For the next few weeks as the Covid-19 pandemic deepens, we will be spending a whole lot more time at home than we usually do – in fact, all of our time during lockdown. Home, for most of us, is a place for evenings and weekends and the occasional holiday if we don’t travel elsewhere. So to be at home 24/7 is unusual indeed. While the first few days will seem a bit like a holiday (albeit a rather strange and disturbing one), having our wings clipped will take some getting used to. As time goes on, we are likely to feel frustrated by not being able to freely pop out to the shops, visit a friend or go out for a meal.
On the flip side, we often complain about how we don’t have enough time at home to do the things we love, to keep our property maintained or to just relax. Now we have that opportunity – we have been given a significant amount of time in our home space. Granted, these are not ideal conditions – the lockdown has been forced on us, our personal, national and global future is uncertain, and these can reduce the benefits of this ‘home time’.
However, there are some things that we can do to make the most of this unusual time in which we find ourselves, and in the process rediscover the joy of being at home. These can also help to strengthen our mental and emotional well-being enabling us to cope better with this global crisis.
1. Take time to rest and recharge
For most of us our home is the one place where we can just be ourselves, fully relax and recharge to face the world again. Take advantage of this time to give yourself the mental, physical and emotional rest your need. This can include sleep, relaxing with a book or watching a movie with the family. Switch off social media for a while, and try not to obsess over the pandemic.
2. Create some structure and routine
We all need structure and routine to give our days purpose. When you are not leaving home for work or school, the days can just run into each other leading to boredom and even depression. If you are working from home, routine will be easier to maintain. If not, create a broad structure for each day to keep you and the family on track. It is best to differentiate the weekend from the week, so that some sense of normality is maintained. Try to include some form of exercise each day.
3. Do stuff together
Lockdown is a unique opportunity for joint family activities. Be creative. Happy memories can be made of these family times if you are deliberate about it. This may be more difficult if you have older kids, but still worth the effort. There is no shortage of ideas on social media and the internet.
4. Look at your home with fresh eyes
When we spend more time in our home, we learn to appreciate its good points as well as pick up on its flaws. We may find that the way we arrange the furniture or the original purpose of different rooms is no longer working for us. Now is an opportunity to step back and make some changes so that the way your home is organised better supports your current lifestyle and family dynamic. For example, if your children are no longer living at home, you could change one of their rooms into a craft room. Although you may not be able to implement all of your ideas right away due to lockdown, you can create a new vision and plan for changes to one or two spaces in your home. And then look forward to new ways of enjoying your home in the future.
5. Declutter some spaces in your home
Now is a great time to get rid of those things that you no longer love, need or use. Don’t be overly ambitious – decluttering can be overwhelming if you try to do it all at once. Rather start small with one cupboard at a time, then ramp it up if you get on a roll. Your kitchen, wardrobe, spare room and garage are good places to focus on. When we get our freedom back, a charity will be thrilled to take your surplus stuff.
6. Catch up on maintenance and minor improvements
Ticking off items on your to DIY to-do list (especially those that have been hanging around for a while) can be very satisfying. And you will be surprised at how quickly some of them can be done. It is often just a matter of getting down to it. Along the way you could also learn some new skills.
7. Revive an old hobby or start something new
Focused attention on a creative pursuit such as photography, gardening, woodwork or even researching your family history is very good for our emotional health. Get back to something that you used to enjoy but haven’t had time for, or embark on learning something new. This could also be a great time to teach your children some creative or technical skills.
By forcing our lives to slow down, lockdown opens up the space and time (if we let it) to step back and review the trajectory our life is on. Reflect on different areas of your life (e.g. work, health, relationships) and explore if there are any changes or improvements you could make in each area. Deliberately setting personal goals helps us to regain a sense of control over our lives in this time of global uncertainty, and will bolster our mental well-being. Getting into the habit of journaling can also be a very helpful way to work through our emotions, thoughts and ideas.