We are living through strange, stressful times. As messages echo on social media platforms and news channels provide information in a panicked scream, it is important to prioritize your health and the health of those around you. As many are cut off from their normal routines, jobs, and interactions, usual methods of self-care and wellness may fall to the wayside.
We can’t ignore the fact that our lives will have to drastically change to accommodate the best practices to staying healthy, but among all the fear and stress, there are positive changes we can make. With the break in our normal schedule comes opportunities to pick up new hobbies and try activities that seemed too time consuming or ill-fitting before. Below are 10 low-risk yet impactful activities that can bring you joy in this time of stress.
Take a break from social media and news channels and take a deep dive in… a book! Quarantine doesn’t have to be a time of mental decay – there are tons of books available for free online and your local library may have eBooks, audiobooks, and other digitized content. Our staff picked a few book ideas to get you started: “The Soul of an Octopus” by Sy Montgomery; “Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things” by Michael Braungart and Willliam McDonough; “Our House is on Fire” and “No One is Too Small to Make a Difference” by Greta Thunberg; “Lab Girl” by Hope Jahren; “Flight Behavior” and “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” by Barbara Kingsolver; and all the discussion course books by EcoChallenge.org, including “Choices for Sustainable Living” and “Seeing Systems: Peace, Justice, and Sustainability.”
Even if you don’t consider yourself an artist, it can be relaxing and rewarding to make something with your hands. Art can thrive no matter the circumstances, so take a look around you and start thinking of new ways to create. That stack of newspapers can become flowers! That old blanket could have a new life as a repurposed pillow! Those cardboard boxes? That’s for you to decide.
3. Observe nature
With all the precautions and in respect to your region’s policy, stepping away from your home in open spaces can be a good reminder that the rest of the world is still out there – even if you have to stay six feet away from its inhabitants. The Audubon Society recommends birding, the observation of birds in their natural habitats, and has compiled a very entertaining “Joy of Birds” webpage. Even within your home and yard, there are many nature-based activities you can try!
4. Clean up and declutter
Clutter can add onto pre-existing stress and tidying up your living space can help you both unearth long-lost passions and leave you feeling more in-control of your space. As going out to shop becomes more and more stressful, organizing your space can help you take stock of what you really need and can inspire you to consume less.
5. Ride your bike
While staying at home is what is called for right now, if you need to go somewhere during quarantine, do it by bike if you can. Fewer people commuting, less traffic on streets, and improved air quality make riding a bike an enjoyable release from all the tension built up. Once on a bike, it’s easy to stay away from other people and it can be an effective way to exercise while getting your mind off of the pandemic.
6. Cook and preserve food
Many local grocery stores, farmers, and farms have switched to online ordering to maximize the safety and health of both workers and customers. Embrace the limitations in what you can get and innovate in your kitchen! To minimize the amount of deliveries to your home or trips to the grocery store, get as much as you can at once, and practice preserving food at home to expand the life of produce and other perishable goods you bought.
7. Cultivate a “green thumb”
Gardening is one of the most productive forms of therapy! If you have any outdoor space, try planting something – whether it’s turning grass into a garden bed, getting some potted plants for a porch or front stoop, or start a vegetable garden. Some Garden Centers are offering home delivery and curb-side pick up to minimize exposure and support quarantine efforts. Community gardens in the St. Louis area still operating through the pandemic (though with extra precautions), as food security remains critical in this time of need. If you don’t know where to start or don’t have the space, considering contacting a garden near you. Once you get things going, you can liven you indoor space with cut flowers and enhance your pantry with fresh veggies!
8. Make your home more energy efficient
Being hunkered down at home with no end in sight provides a good opportunity to develop a priority list and a plan of action for energy-saving home projects ahead of summer. Your list could include swapping out light bulbs to LEDs, installing low-flow shower fixtures, installing programmable thermostats, paying attention to cold and hot spots to identify opportunities to seal cracks and gaps around windows/doors and opportunities to add insulation to crawl spaces and attics, upgrading heating and cooling equipment, installing a heat pump hot water heater, replacing air filters, and more! The Ameren Missouri and Ameren Illinois online stores are great resources for discounted items that can be shipped directly to your home.
Journaling is a great way to organize your thoughts and process stress. An added bonus would be to make your own journal– it is surprisingly easy! With some old paper lying around the house, a needle, thread, and an online tutorial, you can both record your thoughts and save materials from the recycling bin.
10. Sustain your community
Being isolated can increase our feelings of helplessness and our sense of purpose may start to erode. There are simple and profound ways to take action from your home to support your community and the people and organizations most impacted by the pandemic and its response. Continuing to buy from local farmers, restaurants, and small family businesses; donating to relief funds if you can; and voicing your opinion to your representatives are all meaningful ways to have a positive impact and increase resiliency.
Note: Before engaging in any of the suggestions above, first reference and comply with your local authorities for sheltering in place. The ultimate form of self care is to stay at home and minimize your likelihood of contracting the coronavirus (or inadvertently passing it to others).
This article was written by Natalie Snyder, Communication Associate at the Office of Sustainability.