It’s no understatement to say that the quarantine has fundamentally changed the way that we live our lives. For most of us, our routines have been disrupted. We are living our lives in stark contrast to how we lived them before. Heck, even the handshake has been nixed.
But, all these changes may not necessarily be a bad thing.
Routines are wonderful. They help us focus on taking care of business and doing the things necessary to achieve our goals and provide for ourselves and our families.
However, routines also have a way of turning into our comfort zones. And, these zones help us to feel relaxed and content, void of significant stresses and challenges. Comfort zones certainly have their place. But, they can also make us much too complacent.
For most of us, we achieve our proudest moments outside of our comfort zones. Maybe we gave a big speech in front of hundreds of people. Or we worked 20-hour days over a weekend to meet a huge deadline.
Or heck, maybe we tried skydiving or bungee jumping.
Whatever it is that you’re most proud of, you probably didn’t accomplish that by sitting peacefully in your comfort zone, relaxed and carefree.
The idea is to spend quality time in our comfort zones when we need them. But, we should spend the majority of our time outside of them. Trying new things. Forming better habits.
How can the quarantine help us to do that?
This quarantine might be just what you need
This quarantine has jolted our entire lives, including the places that we find comfort. And if we use our time wisely, we set ourselves and our families up to try new things, form new habits and challenge the way that we’ve always done business.
This quarantine helps us to improve our lives and futures in several important ways.
It gives us time to think
Most of us lead incredibly busy lives, and we rarely make time for ourselves. It seems like such a challenge to carve out a little quality time with just us because there are so many other things to do.
We need to pick up groceries. Take the kids to soccer practice or their swim meet. Have lunch with a friend. Go to appointments. Whatever it happens to be for you, there’s always an excuse to keep going.
“We seem to have a complex about busyness in our culture. Most of us do have time in our days that we could devote to simple relaxation, but we convince ourselves that we don’t,” writes Thomas Moore in his book Care of the Soul.
And, that is especially true right now.
This quarantine has given us forced downtime. We aren’t commuting. Most sporting events and group activities are canceled. We have the time to sit by ourselves and think. To meditate. To reflect on our lives and understand what makes us feel alive.
Very often, the first step to making substantial changes in our lives is to recognize that there is a problem, and the only way we can do that is by taking the time to think and to admit to ourselves that we could be doing things just a bit better.
Or, to just appreciate the things that we have.
It encourages us to get creative
When our routines get messed up, we’re forced to adjust and make new ones on the spot. And, most of us are doing this as we go, too. We approach each day without any assurances of how the day will go.
We’re playing everything by ear.
As a result, it’s forcing many of us to think more creatively. To try new things or start doing those things that we’ve always wanted to try. And, this may be your opportunity to start letting your creative juices flow and to try your hand at new things.
For example, we might dip our feet into arts and crafts like sewing or knitting. Or woodworking. Watercolor painting is a fun and inexpensive way to start dabbling with art. Or, how about practicing with a new instrument that you’ve always wanted to learn but never had the time to try?
Use the quarantine to try new things such as:
- Eating more healthy
- Regular exercise
- Reading more books
- Building a healthier brain
- Home improvements or repairs
- Starting side projects you always wanted to try
It forces us into smarter habits
Financially, the quarantine has revealed challenging areas of our lives that we probably ignored over the past several years when the stock market was running high and unemployment was low. It seemed like nothing could go wrong.
If you’re like many Americans, you may have discovered that your money habits were not the most optimal. And, the smart thing to do is to use this opportunity to build new habits with your money that will improve your family’s economic foundation.
For example, 30% of U.S. adults have no emergency savings. We may not feel that stress until we find ourselves unemployed because of a worldwide pandemic.
What can we do about this?
Save 6 months of living expenses in a savings account. Use a savings account instead of a checking account to save this money. This technique will make that emergency cash a bit tougher to easily spend. It’s still simple to access, but isn’t so simple that it tempts you to spend it for a non-emergency (new car, computer upgrade, etc) item.
Also, prioritizing your health will help keep your healthcare costs down throughout your life.
For example, we can all do things like:
- Consume less sodium and fewer carbs
- Eat smaller portions of food, especially for dinner
- Exercise (like walking, biking or weight training) more often
After all, 2/3rds of us are overweight, and the leading causes of death in the United States are heart disease and heart attacks.
To improve your overall health, eat healthier foods and start exercising and stretching more often. Check with your doctor before starting an exercise program, and find a personal trainer if you don’t feel comfortable designing your own fitness or stretching program.
And, stock up (but don’t hoard!) on the essentials for your family. I am talking about things like canned foods, sanitizing wipes, rubbing alcohol, bottled water and anything else that your family uses regularly. Again, the point here is not to hoard everything you can.
Instead, just like with an emergency fund, the goal is to have enough around so you won’t feel like you’re risking your health or happiness if shortages happen.
Though the quarantine has dramatically changed our lives, that doesn’t mean that things will get worse. In fact, this extra time at home might be exactly what you need to start building better habits to improve your life, career and your future.