It's important to remain calm.

By Paula Froelich
Updated March 16, 2020

Many major cities around the world are on lockdown due to the coronavirus, and millions of people are now finding out what it means to socially distance themselves or — in my case — self-quarantine.

I went to Thailand and Malaysia in mid-February, and flew home via Tokyo, so I have been self-quarantining for almost two weeks now — and trust me when I say, it’s not easy. But it is doable (think of it like an enforced staycation with a lot of rules).

Starting out is easy: You can do things like sterilize your apartment (which is not only necessary, but helps you feel less paranoid), order oodles of canned and frozen food for delivery, and deep-clean your skin with mud masks you find in the back of your bathroom closet. But that only lasts for a day or two. Here is a complete list of how to take care of yourself, whether you're self-quarantining or socially distancing, after the initial joy of staying home for a few days wears off.

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1. Get in some exercise.

If you a have an exercise machine at home, this may be easier. However, if you are like me and don’t, it’s time to get creative. Old Jane Fonda workout videos on YouTube are a great (and entertaining) option, as are dance videos, like Michael Jackson’s Beat It. Do arm curls with cans of soup, roll out a yoga mat, or work on your sit-ups while watching shows like The Bachelor. (Every time someone says “journey” or “vulnerable,” do a sit-up. Your abs are bound to be rock hard in three days.)

2. Make a schedule.

Create a schedule that includes time slots for tasks like showering and eating — and stick to it. This may sound ridiculous (who needs to be told when to shower and eat?), but believe me when I say, you will soon stop bathing and begin to graze like a barnyard animal without a schedule to hold you accountable. Also, crossing things off your list will help you feel accomplished.

3. Reconnect in an old-school way.

Loneliness is real, especially when you don’t have contact with people. Come up with a support circle of family and friends and start connecting with some or all of them once a day. Use the phone like it’s 1999, or better yet, Skype.

4. Monitor your media habits.

If you can, avoid checking the news constantly. While it’s important to know what’s going on, check the news twice a day for a segmented period of time. Start watching comedies or uplifting shows, and pick up a book. But again, remember what you’re reading: Now is not the time to do a deep dive into the complete works of Sylvia Plath.

5. Pick up a new hobby.

I dusted off my ukulele and downloaded a Spanish tutorial, but I’m also thinking of taking an online prepper cooking course, where you learn how to cook with canned goods. Thanks to the first day of pandemic shopping, I have 18 cans of various beans and no idea what to do with them.

6. Remain calm.

This is important. Download apps like Insight Timer or Calm (I prefer the former, which offers free meditations that last anywhere from two minutes to two hours). They decrease anxiety and stress, and will help you breathe. Also, stay away from people I call Chicken Littles — those who panic easily and say things like, “This is the end of the world!” They are not helpful, and will lead you to you sitting on your sofa while cramming your face full of beef jerky, uncooked pasta, and cannellini beans while listening to Dust in the Wind (true story).

7. Back away from your credit card.

Online shopping can be addictive and give you a much-needed rush of dopamine. But do not give in. You still have bills to pay and self-quarantining is expensive enough without ordering five more pairs of shoes you don’t need.

8. Back away from the booze.

Part of the battle against Covid-19 is staying hydrated and optimistic. Yes, it is five o’clock somewhere, but watch your alcohol intake. A glass (read: bottle) of wine may calm you down in the moment, but it will also dehydrate you in the morning and is a depressant.

Now, go forth and socially distance yourself. But be mindful!

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