As we come up on one year of basically being stuck at home, I wanted to share four ways I am personally coping for the sake of my mental health.
We all have our own situation. Small businesses closed, others working from home, online school, no eating out, can’t see friends and family and the list goes on. Just walking outside feels like a luxury at this point.
I have written before on the benefits of us all being at home, but what about me? How am I personally getting my mind through the day? What small things are bringing me happiness?
Oh and to avoid anyone saying, what about your wife and kids bringing you joy, that of course should go without even being said. They get me through the down days and I do the same in return.
This post is about me and my solo time activities that take my mind off of vaccine roll outs, shots in arms (or lack of), daily pressers, washing hands and worrying about an unknown future.
It truly is a full-on battle for proper mental health and whatever you can find to bring you even 10 minutes of “normal”, I say go for it.
Here are just 4 of the ways I am coping with being stuck at home.
I’m a pretty introverted guy and have always liked my independent time. So when the pandemic started and we were all going to have to stay away from each other, I did not think it was the worst thing.
Large crowds, packed subway cars and busy restaurants were a way of life in Toronto. There were always people everywhere.
With lockdown, that all went away. There was no more traveling to work or heading out for a fun weekend. My overall physical movement dried up.
Since 2018 when I was in the hospital with heart issues, I have made it a goal to walk 10,000 steps every day. My Fitbit was my closest friend and I never went anywhere without it.
I walked halfway to work and halfway home most days. I walked the kids to school and sometimes home. I was always on the go and it never seemed like a chore to get my exercise in.
With everything being shut down. I lost almost all of my steps. I was starting to feel run down and lazy. On one of my Cardiologist checkups, my Doctor asked about my exercise. I gave the laundry list of excuses and he was not having any of it. He said, the pandemic has been around for a few months now and isn’t going anywhere. So figure it out. No more free passes.
It was a bit harsh, but very true. This wasn’t a temporary thing anymore. Exercise was still needed.
That kick started me again. During the summer and fall, we did daily family walks at 4pm. It’s referred to as the “loop” in our house. It was nice to catch up with Katie after a day of work and get the kids moving before they went back to screens. That was only the minimum though. I needed more, especially with winter coming and the prospect of trudging through snow.
Katie then bought an exercise bike for herself and the family to use. That helped ramp up the exercise with a goal of riding 25-30 minutes a day. But I get bored on a stationary bike. Even with a TV show or podcast. I needed more. I did not want some Peloton person yelling at me, but I would easily become unmotivated and talk myself out of stopping.
So I have since upped the walking to what I call “the bigger loop”, which adds around four kilometres of walking on top of what else I do in day.
It gives me outside time, visuals to look at and I can once again keep up with my Bill Simmons podcasts.
Throw in an Apple Watch that I got in the fall to replace my burnt out Fit Bit, and I am almost back to what I was pre pandemic.
In fact, thanks to some harsh real talk from Charlie, I just raised the daily goals on my rings. Man kids can really cut through the BS and tell it like it is. I have been closing rings on the regular, but only on easy settings. Time to take off the kid gloves. Charlie is still unimpressed.
I have also been doing a lot of snow shoveling and have felt nothing bad in terms of heart pains. The minor procedure I had in June to remove the AFib for good seems to have worked. Huzzah!
Exercise has definitely been at the top of the list for coping with being stuck at home.
Long before COVID-19 entered our lives I enjoyed to cook. It’s relaxing and provides a definite feeling of accomplishment whether the dish turns out or not. At least there is a photo for the ‘Gram, am I right?
One big difference now is the fact that lunch time demands some cooking attention as well. I saw a video recently where the host said we needed to up our lunch game simply because we have the time. We are at home. Why not put a little more effort into a meal than just reheating leftovers. Although I do eat a lot of leftovers for lunch.
I have not tried out any of the pandemic cooking trends like sourdough bread or that TikTok pasta thing, but I have taken a few shots at recipes outside of the usual. Like black bean burgers and using quinoa for the first time.
We have also found takeout food to be so hit and miss with quality. It’s so much better (and cheaper) to do your own cooking. Uber Eats is now more of a treat again once again instead of expected.
I do really, really, really miss dining out. Toronto is a great place for restaurants and it makes me sad at how much they are all struggling.
I guess one day we will finally make it to Momofuku Toronto?
As we roll forward to quite possibly many more months of this stuck at home business, I have even started to joke about having a test kitchen one night a week to invent some new recipes.
Stay tuned for that. You can also take a look at recipes I have cooked before.
Is cooking one of your happy places. Was this due to lockdown or have you always enjoyed life in the kitchen?
Food (not just eating) seems like a natural way to cope with being stuck at home.
Now you will start to get a look behind the curtain. I like puzzles. I like going through a box of 1000’s of pieces to find the edges. I like the feeling of running your fingers over a completed masterpiece.
But I just never dedicated much time to it. Life eh? I would start a puzzle with great energy and excitement and would never finish. Plus it can take up a lot of space so you can’t leave it for very long.
Katie got me a Toronto skyline puzzle for Christmas and it has reenergized the fun of puzzles for me.
Since I have finished the Toronto puzzle, I bought some glue to eventually frame it and ordered one of those puzzle roll up mats for future puzzles.
Charlie also loves puzzles and is very good at them, so it’s something I hope we can work on together. I got a Super Mario puzzle for us to work on together. That is Charlie’s latest love. Anything Super Mario related.
What I really like about puzzles is you go at your own speed. Some days I will spend hours on it, while other days I add a few pieces.
The feeling of accomplishment is the best. It also keeps your mind fresh. The best is when you get into that zone of just seeing pieces fit together and rattle off several in a row.
Working on a puzzle is certainly one of the newer ways I cope with being stuck at home, but it is a hobby I can see sticking long after the pandemic has moved on.
Again, a look behind the curtain of what I do in my spare time. Like puzzles, I have always enjoyed video games. But as an adult and parent, I have always feel guilty about playing them. But the The quality has dramatically changed over the years as well as the platforms, so it’s hard to resist.
Many years ago, I bought an Xbox One “for the kids”, and pretty quickly got hooked again. I would go through phases of playing sports games or whatever the boys were into. It wasn’t a great deal of time as there was always something I felt I should be doing instead.
Then COVID-19 happened and being stuck in the house happened. The Xbox was just sitting there staring at me. On March Break 2020, to fill the day, I bought Forza Horizon 4 for the kids. They loved it. It took their mind off the world and gave them a chance to drive at top speeds.
Again. There is was. The Xbox just looking at me. I played Forza with the boys. Then I was playing by myself more and more. It was relaxing. It took my mind off the world falling apart. I craved entering the alternative reality that video games provided.
Next thing I know, I am buying and playing games I never thought I would. Red Dead Redemption 2 was like no other video game I had played before. Every extra minute of downtime, I was saddling up as Arthur Morgan and drifted away from the shit-show that was planet earth.
While violent, it was soothing. If you have not spent time riding a virtual horse around the country side, I recommend it.
Once I finished RDR2, it was summer. That meant outside time and video games took a back seat to backyard pools and other outdoor activities.
As summer ended, the second wave kicked in and our time being stuck at home went to the next level. Now, going for walks or grocery shopping was all there was to do outside the house.
Enter stage left – the Xbox once again.
This time the game was Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. Very much like RDR2 but with Vikings.
The timing was a perfect storm for needing an immersive distraction. The second wave was rough. Work was riddled with anxiety and life had become very tiring. Coping with the day to day was a struggle. Keeping the kids going was tiring. It was all tiring with no gas left in the tank.
So every chance I got, it was off to Norway and Britain to slaughter the Saxons and raid river villages.
This game was like nothing I had ever seen. Thinking back to Nintendo games as a kid, Valhalla was a little too real. But it took me away from feeling worried. It gave me a break from feeling frustrated. It calmed me down so I could jump back into real life with a replenished positivity.
My family never made me feel guilty about it either. Katie would say, you keep playing, it’s all good. She even got me some gaming headphones for Christmas so the noise of the water heater would not ruin my journey.
It became pretty common for the kids to say dad was in the basement playing Vikings.
So yes, playing video games has certainly helped me cope with being stuck at home.
How are you coping?
How are you coping with being stuck at home? What helps you get a little happiness during your day? We all have something. Maybe it’s reading, cross stich, renovating, keeping your place VERY clean or even getting a new pet.
Whatever it is, you do you. No judgement. The last year has been like no other time and if it helps you get to the next day, I say go for it.
It looks like we are finally heading in the right direction in terms of vaccinations and ending lockdowns. Let’s hope we can add a lot more “normal” to our lives very soon.
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