The last 30 days of quarantine have been interesting to say the least. Making the adjustment to working from home. All in-person meetings moved to virtual. No evening meetings or events. Barely driving my car. Walking the neighborhood more. Seeing people that I’ve never seen before walk through our neighborhood. Lots of family time, but no hugging or handshakes when you encounter friends. Standing six feet apart to have conversations. Cooking more. No dining in, always carry-out or drive-through. Virtual school. Someone coughs or sneezes in close proximity and people give them dirty looks. Life as we know it has changed during COVID-19. Of course, the big question on everyone’s mind is, “What will life after quarantine be like?”

Even though people don’t like being forced into anything, the massive push on the brakes gave people no choice but to slow down.

I’ve had friends tell me that it’s been a mixed blessing. Trying to work, school, parent and care for others with no support from other family members or friends has been challenging. Yet, the family time has been incredible. They’ve also had time to do many of the things they previously looked at and said, “If I had the time, I would…” 

The chaos that existed around getting children to sports practices, dance or music lessons or any other event was wiped right off the calendar. As a result, many wonder if they will allow themselves to go back to the frenetic pace they kept prior to sheltering in place.

Shockingly, some teens have even said they will never take for granted getting to be face to face with their friends again. And we thought all they really cared about was their screens.

So, what will people keep “intentionally” doing after quarantine is over?

In an informal survey, I asked people how they think their life after quarantine will intentionally be different. Here are some of the things they said:

  • I will appreciate being in people’s presence more and giving and receiving hugs.
  • I believe I will be more compassionate and more eager to remind others of the need for grace, mercy and love.
  • Less kids’ activities, keeping game and campfire nights.
  • A good deal more cautious about public spaces and high-touch surfaces, and probably a bit more stand-off-ish in large groups of people, at least until this has a better and more proven treatment and ultimately a vaccine. But I’m certainly not going to put my life on hold or hole up in my home forever, either.
  • I don’t think people will see me as much anymore. I am enjoying the slower pace, family time and being able to spend time at home. No more running myself crazy to attend a million functions, meetings, etc. Spending more time just living.
  • We run so hard. All the classes. All the social things… it’s been wonderful being at home. Even though the girls are still doing Zoom Girl Scouts/community and social meetings/dance classes, it doesn’t seem their hearts are in it. They get upset when it’s time to separate from the family and go to a class in their room. We’ve all enjoyed this!
  • I will be thankful for many, many freedoms I took for granted.
  • I’ll be cooking more for sure. And I think we’ve all come to realize we don’t need a ton of extra things to do! The girls will definitely come out of this as germaphobes and I will take more precautions socially, too.
  • Probably continue large tipping when we eat out.

Time will tell how different life after quarantine will be, whether it’s because we choose to be intentional or whether it’s because others make changes that affect our normal way of life. One thing is for sure: We’ve all had the opportunity to see, hear and taste what simpler feels like. Many prefer it. But I wonder if we will be strong enough or brave enough to stick to it over time.

By nature, I believe we as humans are caring and kind. We like to help and be there for others when they celebrate and when they go through tragedy. For example, we buy gifts when people have babies, get married, retire and reach other various milestones. And we bring food when others suffer the loss of a loved one or lose everything in a natural disaster. We sit close to those who are suffering from a terrible disease like cancer, in the midst of grief or going through a divorce. That’s how we love, comfort, support, and uplift

Loving and caring for others who continue to face many of life’s celebrations and trials has become difficult during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our hearts begin to hurt because of the weddings we miss and the families we can’t mourn alongside. We grieve over the showers we can’t attend and the relief efforts we are limited in assisting after natural disasters. 

The core of our humanity seems to be stripped away from us because of the need to quarantine and stay safe and healthy. Sometimes, if you’re like me, you begin to wonder, is it worth it? Is what I’m giving up to “stay healthy” worth it? What’s the point of being a friend when you can’t do all those things that friends do? I don’t want to miss the birth of my cousin’s baby or the funeral of my neighbor’s son. What do I do?

How to Check-In

That’s where we have to be creative. Here are some ideas to support, encourage and love those that are facing life-altering events during this time of quarantine.

  • Arrange for meal delivery and share virtual meals—We love to take food to those who are experiencing life-changing events. Instead, have the food delivered to them. Then, use a video app to eat together while you share in their grief or their excitement.
  • Virtual Photo Albums—Simply going through digital photos to walk down memory lane and using the “share screen” function that many video apps have promotes the bonding and connectedness we desire.
  • Drive-By Parade—Gather some of your friends safely. In your own cars, parade in front of their home with signs of celebration. 
  • Gift-Giving Through Online Registry—Help loved ones set up online gift registries and purchase the gifts electronically. (Don’t assume everyone, such as your soon to be 70-year-old grandmother, knows how to set up an online registry.)
  • Electronic Greeting Cards—Find a ready-made one or design your own. You can send these directly to their smartphone. A sympathy card or one of celebration can offer timely words of encouragement. 
  • Prepare A Virtual Trivia Game Night—Create trivia facts centered around the person being celebrated (TriviaMaker is a good app).
  • Mail a Handwritten Letter or Card—There’s still something that makes me feel special when I receive a letter. Knowing that someone took the time to handwrite something themselves—everything about that says that I am important. Emails or texts can’t match the feeling of a handwritten letter.
  • Attend Events Virtually—Knowing that you took the time to attend an event, whether it’s a wedding, funeral, or party, tells your loved one that you won’t let social distancing stop you from sharing in their moment. 
    • Leave comments on their social media feed when appropriate. We know what it feels like to read our social media comments and feel the love and support of those who couldn’t be with us physically. It uplifts the spirit.
  • Call. But Use Video Calls As Often As Possible—Be available to listen. Allow those you love to vent, blow off steam and complain. You may not be needed to fix anything. Just being a listening ear goes a long way.
    • Note: When someone crosses your mind, call them then. Don’t waitI can’t tell you how many times someone has called me at the perfect time when I was dealing with something. And they often started with, “I was just thinking about you and thought I’d call to see how you were.”
  • Record And Electronically Deliver A Special Video Message—You may be providing a keepsake that your loved ones will treasure forever.

Encouraging, loving and supporting others does make us feel good. It uplifts us and helps us feel meaningful and full of purpose. Ultimately, we have to remember that it’s not about you—it’s about the person on the receiving end

A virtual meal or handwritten letter may not feel as satisfying to give during this quarantine. However, not allowing a social distancing order to stop you from sharing in your loved one’s big life moments can bring them the joy and peace they may need. That’s one of the special perks of having you in their life.

We were about a month into our COVID-19 quarantine when it finally happened. There had been some ups and downs, of course, but I was feeling pretty good and able to stay positive as an individual, husband, and father. My family was handling it all surprisingly well. I was getting tons of work done. I felt like I was leading the family well. Then I finally snapped.

During the month or so of quarantine, I had been straining, working from home, fearful about my wife working in the medical field, stressed about a son doing middle school online, anxious about a son doing college online, sad for two adult children out of work, worried about one adult child still working in “essential services,” and totally uneasy about my at-risk mother-in-law. ALL of this under ONE roof. (You catch all the emotions in there? I didn’t.) But we were actually navigating it fairly well and trying to stay positive—movie nights, game nights, lots of good conversations. We got this! 

Then it all started to unravel. Then I unraveled. Big time.

In the span of a few days:

  • My wife was filing for unemployment. 
  • We had a brush with a tornado that left us with a yard full of fallen trees.
  • We had no power to our house for days. 
  • My car broke down while I was getting ice to keep food from spoiling. (It all spoiled anyway.)
  • We had friends who completely lost their homes and we were heartbroken. 
  • We had all-new financial pressures.

Things were starting to pile up. Stress and worry were at all new levels. 

I ignored it—too much to get done!

After about four days of trying to adjust to Generator Life and a bunch of new problems and expenses, I was soon trying to stay positive and hold my world together with threads and patches.

Then, in a single moment, life came undone. (Of course, it did.) The reality is, I came undone. Ironically, it was actually a relatively small thing that did it. Something so small that it would have been no big deal in any other context. Straw. Camel. Back. You know the saying.

I’ll admit it—I was lying in bed crying with the door locked, feeling fragile and helpless. 

How did it get to this? I’m stronger than this! What if anyone in my family sees me like this?

If we can allow ourselves to be honest, vulnerable, transparent humans for just a second, you might be feeling it, too. You might be close to snapping. Maybe you are on the edge of being overwhelmed. You may have already broken down. Your story and circumstances might have some major things going on in them that make my little pity party look pitiful. 

What do you do to stay positive when it all seems to fall apart?

Here’s what I learned after I snapped back from my snap: 

  1. Acknowledge your emotions and share them with people that you trust. For a while, I had been suppressing or burying emotions and needs deep down, trying to play it cool, but making myself a ticking timebomb. 
  2. Be real with your kids, your spouse, and your friends, because they have their “moments” too. Kids don’t need their parents to be perfect; they need them to be real. It’s good for them to see you work through imperfection and real-world problems. 
  3. Guard your mindset! Be careful what you look for in life, because you’ll find it. If you look for everything that is wrong, you’ll find it and focus on it. If you look for what is going right, that’s there, too. Find it and focus on it. You can acknowledge what’s wrong and still practice gratitude for what’s right. Remember what is really important—people
  4. Practice self-care. I was afraid to be honest with myself and the people around me—people that I know would help me, let me blow off steam, and help me process my emotions. It’s okay to ask for help. It’s more than okay to take care of yourself! Practice self-care. You may not be able to change your circumstances, but you can take care of yourself—physically and emotionally.
  5. Breathe. Think. Act. Take a moment to take some deep breaths, think about what you can and can’t control, and then respond appropriately—don’t react. Don’t make important decisions when you aren’t your best self or you’ve gone to pieces.
  6. Focus on helping others. This may sound counter-intuitive, but nothing feels better than helping someone with their problems. It actually makes our brain release happy chemicals and it may take your mind off your problems or even put them in perspective.

It’s okay to have a “moment”; it’s not okay to stay there. We’ve all been at a place where we felt like it was just one bad thing after the other and we’ve felt overcome by stress, anxiety, anger, or sadness. Give yourself permission to be real, but also develop a plan to stay positive the next time you feel overwhelmed and about to break down.

I remember the first few weeks after 9/11. There was this unifying vibration that seemed to reverberate inside of everyone. It was palpable. You could feel that people were more friendly, more neighborly. Like the shock of that sucker punch and all of its ramifications had us collectively drinking the same “milk of human kindness.” It was comforting for a little while.

Then eventually, the unplanned, unspoken solidarity gave way to business as usual. Everybody moved on. That’s why I’m nervous about COVID-19

I felt a little of that, We-Are-All-In-This-Together humanity again in the first weeks that we’ve faced a Global Pandemic. But this is different. And it is important to understand the difference

Now that solidarity is in quarantine. 

Worse, there is no back to “business as usual” anywhere in sight. Couples are cooped up together. Families are cooped up together. Some people are in quarantine alone. Day after day, after day… 

The Little Things & The Big Things

The early research and statistics are already indicating that child abuse and domestic violence are on the rise. The torment of financial instability is “sheltering in place” with families, along with Stress, Anxiety, Boredom, and Anger among others. For many people, sadly, visiting a divorce attorney will be the first order of business when the quarantine is lifted. 

I have this theory—feel free to disagree—that there are very few, Big Things in our lives. There are just a whole lot of Little Things. Even what we consider Big Things are usually just Little Things compressed and aggregated over time. 

I’m not trying to imply that a Global Pandemic is not a Big Thing. I’m not saying that COVID-19 isn’t a Big Thing. But they are big like Texas is big—Not much I can do about it. 

In our current situation, my task isn’t to find a cure or a vaccine. I’ll leave all that to the courageous experts at the CDC and WHO. However, I make a thousand little decisions a day that affect those in quarantine with me. How am I doing with these Little Things?

We often envision ourselves heroically rising to the occasion for the Big Things in life. But we usually end up overlooking the Little Things. We stumble over the simplicity. I’m no different. Man, I’ve neglected so many Little Things while I thought I was on top of the Big Things. Then suddenly, one day—my failures as a husband, father, and friend are right there before me. Blow the Little Things and I’ve blown the Big Things of Marriage, Parenting, and Family.

What does it even mean to “get through” a Big Thing like a Global Pandemic? 

I sure don’t know. I’m not even sure if that’s the right question. 

What are my Little Things?

I do know that:

  • My tone of voice sometimes hurts my wife.
  • A harsh word can dispirit my son.
  • I can choose to forgive a perceived slight.
  • Listening is often better than speaking.

And, I know the difference between choosing to escalate a situation and choosing to de-escalate it. (Usually, both are Little Things.) I know I can choose to make grace tangible in any given moment in quarantine.

Surviving these times—not hurting ourselves, our spouses, our children—will depend on working hard at the Little Things.

Getting through this and maybe even being better on the other side, as an individual, as a couple, as a family, absolutely depends on the little choices we make in all the little moments. Little choices in the little moments. Working at not doing the Little Things that hurt the people we love. They end up a Big Thing.

Your boss said you would work from home now due to the COVID-19 crisis, but it’s business as usual.

Of course, your children are home. Your spouse is still going into work because they are an essential employee. At this moment, the baby is crying and won’t settle. Your first grader is asking for help with a math problem and the dog needs to go out. You have a Zoom call in 15 minutes and you still need a shower. The pangs of exhaustion creep over you as you sit at the kitchen table wondering, “How will I survive this quarantine?”

Welcome to week four of social distancing and working remotely that seems like anything but business as usual.

If it’s any comfort at all, you are for sure not alone. As employers track employees’ computer time and productivity, some people are carrying the additional anxiety of worrying about losing their job while they try to juggle so much during a very unique and complicated time. 

Truth be told, I don’t have children at home at this moment in time. Yet, sometimes I find it difficult to concentrate due to the level of intensity of this crisis and all the thoughts rolling around in my head. I can easily remember the times I needed to work from home because our daughter was sick and the pressure I felt being out for just one day. This situation is that on steroids. So, what can you do?

First, consider all that you currently feel like you have on your plate as things that have to be done. Obviously, you need to feed your children which means groceries have to find their way into your home. Laundry is waiting. You need to wash hands and surfaces to keep people safe. And, you need to complete your work so you don’t lose your job. Beyond that, what else is on your list?

Is there anything you are pressuring yourself to do that you can let go of? 

Can you have a conversation with your supervisor to explore options for doing your work, just not necessarily from 8-5? Is it possible to work early in the morning or later in the evening so you can give your children more undivided attention during the day? Would taking some paid time off be an option to help alleviate some of the stress? 

Talking with your boss about how you really are trying to accomplish your work from home and asking if they are willing to flex some with you conveys that you want to do the right thing for the company and for your family. Even if you think they won’t be willing to flex, you don’t know until you ask.

  • Is it possible for you to get up earlier or stay up later and work?
  • Can someone grocery shop for you or pick up your online order? 
  • Would you be willing to ask others to help out by making meals for you?
  • Is your spouse or child able to help with household chores?
  • Is it possible to make your workspace flexible? If so, you can easily move to accommodate whatever is happening in the moment in your home.
  • If your spouse is also working from home, can you agree on the needs of each of your schedules in the morning? Or maybe tag team with the children throughout the day?

The bottom line is, there is no cookie-cutter approach that will work for everyone. People are having to be super creative so if things are crazy at the moment, show yourself some grace and remind yourself you haven’t figured out what works yet, but you will. 

If you happen to be the boss, it’s helpful to know about and empathize with what your employees have going on. I’ve spoken to a lot of conscientious employees who are extremely stressed out and anxious, feeling like they are a bad employee because they can’t seem to figure their schedule out.

Let’s be honest, there is absolutely nothing normal about what all of us are experiencing. Having no support system to call on with children at home who either need help with school work or need your attention is exhausting all by itself, never mind the weight of knowing you have work that needs to be done. If one spouse is still working outside the home, it can make things even more difficult.

Instead of waiting for your team members to contact you, call them and check in. It is helpful for you as their leader to acknowledge that you know this is difficult. If you’re willing to try and work with them, your employee knows you appreciate them and you value their family. That makes a huge difference.

I’m looking out the window at a beautiful sunrise this morning and thinking. The scene is beautiful. However, over the horizon I know there are thousands of people hurting this morning as they survey the storm damage from the tornadoes that ripped through our community Easter Sunday night.

So many miraculous stories of survival. So many pictures of roofs yanked off of houses as if they were built with Legos. Portions of brick walls strewn across the ground like they weighed nothing. Trees down everywhere. Power outages that may go on for days.

This on top of social distancing in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Normally, those impacted by the storm would be able to easily get a hotel room, go sit in a restaurant and eat a meal or grab a cup of coffee while recharging their phone. They literally have nowhere to go right now. Everything is shut down.

My heart feels heavy and my brain hurts as the pictures of devastation flood my mind and linger there. I can’t stop thinking about so many struggling in the midst of all of this. All the while, we are being told, “Stay away, stay home.” I can’t even get to my own team members to bring them food and supplies. It feels like I’m on the verge of tears all the time. I mean, how much more can people take?

There is a part of me that feels helpless, which is not a feeling I like or a place I tend to live. I’m usually straight out of the gates figuring out ways to provide assistance.

In these moments after the storm, what can we do?

  • Prayer or meditation is powerful for sure.
  • Check in with your friends and family.
  • Offer to make phone calls to other family members or friends who will be concerned.
  • Purchase needed supplies and drop them off at a designated location.
  • Provide food for front line workers.
  • Take good care of yourself. That way, when we are able to be out and about, we will have the energy to be helpful.
  • Know that by staying away from the area, we are helping people get help from first responders faster.

I think I have some level of guilt that I’m sitting in my house with power, with a roof over my head and I can’t really do anything to show those that are hurting that I care. Although I can’t be physically present for them at this moment, that does not mean that I am not with them in spirit and looking for ways to help from afar.

We are Chattanooga strong and we will come out on the other side of this together.

It’s week three (or more) for most of us in quarantine, and life is starting to get (dare I say) a little boring. Even if you’re still up to your eyeballs in things to do and little ones to care for, after three weeks of staying inside, it’s easy to just go through the motions day after day. But one great way to get out of that rut is to make it a priority for yourself and your family to learn something new!

There are so many companies and organizations that are teaming up right now to provide some great, free classes and tutorials for anyone and everyone to try! And what better time to learn something new than when you can’t go anywhere?

If you’re a parent, challenge your whole family to pick one thing to learn in the next couple of weeks! Have older kids with their own interests? Have every person pick one new thing to dive into. There are many great ways to stimulate your mind, push yourself to grow, and challenge yourself and your loved ones right now. Here are just a few ideas to get you started!

Free Online Classes

Other Ideas

  • Dust off that old guitar (or another musical instrument) and teach yourself via YouTube videos!
  • Ask your spouse, your child, or a friend (over FaceTime of course) to show you all about their favorite hobby, then give it a try yourself!
  • Make a plan for learning a new skill or hobby. Even if you don’t quite have all the tools or equipment necessary to start a hobby, you can still learn about it! Spend time creating a list of all the things you’ll need to start your hobby and then dive into some research, books, and/or tutorials about that hobby.

Learning something new is not a necessity, but it could give you that boost of energy you’ve been craving. When life becomes mundane and you’re getting antsy about staying inside, you can try one of these ideas to connect with yourself, your family, and the world around you. Don’t let this quarantine keep you from living and learning! Try something new today.

Right now, the whole world is in a state of slight (or, more than slight) panic. There is a lot of stress, anxiety, and fear going around, and chances are, you’ve experienced it yourself. Whether you’re a parent trying to figure out a new routine with and for your kids, a professional working through the difficulties of staying at home, a student running into the obstacles of online learning, or all of the above, every person is facing their own challenges in their own way.

So many suggestions have been thrown out there to try and help combat all of the overwhelming emotions: getting enough sleep, setting up a schedule for yourself and your family, eating healthy meals, staying active, video calling friends… The list goes on. But did you know that journaling is another great way to reduce stress and anxiety? And the research is here to back it up!

How Journaling Affects Our Minds

  • According to The University of Rochester Medical Center, journaling can help you manage anxiety, reduce stress, cope with depression, and improve your mood by helping you prioritize problems and track your symptoms so you can learn your triggers and control them.
  • Journaling can also enhance your sense of well-being, improve your working memory, and boost your mood.
  • Keeping a journal can help you keep an organized mind and can be helpful when processing information or making sense of trauma.

Okay, so now what? Sure, journaling is great, but it can be hard to get started. The key to making journaling a part of your routine is getting started! So grab an old notebook you’ve got lying around, and choose one, two, or more of the questions below to answer each day. If every day feels like too big of a commitment, start with just three times a week!

Journaling Prompts

  1. What are 5 good things that happened today?
  2. What’s one thing you can do differently tomorrow to help it be a better day than today?
  3. What’s one adjustment you can make to your routine to help set up the day for success?
  4. What’s the main source of your stress or anxiety? Can you do anything about it?
  5. What are 10 things that make you happy right now?
  6. What are 3 things you can do daily to be a positive influence for others?
  7. How did/will you exercise your mind, body, and spirit today?
  8. What’s one thing that happened today that you’re still trying to process/understand?
  9. Did you feel anxious or worried today? When did it start? What caused the feeling?
  10. Who are two people in your life that mean a lot to you and why?
  11. What’s one thing that would have to change for you to feel completely satisfied?
  12. Is there anything that is consistently disturbing your inner peace?
  13. What do you not like to talk about? Why not?
  14. What is one thing you learned today?
  15. If you were completely free of fear, what would you be doing differently today?
  16. What’s one thing that you’re proud of yourself for?
  17. What decisions could you make today/tomorrow that could improve your mental, emotional, and/or physical health?
  18. What’s one habit that you would like to correct? What are some steps you can take toward correcting that habit?
  19. What are you most ashamed of right now? Why?
  20. What are 3 things that you did really well today?

Journaling is a great way to understand your thoughts, gain self-awareness, and process the world around you. And now is a great time to start!

Last week I checked in on a friend to see how she was doing while in quarantine. Her response, “Overwhelmed, stressed and a bit stir crazy.”

One thing is for sure: She is not alone. It’s probably a safe guess to say that most of us are feeling a variety of emotions during the COVID-19 outbreak – everything from sadness, anger, suffering, fear and annoyance to impatience, depression, disillusionment and vulnerability. All the feels for sure.

The big question is, what do we do with all we are feeling? Great question. In a moment like this, it is important that we intentionally do something with those emotions

First and foremost, we need to acknowledge what we are feeling. Put words to the emotions rolling around inside. It might help to Google a list of feeling words to help you identify and express all the emotions you are experiencing. 

Write down all the words you believe you are experiencing. After you write them down, you need to know that none of those emotions are bad or wrong. They just are. It is now up to you to decide what your response will be to these emotions. In other words, you need to boss your feelings around instead of letting them hold you hostage and feeling like you are being tossed to and fro.

There are a few clues that can help you know if you are being held hostage by your emotions. For instance, you might be sleeping or eating more than normal. Perhaps you feel like you are on the edge of the cliff not knowing what you might do in the next moment. It may even feel like the people around you are constantly pushing your buttons and you have no capacity to keep yourself from going off on them. 

What can you do to take control? Here are some techniques you can try.

  • Breathe. Seriously, take some deep breaths. Breathe in deeply and then slowly exhale. Do this a number of times. Practice this throughout the day versus only when you feel like your emotions are beginning to run wild.
  • Exercise. This helps clear the fog out of your brain. Go for a walk, run, bike ride or do a workout on YouTube. Do something that will work up a sweat and release endorphins. 
  • Making sure you are eating healthy, getting plenty of rest and taking in Vitamin D (as in good ole sunshine) can also help you physically, mentally and emotionally.
  • Grab that journal you wrote your emotions in and consider specific things you can do right now. You can write down ways you want to choose to respond when it feels like these emotions are trying to take over. Acknowledge the emotion and consider your plan of action to get it under control. Actually saying out loud, “I feel overwhelmed or angry right this minute,” is more powerful than you might think. 
  • Ask yourself, “What do I need right now?” If you are a verbal processor, you might want to phone a friend and talk about what you are experiencing so they can help you put together your action plan. Playing music that helps you calm down is another option. Watching a show you really enjoy or utilizing some of the free virtual tours available to visit a place you love could be helpful.
  • Consider what you have control over or what you have the ability to influence. Your attitude is for sure something you can control. When you feel tension and fear creeping over you, you can literally say, “No, not today,” and then go do something constructive like yard work, helping a neighbor who can’t get outside, baking or making masks. Anything that puts your brain in motion in a positive way will work. When you are experiencing fear and your heart starts to beat fast, stop and assess the situation to determine what is real and what “could happen.” Differentiating between the two will help you be able to decide the best next steps. Sometimes, the best next step is to tell yourself that those thoughts are not accurate or true.
  • Your mindset matters. Negative self-talk can keep you from handling your emotions constructively. If you tell yourself you aren’t strong enough or smart enough to handle something or that you just can’t, your brain believes what you tell it. Instead, try statements like, “I’m not sure of the answer, but I’m going to figure it out,” or, “Another day, another adventure. I am strong and I am smart. I can figure this out.” Then set yourself in motion to figure it out.

Taking control of your emotions is a process. As you try some of these suggestions, be patient with yourself. Start by doing one thing differently. As you begin to do that thing more consistently, add something else into the mix. Over time, it is likely you will see yourself managing your emotions instead of letting them manage you.

What are the words to describe this season of social isolation and self-quarantine during COVID-19? I can think of a few:

Frustrating. Stressful. 

Extremely inconvenient. 

Full of anxiety. 

Ruined my plans. 

What day is it again? 

(I could go on…) 

As I was talking with friends (six feet from my computer screen, of course) about how normal life has been turned upside down by this Global Pandemic, I was struck with an interesting thought: Social distancing has taken away all the excuses for not doing the things I’ve said I’m too busy to do. 

For those who are self-quarantined, it has removed a great deal of busyness. Sure, many of us still have to work or do school from home. But chances are we haven’t been fighting traffic to get home, rushing kids to ball games, or struggling to get dinner prepared at a decent hour. This weird point in our current history has created at least some margin in our daily lives. And where there’s margin, there’s an opportunity

I realize this calls for an intentional change in our outlook on our situation. You almost have to unnaturally choose to see the opportunities before you. But I really do think they are there. 

Below are five ways – opportunities, if you will – that social distancing can increase happiness in the home. 

  1. The opportunity to slow down. Social isolation has given us the margin of time. Even if you are working from home, or if your kids are doing school remotely, chances are you can dictate and shape your schedule more than you’ve been used to. 
    • Use that to your advantage. Ask yourself, what are the important things I’ve put off because I said I was too busy? Exercise. Taking a daily walk. Reading. Meaningful conversations with your spouse. Playing in the yard with your kids. Reconnecting with that old school friend. Yoga. Eating at the dinner table each night. Meditation. And don’t forget time to just sit on the front porch… and breathe. 
    • Make a list. Schedule it. Do it! 
  2. The opportunity to clean the clutter. There are two sides to this. Yes, now we have some time to fix that leaky pipe, clean out the garage, and weed the garden (how convenient for the pandemic to happen during Spring cleaning!). 
    • But there’s also the side of cleaning up the clutter that has built up in our relationships with the people we love in our home. Maybe the busyness of your previous life has caused some disconnection between you and your family members. Now is the opportunity to engage in good, healthy, deeper conversations and times of connection. 
    • Our family decided to open up the box of conversation-starter questions that’s been sitting on our kitchen table unused. Every evening at dinner, we’ve had some of the funniest and most interesting talks around these questions. However you decide to clear that space, make it an intentional and daily routine. 
    • One word of caution: Cleaning the clutter may also mean visiting some of the issues that have been lingering between you and your spouse or your kids. This may be a good time to work things out. However, be very aware of stress levels and be strategic as to when the best times are to talk things out. It’s not a good idea to work on old issues when the anxiety is particularly high. 
  3. The opportunity to focus on others in need. Obviously you are not alone in feeling the stress and anxiety. There are those in our neighborhoods and communities who are hurting right now. This is a great opportunity for you and your family to help ease the fears and uncertainties of others. 
    • One charitable neighbor of ours set out a tub full of hand-sanitizers on the sidewalk in front of their yard for anyone who had need. My daughter (on her own) created cheerful cards to give to the neighbors. Someone else in our neighborhood organized a “bear hunt” through social media – our neighbors were invited to display teddy bears and other stuffed animals in our windows so that when kids walked by, they could “hunt” for as many bears as they could. 
    • Anything you can do to bring a smile and sense of cheer to those around you will most certainly bring happiness to your own home. 
  4. The opportunity to be appreciative. When we are super-busy, it’s easy to forget to stop and remember what we should be thankful for. Practicing gratitude increases a sense of happiness and well-being in the home. No matter how much or little one has, there are always reasons to be thankful – for food on the table, the air you breathe, a roof over your heads, the people you love in your home. 
    • Acknowledge what you appreciate. Make it a practice at mealtime to share with each other what you are thankful for. Make a daily “gratitude list.” Thankfulness is a strong tool to temper anxiety and to boost happiness. 
  5. The opportunity to play and be creative. At no other time in our recent history has it been so vital to inject some fun, laughter, and play into our daily lives. Now is the time for family Monopoly games, Nerf wars, movie nights, making breakfast for dinner, camping in the backyard, playing in the rain, and family dance-offs. These activities cut through the stress and provide the glue that bonds family members more closely together. Don’t let the tension of quarantine compromise the opportunity to make memories. Laugh and have some fun!

Opportunities don’t take themselves. You have to be intentional about using the margin you’ve been given. However, the pay-off for you and your family is tremendous.