Author of The Blackout Book and the online course Bloom Where You’re Planted
The pandemic and the government’s response to it has changed the lives of many people. The “new normal” is a rather dystopian and uncomfortable existence. Going places and watching people skitter around with their faces covered, following arrows on the floor, no longer making eye contact with their fellow shoppers, is a surreal experience. In at least one state, visiting with friends or family is forbidden and could leave you without running water or electricity if your get-together is deemed a “party.”
Mental health issues are skyrocketing. Many elderly people are just fading away while their family keeps them isolated to keep them safer. For many, these changes have been emotionally difficult.
I know they have been for me and I’m about the furthest thing from a social butterfly you could ever meet. So if you are craving some normalcy in this currently abnormal world, read on for a few things that may help you feel like yourself again.
Go outside and enjoy the solitude.
Spending time outdoors is about the only time the world seems normal to me. Once my daughter’s lease ran out, I rented a place near an isolated beach. The beach is private and there’s no place to park, so particularly if I go early in the morning, there’s nobody there. Every day, I go to the beach and play with one of my dogs. I throw the ball, watch as she fruitlessly chases seagulls, and I sit on a rock and contemplate the waves of the day.
It’s meditative, it’s calming, and the ocean always feels like home to me. I’m not breaking any rules, there’s nobody to insist I put on a mask, and I’m not feeling tense. It’s been a glorious break from how things were.
Wherever you live, found an outdoor space and visit it at different times during the day to discover the time when you’re most likely to have it all to yourself. Then, make an unbreakable date with yourself to get there regularly. Not only are you getting fresh air and a little bit of exercise, but you’re also getting some Vitamin D from the sunlight, and that’s important for your health and well-being.
Go to a patio and meet for dinner.
One option if you want to dip your toe into the water of sociability again is to meet at a restaurant with a patio. Join your friends or your family and head to a restaurant for drinks and maybe even dinner. This is one place where you can feel semi-normal and get back in touch with the people who make your life better.
In many places, you’ll have to wear a mask until you get to your table, but once you’re there eating, you can dine and enjoy your drinks. I did this recently with friends and it was the highlight of my week. It was the second time I’ve been to a restaurant since February and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Have a small outdoor get-together.
Invite over a few friends or family members and have a barbecue or a bring-your-own picnic in the back yard. Obviously, don’t make the event so large that angry neighbors call the police on you. You can enjoy outdoor games like horseshoes or whiffle ball and have a few hours during which the whole pandemic feels far away.
This is especially good for families with children. They can run around the yard with cousins or friends and get to act like kids again.
Turn off the news and social media.
I went almost a month with only limited news and social media. To be perfectly honest, I was sick of it. I was burned out from the COVID coverage, the mask debate, the riots, the racial disharmony, and the politics. I was tired of the constant arguing. I was tired of every third post on social media being deemed “racist” or “insensitive.” I was fed up with people who could not get along – who, in fact, took pleasure in the tense situation in which Americans have found themselves.
It was glorious.
Now that I’m back reading the news so that I can write articles again, I’ve decided I’m limiting these things that cause me stress. This scenario we find ourselves in is far from normal, so it’s impossible to watch the news and be on social media and feel a sense of normalcy.
I’d rather just skip it as much as possible, while still keeping a general understanding of what’s going on in the world.
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Go camping (or at least hiking).
I’ll be honest. I’m generally more of a hotel with room service gal if I am going on a vacation but right now, camping is the way to holiday.
Load up the kids, pack the tent and the sleeping bags and get ready to make some campfire meals while enjoying the great outdoors. This is an appropriately socially distanced past time that won’t earn you scorn from the Woke Folk on your social media accounts.
If camping is more of a time commitment to the great outdoors than you want, consider a day hike someplace nearby. Getting off our phones and out in nature with the people we love is a great way to reconnect and do something a little bit different, without running around in masks following the arrows on the floor at stores like you’re taking part in a giant board game.
Take a road trip.
The best way to travel right now is in your own vehicle with your own cooties. Take a road trip someplace more remote and be sure to stop and take plenty of photos along the way. Those of us who enjoy travel are feeling pretty stir crazy about now, and a road trip is one way to break the monotony.
Depending on how long you’ll be gone, you can bring a cooler with food from home, or you can order curbside from restaurants and enjoy it picnic style. If you’re going to be gone overnight, you can camp (see above) or if you feel comfortable with it, stay in a hotel. I recently had to do some significant traveling and the hotels I visited all had pandemic procedures in place that limited contact with both the staff and other patrons. You won’t be ordering room service but there’s always Doordash or Uber Eats if you want food delivered to your door. (And that’s likely the least risky way to dine out right now.)
RELATED: Roadtripping, Prepper Style
Revisit family routines.
If you have a family tradition of a nice Sunday dinner every week or joining around the table at night and saying grace, this is a little piece of normalcy that you can maintain fairly easily. Keep up with Friday night pizza and games. Go for a bike ride together on Saturday afternoons. Watch a sporting event together.
A lot of folks have let things like this slip as they switch between the red pajamas and the blue pajamas, wondering fuzzily what day of the week it is. But maintaining routines and traditions is important.
Those small routines make memories. One day your kids may do the same thing with their kids. Keeping up with family traditions is good for everyone in the group. Use this time to reconnect with the people you love the most.
How are you maintaining normalcy?
During a time when it feels like everything is “against the rules,” it can be a real challenge to live somewhat normally. If your situation has changed dramatically over the past 6 months, how are you maintaining a sense of normalcy for your family? Are you finding these times to be emotionally trying? Alternatively, if your routine has changed very little, can you share the things that are consistent?
Let’s talk about it in the comments below.
Lockdown here in England has been the same as pretty much anywhere else. I love to fish, it is my passion. As soon as government said we could go fishing again, I was out there! I made a solemn promise to myself that I would fish at least once a week, even during Winter. Our individual lives are relatively brief, so we should do those things that give us joy whenever possible.
I agree with all your suggestions above, especially the hiking and spending time outdoors on a daily basis. And I would add that this should happen no matter what the weather (unless there are 100 mph winds!).
I would also add, make a point of getting some sort of exercise every day. Whether that’s exercising along with an app or tv show, or taking a walk around the house, using exercise equipment or doing something outside to get the cardio going, it’s all good and helps us keep our positive mental health.
And I definitely agree with limiting media time.
I ripped the wings off my social butterfly a long time ago. Were it not for my family I’d stomp it’s head too.
I actually enjoyed some things during the lockdown like the lack of traffic, people avoiding me and people actually paying attention to their surroundings.
I like having my personal space bubble respected now. I always hate being in situations where I feel crowded so this six feet away thing is kinda nice!
I know! Maybe this is an age-ist comment, but younger folk are so brazen with “my space is more important than your space” they’ll run right into you and look at you like you’re the idiot. This newer aspect of respect is at least one thing that is refreshing.
Thank you so much for writing this article. Getting outdoors is my favorite thing to do and taking photos of places I’ve never been is especially fun for me. I don’t participate in social media so not being on the phone is very easy. If everyone in this country could get outdoors and just take in nature then I think we would all be better off.
Spending time with the livestock.
Drinking iced tea on the back deck.
We have, kinda, resumed our Saturday afternoon socializing/dinner with friends.
Dog days of summer make dog walks limited to early mornings.
We actually fired up the RV last Friday and went camping with some friends for the weekend. It was a nice change.
Being retired, we come and go as we please. Still do.
BTW: just for the heck of it. “The new normal ISN”T”
Daisy, I like to find occasional relief from today’s nonsense in a little comedy. In this case a friend passed along this link from Buster Keaton in the 1920s doing a short skit about “social distancing” back then. I think it’s hilarious:
We hadn’t been on our mountain drive for months. Finally took a picnic up and there and enjoyed the serenity and lack of competition for a table. Just taking in the refreshing negative ions rally lifted our spirits! The smells of the warm foliage of the pines and oaks was invigorating.
Went swimming in a friend’s pool and was over the moon for hours afterward.
There are lots of things that can beat the oppression of our bad news. But friends and nature are the best!
My little girl and I have been visiting my old horse regularly again. Seeing the joy in each of their faces as she feeds him carrots and he munches happily is priceless.
All those ideas sounds lovely. We are stage for lockdown. Exercise for one hour a day and within 7kms if home. But like many those comments here I’m not a social butterfly anymore. I love that people give you personally space. Even with stage 4 , I’ve tried to make the best of it for the kids. We do cook outs in the yard. Do backyard camping, and my daughter likes to try out all the camping gear. We build cubbies. We’ve been doing yoga and meditation , compression routines to help with stress. I check the news once a day on my phone so the kids don’t get overwhelmed for any updates on restrictions. I am looking forward to getting back to our bush walking tracks .
Our connection to normal summer life has been going to a pool in our area. Most public pools are still closed, but this is one where you buy a membership (relatively inexpensive) and can go whenever they are open.
Sadly, now that their lifeguards are going back to school (whether in person or online), they are only open evenings and weekends, and they still have to limit attendance to 50% capacity so it may be harder to get in.
But that has been sanity-saving this summer – getting the kids out with friends, staying active, and getting some vitamin D.
Once summer ends and the weather cools off, I’m hoping we can go to a nearby park to use walking trails. We live on acreage so we were walking here in late spring, but that can get a bit boring on our flat prairie land after a while!
We also got a new batch of chicks last month, so watching them has been a fun pastime as well 🙂
Nothing has really changed for me during the pandemic. Went to work everyday (critical infrastructure) with lots of overtime from coworkers needing to be home for childcare. I actually enjoyed our state’s stay home order in March and April. So much less traffic on the road.
Living with husband with Alzheimer’s makes avoiding too much news a necessity. He places himself in the news or movies we watch so I’m careful about what he sees. He loves Christmas and movies with happy endings.
We picknick now and then on the picknick table in our front yard. It’s nice sitting outside.
I was terribly sick in April/May. Still weak and slowly recovering. So doing simple things at home and enjoying nature here on our 3 acres in a rural spot.
I usually garden but wasn’t able to do much this year. That I miss but it will have to wait till next year.
I was driving to Dr almost 150 mile round trip and church with old friends 200 mile round trip until recently. Now I still can’t drive to the nearest little town and home again. Thankfull a neighbor has been driving us to appointments and necessary shopping. I enjoy the putting once a week or so. When I was so sick he’d take my list and shop for me.
Life is different but there is still much to enjoy and be greatful for.
My Husband and I have started walking for an hour in the morning EVERY DAY since March (since this all began). We walk no matter what and we find that that is keeping us grounded. This is a new habit that we didn’t have before (because life always interfered). NOW, it is the high-light of our day. We talk about the day and find the hour walk is a bonding time. Also, everyone in our neighborhood notices the couple that walks every morning! Something good can come out of all this “madness”.
Good post & good ideas. As always. 🙂
Actually, not much has changed for me, besides the mask wearing when shopping. Almost all friends (furry and not so furry) are gone and look down from The Rainbow Bridge, so no visitors.
March 2020, when the lock-down started here, I went to the office for the fist time, met like 3 cars on the 27 mile drive in the morn’. Felt GREAT. Then again, Stephen King’s *The Stand* came to mind. But I’m a fan, so there.
By now, traffic seems back to normal, sadly.
Projects in the (thankfully) large front/sides/ and backyard. Supplies had been in place for a long time already.
More re-reading actual books, more re-watching my old favorite movies (John Candy, Bill Murray, The Blues Brothers, anything with Robin Williams, to name just a few) more listening to Blues & Boogie Woogie.
Time well spent.
I am fortunate to live very close to a UNESCO World Heritage Site, 10 min. walking to the beach, about an hour walking up them “hills” (1736 ft, or 529 meters as we like to say here, somewhere in Southern Yurrope).
Also a National Park, I am basically in it.
Main worries: storm, fires, “unrest”.
Y’all stay safe now, hear?