Structure is Essential When You’re Stuck at Home

Maybe you’re having cabin fever while following the Covid-19 “shelter-in-place” order. But imagine what astronaut Scott Kelly went through during his year living on the International Space Station. That was real confinement! Recently he offered some practical tips for staying sane in long-term isolation. His advice can be summed up as: keep to a daily routine.

Adhering to some structure while at home is probably necessary to maintain good mental and physical health at this time. It’s important for adults and especially important for children, who need structure even under normal circumstances to feel a sense of order, routine and safety. Structure means establishing and sticking to a daily schedule comprised of activities that nourish mind, body and spirit. Consider the elements of a healthful routine:

  • Exercise. Maintaining an exercise regimen helps keep you physically healthy and emotionally balanced. Your favorite gym may be closed, but it’s possible to improvise a workout with items found in your home. And unlike astronaut Kelly, you can walk or jog outside — as long as you observe social distancing.
  • Job. Working from home presents its own challenges. Stick to a regular work schedule and try do your job at a time when you are feeling the most energetic and are not likely to be disturbed. Take regular breaks — get up and stretch. Dress as you would for the office (at least from the waist up). Get comfortable with the technology you use and get the best chair you can for extended sitting. Here are other tips for managing the job at home.
  • Schoolwork. Many schools are closed for at least a month or two. Some provided children with instructional materials either on paper or online. If not, there are many educational resources available on the Web, including this list provided by National School Choice Week. Remember that  just like adults, kids need a regular schedule for doing schoolwork and taking breaks. Take time to help your children with homework.
  • Chores. Cleaning up, doing laundry, cutting the grass — every household has regular tasks to do. Since everyone is home, it’s a good time for each household member to accept responsibility for a particular chore. See these tips for establishing a more egalitarian division of labor in your home.
  • Fun and family time. A balanced routine includes regularly-scheduled fun activities — especially those the whole family can enjoy together. Of course there are TV programs and movies. But how about non-screen ideas? Get out the old board games, puzzles and coloring books. Read to each other. Check out these creative suggestions.
  • Food and Meals. Home isolation is a great opportunity for the whole family to sit down together for meals, especially dinner. Try to eat at regular times. And try to consume a balanced diet heavy on fresh fruits and vegetables, especially those that support the immune system. Remember to stay hydrated throughout the day.
  • Connect with family and friends. Take time to regularly check in with loved ones, especially older folks who may feel particularly isolated during the pandemic. Computer technology makes 2-way video communication easy. But if you or they aren’t tech-inclined, there’s always the old-fashioned telephone.
  • Sleep. Sufficient (but not too much) sleep is essential for physical and emotional well-being. So follow good sleep hygiene. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, at least on weekdays. Limit daytime naps to 30 minutes. Avoid stimulants, such as caffeine, close to bedtime. See other tips from the National Sleep Foundation.
  • Meditation. If you’re spiritually inclined (and even if you’re not), home quarantine provides the time to learn and enjoy the benefits of meditation or a mindfulness practice. There are many free online resources to help get you started. Here are just a couple: Learn To Meditate with Deepak Chopra and Mindfulness with Jon Kabat-Zinn.

No one knows for certain how long we’ll be required to shelter-in-place. It could be weeks or months. That’s all the more reason to get used to the “new normal” at home and to establish a healthy, balanced routine that serves everyone. It won’t always go smoothly. But meanwhile have some laughs with this Covid song parody.

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