This year has definitely been more challenging for my mental health than I expected. Living far from family and only being able to see my friends through a screen definitely made the first few months of lock down difficult. However, I chose to take the unexpected month off from work and then later working from home to my advantage. I had been putting off cleaning up and organizing my apartment for, well, the entire time I have lived here. I always used the excuse that I was “too busy” or “did not have enough time” to deep dive into cleaning but in all honesty I just did not feel mentally prepared to tackle the mess on my own. I also had a goal of making home work outs work for me since I knew that gyms would be closed for quite a while and I am not the best at staying motivated on my own. So how did I manage?
First things first, I chose to take things one step at a time. I was recommended Marie Kondo’s book – The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up to begin the process. While I did enjoy some of the methods Ms. Kondo uses to organize, I found that some of the techniques were not well suited for my level of anxiety. If I took the time to hold up every article of clothing, see if it “sparked joy”, and if not individually thank it for serving me… Well I would never get through the overwhelming piles I had stacked up in my closet and bedroom. So the second solution was a book I found titled Unf*ck Your Habitat: You’re Better Than Your Mess by Rachel Hoffman. I appreciated the way she broke things down, step by step, and explained how to focus on one room at a time. It showed me how to tackle my mess in a more practical way over a period of a few days rather than trying to get everything done in a frenzy.
I had a whole month that I was off of work, stores and restaurants were shut down, and I spent all my time inside except to grab the mail or do laps outside for fresh air. I had to figure out how to set up a schedule so that I did not just lay in bed all day feeling depressed and sorry for myself but not try to tackle too many things at once. I started slow at first. My big problem area was my bedroom and closet. I took an afternoon, picked a good show on Netflix, and got to sorting my clothes. First step was to figure out what I wanted to keep or immediately want to donate. Second step was to try on the clothes I wanted to keep and make sure they fit. No sense in keeping clothes that do not look good or feel good because I knew that I would not wear them and they would just be taking up space. The next day, I was able to wash clothes that needed to be washed and start sorting clothes, folding or hanging clothes up by type. The more I sorted the easier the process felt.
Once the weather started to warm up, I started doing laps outside. At first it was just to get out of the house and get some fresh air. Then I started walking 1-2 miles a day and it became a good source of exercise. It did not require any equipment or special clothing, I was able to social distance from my neighbors, and I was able to get some sunshine and fresh air. I was able to put in my headphones and just focus on walking. Eventually I started utilizing YouTube to my advantage. I did a simple “Work Outs for Beginners” search and looked for work outs that focused on cardio and did not require more than light weights, bands, or a yoga mat. I made modifications where I needed it and took breaks when I needed. I told my friends and family about my work outs to hold myself accountable.
After a month, I got the magical phone call that work was starting back up but that I would be working from home. This has been both a blessing and a curse. I struggled for a month or two trying to work from my couch and quickly discovered that it was horrible for my back and even worse for my motivation. So I sucked it up and invested in an office chair and set up an actual office space in the corner of my living room. This enabled me to sort of leave work “at work” and allowed me to relax on my couch for enjoyment again. I developed a routine of taking 15-20 minute walks while on my lunch break to get out and stretch my legs.
De-cluttering my room and implementing work outs into my routine has drastically reduced my stress and anxiety levels. I still get cabin fever from feeling cooped up and I definitely miss going in to work and getting to talk to people face to face, but the little improvements that I made during the first few months greatly improved the outcome of the rest of lock down for me. I know that each state has handled things a little differently and I know that every persons situation comes with its own set of difficulties, but I tried to make the best out of really stressful situation. I found the best solutions to be fairly cheap or free but did require self motivation and holding myself accountable.