As many of us enter week six (or is it 66?) of quarantine and social distancing, it has become apparent that it is virtually impossible to develop a consistent routine, try as we might. Even for those of us who are creatures of habit, trying to stick to a schedule when we’re spending all of our time either home alone or with family members is difficult.
All of our normal schedules have changed, we’re constantly interrupted by people who need something – either virtually or in person – and sometimes the news is so dire we don’t feel like doing anything at all.
Experts are predicting an uneven V- or W-shaped economic recovery once restrictions are lifted and people can go out again. But the letter W also illustrates the way many of us are experiencing the highs and lows of quarantine. Some days we feel positive and productive, and other days we’re feeling down and can’t get motivated to do anything.
If you’ve watched too much depressing news, spent too much time on social media, are tired of your family or just feel overwhelmed, it’s time to hit the reset button. We at Neatnik have been experimenting with what we’re calling the “Quarantine Reset,” which takes less than an hour and will leave you feeling more in control. Here are five easy tasks you can do to shift your mind-set.
Take a shower and wash your hair. Finish the shower by turning the water all the way to cold, and stand under the cold water for at least a few seconds. According to a 2016 study, people who took cold showers reported “an increase in perceived energy levels (including many reported comparisons to the effect of caffeine).” Katharine Hepburn famously took cold showers her entire life because her doctor father swore by their benefits. After your shower, throw in a load of laundry. Sometimes things fall by the wayside when we’re out of our routines, and performing these simple tasks can help you feel like you’ve accomplished something.
Change your clothes
Get out of the old sweats and at least put on new sweats. Or better yet, put on pants and a casual shirt. You’ll feel like a real person if you’re dressed for a normal day. According to an article in Social Psychological and Personality Science, five studies of undergraduates showed that more formal clothing helps with cognition and in particular with abstract processing, which helps with creativity and problem-solving.
Make your bed
Making your bed marks the beginning of your day. Doing this small task not only helps to create a calmer and cleaner bedroom environment, but it also marks one small accomplishment and sets the tone for you to feel like you can check other things off your list throughout the day.
According to Ann Jacob Smith, a therapist based in Chevy Chase, Maryland, “While we are under quarantine and so much of our lives are out of our control, it’s important to feel in control of your immediate environment. Keeping both yourself and your home environment clean and tidy will significantly improve your sense of calm.”
Tidy for 10 minutes
Set a timer and spend 10 minutes cleaning up, putting things away and decluttering. You can get a lot done in 10 minutes, and tidying will make you feel more relaxed once you’re in a less messy environment. A study in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin showed that people with cluttered homes are more likely to feel stressed and fatigued. The study showed that clutter or a long list of projects can result in increased depression. Focus on a simple decluttering task that can be completed quickly, such as going through your mail, recycling old newspapers and magazines, cleaning off a counter or opening packages that are piling up.
Get fresh air
Stepping outside to take a few deep breaths of fresh air can make us feel renewed, and sun on our skin helps our bodies produce vitamin D, which has numerous brain and mental health benefits. And according to the American Heart Association website (heart.org), a study shows that “nature presents scenes that gently capture your attention instead of suddenly snatching it, calming your nerves instead of frazzling them.”
As much as organizational and other home improvement projects can create a sense of accomplishment and help provide structure to your day, it’s also not paramount that you be productive all the time. In fact, when you feel overwhelmed, sometimes it’s prudent to take a break. As we all seesaw between trying to cross things off our to-do lists and finding time to be still, we also have to remember to practice self-care and tend to our mental health.
“Accepting the need to slow down can provide a much-needed break for those of us who are used to a fast-paced, pressured existence,” says Washington psychotherapist Elizabeth Carr. “It’s important to be gentle with ourselves and our family and to listen to our bodies and minds when they tell us it’s time to rest.”
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