April 8, 2020
There’s so much fear and uncertainty around the rapidly evolving COVID-19 situation, and people all around the world are grappling with it in different ways. What can we do in a challenging time like this? A question that we all face is: How can we be as calm and happy as we can be, under these circumstances? In doing so, we help ourselves weather a crisis more effectively, and we also strengthen ourselves to be more helpful to others and to our community.
So, for people who are fortunate enough to be safe at home and in good health (remember gratitude!), in addition to crucial health measures such as washing our hands and practicing social distancing, what can we do in a challenging time like this?
1. Take care of your body.
This is important for energy, immune function, and mood. Get enough sleep, eat healthy food, don’t drink too much, stick to a regular routine of personal hygiene and dress, and in particular, keep moving. This may be tough if your normal exercise routine is disrupted. Figure out how to keep active. Go for a run, a walk, or a bike ride, or use an app or a YouTube video to get a workout. Also, remember to stand up and walk around frequently.
2. Beware of information overload.
We all want to stay current, but it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Don’t get sucked into the three-hour scroll. Consider scheduling a specific time to check current events — perhaps twice a day — so news doesn’t overtake you.
3. Know Your Tendancy
In my “Four Tendencies” personality framework, people are Upholders, Questioners, Obligers, or Rebels. Knowing your Tendency will help you figure out how to master your habits and boost your productivity — whether you want to quit snacking, meet deadlines, start a new exercise routine, cut back on alcohol, or read more — during this tough time. And knowing other people’s Tendencies makes it easier to avoid frustration and irritation as we live and work in close quarters. To learn if you’re an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel, take the free, quick quiz at quiz.gretchenrubin.com.
4. Create outer order
Yes, it may sound ridiculous — such a petty gesture in the face of an overwhelming challenge! — but for most people, creating outer order gives a sense of inner calm. It’s a concrete action that leads to a visual improvement and makes life easier, and it tends to make people feel better.
5. Help others.
One of my aphorisms is: One of the best ways to make ourselves happier is to make other people happier — or safer, or calmer, or better prepared. Look for ways to help others, to make sure they know you’re looking out for them. You might do errands for an older neighbor, do virtual babysitting for a family member with small kids, or sew face masks.
6. Connect with friends and family, and reach out to people who might feel isolated.
This is a time when technology can really come to our aid. Call, text, arrange video calls, send funny videos of your dog. Strong social relationships are a key to happiness, so find ways to help others — and yourself — avoid feeling trapped and lonely.
7. Make good use of this opportunity.
Being stuck at home is an opportunity that none of us wished for, but it’s an opportunity nevertheless. Look for ways to use the time to get things done you otherwise wouldn’t be able to do. Update your resume. Learn a new software program. Get back into meditation. Review your budget to look for ways to cut back. Write that novel you’ve been meaning to write. Organize your photos. In particular, you might keep a journal of this time. We’re experiencing a historic milestone in the life of the world, and when this is all over (and at some point, it will be over), you may be very glad you kept a record.
The Roman poet Ovid wrote, “Be patient and tough; one day this pain will be useful to you.” None of us want to experience this lesson, but we can learn from it, if we will.