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Staying Calm and Happy Through COVID-19
Despite living in these turbulent times, we can still find ways to feel calm, and even happy. We can stop feeding our fear, (or letting anyone else do it), and weather this well. Below are a few ideas to help reduce stress and anxiety, and to even find some good moments.
While not all of these suggestions fit every circumstance, there should be something for everyone, whether you're home alone or juggling a gaggle of stir-crazy kids.
Hang in there, everybody! You're strong enough to get through this!
DO'S AND DON'TS
MENTAL HEALTH / SELF CARE - Ways to relax and feel happier.
POSITIVE ACTIVITIES - Fun things that may also help your mood.
MORE WAYS TO KEEP BUSY
DO'S AND DON'TS
- Tune out / turn off. Only check the news and social media 1-2 times per day -- perhaps morning and/or evening (just not too close to bedtime) -- and not for prolonged amounts of time. Stick to information relevant to you, such as closures and restrictions in your area. Frequently checking the latest updates, or watching long newscasts focusing on the coronavirus, will just ramp up your anxiety level. You can also designate one person in the house to do this and report to everyone else (possibly taking turns on different days). It's less stressful to just hear a summary and not have to sift through all the negative headlines.
Choose news sources wisely. Pick somewhere accurate, which doesn't overdramatize things (and therefore increase your stress), be it online or on tv. The CDC's website is a no-nonsense source. Your state government may also have a page set up to keep you informed of local restrictions and news. You may also need to occasionally check ongoing changes to groups or organizations to which you belong (school, work, religious).
- Be a good neighbor, and remember everyone is your neighbor.
Try not to annoy each other. Tensions are high enough already. Be considerate of volume levels in and outside your home, follow recommended health guidelines, don't be selfish, be patient, don't take your stress out on others, etc.
Look out for each other.
• Check up on people - A neighbor living alone may appreciate a daily phone call to make sure they're ok. (What if someone were to get really sick, or have a fall?)
• Make deliveries - An at-risk (or already sick) neighbor may need someone to pick up their groceries or prescriptions, or bring them meals. Just do it safely.
• Call just to talk - A lonely neighbor may really enjoy a phone conversation. (That could be any neighbor at this point!) They don't even have to be a close friend to appreciate hearing a friendly voice.
• Babysit, if you're a good fit - Do you have a neighbor that has to work and has nowhere to leave their children? If you can do this safely, consider if you might be the answer to their needs. (Obviously there are some situations where this wouldn't be a good idea.)
• Donate blood or convalescent plasma - Besides blood, the Red Cross is also accepting plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients to hopefully be able to help those who are now ill. Visit the Red Cross website to learn about eligibility, and when and where to donate. If you're worried, it may help to know they're taking precautions including keeping donors separate, and using appointments to minimize the time you're there.
- Focus on now, and don't stress over what you can't control. Make reasonable plans and preparations, without going overboard, and take sensible precautions. Then go on with your life as normally as you can. Don't dwell on worst-case scenarios, how long this will last, or what the outcome will be. Worrying won't change any of that. You've done what you can, now just live.
Focus on now by being grateful for all the things that are okay today, or relatively so, and all the things that aren't worse. From there you can move on to looking for things that are actually good. Because those things do still exist! (See ideas below for helping calm your worries, and filling now with positive activities.)
- Socialize in positive ways. Avoid conversations, online or off, that dwell on the negative. It's healthy to acknowledge and discuss our worries, but we should do it in ways that help alleviate the negative feelings, not reinforce or increase them. While the current situation is, of course, part of normal conversation now, also spend some time talking about lighter things, like how you're keeping busy, or something great you just cooked or read. Talking about positive things will give you a nice break, and probably make you and those you associate with feel much happier.
- Take care of your body
Exercise reduces stress, helps you sleep better, (if not done too close to bedtime), and improves your mood. You may still be able to exercise outside -- just obey local restrictions. If you need an indoor option, seeing another person on an exercise video might help you feel a bit less isolated. We'll take what we can get now, right? Here's a list of free online exercise offers you can try, or there's a lot on YouTube too. At our house Wii Fit has become quite popular again. Dance video games are also fun exercise, as is GoNoodle (mentioned below) which is for younger children.
Eat Healthy. Some people are emotional eaters, or may eat when bored. Now that people are stuck at home, bored and stressed, it's good to be vigilant about not falling into that snare. Find satisfying activities to stay occupied, and try some of the methods on this page to keep your stress levels down.
Don't try to self-medicate away your feelings. Avoid turning to alcohol or other substances to deal with stress, anxiety or depression. Before going down that road, there are many other things you can try to help you not feel so bad. If you're already struggling with this, find someone you can talk with, be it a friend or a professional. You don't have to deal with it alone!
- Look at this as an adventure! People actually choose to do wilderness survival and long historical reenactments (like "Victorian Farm"), as well as living simply or off the grid. And most of them find it fun or exciting, or at the very least, satisfying. We don't experience the same privations, but our situation isn't without its own difficulties. Let's meet those difficulties with a sense of adventure and a can-do attitude! Later you can feel gratified you were up to the challenge, and maybe even shout, "I made it!" Yay, you!!
- Connect with others in more meaningful ways. Texting has its place, but can lack a personal connection. A good hearty laugh with a friend beats a texted "LOL" any day. When you need a bit more, try picking up the phone and calling someone! It can be good to hear another person's voice when you're feeling isolated.
Video chat, which adds smiling faces to the mix, can be a real pick-me-up. You can even get multiple people in on a conversation at once, and not have to worry about social distancing. Many are already doing this, but if you haven't tried it yet, here's a list of some of the video chat platforms that are available. If you don't know how to do it, there are tutorials online, or you probably know someone tech-savvy enough to walk you through it.
On the flip side, some people are beginning to find themselves overscheduled with the rush to do so much over video chat, and are now actually craving alone time. So try to keep it balanced, and don't feel guilty about saying, "I've got something else planned, but thanks!"
- Be inspirational! You know when people with a horrible disease are described as fighting through it with wonderful attributes like courage, grace, patience, resilience, and even good cheer? Let's be inspiring like that! When this is over, wouldn't you like to know the same could be said of you, and how you handled this situation?
- Seek advice about school at home, if you're feeling overwhelmed. Doing school from home is new to lots of you, but I know you can do it! Why not try this new (and already thriving) Facebook group called Learn Everywhere. It offers support, advice, and useful links to help your family learn while staying home. If your school has a curriculum planned for you, you may still want ideas to stave off boredom, or help students with special needs. If your school hasn't provided a curriculum, this group provides plenty of suggestions. They also offer plenty of encouragement for all. Some group members are veteran homeschoolers, from whose experience you can benefit. They survived it (and probably loved it), and so can you!
If you don't have an assigned curriculum, why don't you give yourself and your kids a bit of time to decompress while you figure this out. It's fine if you don't have a plan in place right this minute, and even when you do, it doesn't have to be perfect to be effective. There's not just one right way to do school, and it doesn't have to mimic public school to work just as well. Take a deep breath, see what's out there, and trust yourself to be able to find what works well for your family. (And if you haven't seen yet, the rest of my site is all about DIY homeschool, if you're interested.)
Here are a few links you might find useful:
• 110+ Free Resources for Kids to Use During the Coronavirus School Closures includes curricula, fun educational activities, printables and crafts.
• Educational sites waiving fees during coronavirus school closures. (Some look like they're always free, but for many it's only temporary.)
• Virtual School Activities has tours, trips, webcams, and other fun resources like coding and marine biology camp.
- Enjoy your time together. If you live with family, enjoy that you get to spend so much time with them! Instead of focusing on the negative side of things, make it the best it can be. Play games, talk, and create good memories.
If you're with non-family, like college roommates, try to make the best of it. If you can, find activities you can enjoy together, and be respectful of each other's privacy and times that should be quiet. And still reach out to family and other friends outside your home.
No matter who you are, or how hard you try to keep your home calm, this is an extra stressful time, so you may like this idea about taking quiet breaks, and some tips for dealing with contention at home.
- If you live alone, create a network to help you weather this time. Don't underestimate the value of phone calls and video chat over just texting. Don't be embarrassed to say you're lonely. Sometimes it might help to make an arrangement with someone who's willing to pick up the phone even if you need to call in the middle of the night. Don't be afraid to ask -- you might be surprised how many people would be willing to do this for you. Just having that plan in place could help you feel more secure and calm. And the other person may also be glad, knowing you're willing to do the same for them!
- Seek spiritual comfort. If your church has an online presence, they may have uplifting messages for you. Our church has e-mailed us a message of hope video from the Prophet, and the Church website has much to offer in the way of comfort including COVID-19: Messages of Faith. My daughter also suggested this talk (to read or watch) called "The Infinite Power of Hope". His words apply not only to life in general, but some parts are really applicable to our current situation. "[T]o all who suffer -- to all who feel discouraged, worried, or lonely -- I say with love and deep concern for you, never give in. Never surrender. Never allow despair to overcome your spirit."
Reach out to people with whom you feel comfortable discussing spiritual things. They may have had a thought or experience that can lift or comfort you, or vice versa. Even if we can't meet in person, we still need each other, and can be an answer to each other's prayers.
MENTAL HEALTH / SELF-CARE
- Practice relaxation techniques, and help your children do the same. Many people are now turning to these methods, and it's little wonder. We're all stressed, and these techniques really help. Stress not only affects you emotionally, but can also impair your immune system and affect you in other physical ways, including poor sleep and bad dreams. Give yourself permission to take a break and care for your mental and emotional state. It's NOT selfish, or a waste of time. (If, like me, you have difficulty meditating because your thoughts race off elsewhere, using video or audio can really help you keep from getting distracted.)
You can look online for directions or videos to guide you through many types of relaxation methods. Here are some suggestions (wording can vary): Meditation / guided meditation, positive affirmations, mindfulness, mindful breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and body scanning. Yoga and Tai Chi are also good for your mind, as well as your body. Additionally, you can do a search for any of the above which have been created specifically for calming your COVID worries. But you don't have to do that to find something effective. Here are just a few of many options found on YouTube:
For most or all ages there's The Honest Guys channel. We like that they use more neutral terms, making their videos suitable to a wide array of belief systems. And they have short or long videos, so you can choose whatever suits you. (We've used these for tween and up, but they may work for younger too; you'll know what best fits your kids.)
For kids and teens you could try New Horizon's relaxing videos. There's a teenager playlist (which also includes some labeled for kids), and multiple playlists just for kids (plus one for grownups). Depending on your belief system, there may be a few you'd rather skip, but there are many that look pretty neutral, for anyone to enjoy. Their videos are more in the 15-30 minutes range, or longer. I've only tried a few of these teen and kid videos, but I enjoyed them.
For smaller children check out Cosmic Kids Yoga's short videos of children's relaxation and mindfulness. We particularly liked videos 18-21 (the bottom four) on the mindfulness playlist, but that was years ago, and many more have been added since. And of course, their yoga videos are fun and relaxing too. GoNoodle (mentioned below) also has some mindfulness and relaxing videos for children.
Apps** of the above methods are available, plus some focused on helping you be more positive, or to be happier in general (like Action for Happiness and Free Happiness), or for dealing with stress, panic, anxiety or depression (like Moodspace). Just search for apps with any of those terms, or the terms listed above. Many of the apps are already free, or have a free basic plan.
FREE FOR HEALTH CARE WORKERS - Some mental health apps' premium access and other services are now being offered free to healthcare workers, including the following:
• Breethe: Calm Meditation, Sleep & Mindfulness - for Android or iOS.
• Headspace: Meditation, Mindfulness and Sleep - for Android or iOS.
• Ten Percent Happier: Meditation & Sleep - for Android or iOS.
• Talkspace: Online Therapy - for Android or iOS. This app connects you to a licensed therapist. Besides being free for healthcare workers, there's also currently a $65 discount code for other users, plus a 7-day free trial.
• Mindful's website is offering "Mindfulness for Healthcare Workers During COVID" which includes meditations and other resources.
FREE FOR ANYONE. The following mental health apps and resources are free during the coronavirus pandemic:
• Balance: Meditation - only for iOS (coming soon to Android). Free access is currently being granted to anyone who wants it.
• Simple Habit: Meditation - for Android or iOS. Right now they're offering free access to those who can no longer afford it.
• Mindful's website has free resources to help you "Find Calm and Nourish Resilience During the COVID Outbreak" and they're also offering free access to their 30-day Premium Find Calm and Nourish Resilience Course.
• Booster Buddy - for Android or iOS. Though this app was made for teens and young adults, it could be helpful to anyone who struggles just to get out of bed in the morning. (Always free.)
• Here are two AI chatbots, which are sort of like artificial-intelligence "therapists."
- Wysa: Stress, Depression & Anxiety Therapy Chatbot - for Android or iOS. This app now is now free, including their coronavirus and isolation resources.
- Woebot: Your Self-Care Expert - for Android or iOS. Another chatbot app (which might always be free) that has also added coronavirus-specific content. The app treats serious topics as such, but also uses humor here and there to help lift your mood.
** Not all apps out there are HIPAA compliant, and it's possible an app may collect and share your data. So read the fine print to see how secure your data is before entering your private feelings into a therapy app.
Apps can work great for plenty of people, but if you're in need of an actual therapist, please contact one. If you can't wait, text HOME to 741741 to contact the Crisis Text Line, where you'll be connected to a counselor who can help.
- Listen to soothing music. This can be very effective at decreasing stress and helping you feel happier. YouTube and other places online have free relaxing, meditation, or ambient music. Of course, at other times you may need a boost with something that makes you feel fearless, or something that's just downright fun. You might enjoy this post about the power of music and our mood during the coronavirus, written by musician Steven Sharp Nelson (whose music can definitely be soothing . . . or fun, or make you feel fearless). What's considered relaxing varies widely depending on taste, so stick to whatever soothes your soul. At the same time, be considerate of the rest of the household, especially if your "relaxing" is their "annoying."
- Maintain a routine. Having structure and something you can look forward to daily or weekly can create a feeling of security during unpredictable times. And it's not just children that need this feeling of stability. It feels really good to do something that feels normal, when everything else feels so NOT normal. If you can continue some things from your old routine that are important to you, do so. If not, try replacing some of them with something else you can do regularly. It may take a few tries to find activities you want to turn into a routine, but hopefully you'll end up looking forward to these things too.
Examples: Continue or begin having family night. Stick to a regular sleep schedule, even if it doesn't match your old one. If Friday was popcorn and video night, keep it up. Replace date night with take-out or cooking a nice meal together (via video chat, if you're in separate homes), or going for a walk or drive (if possible; just be sure to follow local restrictions). If Saturday was family pizza night, learn to make it at home. Instead of skipping worship services, do what you appropriately can to have a day of worship at home. And keep up some sort of regular exercise, even if it's not the same as what you're used to at the gym.
Having a routine doesn't mean every moment needs to be planned out. But being able to rely on at least some things staying the same can help life not feel so surreal or out of control. As for free time, if it starts feeling boring, try something different to liven it up!
- Relax before bed. Lack of sleep inhibits our immune system, and tends to just make everything feel worse. We all know how rough a day after bad sleep can be! Don't check up on the number of COVID cases just before hopping into bed and expect to slip into blissful slumber. Practice good sleep hygiene, and try to put your worries away for the day long before your head hits the pillow. Try relaxation methods such as meditation before bed, and maybe some light reading. Stretching before bed may also help you sleep better. It relieves pent-up tension in your muscles, and also releases endorphins which can help you relax. And here are some tips about shutting off your brain before bedtime.
- Take "quiet breaks". Being cooped up together, especially if you're already stressed, can lead to short tempers. Giving yourself a quiet break (or whatever you want to call it) can help you deal more peacefully with everyone in your home. Even just a few minutes of deep breathing or meditating can be beneficial. Let others in your home have the same courtesy, and create a plan together to make it work. For instance, if a spouse or older child will keep younger kids from banging on your closed door, your quiet break may actually be quiet. Or maybe your roommate can be convinced to turn down the volume for a few minutes (or use their headphones).
Help children recognize when they might need their own break, and make sure they have a place they'll be left undisturbed. Let them know it's not a punishment, but a time they can be left alone so they can feel better inside, and teach them to take some slow, deep breaths.
You may like to print some "do not disturb" door hangers to let others know a quiet break is in progress. Then, give it time. This won't fix everything in a day, but it's bound to bring a bit more peace as everyone gets more practice at keeping their cool. (Using other suggestions on this page at other times of the day can also help you have a calmer home.)
If you think you don't have time to do this, think how much more time it takes to lose your temper, say things you'll regret, leave in a huff, cool off, and then return and apologize. Yeah, just go take a quiet break.
If you live alone you can still benefit from quiet breaks. Turn off potential distractions and take a few minutes to breathe mindfully. You'll feel better, and probably be more productive afterward as well.
Dealing with Contention: The following articles explain the science behind why we're more prone to quarrel right now, and also give pointers for avoiding such arguments (and having productive discussions instead). While people are feeling stressed, insecure, and fearful, it's easier for little things to get blown out of proportion. Use suggestions on the rest of this page to help you and your household feel calmer and more positive. And while discussing issues, remember you're on the same team, and can work together to improve things at home.
• 5 Ways to Minimize Family Fighting While Homebound - These suggestions are aimed mainly at families with children, but the same tactics could be tweaked for couples, and possibly roommates as well.
• Family feud: Clashing over coronavirus is the new source of household tension, fighting - This article may be more helpful to couples or roommates. It made a good point when it said, "[T]hey think they're arguing about corn when what they're really arguing about is the need to feel secure and stable." Maybe a few minutes of expressive writing (mentioned below) could help us recognize the root of our stress, and then be able to cope better and more peacefully.
- Write in a journal. This can be done in various ways. You can keep a daily journal of whatever you're thinking, and whatever's going on. Or, a nice idea is to make a journal filled with only happy memories. It'll lift you up while you're doing it, and any time you look through it in the future.
Sometimes it's therapeutic to have a place dedicated to writing down your negative feelings (like your worries and fears -- probably not all the things your housemates did that annoyed you today), and then destroy it, delete it, or throw it away. The physical destruction of your thoughts helps you figuratively get rid of them too. (Here's one place to learn more about this exercise.) Keep in mind, this is meant to get it out of you and provide relief. It shouldn't become a consuming habit or lifestyle of focusing on the negative. Be sure to practice writing positive things elsewhere too!
A similar idea is "expressive writing" where you write what's bothering you for a set time for a few days and it's supposed to be healing. The Pandemic Project has some really good prompts to help you write out your coronavirus-related worries. (Doing this may also help you see what's really bothering you, rather than blaming all your stress on how loud your spouse chews.)
- Practice gratitude. Research has found that "gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships." (Quote taken from this article.) Keeping a gratitude journal is an excellent way to lift yourself up each day. The good things in life are easier to see if you're actively looking for them.
You might set a goal of writing 1, 3, or 5 things a day, depending on what you think you can do. You can keep your journal private, or you may sometimes wish to share with others. It might help them start seeing the good in their own lives! Families might enjoy a daily or weekly time together when each person can express what they're grateful for.
Gratitude Apps exist if you prefer that way to pen and paper. Here are a few ideas, but there are many more available:
• Bliss: Gratitude Journal - Guided daily writing that helps increase happiness, self-confidence, resilience, motivation, etc.
• Jar of Awesome (only for Android. This is the one by Damapio.) - Simpler than a journal; just write notes about good moments or good things in your life, optionally adding tags or photos, and they fill up your jar. Later you can view notes by category, in a time line, or with the random button, as a reminder of the great things in your life. You can create new categories, customize colors, and it can be kept private or you can share. It also has optional daily reminders. This one's fun, colorful, and cheery. (I don't even add photos and still really enjoy it.)
• HappiJar (only for iOS) Similar to the app above, memories are added to customizable little buttons and popped into a jar. Shake the jar to see a random memory whenever you need a pick-me-up!
- Set a daily goal to give your day meaning, especially if you're feeling boredom or a lack of purpose. (You can set more, but keep it doable.) Then at the end of the day you can enjoy the satisfaction of accomplishing what you meant to do. It needn't be anything earthshaking. It can be a goal to exercise, fix the squeaky door, dust that hard-to-reach spot you keep skipping, or even to just get out of your pajamas. (We know. We've had those days too.)
Or start a new project, preferably one you can feel a bit of enthusiasm for. This, too, can give your day purpose, even if it's not something short enough to check off your list at the end of one day.
- Substitute positive thoughts for negative. If you try to push out a negative thought but have nothing to fill its place, it tends to slip right back or be replaced by something else negative. Switch tracks completely and put something good in place of that thought so there's no room for it. If you catch yourself saying, "I can't do this," give yourself a do-over, tell yourself that thought's baloney, and change it to, "I CAN do this." Even if you don't believe it yet, say it (maybe repeatedly) and keep on trying to believe it.
Don't discourage yourself. Encourage yourself! If someone else kept talking to you or a loved one the way you sometimes talk to yourself, you probably wouldn't stand for it. You should treat yourself nicely too! Tell yourself the same things you'd tell someone you cared about if they were in your shoes. Like, "Hang in there, I know you can make it!" Because you can!
- Write a list of positive things to read later, or to post around your house. Your list can include good things in your life, encouraging words, calming words, quotes that give you a boost, or your favorite affirmations. This can be particularly helpful when trying to replace negative thoughts with better ones, especially if happy thoughts are hard to find when you're already feeling low. Then you can just reread the list you've written.
Free positive quotes
• 101 Positive Quotes to Get You Through Quarantine - found at this site.
• 365 Quotes to Live Your Life By: Powerful, Inspiring, & Life-Changing Words of Wisdom to Brighten Up Your Days (at Google Books) These are sorted into categories that look helpful for coping with our current situation.
• Always Positive: Daily Motivational Quotes app for Android or for iOS.
• Daily Motivational Quotes app (only for Android).
• Daily Quote - Positive Quotes app (only for iOS).
- Listen to calming sounds. There are apps and websites that have premade or customizable nature or ambient sounds. They can range from thunderstorms and ocean waves to Rivendell or the Hogwarts library. Some sites and apps also provide sounds you can use offline.
Ambient-Mixer.com is a cool site with many background sounds, or "atmospheres," using up to 8 tracks. There are simple nature themes (like "Fire on a Stormy Night" and "Autumn Forest"), as well as other unique atmospheres (like "Darcy's Sitting Room," "Elsa's Castle," and "Star Trek Ambience"), plus some that include music. Tweak what's there or create your own atmosphere. (I kinda like this fireplace.)
Nature Sounds For Me is a bit more basic, but also good. It lets you use up to 4 tracks and pick from many sounds. You can use what's already there, adjust them to your taste, or start from scratch. These are mostly nature sounds, but there are also a few like wind chimes and walking in snow.
- Pray. "The first, the middle, and the last thing to do is to pray." -- President Henry B. Eyring, from "In the Strength of the Lord."
- Read a good book. Tackle your tbr list, pick up an old favorite, or find something funny to keep your mind off of things. Something light may be a better escape than something intense, if you're already feeling stressed. You could choose something to read along with a friend and discuss it later, or you might have fun joining an online book club.
See if your library lets you borrow e-books or audiobooks for free. Many libraries offer access to Libby/Overdrive, RBDigital or Hoopla. If you don't have a library card, some libraries are now issuing instant digital cards you can get from home.
For thousands of free public domain books (which are some of the best books!) see Project Gutenberg and Many Books (which also has some new books), or you can visit BookBub for a list of temporarily-free or discounted e-books. They also offer a daily e-mail that only includes books in categories you've chosen.
- Listen to a book together. You can read it aloud yourselves or listen to an audiobook. See if your local library offers free audiobooks through a service such as Libby/Overdrive, RBDigital, or Hoopla. Anyone can access free audiobooks from Librivox or Learn Out Loud, and Audible is offering free kids books during the coronavirus shutdown. Just pick something to suit everyone in your home. You can search for "couples reads" or "family reads" for ideas. If you live alone, or your roommates aren't interested, you can turn on an audiobook yourself while working on something creative or getting some exercise.
If you enjoy reading aloud, consider volunteering to make an audiobook for Librivox from an eligible (public domain) book. Then others can enjoy it too!
Other listening options:
- Old-time Radio Shows. One place to find these programs is Old Time Radio Downloads. A few popular shows are: The Lone Ranger, Gunsmoke, Dragnet, Superman, Sherlock Holmes, Journey into Space, and also titles in their kid's section.
- Old children's vinyl records can be fun too, especially as a bit of nostalgia. Kiddie Records Weekly has old titles like Bugs Bunny in Storyland, Gerald McBoing-Boing, Cinderella, Hopalong Cassidy, Madeline, and many more. Children's Records has The Pink Panther, Charlie Brown, Batman, Davy Crockett, Flash Gordon, Let's Pretend, fairy tales, music, etc.
- See below for Videos of Children's Books being read.
- Visit happy pages! How about some happy news, or happiness-centered websites? Here are a few:
• Good News Network - Turn to their website for good news that's not being reported in mainstream media. You're bound to find a smile here!
• Some Good News - With John Krasinski. Weekly feel-good episodes that show there's still good in the world despite the pandemic.
Daily Pictures - Happy pictures from Sunny Skyz.
• Breethe, also on Facebook. Great uplifting or funny posts to get you through the pandemic. (They also have an app mentioned elsewhere on this page.)
• The Happiness Contagion on Facebook. They post cheerful poems and pictures, and their aim is "to infect and inspire the world with happiness!"
• The Happy Page, or some on Facebook. Home of the "Happiness Is..." cartoons, showing the little things in life to be glad about.
• Happier.com's blog - "Practical tips and inspiration to help you feel more joyful and resilient." It's been a while since I looked there, so I'm more familiar with the older posts, but I liked them at the time.
• The Rainbow Connection - Kermit recorded a new version, from quarantine, to help us through this rough time.
• It's Gonna Be OKAY - An upbeat song with the kind of words you that are good to have stuck in your head.
- Look for the good! I like the quote, "Every day may not be good, but there's something good in every day." A few months ago our family made a goal to look for the good in each day, and then at night we'd each report at least one thing to each other. Some things were just plain good, and some were seeing a good part of an otherwise bad situation. Kind of like Pollyanna's "glad game." Doing this doesn't make all our worries vanish, but seeing the good in life helps temper the bad. It's kind of like when those few fingers of sunshine poke through the gray clouds, giving you a bit of happiness on an otherwise gloomy day.
Look for the good in each other, too. The not-perfect parts of the people we're quarantined with may seem magnified right now (because we're already stressed and irritable), but noticing the nice things about them can help the other things not seem as big.
- Play a relaxing game. There are many apps touted as being relaxing, and a number of people really like I Love Hue. It is surprisingly calming and crowds out upsetting thoughts. People have found this app helps them with stress, anxiety, and even PTSD. Others have suggested brain games or puzzles to keep your mind focused somewhere other than your worries.
- Write down what you've learned from this trial, and how it can make you a better person. For instance, after experiencing isolation, are you more aware of lonely people and their need for connection? Do you have more sympathy and understanding for people struggling with anxiety or depression? Take whatever it is you've learned and decide how to put it to good use in the future. Maybe you don't know yet what you're learning, but in time you'll probably see a better part of yourself shining through! Difficult experiences can make us stronger and better, if we let them.
Some other ideas are: Start writing a list of things you won't take for granted anymore. Like being able to buy flour (or whatever your store's out of), going to church, or getting a kiss on the cheek from Grandma. Or you can write a list of things you're determined to not complain about anymore. Like a long wait at a busy restaurant, slow traffic, or going to work every day.
- Laugh! It's healthy and reduces stress. If you're worried we shouldn't be laughing right now, here's a good article about using humor to cope with coronavirus anxiety (without mocking anyone's suffering, of course).
One morning recently I had the news on to catch a few headlines, then instead of turning it off I flipped to a funny movie (Bringing Up Baby) and let myself stop and watch a little. I felt like I'd almost forgotten how to laugh until then, because things had been so tense. My stress came bubbling out in laughter, and I felt so much relief! I knew it would help my family too, so now we make a point of adding a bit of humor to our time together each day, even if we only have time for a silly video on YouTube before bed. It helps!
Find a lighthearted movie, funny book, comic strip, or even some silly music. Humor is so subjective, and you already know what tickles your funny bone, so go find it and de-stress!
• Use the "Make everything ok" button. Ah, I needed that.
• 5 Day Weather Forecast by Studio C. Is this how it feels when you turn on the news these days? "Sweet glory."
• Five Times August's coronavirus song parodies are funny, as well as family friendly. (He's also the Juicebox Jukebox guy.)
• Pachelbel's Chicken - Just one of the chicken classics on TwoSet Violin's channel.
• Cabin Fever sing along from Muppet Treasure Island. I think we can relate.
• Strange Planet. If you aren't yet acquainted with these funny little beings, maybe it's time you were. New cartoons are posted regularly on Instagram. Some are also found on Facebook and Twitter, or check out his store where you can buy stuff or admire his work.
- Say or do something nice for someone else. Options may seem limited while interacting with fewer people in person, but you'll probably find something if you're looking for the opportunity. A few ideas include: Tell someone you live with something you appreciate about them. Make only kind comments online. And at home. Forgive someone who's hurt you. Be patient. Take over dish or diaper duty. Offer to watch your s.o.'s favorite movie with them (even if you hate it). Write an encouraging message and send it to a friend, or stick it on the fridge. Post something online that will lift others; it can be beautiful, funny, or inspiring. Give something to a charity, an out-of-work family, or a starving student you may know.
JustServe.org can help you find volunteer opportunities in your community. Many projects have been put on hold, but some needs are as urgent as ever, and there may still be things you can safely do. Some service opportunities I've seen include delivering meals, working at a food pantry, sewing face masks, and becoming part of the crisis text line. Many places still need people to help in person, and are taking precautions to keep volunteers safe. (Try the COVID-19 and From Home links at the top, too.)
- Go outside, if you can. (Follow your local restrictions, of course.) Whether you're out for serious exercise or just getting some fresh air, take the time to enjoy it with each of your senses.
- Watch the sunrise or sunset. It's easy to be too rushed to notice these sometimes, but if you've got extra time on your hands now, kick back and enjoy the show.
- Read some poetry. It's actually been found to be therapeutic. If you don't know where to start, try an anthology to get a variety of authors. Here are some places to find free poetry:
• Project Gutenberg's poetry bookshelf has many classics and anthologies.
• Gratefulness.org has some modern poetry (including some related to the coronavirus).
• Librivox has poetry books to listen to. Scroll down through the genres for multiple poetry categories.
There are many options, but here's a small list of free anthologies if you don't already have something in mind.
- It Can Be Done: Poems of Inspiration
- The Hundred Best English Poems
- The Little Book of Modern Verse and the Second Volume.
- The Home Book of Verse in 4 volumes, each sorted by category. 1-Poems of Youth and Age, 2-Poems of Love, 3-Poems of Nature, 4-Familiar Verse, and Poems Humorous and Satiric
- The Book of Humorous Verse - okay, not exactly "beautiful" poetry, but a bit of humor can help get you through.
- Write a poem or a song. It looks like a number of people are turning to poetry as a means of expressing their feelings about these uncertain times, but you can write on any subject. Kids can do this too! Both reading and writing poetry has been found to be therapeutic. Robert Frost said, "A poem … begins as a lump in the throat, a sense of wrong, a homesickness, a lovesickness. It is a reaching-out toward expression; an effort to find fulfillment."
The Wexner Center for the Arts has provided this small poetry primer to get you started. If you want to try writing different styles of poetry, here's a fun 30 Days of Poetry activity any age can enjoy.
Of course, if serious poetry's really not your thing, you could write something funny. It can also be fun to write a silly poem or song with someone else.
MORE WAYS TO KEEP BUSY
- Tidy up your home. As long as you're stuck in your house, you may as well make it as nice as you can. Hanging out in a tidy space just feels better!
- Give yourself a cooking challenge. Is there something you've always wanted to learn how to cook? Have you wondered how to braid bread or perfect your pie crusts? Or maybe you'd like to tackle a time-consuming recipe you've been waiting to try. (Pain au chocolat, anyone?)
- Cook "with" friends. Choose a recipe for everyone to cook separately, then get together on video chat to taste your creations and enjoy each other's company. (If you don't have enough people living with you to help eat up what you've made, choose a recipe that can easily be scaled down. Especially if you plan to do this often and don't have lots of room in your freezer.)
- Let loose and dance. These people have the right idea! If you don't have any funky moves, learn some! Choose your dance hero, be it Gene Kelly, Jean Butler, or Napoleon Dynamite, and pull out those dancin' shoes. Or moon boots. Whichever dance style you decide to tackle, YouTube's probably got you covered.
- Throw a small party to break up the monotony. It doesn't need to be fancy or pricey. It can be fun for kids to help choose a theme, make their own decorations, and help plan food to go along with it. And it keeps them busy for a while! Maybe you'd enjoy a party themed around a movie or book, or you could have a bbq or luau. There are lots of places online with suggestions for meals that go with certain themes or movies. For example, here are some Star Wars recipes and some crafts kids can make for party decorations. Or have a mini Christmas. Wrap up old games and toys the kids haven't thought to play with for a while, or give small homemade gifts.
- Learn something new. You can learn just about anything on the internet, and usually for free. Here are a few ideas:
• Learn to draw.
• Learn to play chess.
• Learn to sing, but be thoughtful of the rest of the household.
• Learn to type properly. You'll save a lot of time in the future! You can learn free online, or by downloading free software.
• Learn sign language or another language.
• Learn to forage safely and responsibly in your area, or even your own yard. This can be really fun, but do your research so you don't eat anything toxic!
• Learn to cut hair (and touch up those roots). Find videos of different people cutting the exact style you want.
• Learn to do Zentangle. There are lots of video tutorials. When you get good, put some designs on rocks and place them in your garden or on your shelf.
• Learn to solve a Rubik's cube. Yes, you can.
• Teach your kids to cook or to sew. (Or learn yourself!)
• Learn origami. Try the Origami Resource Center to get you started. Though you might want to give the "Toilet Paper Origami" section a miss right now.
• Learn to crochet or knit. People find it relaxing, and almost meditative. Ravelry has free patterns for just about anything, from scarves and blankets to unicorns and baby Yodas.
- Keep kids busy. Many of the other ideas on this page are suitable for kids, but here are just a few more. (There are tons of ideas on the internet!)
• Bubbles - If you don't have any you can make your own, plus make wands from wire or pipe cleaners. Or try giant bubbles!
• Clay - If you don't have clay or play dough, there are many recipes with different ingredients, including those that dry hard and those which don't (probably the ones with oil), as well as the more grown-up "cold porcelain." After you make your amazing sculptures, you may want to paint them. (Tip: if using salt, grind it in a blender until it's fine, so the clay's less gritty when dry.) Here are some awesome salt dough geodes.
• Paper Mache - you can make this with newspaper and paste from household materials (including gluten-free recipes). Kids and teens and adults are making amazing things from paper mache.
• Do dot-to-dots and color them. There are many free online. Adults may enjoy the extra difficult ones.
• Create a treasure hunt. Here are some ideas including riddles to use as clues.
• Print some games. Visit Good Little Games (fancy) or Printable Board Games (simpler) for free board games and card games to print and play. Parents may want to make sure the "Good Little" games are age appropriate, since they have games for all ages there.
• Enjoy Videos of Children's Books being read aloud, many by famous people. Try the links below, search for a book by its title, or find more books to listen to above.
- Storyline Online has book videos and reading guides.
- #OperationStoryTime on YouTube will yield results of many children's books being read.
- Books Read Aloud for Kids has the Little Miss and Mr. Men books, and many other books for small children.
• Stream GoNoodle which has fun exercise, dance, yoga, stretching, calming, mindfulness and other videos for kids (also on YouTube). Lots of the videos are meant to get kids moving while having fun, and others help them feel calm and not so stressed.
• More sites with ideas:
- 101+ Ideas to keep busy, at Forbes.
- NASA at Home has virtual tours, e-books, activities, crafts and lots of learning resources for K-12.
- Physics Central has free educational physics coloring books and physics comic books.
- Science-themed activities include planting a butterfly garden, getting coloring pages from museums, learning about dinosaurs, or hearing a book read by someone on the space station.
- Color a picture. Coloring can take your mind off of things and be relaxing. Go ahead, even the grownups are doing it! Here are some free pages from Dover's weekly coloring newsletter, and some more, plus some inspiring sayings to color. Some say mandalas or geometric patterns may be more helpful, but do whatever helps you feel relaxed.
- Plant a garden, or find out what you can grow indoors. You can start with something as simple as scrap gardening. If you're impatient, try some quick-growing foods as well as some you can enjoy later.
- Take advantage of freebies. A number of people and companies are generously offering free services during the pandemic. Here's one guide to free (or discounted) services. Some of the things listed are fitness programs, creative writing courses, DIY classes, free streaming, tips for video chat, mental health freebies, educational resources for kids, and freebies for college students, like storage, courses, and online textbooks.
- Get some culture. Opera, ballet, symphonies, plays and concerts are temporarily streaming free during due to the coronavirus.
• Classic FM's continually updated list of concerts, etc. (Scroll down for a schedule.) A few of the highlights include:
- The Royal Opera / Royal Ballet
- The Nightly Met Opera Streams (Each is available for 23 hours.)
- The Berlin Philharmonic
• Filmed on Stage updates this list daily, of free Musicals, plays and concerts. Some are only available for 1 day, so see what's available before it's gone.
• Performing Arts Online is another, shorter list from CBS.
• Andrew Lloyd Webber is showing a free musical each weekend (available 48 hours).
• National Theater is streaming a new play every Thursday (available for a week).
Of course, there's much more in all genres of music being offered free all the time. Just keep your eyes on your favorite performers or theater to see what may be coming.
- Take a happiness course. One of Yale's most popular classes ever is online for free. It's called The Science of Well Being, and you can learn more in this article. It might also be fun to take the course with someone else, and you can discuss it as you go, sort of like book club.
- Go on a virtual museum tour. Google Arts & Culture has partnered with a huge number of museums worldwide to offer virtual tours* and online displays for you to enjoy while sheltering in place. See what else the site offers besides the museums, such as getting to "walk around" famous sites all over the world, learning about history, architecture, food and a whole bunch of other interesting things. You can also download their app, which is supposed to be even more impressive.
*To feel like you're walking through a museum, click the little yellow-orange person near the top right of the screen. Then use it like Google Maps street view to navigate your way around.
- Visit a national park by taking a virtual tour. See more parks here.
- Watch zoo and aquarium cams to enjoy live streams of their animals from home. Here are a few that are available, plus another list.
- Do a virtual theme park trip. Watch walk-throughs or videos of rides at Disney and other parks. Below are just a few of the many places you can find such videos.
• Inside the Magic - Has Disney, Universal, Legoland, Knott's Berry Farm, Six Flags, and plenty other videos.
• iTheme Park channel - Videos from Disney parks, Sea World, Universal Studios, Legoland, and more.
• A Visit to Virtual Disneyland - Some Disneyland rides and walk-throughs, sorted by "land."
• Fun Family Florida - Some videos from Disney parks, Universal, and Kennedy Space Center.
- Tackle your to-do list. Start whittling down that stack of things you keep meaning to work on "sometime." Maybe this doesn't sound terribly entertaining, but it can be satisfying checking those things off your list. (And they won't still be sitting there after you go back to work.) You can always turn on some music or an audiobook to make it a bit more fun.
- Go through memorabilia. Pull out old photos or home movies. This can be really fun as a family, but also nice if you're alone. Or you could do this over video chat with family that lives elsewhere.
If your photos are a jumbled mess (in a box, or on your phone), consider organizing them or making a memory book. This can range from photo pages in a 3-ring binder, to elaborate scrapbooks, or even sending digital photos to be made into books by an online company. But it doesn't HAVE to be fancy, or expensive, so don't feel intimidated. The important part is what's in the pictures, after all. At the very least, organize digital photos and back them up on a USB drive and put them in a safe place (like a fireproof safe). And if you have a bunch of unlabeled photos, label them now, before you forget. If you've already forgotten, video chat with family or friends for help.
- Write (or record) your life story or family history. You can start at any age, and add more through the years. Write memories from your childhood, memories of your family members, a relative's sayings or bits of wisdom, funny stories, how you felt when something historic happened, stories your parents told you about their memories, how you spent holidays or vacations, and even your mom's best recipe. It may seem mundane to you, but others will cherish these simple things later.
You don't have to be a great writer, and it doesn't have to be long or fancy. Some people do create large volumes and have them printed and bound, but it can be as simple as a file on your computer (and a secure backup!) or even a stapled bunch of papers safely stored. Our family has photocopies of handwritten and typewritten histories (now also stored on FamilySearch) for which I'm so grateful. I loved getting to know my ancestors better. Your life story will be just as special to someone who comes after you, even if you have no children and it's a niece or nephew who reads it.
Making a voice or video recording of your family history is another option. Record yourself, or arrange to record a relative over video chat (or live, if you live with them). Later you can type up a transcript of the video and have both as family keepsakes.
Need encouragement, or ideas on how to get started? 20 Reasons Why You Should Write Your Family History can get you motivated. And here are
18 Writing Tips for personal and family stories.
- Work on your family tree and family history research. This can be done by all ages! At FamilySearch anyone can make an account and start using the records to make a family tree. You can also add to what's there by uploading photos and family stories of your ancestors, and it's all free.
Reading family history stories can inspire you. Seeing what they lived through can help you feel stronger and more able to face your own trials. After all, you're made of the same stuff!
For a fun way to get started, try the Family History Activities that can be entertaining alone or with the whole family. Once you have a tree set up on FamilySearch, use your account to log in to the Family History Technology Lab for family history games and useful tools, as well as the "Relative Finder." After signing in it connects to your family tree to find distant famous relatives. I mean, who doesn't want to know if they're related to Thomas Jefferson or Elvis Presley? (Results can be sorted by category, depending on who interests you.)
- Serve others by indexing. Indexing is transcribing names from photos of historical records, so anyone on the internet can look for names of relatives with a simple text search. It's a great thing to do, and all you need is a free FamilySearch account, and they'll tell you how to get started. Just read and follow the directions! It gets easier the longer you do it, and if you feel unsure about a record you can ask another user (or someone in your house) for help, or return it for someone else to do, and try a different batch or project.
- Make storage plans for that "next time" that we hope never happens. While everyone's home, take the opportunity to figure out of how fast you go through canned goods, flour, soap, t.p., deodorant, laundry detergent, etc., so you'll know how much extra is good to keep on hand later. DON'T go out and stock up now. (That would be hoarding, and I think most of us have the same feelings about hoarders right now.) Just keep buying what you need for now, but make plans for what you'll start getting for storage when things go back to normal.
If you choose to have more storage in the future, Provident Living has some good resources about food storage and finances. And The Food Guys site has a food storage calculator.
You never know when something unexpected, like a big storm or unemployment, may leave you wishing you had something put by. A three-month supply of what your family normally eats and uses is a good idea (rotate and replace as you use it), and if you have room, a year's supply of staples you could survive on is great. If you think it costs too much, just start one little bit at a time and eventually you'll get there. And if you don't have much room, just do what you can. (You can get creative -- canned goods may fit nicely under the spare room bed!)
We've all learned how fast life can change and how quickly stores can be cleared out. It can be really comforting to know you've got what you need stocked up in the house. "If ye are prepared, ye shall not fear."
Okay, enough grim preparedness talk. Go watch a funny video, and keep your chin up!
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