home, it is great to see the faces of our family and friends and chat with them!

Send emails, text messages, birthday cards, Facebook messages and other little notes to your friends and family. If you have been meaning to send someone a personal letter, this is your opportunity to do it.  Try to lift others up.  They may be feeling afraid and lonely.  A message from you could brighten their day.  I have been sending out "Thinking of You" cards (Ad) to a few friends, especially those who live alone or are a long way from their families.

If you are religious, spend a little time each day in prayer or meditation. It can have a very calming effect.  And, if your place of worship is now offering online services, religious studies or other events, set aside some time to participate from home.

Prayer and meditation can keep you mentally balanced.

Embrace Your Extra Time

Nearly everyone has something they have always wanted to do, but never thought they had the time.  View this forced quiet time at home as a gift.  Now is your chance to explore some of those dreams.  Today, with free videos available on YouTube, and an abundance of informative blogs and websites, you can develop a wealth of new skills.  Below are some ideas:

Learn a new language using Babble or the Duolingo app.

Learn to play an instrument or read music.

Teach yourself to quilt, knit, crochet or sew, watching YouTube videos.

Start writing that blog or novel you always wanted to create.

Join Ancestry. com and trace your family history. You may be surprised by what you discover!

Read the books collecting dust on your shelf, or order some new ones from Amazon or other online book dealers.

Order some interesting puzzles and see how long it takes to finish them. (Ad)

Order paints, a drawing pad or other art supplies and indulge your artistic side. (Ad)

If you have to be home anyway, expand your culinary skills. Make meals you really look forward to eating.  Watch a few cooking shows on TV to get some inspiration.

Have fun with crafts.  The website Domestic Diva Online has a wealth of free craft tutorials using all types of materials.  The site even includes lists of the materials you need for each craft, and where to order them online.

Make a Schedule

With so many activities at your fingertips, you may begin to feel overwhelmed and have trouble making up your mind about what to do.  The way to avoid confusion is to create a flexible schedule.  There is a reason why jobs and school usually operate on a specific schedule.  You will be more relaxed if you set one for yourself.  Include some time to just do "nothing," to watch TV or play a video game.  We all need downtime, even from our chosen projects.  Do not become obsessed with staying busy all the time.  Allow yourself some quiet time to just stare out the window or sit in your backyard in the sun.

Take Care of Yourself

Do not stay up half the night, sleep late, eat junk food, and lounge around in your pajamas.

Get dressed every day.  Make your bed.  Pick up your house.  Maintain your normal beauty routine.  Take a shower, moisturize your skin.  Keep to your normal sleep patterns.  Eat healthy foods at the same times you typically eat.

If you do these things, you will feel much better about yourself and your situation.  

Help Others When You Can

You will find meaning in your time at home if you find ways to help others, when you can.  There are several ways you can do this, even from your house.

If a friend calls and feel lonely or discouraged, let them talk.  Just the action of being a good listener can help more than you realize.

Check on your neighbors.  Call just to chat and ask if they are doing OK.  Knock on a neighbor's door and drop off a treat in a disposable container, keeping a respectful distance.  It will mean a lot to them. If you are placing an order online or going to the store to replenish your supplies, ask if they need anything, too.

If you are able to make face masks, knit scarves, or create other helpful items, share your extras with your neighbors ... keeping an appropriate physical distance from them, of course.

Support a local business by ordering a meal or other items which you can pick up curbside.  Wear a face mask and use hand sanitizer whenever you venture out.

If you are saving money on gas for your car or by not eating out, consider donating a little of your savings to local charities.  Many of them are not receiving their usual donations during these uncertain times.

If you do these things, you will soon find that it is not so bad to let go of the busy life you lived before.  Your life in isolation may be different, but it doesn't have to be bad.  In fact, you may even find it peaceful to slow down for a few months.

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