Most people who read this are from the States and may remember a month ago I posted about “Life in Lockdown” when the coronavirus was just kicking off in China and Hong Kong. For a lot of you, at the time, it probably seemed like a problem for Asia – far away and kind of strange.
(If you don’t know me, scroll until you see numbers if you just want tips, I don’t mind.)
When this started, friends and family were begging me to come home, but oddly I feel safer here now – Hong Kong has done an outstanding job of controlling this outbreak. We have the third highest population density in the world, with 17,311 people/square mile (6,659/square kilometer), and Covid-19 is incredibly contagious with a long incubation period, so it was important to put extreme measures in place right away. Unfortunately, it looks like most of the world is joining the corona club and trying to figure out the right level between prepared and panicked.
I am here to help you.
I just completed my sixth week of this “new normal” – living at home as much as you can. I am still scared of all the unknown, but it has become manageable. The panic is dying down. There’s plenty of food, toilet paper, soap. People are back at the park. I’m bored out my mind, work drives me crazy, I’ve gained four pounds, and I’ve cried more in the last six weeks than the last six years, but I know things will eventually be okay. I miss my friends and human contact, but I’ve gotten more used to the social distancing.
Working from home can be great. I enjoy the morning conferences with my students that involve spraying in dry shampoo, putting on a sweater but staying in my pajama bottoms. I didn’t put on makeup for weeks. After the first few days, where I was working about 18 hours a day, I took breaks every few hours from work and cleaned out the house, completing chores I’d put off for months. Awesome.
I started a new hobby of bread-making (which might explain the sudden weight gain because omg HOMEMADE BREAD with “everything but the bagel” sprinkled on it is my new fat kid trick.) My roomie and I watched more movies in a few weeks than we had in three years in this apartment. I up-skilled my teacher tech.
But I found that spending so much time alone, especially living in this world with constant news updates and a climate of fear, scrolling through twitter and watching the world burn makes me anxious. Worrying about the elderly, the poor, the people who work in industries so affected by the economy collapse is consuming.
I stayed up all hours wondering what the future looks like – when will I go back to school, when can I go home, will I get sick, will anyone I know get sick, am I taking this too seriously, am I not taking it seriously enough? I couldn’t stop updating news apps and checking work and working more and harder and getting frustrated with all things big and small. None of which I could control.
The only time I left the house was to go to my gym classes twice a day, really pushing myself, because that was my one comfort. Even when I was in pain, often in tears, I would keep going, because I convince myself that I’m still in my 20s and an athlete and skinny jeans are important. But then the pain was way too much. I went to the doctor’s, and it turns out I had given myself an intense stress fracture in my foot, with some bruised sesamoids and stretched ligaments or other such terms that add up to “yeah…now we need you to not walk for a few weeks. Sit down for a while. Put your feet up, literally. Doctor’s orders.”
This forced me to slow down to the point where I had to think, which I actually don’t like to do very much. Because then I figure things out like I have no coping skills. I don’t really have any hobbies that don’t involve a screen or running around outside. Or food. And I might not have it as all together as I thought I did.
Turns out there’s a lot of time in the day.
Time for me to realize I get sick of my own company, and a face mask is uncomfortable and your breath does smell, and I wasn’t washing my hands enough, and I touch my face ALL the time.
This was hard to realize until I did a teachery thing, and decided to get more organized and proactive. And, of course, make a list. As many of you around the world – teachers, parents, students, normals, start looking at the next few weeks (or months, because gosh, who knows) of quarantine or social distancing, here are some things I’ve learned and some hopefully helpful tips:
- Don’t panic buy. People did in HK with toilet paper, because there was a random rumour that the factories in China that make toilet paper were going to stop making it in favour of making masks. People freaked out. But people bought so much TP, it’s now going mouldy in their houses, which causes other problems. We created a crisis in a crisis. Also, rats like to live in toilet paper. There will be TP. Or just take a shower after. Calm down. You also need everyone around you to have soap and hand sanitizer, which they cannot have if you buy four hundred cases.
- Get a routine going. Be normal. Keep getting up in the morning at the same-ish time. There were some days I didn’t brush my teeth until I left for the gym, which is gross. It helps to stay in routine, to wash your face, to put on a bra, to set up a home office, set working hours. Working from bed led to some terrible back pain for me (curse you, mid-thirties!). Make a designated space, especially for kids doing school work.
- Work out. Get outside every day.
- Set small goals – make a list of things to clean and organize, one a day. It feels amazing. Clean out closets, rearrange your shelves. I made a thanksgiving cornbread recipe in March because I found the mix one day. It was a delight.
- Daily chores – make your bed, change your clothes, shower, clean your house a bit, as it will get dirtier now you’re home more. Floss.
- Cook things you’ve always wanted to. Make fancy pizzas, learn a new curry recipe, try homemade sourdough! It was so rewarding. (disclaimer: I looked up my curry recipe, and then just ordered it on Deliveroo.)
- Read all the physical books in your house before you download new ones. Then donate what you won’t read again.
- Watch movies. Challenge yourself with a theme. We had a film noir night with a friend, watching a 1940’s gangster film. We’re now watching all the Will Ferrell movies. It feels like a small accomplishment to tick things off a list. Include flavoured popcorn blind tests. Make homemade ice cream.
- Get some plants. They’ll brighten up the indoors and give you something to talk to. And oxygen! hashtag win.
- Adopt a rescue pup! You’ve got time at home now to train them.
- Get crafty. We had an awesome painting night for a friend’s bday. Learned so much about my pals and their mad skills.
- Talk on the phone. We’ve almost lost that art. As we spend more physical time apart, it’s important to remain connected.
- Do the mundane – check your finances, unsubscribe to old email lists, change the oil, clean out your purse, clip your fingernails short to repel germs. Check. Off. That. List!
- Organize. Another tiny thing that gave me joy – organizing my iTunes. Capitals in all the right places, deleting songs I realized I hated, making playlists, filling in all information. Delightful.
- Phone purge – Delete all bad photos on your phone. Delete apps you don’t use or need. Delete contacts you don’t want. While doing so, message a few people you haven’t talked to in a while, especially the elderly.
- Call your mom.
- Dust off the board games. Their time has come.
- Invite over a friend for dinner that has a job truly affected by the changes, ie anyone in customer service, retail, restaurants, tourism.
- Go through your Pinterest boards and try something you “never have time for.” I’ve done makeup and hair tutorials and it’s fun!
- Cuddle up. Have candles and slippers and sweatshirts and things that are cozy. Wrap yourself up in feel good. Make inside a sanctuary. Clean windows, make things smell good.
- Do the self-care – whatever it looks like for you. For me it’s Cheetos and wine (to disinfect my insides!) and Youtube compilations of kids getting puppies for Christmas.
- Get physical. Get up and stretch. Relax your shoulders RIGHT NOW.
- Get healthy. Take supplements. Eat fruit. Drink water.
- Get away. When it gets to be too much – take a staycation if you can. Camp in your backyard, get a hotel, turn off all devices, whatever “checking out” looks like for you (and is safe).
- Get it done. Make the appointments you’ve been putting off. I’m getting hair lasered, a physical, and a haircut. (note: in Hong Kong, we’re past the point of crisis, so these things are safe for me, but possibly not for you).
- Sleep when you can. One of my struggles is sleeping, even when things are fine. I’ve been taking melatonin, breathing deeply, napping if I’m able, stretching, and taking my anti-anxiety meds shamelessly. I find the nighttime is when I get most anxious, so it’s important to get that under control how you can. turn. off. your phone!
- Clean your phone and laptop keys.
- Prepare enough. Be sensible but not selfish. Make sure you have toilet paper and soup and canned things for a while, like you normally would. Being from California, we always have a sense of earthquake preparedness. Living in Brazil, we always had water stacked in the shower and candles ready. This is a good time to assess your readiness for an emergency. It is very clear that many countries cannot rely on their government for clarity, leadership, or empathy. So take care of yourselves and the vulnerable. It’s much more a village/country mentality in Asia, so we (mostly) cooperate with measures to make sure others don’t get sick, even if we don’t feel at risk ourselves.
- Give thanks and pray. If you are reading this list, you are probably better off than at least 90% of the world population. Pray this doesn’t kick off in Africa. Pray for containment in Italy and Iran and the healthcare workers on the frontlines. Be so so grateful for that and make conscious choices to take care of each other, our earth, the systems that can keep us safe. VOTE for responsible leaders who respect science, who care about people.
We don’t know what the next few weeks, months, or even years might look like. Take care of yourselves and each other.