Many of us will spend the next few weeks holed up in our homes, leaving only for the bare essentials, due to COVID-19. It may be relaxing to watch Netflix or do puzzles for a few days. But after a while, we’re going to have to get creative — and stay productive and healthy to boot.
It can be exhausting to continue to monitor social media when information is coming so quickly, but continue to look for the helpers. This pandemic might be the thing that allows us to rediscover one of the internet’s original promises: to connect us to one another regardless of the physical barriers between us.
Personally, I’m just trying to get up on time each morning, exercise every day and keep my mind occupied. I’ve scheduled lunchtime Skype sessions and evening Skype-based D&D games with friends. My trivia team and I may even be joining local Sporcle trivia host Jared F. for a Facebook Live-based trivia game on March 18.
I asked Akronites to share their tips, tricks and resources for self-care during the coming weeks. Here’s what they suggested.
How to Stay Productive While Working From Home
Changes to office policies and school schedules are forcing many office workers to develop work-from-home routines for the first time. I asked Lindsey Jo Scott, an artist and entrepreneur who works from home, to share some advice about developing a routine.
“Routines help, but more than that, it’s really good to set proper expectations around your productivity. In an office environment, your day would be a mix of interactions with coworkers, working on projects, not working on projects, having meetings, eating lunch, and whatever else you’d do in a day. When you work at home, all those natural breaks disappear, so it’s important to give yourself breaks,” Lindsey Jo says. “I’ve found, on a typical day, I get about a good three hours’ total worth of work done, and that seems a reasonable expectation for me. I work best when I make myself take at least one break every hour, during which I’ll get up to make tea or snuggle a cat or check social media or read a blog. The main thing during a break is to stop what you’re doing and then come back after 15 minutes or so.”
She adds: “Also, as often as you can, do not eat lunch while working. Get up, stretch, and eat real food and give yourself a real lunch break. The rest is truly just as important as the work. It’s the only way to make working from home (or anywhere for that matter!) sustainable.”
Lindsey Jo recommends starting the day with a routine focused on self-care. For her, that means getting dressed, eating breakfast, and adhering to a morning writing practice. She recommends Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages, where you write three stream-of-consciousness pages in a notebook to “free up your brain from all the chatter,” and The Future Self Journal questions from The Holistic Psychologist on Instagram.
When it’s time to begin the day, it can be helpful to create designated work space in your home.
“I think it’s important to have a designated space at home where you ‘go to work,’ to help establish some rhythms and balance. I imagine the walk upstairs to my office as my “commute” and mentally, I feel like I’m turning on the work switch in my brain. If you don’t have a space you can designate as an office at home, perhaps you could consider your kitchen table, or another quiet spot away from the TV,” Lindsey Jo says. “I have friends with kids who work on the bathroom floor with the overhead fan turned on for white noise, so you really can get creative here. I mostly work without music, but if I’m working on more mundane tasks or meditative work that doesn’t require my full attention, I’ll listen to a podcast or even turn on a TV show in the background. This not only makes the work more enjoyable, but also helps it feels less isolating.”
Lindsey Jo acknowledges that her productivity drops on days when she isn’t feeling well, and encourages new remote workers to acknowledge that that’s normal. It’s OK to take a break and try again in a few hours.
Finally, “At the end of the work day, it’s really helpful to signal to your brain and body that you’re done working. This usually happens naturally when you leave work for the day and travel home,” Lindsey Jo says. “For me, this looks like putting my computer to sleep, tidying my desk a bit, and walking downstairs… I often change my clothes when I come downstairs from working into workout clothes to do a quick workout or comfy clothes if I’m going to be resting for the evening.”
How to Keep Your Mind Occupied
Branches of the Akron-Summit County Public Library will close to the public beginning Tuesday at 5 pm. However, if you have a library card, you have access to a wide variety of free digital resources, including:
TV shows and movies for streaming
If you do not yet have a library card, visit akronlibrary.overdrive.com. You can sign up for Overdrive and Libby, two linked platforms that allow you to borrow e-books and audiobooks, using just your phone number.
Itching to stay creative? VIBE Collective, a group of local artists from a variety of disciplines, is developing a plan for digital artist meetups. Keep up with them on Facebook or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
To watch Netflix with friends, download the Netflix Party Chrome Extension for Google Chrome. The extension allows you to watch shows simultaneously and chat with each other.
How to Stay Physically Active
If you want to stay active but your gym is closed, get outside. It’s rare to be within six feet of someone else or to touch a hard surface when you’re outdoors. Trails at the Summit Metro Parks and Cuyahoga Valley National Park remain open, although visitors centers are closed.
For more high-intensity workouts, Lindsey Jo recommends FitOn, a free app with a wide variety of workout videos. There are also a wealth of options on YouTube, including the popular and free FitnessBlender and Yoga with Adrienne.
How to Connect With Mental Health Services
Alcoholics Anonymous and other recovery support groups are built around in-person meetings. Some groups have chosen to suspend those meetings to slow the spread of COVID-19.
The General Service Office of Alcoholics Anonymous released the following statement on Monday, encouraging individual meeting groups to make their own plans for how meetings will continue.
“Our collected experience suggests that groups that are unable to meet at their usual meeting places have begun to meet digitally; doing so in a sensible and helpful manner to allow the group to continue keeping the focus on our common welfare and primary purpose,” the statement reads. “Many groups have also made contingency plans in case the group is temporarily unable to meet in person… Contingency plans have included: creating contact lists and keeping in touch by phone, email or social media; meeting by phone or online.
“If a group isn’t holding its regular meetings, they may want to communicate this to local A.A. resources, such as the district, area and intergroup or central office. Many local A.A. entities have added information to their websites about how to change a meeting format from “in-person” to online. Some groups have shared that they are utilizing digital platforms such as Zoom, Google Hangouts, or a conference call.”
For talk therapy, Betterhelp offers a free trial period with a licensed therapist. Afterward, costs range from $40 to $70 per week. If you already see a therapist, email or call their office to ask about remote visit options.
We have asked the University of Akron whether their sliding-scale Clinic for Individual and Family Counseling will offer remote sessions after the university’s extended spring break ends on March 30 and will update this as soon as we find out.
Additionally, neighborhood apps like Nextdoor can help you learn about your neighbors and keep up to date with information about local businesses and community members. Some neighborhoods are participating in no-touch Shamrock Hunts to encourage getting outside for families with kids.
If you’re starting new group chats, consider downloading WhatsApp to make communication with groups of people easier.
Most religious communities have cancelled weekly services to prevent large groups of people from gathering. A few have begun streaming sermons, devotions and meditations online instead, including (listed alphabetically):
For Catholics, the Diocese of Cleveland has suspended in-person Masses through Easter, which is April 12. Some parishes, including St. Hilary and St. Vincent de Paul, are streaming Sunday Mass on Facebook Live or their websites.
“The most important thing we can do is encourage each other,” says Michael Howard, a minister in the United Church of Christ. “You don’t have to attend a service in person to worship. In fact, from my perspective as a Christian leader, protecting our neighbors by doing all we can to slow the spread of the coronavirus is the most faithful thing we can do in this moment.”
Michael encourages Akronites, both those who practice a faith and those who don’t, to support “direct service ministries” like food pantries, soup kitchens and clothing drives. He also encourages people to provide “spiritual care” to their communities — connecting people to services they need, talking with or praying with them, or otherwise.
“In these times, we begin to see our faith organizations as community networks of mutual care, and that is the best thing of all,” Michael says. “In many ways, we are rediscovering why the work of community building is so important. My hope is that this pandemic helps us rediscover the role our faith organizations play in building and caring for the wellbeing of the people in our communities, and we should be taking the lead. From what I have seen so far, I am encouraged.”