I just shoved half a bag of popcorn in my mouth while stress-scrolling through Twitter, my eyes gobbling up every single coronavirus update possible. And then I caught myself: There are better ways to cope.
So I sat down on my couch and turned on a meditation app, taking care to just consciously breathe for five minutes. Of course it took a global health crisis to get me to meditate, something the entire internet and more than one therapist have been telling me to do for some time. Turns out they were right that it helps in moments of anxiety. And now, isolated in my home office and going slightly stir-crazy, I have no excuse to avoid it.
I’m in my home because I’m sort-of-quarantined, since someone at a conference I attended tested positive for coronavirus. But even if I hadn’t gone to the conference, I’d be trying to stay put to adhere to the tenets of social distancing, a public health measure that has been proven to reduce the spread of the virus. Social distancing is something we all should be doing.
But as my panicked Twitter-and-popcorn binge shows, it’s easy to start spinning out when you’re cooped up. So what can you do to stay sane while keeping yourself and other safe during the virus outbreak? Here are a couple suggestions about how to stay occupied.
There is an entire universe of free yoga classes on YouTube (I’m partial to the uber-popular Yoga with Adriene), and some instructors are live-streaming their classes from home. If you are not in actual quarantine, go for a walk or run outside, while keeping your distance from others.
I’m a complete beginner, and I already feel like this is something I should have been doing for a long time. The New York Times has a helpful guide on how to start.
Limit your time online
Installing a website blocker will temporarily force you off websites like Twitter, which can give you terrible anxiety.
Take a bath
A relaxing bath can made even better with bubbles, salts, oils, candles, and face masks. There is more inspiration for such small luxuries in writer Rachel Syme’s wonderful Twitter thread, and some of them you can do at home. (Maybe have a full afternoon tea for your roommates?)
Think about what you’re grateful for
You can do this in a journal, writing down one gratitude a day, or doodling out people, pets, and other things you’re grateful for in a sketchbook. Quartz’s Katherine Foley has done this exercise in the form of keeping a “happiness jar,” and you can read all about how to do that here.
Embrace a hobby
Partake in a hobby that you really do just for fun: don’t be tempted to show it off on Instagram or turn it into a side-hustle. I’m fairly certain no one will ever wear the scarf I am currently knitting. Relatedly, do something with your hands: crocheting, beading, embroidery, woodworking can provide great release.
Read out loud
My partner and I have been doing this rather cheesy activity for years, mostly on road trips. It’s like a mini book club! Also just read, period. Check out writer Jia Tolentino’s pandemic recommendations.
Cook and bake
Take a cue from Quartz’s food reporter Chase Purdy, who writes: “For many, cooking at home is intimidating—and nobody wants a recipe to go wrong when they’re already managing the stress of the world beyond their front doors. But instead of being an added source of stress, in a time of self-imposed isolation, cooking can be an act of self-care.”
Do video therapy
Many therapists are offering videoconferencing as an option for their patients, during what is a highly anxious and isolating time for many.
Organize the drawer that has been begging for order, rearrange the living room furniture, or finally get your filing cabinet in order.
Watch something upbeat
It’s highly tempting to catch up on prestige TV right now, but a lot of current critically-acclaimed shows tend to be depressing or stressful. So throw in something fun, like a musical. I’ve been watching some old Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movies. Nothing takes your mind off an epidemic like a mind-blowing tap number.
Read a cozy mystery
“Cozy” mysteries—featuring murder but not too much violence—are a great bet for escapism. My personal recommendation (courtesy of Doree Shafrir, co-host of the Forever35 podcast) is the Maisie Dobbs series, set in 1920s and 1930s England. The audiobook version increases the coziness factor.
Hang out with your pet
Just look at how cute your guinea pig is. Or teach your dog a new trick. As the internet has proved again and again, there is nothing more amusing than a cat, is there?
Learn something new
There’s a nearly unlimited number of online classes on websites like edX or Skillshare, whether you want to learn coding or needlepoint.
Remember that you’re not alone
These tips are about self-care, but humans generally need community to be happy. Write your grandparents a letter, get on a Google hangout with your co-workers, and FaceTime your friends. Also: if you’re still able to go outside, consider helping a neighbor in need of a grocery delivery.