Many countries are currently enforcing restrictions on mass movements to curb the spread of coronavirus. Some have a nation-wide lockdown as a preventive measure. All non-essential businesses are shut down and people who can’t work from home are to be given leave. Only the essential service workers are allowed to go out. Police monitor the streets and people who roam around unnecessarily can be imprisoned.
In other countries, such restrictions are enforced only in major cities or places where there is already a lot of positive cases of COVID-19. In some places, there is no lockdown in place but the elderly and children are asked not to go out. Some countries have only shut down shops, bars, clubs, churches and sports facilities in selected places to avoid crowding.
Depending on where you live, your immunity levels, the number of people dependent on you, the nature of your job, etc., what you can do during this pandemic will vary. Having said that, here are some tips on getting through this lockdown phase:
1) Buy nutritious non-perishable ingredients for cooking
There has been news of people panic buying perishable items and throwing them away when they expire. Instead of stocking perishable ready to eat food, buy non-perishable raw materials for cooking such as rice, wheat, millets, pulses, pasta, vermicelli, tapioca pearls, oats, cereals, dehydrated vegetables and fruits, pickles, etc. You can also get some biscuits, rusk, mixture, nuts, seeds and other local snacks that last a while. Just don’t overstock because if many people do this, there won’t be enough for all.
If you can’t cook, this is the best time to learn. Knowing how to cook some simple dishes to sustain yourself is good enough. While you can technically survive on instant noodles, it is not good for your health, particularly in these times when we need to focus on boosting our immunity. Every culture has some ways of preserving food items to make them last a long time. Look up such recipes or call your relatives and learn to cook traditional recipes.
2) Volunteer if you can
If you can make time, have good immunity and you are allowed to go out, you can help the elderly people who don’t have anyone to rely on by buying them their medicines, groceries and daily essentials. You can give food to the homeless. You can provide refreshments to the service workers like police, garbage collectors, vegetable vendors, etc.
You can also help out a neighbour who doesn’t have the facility to cook and can’t order deliveries, either because the services are closed or because they can’t afford it now. Just make sure you have thoroughly washed your hands and the utensils before and after you offer eatables to people.
If you can’t go out, you can volunteer virtually. Look up how to help people without leaving your couch. If none of the options is suitable, then remember that staying home is in itself a great help to your community. Not venturing out unnecessarily is itself a form of volunteering. You are literally saving lives by not going out and spreading the virus.
3) Save money so you can support the people whose incomes depend on you
If you are currently employed and can work from home or if you are well off, then try to help the people who have lost their job. If you have a maid, you most likely told them not to come to work during the lockdown. You hopefully already told them not to worry about their salary and gave them an advance.
Try to think of others whose incomes depend on many people like you – that auto/van driver who drops your kid at school, that person at the laundry service whose service you regularly use, that local barber who trims your hair frequently, that florist you used to buy flowers from every week, etc.
While the government tries to come up with schemes to help all the people whose livelihood is affected, we can also help as much as we can. Try to reach these people and give them the money you usually spend on their services. Help someone who lost their job because of the pandemic.
If you have a little excess of money because you are not going out, you may be tempted to purchase non-essential things online. Yes, some people destress by shopping but realize that this is not the moment to buy things you want because that money can help others get the things they need.
Also, when you purchase non-essential things online, not only are you putting yourself at risk (because the virus can live for a while on the packages), you are also endangering the delivery people (because you are making them travel more). So keep your online shopping to the minimum, save money and give it to the people who need it.
4) Bring awareness to every uninformed person you know
There are a lot of educated idiots who still gather in crowds thinking that they are somehow immune to the virus or that the whole thing is a hoax. Some people believe that only residents of developed countries will be affected because they don’t have a strong immune system like those in developing countries. Some elders may even say that they are going to die sooner or later anyway, so they should not be caged inside the house. Reason with them and make them understand the gravity of the situation.
Fake messages seem to spread faster than the virus. You may have noticed that the official information about the coronavirus does not reach everyone, but fake cures are rampant. Fact-check before you forward and teach the people you know to do the same. If you live in a non-English speaking country, not everyone around you has access to the kinds of information that you have. You can try to translate some of the verified information to your vernacular language and/or bring awareness to every gullible, uneducated and misinformed person you know.
5) Lower your bar and embrace a slower-paced life
Some of us have to get used to working from home, while others do not have this option and have lost their livelihood. Some of us are bored out of our wits, while others are working overtime and/or spend extra time caring for their dependents. Some of us don’t have to write exams and are declared pass by default while others have to study amidst all the stress induced by the pandemic.
Everyone is facing some kind of stress. If someone claims that their life is harder than yours, don’t take it to heart. If someone thinks you are a bad parent/child/employee/friend/neighbour just because you don’t meet their expectations of what is good, it is their problem. If someone argues with you unnecessarily, don’t dwell upon it.
It is okay to keep your house unkempt (as long as it is hygienic). It is okay to let your child watch TV or youtube when you work. You cannot entertain your child and work at the same time. It is okay if your child decides to scream when you are in a meeting. Your colleagues may actually find it endearing. It is okay if you need to take breaks from work to take care of your older relatives. You are not expected to be chained to your desk. It will be okay if you are going through an existential crisis or depression; seek help.
It is okay to ask your friends, relatives or neighbours for help if you lost your job. Do not feel ashamed. There is more humanity in people than we expect, particularly in times of crisis. Even if some of your friends or relatives don’t respond properly, do not get upset and take that as a chance to learn who you can rely upon.
Do not put yourself under the pressure of being perfect in all realms of life because we are not in a perfect situation right now. It is okay to not do it all. Things will get better. In the meantime, if you have the luxury of living a slow-paced life, embrace it. Spend quality time with your family. As cliche as it sounds, stop and smell the roses. Or in this case, since most people can’t go out to smell the roses, bask in the sunshine, listen to the sweet chirping of birds and admire the beauty of the stars.
6) Reflect upon your life
Now is a great time to do some introspection. Use this time to reassess your lifestyle. Do all the activities you perform spark joy or are necessary? You may have taken some major decisions earlier based on the interests and knowledge at the time. Do they still hold good or have you grown out of those passions and are now stuck on past impulses?
After reflecting on your life, you may be inclined to changing your career, altering your priorities, reconsidering your existing friendships and relationships, mending worn-out friendships and relationships, switching your life goals, embracing spirituality, etc. Just be careful not to overthink and put yourself into an existential crisis. Also, don’t make drastic decisions during a crisis. Think practically, but avoid overthinking, get overwhelmed and overreacting.
7) Learn a skill or cultivate a habit
In my locality, there are many youngsters who treat the lockdown as a holiday and have been hanging out with friends because they are bored to stay home. We are seeing videos of the police giving them traditional school punishments like thoppukaranam (super brain yoga) and letting them off with a warning instead of arresting them.
If you have a lot of free time and miss your friends, connect with them digitally. Even if you may not get arrested, stay home because it will slow the spread of the virus. If you are bored, learn a skill or cultivate habits that you always wanted to. There are free resources to learn pretty much anything. Just look things up. You can learn maths, science, coding, cooking, arts, crafts, trades, etc., through youtube videos and MOOCs. Many colleges offer quality video lectures for free. Make use of them.
If you happened to do some self-reflection and decided to make changes in your life, you can use the lockdown time to take steps towards your new goals. This is a good time to form a reading habit and if you are having trouble reading, you can also try comics that are targeted at grown-ups. This is the perfect time to count your blessings and cater to your emotional wellbeing.
If you are currently unemployed and trying to find new opportunities, leverage the people in your life who are idle and see how they can help you get a job. If your job requires going out and therefore you can’t get the same job soon, try to learn a trade that lets you earn from your home. When this pandemic fizzles out, you can continue your passion and have the second trade as a side hustle.
For example, if you are a bakery owner whose shop had to be closed, lookup how to earn by teaching baking online. If you were always interested in another job that you can do from home but didn’t give it a try because baking was your passion, now is the time to learn it.
Are you student adjusting to learning from home or someone who is working overtime or has kids/parents to look after? Try to form a habit of eating on time with the family. Catch your daily dose of proper sleep. Try to go to bed early and wake up early. Eat nourishing food and get adequate exercise. Take baby steps towards a healthier lifestyle.
Note that it is okay to gorge on cookies or ice cream. It is okay to put on weight. I’m not telling you to stay fit by ignoring your cravings in times of stress. Your emotional health is as important as your physical health. But if you can, try to eat, sleep and exercise right because these can help boost your immunity. So try to form habits that will keep you in good health.
I hope at least some of these tips were helpful. How are things in your locality? Let me know in the comments if you think of some more ideas we can follow to get through this pandemic.