Today is day 56 of self-isolation. 

I have not driven my car, gone to a store or talked to another human being face-to-face in eight full weeks (aside from my husband and two kids, and a couple of neighbours on the street during walks or runs). This is mind blowing to me – EIGHT. FULL. WEEKS.

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During the first few weeks in isolation, I made all kinds of plans about what I was going to do while I was stuck at home. I was very on top of the news. I watched the daily COVID-19 briefings on TV, read all the articles, and could easily recite the number of new and total cases and deaths for many countries.

Now that I’ve completed my eighth week of isolation, I’ve settled into a new kind of normal. Although there was a bit of a bumpy patch somewhere between weeks 3-6 as I tried to navigate this new normal, I’ve finally settled into a bit of a rhythm. I no longer check the numbers every day, nor do I watch the daily briefings. I still read a lot of articles, but in general, I’ve noticed that I am far less focused on all the details (details were never my forte anyway) and far more focused on how I’m behaving during this time. And in shifting my own focus, I’ve started to notice some shifts in other people’s behaviours too.

A much stronger effort to connect, even when forced apart.

Tiny moments of connection with strangers

The other day I went for a walk in my neighbourhood and every person I passed either said “hello”, waved, or at the very least gave me a smile. Every. Single. Person!

This just never happened before the pandemic! I might get the odd nod here and there, but a full blown wave? Certainly not. People were just far too focused on getting to work on time or on their own lives, and it was considered normal to keep your head down while passing others.

Nowadays, people seem to be making a point of looking up and acknowledging one another for a tiny moment of connection, as if to say “We’re in this together”. And thank goodness, because I am seriously craving this connection, and I’m seriously amazed at how much this tiny acknowledgement brings me such a huge sense of joy! 

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Virtual connections with friends and family

I’ve also been having a lot of Zoom calls (or variations of Zoom calls, like House Party (which is like Zoom, but with party games!) with family members and different groups of friends that I can’t see during this time – we’ve even started doing cocktail tutorials over video chat every week! But what I find the most interesting is that I wouldn’t ordinarily see or even talk to these friends on a regular basis anyway! Many of my closest friends live over an hour away from me and most of our communication happens in a group chat on WhatsApp or on social media; we hardly ever talk on the phone, let alone have a group video chat!

But now that we’re not allowed to see each other, we are making a much stronger effort to stay connected, and it’s SO LOVELY. I’ve found myself saying on multiple occasions, “why weren’t we doing this before?” Because seeing my friends and having a night where we all get together, even virtually, with a glass of wine just feeds my soul. 

Creating a sense of unity through acts of kindness.

Kindness messages everywhere

One of the many kindness rocks in our neighbourhood

These days, I can’t go for a walk without seeing kindness rocks at every tree stump, or kind messages written in chalk on the sidewalk or posted in people’s windows. People are coming together in a way that I have never seen before, reminding each other that everything will be okay, this too shall pass, and that we will emerge from this stronger than ever.

Building community

I’ve also seen numerous videos pop up on my social feeds of people singing together from their balconies, or putting on evening concerts from their front porches, or breaking into communal applause for the workers who put themselves at risk during the crisis. In the midst of all this coronavirus chaos, these things just make me oh. so. happy.

Sharing resources

And then there are all the people and companies who are stepping up to provide free goodies for their communities and for the essential workers:

  • All the volunteers (ahem, angels) who are sewing masks by the thousands to help keep our front line workers safe
  • The community threads on social media offering free items for others who can’t afford them during this time – kids toys, exercise equipment, gardening tools and more!
  • All the free resources for children and teachers to help keep parents sane during this difficult time and help teachers continue to do what they do best in this strange new world

Ps – Some of our favourites right now include the free audiobooks for kids offered by Audible, and all the free resources offered by Scholastic for reading & learning at home.

Here is a GIANT list of free educational resources!

Finding new hobbies and creating new habits

I think it’s great that some people are able to use this time to better themselves. I’ve heard lots of people wanting to learn a new language or try knitting. And while I love the idea of this, I’m a parent of two small kids, so fitting in the time for new hobbies is tricky, even when in quarantine… no, especially when in quarantine.

There is really no such thing as “down time” or “being bored” while you are stuck in the same house with small humans. I am constantly on the go with cooking, getting snacks, setting up crafts, making forts, cleaning up, getting more snacks, changing diapers, wiping bums, playing doggies, getting more snacks, and just trying to figure out how to keep them occupied until nap time. Most days, I get to dinnertime and have no idea what we’ve actually all done all day- I just do whatever I need to in the moment to stay sane.

But after several weeks (eight, to be precise) of isolating at home, what I’ve discovered is that I need different outlets for keeping my sanity. Here are some of the new things I’m doing to help me survive isolation with kids (spoiler alert: none of these are revolutionary ideas… just what has helped me!):

Exercise

Prior to the pandemic, I was seeing a personal trainer and hitting the gym about three times a week. Since I can’t do that anymore, I’ve started going on daily walks or runs in my neighbourhood (ideally without the kids). This gets me out of the house, and it gives me time to myself to listen to a podcast or audiobook while getting some fresh air and vitamin D. I’ve also recently started working out at home with my husband while the kids play beside us (it’s a great way to pass the time, without having to play doggie!). After 8 weeks in isolation, these walks. runs and workouts have become part of my daily routine, and something I look forward to every day. They have also helped tremendously in keeping me from going shack whacky.

For you it might be gardening or going for a bike ride. But whatever you need to do to move your body (and ideally, get outside), I strongly encourage you to start incorporating that into your daily routine.

Creativity

I’m naturally a very creative person, and I’ve found that I need to have a creative outlet to keep my sanity. It’s a very strange feeling to actually crave painting, especially because ordinarily, I don’t paint that often. I’ve done a lot of crafts with my daughter over the past 8 weeks, and I’ve worked on my own artwork as well. I’ve found that paying attention to this need and following through on it, whether it’s painting or writing or baking, has helped tremendously in keeping my anxiety level down.

Meditation

I have tried meditating several times over the past few years, and though I have always found it relaxing, I have never really been able to make it a habit. However, since being in self-isolation, I have made a conscious effort to set aside time to meditate a few times a week. And again, after 8 weeks of meditations, I have found that I actually crave it. It has become a habit, and something I look forward to – especially on days where the weather is bad and getting outside seems unlikely.

If this sounds like something you’d be interested in trying, here are a few of the guided meditations I used on YouTube to get me started. They are fairly short (15-25 minutes), but if it’s hard to find the time, there are loads of shorter meditations on YouTube that are just as effective.

Being grateful for the little things. 

(But remembering to give yourself grace)

If I’m being honest, I gave up my morning gratitude practice about 2 months ago.

If you know me, or have followed me at all on my journey, this morning practice is really important to me. It helps me start my day on a positive note and the rest of the day tends to follow suit.

But there has just been so much to process lately, and I’ve had a hard time fitting it in or feeling motivated to write it down. And that’s okay.

If you’re finding yourself in the same boat – don’t add this to your list of things to stress over. You need to give yourself time to process your emotions, at your own pace. Having self compassion is most important during this time.

However, now that I’ve (sort of) come to terms with this new normal, I’ve finally started up my gratitude practice again, and I’ve really noticed a difference in my overall mental health. Living through this global pandemic has forced me to look at my life through a different lens, which has shifted my overall perspective.

For example, today I went on a walk with my kids and as soon as we stepped out the door, my four-year-old daughter gasped with delight at the sight of all the yellow dandelions that had suddenly peppered our front lawn and all the neighbours’ lawns. “Mummy LOOK! Look at all the yellow flowers! They are so BEAUTIFUL!” I had to laugh, and didn’t have the heart to tell her they were considered weeds. She proceeded to pick as many dandelions as should could to make a beautiful dandelion bouquet for me. She was so thoughtful about it and so pleased with herself for putting together something so beautiful. We also made dandelion chains and she played for a long time with the extra dandelions in our backyard make various dandelion flavoured baked goods and dandelion soup for me and her brother.

Had it not been for my daughter’s enthusiasm about the dandelions, I might have been annoyed by the sheer sight of them. But I ended up feeling so grateful for all these “beautiful” dandelions because of the happiness it brought my daughter and the fun she had playing with them. And now I actually kind of like seeing all those bright yellow spots in a sea of green grass. Perspective is a funny thing!

If you’re finding yourself feeling easily annoyed, unmotivated, or down, please know that you’re not alone. Give yourself grace. But if you can muster up the motivation, try writing down 10 things that you’re grateful for – big or small, and see if that helps you shift your perspective a little bit too. Sometimes it just takes something small to get you out of a funk. If you feel like your situation is more serious, please go to your local government website (for Canadians, check out this Government of Canada website) for more resources and information on how to get the help you need..

Whatever your situation, please remember to be kind and stay safe!

Thanks for reading!

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