We are going through strange and stressful times. Whether you’re practising voluntary social distancing or your country has already imposed obligatory confinement amidst the dizzying speed at which coronavirus is spreading, you’re likely spending most of your time at home these days – as you should. Whether we like it or not, it is clearly the best way to not only stay safe but also greatly help slow down the spread of the disease. To understand just how effective, and hence important, self-isolation is, take a look at this easy-to-understand article from the Washington Post that uses mesmerising mathematical models to show how the disease spreads and subsides.
In a globally connected world where we’re used to being constantly on the move, it may seem difficult to stay put for an unknown period of time. But rather than feeling restricted and confined, look at it as being given the freedom to do a lot of the things you’ve always wanted to do and never had the time for. Like finishing that book, trying out a new recipe, or playing with your kids. Now is the time to say yes to all those things that somehow always get pushed aside on your priority list. Time to slow down, connect with yourself and others, and maybe even re-evaluate what matters most.
So let’s be responsible, stay at home, and make the most of it. We share some ideas of things to do on your own or with your flatmates and family members, as well as links to a variety of useful resources, many of them free of charge.
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Things to do on your own
Catch up on reading
Remember when some time around January 1st you made a long reading list, together with a promise to yourself that you will really read more this year? Well, now’s your chance.
Unless you’ve got a home library to browse or at least a book tower waiting for you on your bedside table, e-books are probably your best bet right now. Even if you don’t have an e-book reader, you can download the free Kindle app to read books from your phone, tablet, or even your desktop computer.
Get your daily dose of culture
Museums and galleries may have temporarily closed their doors in many countries, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still take a peek inside. Many museums offer free virtual visits of selected exhibitions through the Google Arts and Culture platform, including The Museum of Modern Art in New York, Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, or Uffizi Gallery in Florence. The Louvre hosts free virtual tours on their own website, while the British Museum takes you on an interactive journey through time with its Museum of the World project.
If music is your cultural form of choice, you’ll be happy to know that there are free virtual options for you too. The Metropolitan Opera in New York will be streaming a selection of its productions every night until the reopening, showing masterpieces such as La Bohème or La Traviata . Similarly, the Vienna State Opera will be offering free virtual performances of both opera and ballet at least until April 2020.
Staying at home doesn’t mean you need to skip your exercise routine. Actually, it’s really important that you don’t – staying physically active has massive benefits for your health and wellbeing, and it’s all the more important at this time of heightened stress and anxiety.
You may not be able to go for a jog around the block, but you still have plenty of options. Yoga is one of the most popular home workout choices, for a number of simple reasons:
- It’s silent, so you’re not disturbing your downstairs neighbours.
- You can practise it even in a very tight space, so it’s doable in most living arrangements.
- It doesn’t require much equipment other than a mat. Blocks and a strap can come in handy, but you can temporarily substitute them with books, cushions, and a regular belt, to offer support where needed.
It is fairly easy to find free yoga routines online, but it is also important to choose an experienced instructor who will know how to guide you and ensure you don’t suffer any injuries. If you’re not sure where to start, check out Yoga with Adriene, a popular Youtube channel offering countless routines ranging from 15 to 45 minutes in length and covering anything from beginners’ flows to meditation techniques to soothe an anxious mind.
Other good options are the Down Dog app, available for free until April 1st, or the Glo platform, also offering a selection of their yoga, pilates, and meditation classes for free during the time of confinement. And if you’re really missing your upbeat cardio sessions, check out this quick apartment-friendly silent cardio routine. You’ll happily break a sweat and your neighbours won’t even know it!
Learn a new skill
Always wanted to master Photoshop or learn a few expressions in Portuguese? Now’s a great time to awaken your dormant talents – you’ve got plenty of time on your hands.
There are numerous online learning platforms offering affordable courses on anything from graphic design, to programming, to project management. And the good news is that a lot of them are joining the efforts of the online community to ease this time of crisis for their users by offering a selection of their courses for free.
Become a pro at remote work
If you’ve found yourself working remotely for the first time and are trying to navigate the situation, you will enjoy these 16 courses from LinkedIn Learning that have been temporarily made free. Use them to brush up on your productivity skills, find ways to cope with stress in times of change, or learn how to manage and lead remote teams, among many other practical skills.
Let creativity do its magic
Finding a creative outlet can give you a much needed respite from anxiety and worry. Every one of us is creative in their own way, so find what lights you up and go join one of the many online learning communities dedicated to feeding our creativity. Photoshop, Illustrator, drawing, watercolour, creative writing, cake decorating, phone photography… you name it. It’s all there.
Here’s a selection of our favourites:
- Platforms like Skillshare or Creative Live offer a wide variety of courses that can be purchased individually or can be accessed as part of a monthly subscription.
- A female-oriented digital media company Brit & Co. sell courses on lettering, calligraphy, photo editing, and the like, all of which are temporarily offered for free using the code SELFCARE at checkout.
- Domestika is one of the largest online communities of creatives, teaching you anything from illustration to how to take professional photos for your Instagram account. All their courses are in Spanish with English subtitles.
- If you speak Spanish, you will also enjoy Hello Creatividad, where you can learn about photography, digital marketing, self care, or even parenting. They are currently offering their beginner photography course for free.
Things you can do with your flatmates or family members
Take out the pans and open the pantry: time to get cooking
Preparing a nourishing, wholesome meal is a genuine act of care for yourself and those you share your life with. We all know that home-cooked meals play a big part in maintaining a healthy lifestyle, yet they somehow often end up in the realm of shoulds. So now that you have the time, roll up your sleeves and take all those mouthwatering meals from your Pinterest boards onto your dining table.
Here are a few ideas of what you could try:
It may have gained popularity as of late thanks to the abundance of food blogs, but batch cooking is by no means a novelty for anyone who’s serious about preparing their own food, especially if they have many mouths to feed. Batch cooking simply means preparing meals in larger quantities, ahead of time, and in such a way that you can later easily mix and match the ingredients to quickly put together meals with minimum preparation. It’s a useful skill to acquire for when you’re back to your busy social life.
Even if you’re not the type who derives pleasure from planning and organising, you’re very likely to benefit from planning your meals a week or two in advance. Just think about it:
- You will save time by being more efficient with your food shopping.
- You won’t have to scratch your head about what to cook every other day.
- You will most probably be eating a more varied diet, having taken the time to think it through beforehand.
Give it a go, it’s easier than you think.
Meals to freeze
Speaking of being practical with your cooking, one handy trick has always been to prepare meals in advance and freeze them. This is often an important part of the batch cooking approach. So use this time to stock up your freezer with delicious meals you can easily defrost once you’re out and about again. Check out this delectable list of suggestions for big-batch recipes, courtesy of the Bon Appétit platform.
You can do any of these with your flatmates or family members, both to split the tasks and to foster a sense of connection at a time that can feel acutely isolating.
Spring cleaning anyone? It is spring, afterall
Ok, this one may not necessarily be fun, but it is necessary, so use this time to get it done and out of the way. Needless to say, we’re all being keenly aware of the importance of good hygiene at the moment, so take it as the wind at your back and organise a big spring cleaning of your flat.
A few of the things we tend to overlook in our daily or weekly cleaning routines:
Even though we do a lot of things online, we still accumulate lots and lots of paper very quickly. Shopping receipts you kept “just in case”, prescriptions from the doctor’s, expired contracts, old newspapers and magazines… Go through your files and folders and get rid of any outdated paper you no longer need to keep.
If you follow our advice and decide to step up your cooking game during the confinement, make sure you clear out your pantry of any items that have expired or you’re simply not using.
Being the high-traffic place that it is, our fridge deserves special attention when it comes to hygiene. There’s hardly any fun in emptying it out only to put everything back in 15 minutes later, but it needs to be done occasionally (and regularly). So gather your flatmates for a much-needed round of deep cleaning of your fridge.
Another place in the house that doesn’t get much cleaning love, or fresh air for that matter. Use the opportunity to take out your clothes, clean the inside, and let the air flow for a while. This is also your chance to discard any items you don’t really wear anymore, and if you want to take it a step further, check out our article on how to start a capsule wardrobe.
Don’t forget to play
Ultimately, after being practical and making the most of your newfound time, don’t forget to play. Far from being a guilty pleasure or an activity reserved for kids, play is a powerful and important asset in our wellbeing toolbox. And moments of play become all the more important in times of anxiety or uncertainty, such as the ones we’re currently going through. So let your inner child out and allow yourself to be immersed in a seemingly purposeless activity, with a sole aim of having fun.
For some inspiration, check out our selection of best board games to play with your flatmates or this list of over 40 card games, both classic and contemporary. If you don’t happen to have a deck of cards or an old box of Scrabble lying around, there are online platforms where you can play a lot of the classic board games. Board Game Arena is one popular option, and so is Tabletopia. They both offer free and premium versions of the service, and you can even gather your friends and play against each other.
And lastly, there are the good old-fashioned conversation games. No tools needed, just good company and good humour. You can even play these virtually over Skype, Zoom, or Facetime, if your friends and family happen to be stranded elsewhere.
And if you aren’t tired of Netflix? We don’t blame you, if there ever was a time for guilt-free binge watching of anything ever filmed, it is now. But we do have a handy tip for you: install the Netflix Party add-on in your browser and enjoy a movie marathon with your friends wherever they may be!
As coronavirus continues to spread rapidly and country after country decides to adopt the necessary drastic measures to try and contain it, our best advice is to do what has shown to be the best approach so far – stay at home. If you give it a chance and focus on all the new possibilities it opens up, it doesn’t have to be the scary confinement that you may be imagining. Now is the time to turn to the people who make up your community and, ironically, stay connected in our mutual isolation.