In a few short weeks, we transitioned from ordinary life and robust economy to one that appears to be falling apart rapidly due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and we can’t control it. Anxiety is running high for many of us. The thing is, the average citizen has no idea what to do as this is new territory. The feeling of helplessness leads to actions like hoarding necessities.
Fighting the pandemic is a community task, so I can share some strategies that I am using to help me get through this hopefully short-lived nightmare. Also, note that with respect to COVID-19, I have only shared correct information as approved by the World Health Organization. If you spot any inaccuracies, please leave a comment and I will correct it immediately.
Make reusable paper towels
Many stores have run out of paper towels, but this is no cause for alarm. I grew up without it. Reusable cloth towels are more effective and save you money in the long run. You can buy these reusable baby nappies, cut them in four equal pieces, wash them, and ta-da there goes your cloth towel. You can replace the use of paper towels altogether or use the cloths to extend the life of the paper towels you do have.
In my household, we use them to wipe wet hands, and we continue to use paper towels to clean up messes. We use one only once or twice before placing it in the wash. We keep the clean ones in a basket on our countertop and transfer the used ones to another location to be washed. Cloth towels have helped us tremendously, especially since we have increased the frequency of washing our hands.
Use Toilet Paper Alternatives
Toilet paper has been a hot item recently, and many stores can’t keep them longer than you can say hot potatoes. But there are substitutes, and no, I am not suggesting reusable cloths (although this is also possible, after all, reusable baby diapers are a thing).
Kleenex or similar tissue is a little thin but works well in a pinch. Plus, with a flu-like virus going around, you should get prepared should someone in your home catch it.
A bidet is also an expensive option and requires revamping your bathroom to get a traditional one. But, handheld bidets are an excellent alternative to the real thing and have other uses such as spraying cloth diapers.
Take outdoor walks often
Locking up in your home with family you love dearly can put a strain on the relationship as well as your mental health. Getting out and getting some sun even when it is cold is the perfect remedy. Put on a nice pair of walking shoes and start the habit. And, who says you need to stop after the pandemic is over?
Avoid reading doomsday predictions
Doomsday predictions are all over the web. The thing is, no matter who is doing the predicting, no one knows what will happen next week or next year. Some predictions might be informative and help you to plan for them, but constantly consuming bad news will put a strain on your mental health and cause unnecessary worry.
Volunteer to buy groceries for high-risk groups
If you are younger, have no underlying conditions, and take very good precautions when you are out, consider yourself a good candidate for helping your not-so-lucky neighbors. If you live near older people who have limited access to their younger family members, why don’t you offer to buy groceries for them? Just be sure to do so without physical contact and sanitize the grocery bags with wipes before you hand it to them.
Helping others is a perfect way to boost your morale. Consider your help a good deed that the universe has noticed. If you are going to get karma, you want it to be the good kind.
Learn a new marketable skill
If you have lost your job or have reduced hours, then you can learn other skills. Learning to code is very valuable, and it is one of the many jobs you can do remotely. If coding is not your cup of tea, then this Ivy League affiliated non-profit offers a wide variety of courses.
Schedule virtual playdates for children
The first couple of days, your kids are home might be exciting for them; after all, many kids love to stay home. But that love might soon change to frustration once kids realize that life really is different, and staying at home isn’t as glamorous as they thought.
It is difficult to be suddenly separated from friends and family, but very important to keep the virus from spreading. How about scheduling virtual playdates with friends. You can use Skype, other video chat tools, or Facetime for iPhone users.
If you work from home, get dressed in work clothes
If you work from home, get up in the mornings, have your coffee, and get dressed for work. Fix your hair and look as beautiful or handsome as ever. The simple act of getting ready for work will help to boost your morale. If your best spirits come from lounging around in pajamas, then, by all means, continue to do that.
Clean high contact areas such as doorknobs often
Clean doorknobs, TV remote, light switches, wash toilets, wipe down tables, car handles and steering wheels regularly. Some people are able to catch the COVID-19 without symptoms while others need to be in the ICU. Cleaning common areas will help to prevent the spread of the disease within your home, especially if an asymptomatic person lives there. Daily cleaning of common areas is especially important if at least one person leaves the home regularly.
Keep a journal and document your thoughts
Being separated from your social circle can cause a mental drain. No matter how much you love your family, not being able to do more socially can create a challenging situation at home. Journal writing isn’t only for teen girls. Grown men and women can find it mentally rewarding to document thoughts and emotions and paper.
Pandemics are rare, as you know. The last time the world has had a pandemic was 1918. Writing down your thoughts and emotions now will help to seal your moment in history. Your thoughts will become valuable to you and later generations.
Make your own cloth mask
Masks are unable to be bought from any store, and rightly so. The medical community needs them the most. An improperly fitted mask or one that is touched very regularly while being worn isn’t effective and might increase the risk for the wearer. However, if you catch COVID-19 or other illnesses, having a mask can prevent the spread to others in your household. If someone in your household catches the virus and you need to take care of them, a mask can help to protect you. Keep in mind that masks are only effective when used with clean hands.
You can make a makeshift face mask from t-shirts or other fabric, by doubling up layers. This is not as effective as N-95 respirators but it is better than nothing when fitted properly. If you don’t have a sewing machine, getting one will be handy now as well as for future projects. This is a lightweight machine similar to one I own.
Binge-watch your favorite sitcoms
Nothing puts your mind at ease than binge-watching old or new sitcoms. Of course, any series or movie of your liking can help to calm your nerves, but sitcoms are designed to be silly and make you laugh. When the world has gone crazy around you, tuning into older sitcoms like “Jerry Seinfeld” or “Friends” can take you away for a moment.
Get into coloring
The first time I saw a coloring book for adults, I thought it was hilarious. Who does that? Am I five? But that is then. Today I have embraced coloring as a way to relax and also to bond with my family. At home, we have family coloring time. Each member of the family gets a coloring book, I play Jazz in the background, the lights are dimmed a bit, and no one speaks. I use these colored pencils and I am very happy with them.
My 5-year-old, who is a very active child, loves it. In fact, he begs to do it very regularly, and he will be quick to shush us if one of us opens our mouth.
Wear An Awareness Bracelet
The advice from all medical professionals is to stop touching your face. I found out how much easier that is said than done. I keep my hands super clean while out of the house, to prevent transferring contamination to my face. If you find this very hard for you, an awareness bracelet can help to reduce this habit.
Awareness bracelets do help to keep you aware of how many times you touch your face. It is used for people with habits such as thumb sucking but can be useful for any hand to the face scenario.
You wash your hands for 20 seconds to the tune of happy birthday, but is there more you can do? The COVID-19 is a disease and like any disease prevention, staying healthy will help you to not get it or to give your body a better chance to get rid of it. Exercising every day, getting an adequate amount of nutrients and drinking enough fluids will help you.
Fast food restaurants are doing take-outs, but if you are stuck at home, the perfect time to start cooking healthy foods is now. Eating healthy will not only help you to fight infections, but it will also boost your mental health.
Realize that you are not alone
One of the things that keep me going is knowing that I am not in this alone. People who prefer to ignore the warnings are affected whether they realize it or not. Businesses are closing, and jobs are being lost, wealth is diminishing, all in a matter of weeks. But, the world has survived previous catastrophes. It will be rough in the near future, but trust that humans are resourceful and defiant.
Together we will leave this disaster more learned and be better able to fight the next one. Scientists are testing new strategies, artificial intelligence is being deployed, and high-performance computers are put to the test. To beat this together, we need to stay apart, but hopefully not for long.
I leave with a moment of silence for all who have died due to COVID-19.