4 Ways for Cultivating Calm while stuck inside
Sometimes we intentionally declutter our schedules, like Shara did when she moved to Hawaii. At other times, forces beyond our control simplify our calendars for us, whether we want them to or not. In mid-March, millions of us around the globe had our schedules dramatically decluttered by the novel coronavirus and the social distancing orders we received from our state governors. Cultivating calm while dealing with these challenges is important to our health and wellbeing.
Perhaps you had been wondering, like me, if your family was involved in just a few too many after-school activities, when all of a sudden, in a matter of days, all after-school activities were canceled. In fact, school itself was canceled. Our family homeschools, so that part of our schedule has remained consistent, but orchestra practice, swim lessons, tap class, baseball, field hockey practice, youth group, and church gatherings have all vanished.
For our entire marriage, my husband has left for work at the crack of dawn, but he is now working from home full time. For some of us–doctors and nurses who care for covid-19 patients, other first responders, teachers who are unexpectedly adapting their classes to an online format, delivery people, and other unsung heroes (thank you!)–life has abruptly sped up.
Finding Simplicity and Calm
But hundreds of millions of us who are sheltering at home have been given the gift of slowing down. How can we embrace this gift and find simplicity and calm during a global pandemic? We are living in a paradox: we have the time to slow down, but a million new worries consume us.
Sheltering at home during a global pandemic is far from being on a staycation. We have obligations to fulfill and people to care for. For sports lovers, there aren’t even any sports to watch on tv. In a world that has abruptly changed and continues to change, it’s easy to get sucked into reading the news on the phone compulsively. As our weeks of staying at home drag into months, it’s hard to wait patiently and stay positive. Here are a few simple practices that can help us to cope.
4 Simple Practices to Embrace While Stuck Inside
1. Fresh air first.
It’s super tempting to pick up the phone first thing in the morning and begin scrolling through the news, especially if your phone also doubles as your alarm clock. One simple, calming practice is to start the day with fresh air. In his excellent book, The Tech-wise Family, Andy Crouch recommends starting your day with “something–anything–before plugging in” (120). This is excellent advice at any time, and now more than ever.
Before entering the dizzying virtual world of statistics, government proclamations, and news spin, immerse yourself in the restorative world of nature, even if it just means popping your head out of the door for a breath of fresh air. When I wake up, I let my dogs out. In central Ohio where I live, quarantine has mercifully coincided with the arrival of an early spring. We’ve had crocuses and daffodils, the magnolia trees are blooming, the myrtle is covered with little purple flowers, and tiny leaves are appearing on my crab apple trees. Hostas and other perennials are re-emerging from underground.
In my quiet suburban neighborhood, I can hear the sounds of birds and bugs. The world of trees and grass and sky outside my home reminds me that this beauty was here before the pandemic began, and it will be here when it ends. Having dogs is a nice reason to get outside for a moment.
2. Good news before bad news.
This advice is from my pastor, and it’s so good. If you are a Christian, first thing in the morning while the coffee brews is the perfect time to read the Bible, especially during this time of great uncertainty. While I don’t know why God has allowed the evil of the coronavirus to devastate our world, I do know that God promises never to abandon us, no matter what comes. Sometimes I write a verse at the top of my to-do list to help me remember to pray during the day.
My siblings have also been sharing lots of good news in our What’s App group. John Krasinki’s Some Good News is a favorite. Adorable photos of my four year-old niece participating in her zoom ballet class are another favorite.
3. Be gentle with yourself and your people.
When Americans first began to social distance a few weeks ago and most of the appointments on our calendars got erased, many of us had high hopes of accomplishing lots of projects at home. In our family, we’ve been able to check a few projects off our to-do list, including some spring yard work, but we haven’t been crazy productive. I’ve had to readjust my expectations.
I was stressing my children out with long daily lists of schoolwork, not cultivating calm. For the past week, we’ve been following the “Three-Hour Homeschool Solution” designed by Jamie Martin at Simple Homeschool, and it’s been a welcome break for my kids (and for me). We’ve limited our school to the hours of 9:30-12:30. We spend the first hour on academic essentials like math and phonics, the second hour is for reading books, and the third hour is for fun learning activities.
We’ve done puzzles and played games like Chickapig and Quiddler during our third hour. With our extra time at home, we’ve been doing low-key fun things like playing outside when the weather is nice, building with legos, baking brownies, reading aloud, and listening to audiobooks. In the years to come, when this quarantine is only a memory, I hope my children remember the cozy activities we did together at home during the spring of 2020.
4. Take a walk.
You probably don’t need much motivation to get out and take a walk because there’s really nothing else to do! In Ohio, our playgrounds and athletic fields are closed, but our paths and parks are open. My favorite thing that has changed in my neighborhood since the quarantine began is the number of families I have observed out taking walks.
We live on a corner lot next to a park, and under normal circumstances, I often see neighbors out walking their dogs or taking small children to the park, but lately on sunny days I have seen whole families with multiple teenage children taking walks together.
Everyone is out walking! The philosopher Erling Kagge has written an entire book on walking, and he explains that walking allows us to slow down and actually stretch out our experience of time so that we can live more fully in the moment. According to Kagge, walking is “thinking with your feet.” It’s a healthy way to process the anxiety, grief, and loneliness we are experiencing in this time, and a wonderful way to unplug, clear your mind, and spend time with your family.
Someday soon we will be able to hug our friends and relatives, leave our zoom meet-ups behind, and return to the jobs and activities we love. Our calendars will be full again. Until then, be well and stay hopeful.
How have you been seeking to simplify and create calm while stuck at home? Let us know in the comments!
About the Author:
Anne Ryan lives in Columbus, Ohio, with her husband, four children and two dogs. She loves coffee, reading, and the outdoors.