Observing the current quarantine recommendations is crucial for the health of our society, but the sameness and social isolation of it all has the potential to do a number on our mental health. True depression linked to social isolation is another, more serious topic, but “Blah” is still a feeling worth exploring.
Part of the frustration with quarantine for some people is a sense of monotony — that every day feels the same without the variables of the outside world. Currently, there are no guessing games about traffic or choosing where to go to dinner. We may not realize it, but even the mundane parts of life are packed with variables and stimuli.
When you’re inhabiting the same space all day every, there are fewer peaks and valleys…it’s kind of a straight line. And thank god for that. I’m not gonna go on a whole trip about it, but I appreciate that boredom is a luxury. There are people going through things right now who would LOVE to be bored.
But it doesn’t make it any less real. It’s all relative. Even if you’re not actively yelling “I’m bored!” to the sky like Lindsay Lohan in that Elizabeth Taylor Lifetime movie, it might be nice to shake things up a little.
You can make things more interesting for yourself during quarantine by taking advantage of the only things you have constant, very local access to: your senses. Not everyone has access to all the same ones, but we all have access to some. Now is a good time to indulge them, give them new experiences, switch things up and switch on different parts of your brain. I’m not talking world-rockers, but there are things you can do from right inside your home to create peaks of change or satisfaction and break up the sameness of it all.
Rearranging things in your living space is a relatively quick and impactful way to make a big difference in your environment. For maximum impact, do it in the rooms you’re in the most — if you’re not sure, the bathroom is a good place to start.
One easy way to rearrange without having to drag furniture around is to switch around the art on your walls, either within one room or between rooms. Another change that’s relatively labor-light is changing around what’s in the book cases or on shelves. Reposition what’s on your bedside table, around your sink and in your shower.
Pull out older stuff — if you got new curtains at one point but hung onto the old ones, switch them back. Ditto sheets and duvet covers (this also doubles in the touch category, because getting into new or even “new” bedstuff is the best).
Some people are even decorating for their favorite holidays, like Christmas or Halloween — why the hell not! Find your favorite decorations and go for it. Mix your holidays together — why not have a Christmas tree up, jack-o-lanterns out and valentines on the wall? This is all about entertaining your eyeballs and lifting your spirits.
I mean, this one will work itself out for those of us showering a little less regularly; talk about stimulating. But seriously, scents are one of the fastest tracks to getting little hits of delight. Do you have a stash of candles you hang on to to give out as gifts (or a stash you’ve gotten as gifts?) Haul them out. Same goes for essential oils and lotions. If you’re into crafting, it might be a nice time to get into making your own — my sister-in-law created a company called Effervescents that would be a great place to start. Either way, time to get those nostrils going.
Incorporate scents into your regular activities instead of viewing them as spa-like treats. Have a candle going next to you while you work. Put some essential oils on yourself or your yoga mat while you exercise. Apply scented lotion as you get into bed like you’re in a TV show. (It’s such a thing there’s an Instagram account called Night Lotion dedicated to it.)
This is the part where I urge you to become a sensuous weirdo. It’s time to enjoy feeling stuff around you that you may not have paid attention to before! When you think of it, feel the texture of your clothes, the throw blanket on your couch, the water on your skin in the shower or the bath. We want to enjoy as much stuff as we can right now, and there are so many little enjoyable tactile moments that we can take advantage of.
Give yourself a hand massage and/or a foot massage with nice-smelling lotion (smell crossover, bonus), and consider giving yourself little pets or squeezes. The power of human touch is well-documented, and you can create a lot of the same positive responses on your own. Imagine how you might touch or hug a friend or even a pet, and do it to yourself. That might be squeezing your hand, rubbing up and down your arm, or giving yourself a hug and resting your head to one side. It’s weird, but it’s nice, and you can feel completely free to blame it on me if you come out of yourself in the moment and feel self-conscious. But I’d urge you to suspend any very human incredulity and give it a try.
As I’m sure the internet at large has made you aware, now is a great time to try new recipes. If you’re into cooking, try a new facet of food-making — my chef husband has gotten very interested in baking and making different kinds of pastas and breads, which suits me just fine as a carb queen.
This doesn’t have to be a whole, expensive endeavor. You can play out your own at-home version of Chopped by using what’s on hand to create something new. If you want some guidance and inspo for this, check out Sarah Von Bargen’s genius “No Grocery Challenge” Instagram highlight.
Try out some new drinks, too! it’s a great time to go to town on the wealth of flavored seltzers and sodas out there. If you’re a big tea drinker like me, I recently discovered Adagio Teas, which has about a billion varieties of loose-leaf tea and offers generous, inexpensive samples.
And if you’re in the market for receiving stuff in-home, a couple of unsung heroes of food delivery are both QVC and HSN. My mom has gifted me food from both that’s fully delicious — and they’re not as low on stock as traditional food places.
If you primarily listen to podcasts, try listening to some music — put on whatever you listened to when you were a teenager that got you pumped or made you feel something. If you’re primarily a music person, try a podcast. It doesn’t have to be a show everyone has been telling you to try. Basically imagine what you wish there was a podcast about and do a search for that, because there are one million on every subject. You can use the search function inside whatever app you’re using, or check out the podcast-specific search engine Listen Notes.
(I would recommend trying out my comedy podcast about horror Guide to the Unknown, because duh.)
Also, as resident sensuous weirdo, I must insist you try paying attention to the niceness of everyday sounds around you. Tuning into my dog and cat eating makes me smile or legit laugh sometimes. Stirring coffee with a spoon sounds surprisingly nice and soothing. There’s just so much happening without us realizing a lot of the time. And now, some of us have a lot of the time.
The moment has come to be as extra as possible in service of keeping ourselves well. As far as I’m concerned that moment has always been here, but right now we’re really forced to take a look at ourselves. I propose we also take a sniff, feel, taste and a listen.