6 Tips for Surviving Social Distancing With Most of Your Sanity Intact
Less than a year ago I was still on maternity leave. Three long months I spent at home catering to a screaming infant’s every need. And when I say screaming, I mean it. Our poor baby was dealing with colic, reflux and latching issues, and as a result, I was scared to leave the house with him.
Don’t worry, that story has a happy ending. Almost everything with babies is “this too shall pass.” And it did. After three months he started smiling and cooing, just like all my friends, family and health professionals told me he would.
I learned a lot becoming a new mother. However, I never knew that the isolation I forced upon myself last year would teach me things that are coming in handy now. Here are some of the things that I learned (all meet the current guidelines for social distancing):
- Get ready for the day. It can be so tempting to slip into your most-comfortable pajamas and relish in their luxury for an entire day. After a few days, though, you realize you’ve gotten a bit scuzzy. When was the last time you washed your hair, armpits or *gasp* genitals? Once my body had healed from birth, I found that getting ready for the day, every day, made a huge difference in my mental health. Even if I had no plans to leave the house, I felt better knowing that I could at a moment’s notice. Throw on your favorite blouse. If you shave, then shave. If you wear makeup, swipe a little on. And by God, brush your teeth. It’s just good oral hygiene.
- Treat yo’ self. Some days are harder than others, and on those I’d make sure to treat myself in some way. Take a nice, luxurious bath. Even people with kids can do this after the tiny humans have been tucked away for the night. Apply that face mask that’s been building dust in your drawer. Don’t have a face mask handy? It’s very possible you have the ingredients to make a simple mask in your kitchen. Order your favorite dish for delivery. Restaurants and small businesses are suffering right now, and many delivery services are offering coupons, so get that deliciously calorie-heavy meal you’ve been longing for.
- Get outside. If you live in a warm-weather climate, grab a soda/beer/glass of wine and post up on your lawn/balcony/front stoop. Soak in some vitamin D. If it’s raining, sit under an awning (or even an umbrella) and just listen to the tranquil sounds of falling water. If you live in cold-weather climate, grab a hot tea/coffee/Toddy and do the same. Breathe the fresh cool air. There were many days when I’d simply walk laps in our backyard with our baby strapped to my chest. Important secondary tip: put your phone down when you do this!
- Virtually connect: FaceTime is such a beautiful tool for connecting with our loved ones who live far away. I lived for a few years in Europe and would Skype every day with my loved ones, so it’s second nature for me now to video call anyone I miss. If you don’t have the technology to support this, write an email or a letter. While the gratification isn’t as instant, it still feels good to tell someone how you’re feeling, what you’ve been up to and how you miss them, no matter the platform.
- Turn off the TV; turn on the music. I spent the first few weeks of maternity leave in front of my television … and it was awesome. I caught up on my favorite shows and it filled the silence when I’d nurse the wee one in the middle of the night. After some time, though, the TV made me feel annoyed and restless. But the silence was also deafening. So, I turned to my record player or bluetooth audio player. Too much TV can start to feel a tad depressing, but there’s always the right song out there to help fit your mood.
- Exercise. Both my OBGYN and my therapist have said that exercise is best natural medicine for your mood. If the weather is nice, pop outside for a long walk or go for a run. We recently went on a hike with our baby strapped to our back. Sure, we ran into a few people while hiking, but they were few and far between, and everyone made sure to keep a safe distance. Stuck inside? There are loads of full-body workouts online, many of which you need only your body weight.
It can get lonely being stuck at home. And during a time of uncertainty, anxiety and stress, isolation becomes more complicated. These are just a few things that helped me during my lonely maternity leave. And if things start to feel especially dire, please reach out to family, friends and mental health professionals to get help.