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How I'm making life more normal during the coronavirus pandemic — and how you can too

coronavirus quarantine tips
(Image credit: Martin Bureau/Getty)

The coronavirus pandemic is pretty awful, but you already knew that. It has disrupted your life in one way or another, marginally or monumentally.

People everywhere have lost their jobs, shuttered their small businesses, been sent home from universities or have themselves been one of the 4 million people worldwide diagnosed with COVID-19. More fortunate folks are working from home, cancelling travel, distancing from friends and adjusting daily routines.

Wherever your life lands on the spectrum of the coronavirus’ far-reaching effects, you’ve probably adopted a “when things get back to normal” attitude as you touch base with pals, or make plans for some undisclosed time in the future. 

Normal is a complicated concept, though. There’s a chance that what you considered normal a month ago won’t be the same in a month or two. Normal evolves constantly, but rarely at the pace it is now.

I’ve spent the last few months social distancing at home with my dad, who, as a retired first responder, can only compare the chaos society is experiencing to the potent impact of September 11th’s terrorist attacks. 

Life was not the same after 9/11. What was normal suddenly wasn’t. It’s a grim parallel to draw, but it’s become apparent we’re in the midst of a significant change that’s making most lives more difficult than they were weeks ago.

Major change may induce anxiety, while challenging situations can cause significant stress. My infamous “nothing bothers me” attitude is nowhere to be found, and I laid awake the first few nights of self-imposed isolation worrying about what the next day would bring without going to the office, socializing in person or making it to a workout class. 

I’m aware that could come off inane, or even privileged in the scope of the undeniable devastation coronavirus has caused across the globe. But there are people who might be struggling to contribute optimism at a time we desperately need it because they’re paralyzed by uncertainties. 

I tried injecting some normalcy into my life, and it’s worked at least a little bit. I’ve made minor adjustments to my day, and am letting myself have fun while stuck home and not feel guilty about it. 

Mood-boosters are different for everyone, but sometimes you need inspiration. Here are a few places I’m finding pockets of happiness inside this intimidating vortex COVID-19 has stuck us in together. And no, none of them involve spring cleaning.

Sharpening kitchen skills

I’ve always enjoyed cooking, but getting better at it requires time. Instead of whipping up the same few foods I’m comfortable making, I’m finally taking a look at the recipes I’ve teared out of magazines (some several years old.) The result is a few hours of distraction in the kitchen and an interesting dinner every night.

coronavirus quarantine tips

(Image credit: Future)

If you’re looking for an easy way to improve your culinary skills, an Instant Pot is a great answer. The best Instant Pot is the Instant Pot Duo 7-in-1, although there are comparable options available for every budget. Here are some essential Instant Pot recipes for getting started, too. 

And if you can’t go to the market, you can get any ingredients you need brought to you with one of the best grocery delivery services for getting through coronavirus.

Moving and grooving

As an active person taking social distancing seriously, I struggled to find ways to move in my small living space. I even took a hiatus from working out, which, as many can attest to, is hard to recover from.

I made a playlist of my favorite dance songs and, with the help of my booming Sonos Move, impromptu dance brakes became mandatory. Fire up a good speaker (or get one of the best Bluetooth speaker options on this list), set intermittent times and boogie until you can’t boogie no more.

Physical activity stimulates the release of dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin, which helps elevate your mood. Check out the best home gym equipment for affordable ways to stay active inside.

Gaming and geeking

While I’m putting some of my monthly meals and movies budget in savings, I’ve also jumped on a few affordable entertainment purchases that I would normally skip on. I almost always buy games for my Switch Lite on sale, but figured now is a good time to get Pokemon Sword or Pokemon Shield (I went with the latter.) 

coronavirus quarantine tips

Animal Crossing (Image credit: Nintendo)

We made a list of the most relaxing video games to try out right now. I can spend hours on my quest to become the ultimate Pokemon trainer, but you might find a different game speaks to you.

With that, think about the novelties or franchises that make you happy. I love Lego sets and Star Wars, so I bought a model version of Poe Dameron's X-Wing Fighter and spent an entire evening building it. Look for jigsaw puzzles, art sets or other activity kits featuring the licenses you love.

Donating when possible

A tangible way to help others experiencing hardship during the coronavirus outbreak is with dollars. If you’re saving money you’d normally spend at bars and restaurants, consider donating to charity organizations. I gave to Feeding America, as well as Global Empowerment Mission, which provides cash cards for parents who cannot afford to buy their children meals while schools are closed. 

Another outlet to put money toward right now is the small business sector. With countless salons and shops closed for social distancing, consider buying a gift card to a local store you frequent. Your business will help them now, and you’ll be able to take advantage of the credit when things are, well, normal. 

When normal returns and what it’ll look like is a mystery. Until then, I’m going to keep doing my part to put forth positivity. I encourage you to, too.