10 Self-Care Tips During Shelter-in-Place

Wow, I’ve now lost count of the days this shelter-in-place has been going on. Since I’ve been stuck at home, homeschooling two younger kids, dealing with an uncooperative manuscript, and trying to keep a small business active, making sure I practice self-care has been vital to my mental health.

Here are my top ten recommendations:

1. Wash your hands

No surprises here. After watching all the guidelines on how to get all the parts of my hands clean, I do each motion 4 times in each direction. While quoting Hamlet’s “out, out, damn spot” might be more fun, I found that actually focusing on good hand-washing keeps me from mindlessly washing my hands and missing some of the CDC’s recommended motions.

2. Keep alcohol wipes by the door

If you have to go out for groceries, you probably take your phone with you. We keep a box of alcohol wipes, like the ones used in the doctor’s office for giving shots, next to the door and use one on our phones once we get home. Don’t forget to take your phone out of the case and wipe down the fronts and backs of both the phone and the case.

3. Take off your pajamas

I wear exercise clothes most of the day (until I actually get a chance to workout between all the kids’ calls and endless questions), then I shower and put on an actual outfit. Wearing something other than pajamas helps me feel dressed and ready to take on my day. I also find it less embarrassing if I end up on the kids’ video calls since I’m, you know, actually wearing a bra. Remember that if you’re in video conferences, you need to get dressed as if for (at least) a casual office workday.

4. Exercise

Between allergies and a disinclination toward insects, I’m not the sort to go outside for a run or a walk. Instead, I’ve been doing a lot of cardio, mostly on YouTube. Dance workouts engage my mind as well as my body. My current favorites are Zumba, Pungra, and the Fitness Marshall. I like yoga too, but a wrist injury is keeping me off the mat. Getting a good sweat on helps ensure I keep moving when it’s so easy to sit around the house all day.

5. Schedule regular breaks

The Pomodoro Method is great for keeping people on task. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to stick to it given the endless homeschool interruptions. A five-minute break to refill my water cup, swap a load of laundry, or review the kids’ latest assignments (and get them yet another snack) also gets me moving out of my chair. For my husband, who’s stuck on Zoom calls all day, having a 30-minute slot scheduled means that he actually gets to eat lunch.

6. Don’t abandon healthy habits

While the temptation to snack all day or eat junk food is greater now that others are around all the time to encourage poor choices, try to stick to your regular habits as much as possible. I start my day with two cups of plain tea, either Earl Grey or a breakfast blend, and I keep a large cup of water next to my desk all day and make sure to refill it at least once. I also stick to my eating schedule, which for me is intermittent fasting broken around 1:30 or 2 PM.

7. Spend 15 minutes tidying

Seeing toys strewn about, unmade beds, or extra paperwork sitting around, especially now that I can’t go anywhere to escape seeing it all, spins me up. With everyone at home all the time, the space also gets dirtier faster than usual. Starting a 15-minute timer or a short podcast gives me just enough time to make a serious improvement to the family living space. I try to clear the sink every night so that I come down to a clean kitchen in the morning. I also hold the kids accountable for picking up their messes daily.

8. Avoid the news

I limit myself to brief updates from a single news source once a day instead of listening to the repeated doom and gloom. Seriously, what are they going to say that I can control? I’m also avoiding social media “news” posts since it’s so easy for people to spread misinformation. I do try to verify my sources if I’m sharing an article, or use a source I can trust. Recently I found some fascinating articles on the Spanish Flu as well as on the effects COVID-19 has on the body.

9. Do something for fun

A card game, a board game, a puzzle, a leisure book, an old favorite movie, an old hobby…do something to get out of your rut. While I don’t recommend sitting at a screen all day, YouTube can teach you just about anything, from crochet to drawing to piano. I’m currently learning to play some Beatles songs on a keyboard I’ve had since I was a child. I’m also trying to gather supplies from around the house to do one of those wine-and-paint evenings with my husband. I’ve been wanting to attend an in-person one for many years but perhaps now is the time, and YouTube is the place.

10. Reconnect with people

If you can meet up virtually with friends or family, reconnecting with them may be relaxing. If not, or if you’re getting a little too much family time, try playing mental bingo every time someone does that annoying thing they always do.


Post your funny quarantine moments in the comments. Together (but apart, because…social distancing) we can get through this trying time.

Messages from Quarantine

Darkness across the world with COVID-19 continues to flood the newsfeeds. Staying home, knowing that inaction is the only way to support the brave medical personnel, grocery and food service folks, and transportation service can be daunting.

“Home” Schooling

Suddenly trying to support my kids’ teachers’ efforts to continue the curricula from home has been a challenging affair. T and I have found our groove by doing academic activities for fifteen minutes followed by ten minutes of play time.

D and I have struggled a little more. We’ve tried to play a lot of games, but every time I try to put an academic bent on a game…well, let’s just say we’ve not seen much success. I haven’t given up, though.

We try to spend some backyard or front yard time if the weather is good, but today with the rain, I opted for a session of Coach Joe’s PE class on Youtube. If you’re old enough to actually do it, it’s a great workout. If you’re an excitable preschooler and his older sister, however, your mom will probably yell at you to stop bouncing on the sofa instead of actually doing the jumping jacks. I enjoyed the workout and plan to follow along, but I’m going to have to track something else down for the children’s physical activity.

Artistically, we also try to do some drawing based on a Youtube tutorial or just free drawing.

The kids have also discovered the joys of Super Mario Brothers. Their dad encourages them (and helps them actually clear the boards…) and I escape to get some quiet time writing or reading. It’s amazing how a single block of time while they stare at a screen now results in another few hundred words.

T and I drew Princess Peach from a Youtube tutorial.

Culinary Efforts

It comes as no surprise that I have a sweet tooth. My sweet MIL offered to cook lunch and dinner for all of us as long as I kept the kids from harassing her all day long, so I’ve gotten to focus on sweets, like these delicious chocolate cups. I filled them with peanut butter, homemade marmalade, or homemade chocolate blackberry jam. This must be my third or fourth batch of these since I found the recipe—they come together so quickly and use ingredients I always have in the pantry.

Chocolate Cups

I also made rasmalai, which was a huge hit and tasted way better than anything I’ve had in a restaurant. My mom’s recipe finally came out right using the toaster oven rather than my somewhat moody regular oven. This is a two-part dessert, one part a ricotta cheese bake and the other a half-and-half syrup cooked way down.

I’m also looking forward to testing out some handed-down family recipes in the coming days. We tracked down all the necessary ingredients in the recesses of the pantry, so I’m about to give it a try. Unlike the cakes and cookies I’m used to, Indian desserts are usually made with syrups and involve a lot of stove-top cooking. The ones I’ve made usually take full-fat milk and lots of sugar, then cook off all the liquid. The flavor profile usually includes saffron and cardamom. Nuts, especially pistachios, can be used as garnish or may be a main ingredient. Coconut is another popular addition. The recipe I have on hand takes a mix of nuts and coconut…I’ll let you know how it goes.

Also, to avoid a complete breakdown of the hard work I’ve done, between working out and intermittent fasting, trying to lose weight, I enjoy my desserts but move the majority of them to the freezer so I can enjoy them when the mood strikes instead of eating them mindlessly just because they are available.

Entertainment

Well, I caught a bit of a Star Wars marathon while getting all my ironing done, and I’m watching Wonder Woman while I write this post.

Honestly, I’ve gotten my fill of COVID-19 coverage, and I’m trying to stay positive in the face of the heartbreaking news from Italy and elsewhere. Watching more sobering coverage while unable to get a change of scenery seems like a difficult mental health challenge.

I haven’t started any new shows, and the reading I’ve done has largely been lighthearted. I have also kept up with my language lessons on DuoLingo, which I think is the easiest way to learn a new language or three…


Stay safe and stay home, everyone. Wash your hands, and reach out to family and friends through the amazing bits of technology at our disposal. Together, we can flatten the curve.