How to stay upbeat while sheltering in place

While the expression sheltering at home sounds so inviting and almost Martha Stewart-esquein theory, the reality is something else entirely. Even people who have been working at home for decades are finding it tough to remain positive when facing the idea of being stuck indoors for the foreseeable future.

It’s worth reminding yourself on a regular basis that we’re all in this together. “As we all make the transition to a work-from-home status it’s important to understand that we are all going through this at the same time and can only do our best,” said Jennifer Halloran, Head of Marketing and Brand at MassMutual.

We gathered some ways to keep your mood as balanced as possible during the weeks ahead.

1. Move it

“Get those endorphins flowing!” suggests Jason Davis, CEO of Inspire360 who works mainly with the fitness and wellness industries. “There are so many free and discounted workouts available online right now that you can access. These will help boost your mood and also get you feeling like you’re not alone.”

2. Get together (virtually)

Davis reminds us to “Plan phone dates and FaceTime calls with your friends.” Or slow down on the virtual socializing. Some people don’t do well with regular socializing. If downtime is your thing, honor it and turn down that next virtual happy hour.

3. Reassure your team

If you’re the boss, now isn’t the time to fade into the woodwork. “Demonstrate that you understand these are tough times and people are balancing a lot,” said Leadership psychologist Dr. Rob Fazio. While you’re at it, “Ask about the future and what people want to keep that they are doing now when they return to work.” You’ll be giving people hope through the realization that you intend to get through this together and plan on working with them on the
other side as well.

4. Embrace the absence of your commute

“Between trying to get to work, hectic after-school schedules, and other commitments, there’s little time during the
week to do the things we love,” Halloran said. “Use this time to uplift yourself: exercise (in the house or your backyard), try new recipes, take family walks with a newly over-walked dog, video chat with your friends, and just be still at night
without the distraction of televised sports (my family’s viewing passion).”

5. Sign off of social media

“It’s so tempting to spend all day on social media since we’re home,” Davis said, “but creating no social media times for yourself will help you have a more productive day and not waste hours mindlessly scrolling.”

6. Or set up a dedicated social media account

Set up an Instagram account strictly to follow the national parks or your favorite crafters. Intentionally avoid adding anyone you know and simply allow yourself to indulge in beauty or gossip or recipes for a while.

7. Get out of the house when you get stir crazy

In one of his daily briefings, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo* talked about cabin fever, the almost claustrophobic feeling of irritability many of us experience when trapped indoors too long. Halloran reminds us to “Continue doing your part to flatten the curve by following social distancing protocols, but a short walk, jog or even just grilling out will help your mental state.” Just be sure to check if the virus is surging in your area and wash your hands and wear a mask as per the most recent protocols.

8. Monitor your news intake

Davis urges people to “Please stay informed enough to know how to protect yourself and others, but don’t read the news all day long.” Set a cut ff point where the screens are shut. “Studies have shown that constant bad news can lead to depression and anxiety.”

9. Reconnect

As the days and weeks wear on, I have become acutely aware of an unexpected phenomenon—the more my family self-isolates, the more connected we become,” Halloran said. “Amid the minor pressure points of being holed up together, there have been new nightly rituals of card games and long-forgotten board games and candid conversations with normally busy teens.”

10. Learn, Laugh, Love

Fazio recommends spending 15 minutes a day “doing something that distracts you from the crisis and creates a positive experience.” To that end, he suggests that you “make a laugh list of people that make you laugh or you enjoy and set up time with them.” On the flip side, “Know your drainers and your energizers,” and interact accordingly.

11. Help someone else

“If you can help someone who is immunocompromised or elderly get groceries, do that!” Davis urges. Though be sure to take all precautions to protect yourself–and them–while you do. “Another idea is to do a random act of kindness by paying for the person behind you—In the drive-through line picking up dinner? Why not pay for the person behind you too?

12. Strengthen your sense of community

“Over the past few weeks, I’ve had meaningful conversations with neighbors (from over the fence) that I hardly knew, but will now be first on the invite list for a backyard barbeque when the lockdowns finally lift,” Halloran said. “I’ve been touched by friends who are sewing surgical masks to help out local hospitals and the strangers in our hometown who have started donation drives to restock the food pantries for those in need. Connect to your community – either from a safe distance away or even virtually.” If you live in an apartment building it can be harder to connect, so try to find Facebook groups or virtual meetups where you can find ways to interact with people in your area.

13. Expand your existing skillset

“To stay upbeat, people generally need hope. Hope that after we make it through the current tough times, things will improve,” said Dhawal Shah, CEO of Class Central. “It’s a two-part process. First, we need to get through the dark times by managing our anxieties and mental health and second, we need to take steps to prepare for a better future by broadening our skillset(s).”

One way to do this is through free online classes, including many from Ivy League universities.