15 Fabulous Ways For You to “Grow” During Isolation…

Person pondering list of things to do while stuck at home during the COVID Crisis

This COVID-19 crisis has radically changed our lives. Just a few months ago, we had no idea our ‘world’ would be largely confined to our homes.

Viktor E. Frankl Scrapbook QuoteOur neighbours, mom, boss, friends and fellow humans all around the world are experiencing this crisis – even though each of us reacts very differently.

We’re all more used to our strange circumstances, but many people are still figuring out ways to make the best of this situation. And while some kind of ‘end’ appears to be in sight – it’s a way off yet…

Whilst his situation was much more dire, Viktor Frankl’s words ring truer than ever:

This is the challenge each of us must rise to!

We know that:

So, if the best way to feel more “in control” of our lives is to DO something, why not do something that helps us grow? Below is a carefully curated list of ideas for things you can do to not only take back some measure of control – but also make your life better!

Here Are 15 Things You Can do to Grow & Make Your Life Better during Isolation

1) Create Beauty!

What art or creative past-time did you used to do as a child, younger adult or even started a few years ago, but stopped because you never had the time? What improvements could you make around your home?

Here are some ideas for you to create beauty:

  • Calligraphy
  • Collage or scrap-booking
  • Art – painting, pen and ink, pastels, sketching, charcoal
  • Photography – practice still life indoors, explore the light at different times of the day with the views out of your window, or use Photoshop on existing photos.
  • Garden design – design the garden you’ve always dreamed of! Or create a beautiful flowerbed (or planter if you live in an apartment).
  • Fabric and Sewing – weaving, quilting, embroidery – or simply change the buttons on that jacket you love.
  • What room in your home could you redecorate – a new coat of paint perhaps!
  • Make jewellery!

You can probably find a free course online with a community or challenge to get you inspired and keep you going!

2) Send “Snail Mail” Letters or Cards

Go old-fashioned. Who doesn’t love to receive a lovely card or handwritten letter in the postbox! Rediscover the lost art of letter-writing and make someone’s day.

Yes, you could send an email appreciating someone, and that’s great. But imagine your recipient’s face as they pick up that hand-written card or letter in the mailbox.

Wondering what to say? Write from the heart!

Here are some ideas to get started:

  • I really appreciate having you in my life because ________.
  • I am missing you at the moment! Normally you add so much ________.
  • This crisis has made me realise you are totally awesome! I miss you, especially ________.
  • I love hanging out with you when we ________.
  • I’ve realised that you bring so much ________ to my life.

3) Start a Journal!

Gilbert Chesterton QuoteIf you’ve always wanted to journal, now is a good time to start. You can also keep a gratitude journal – learning to focus on the positives.

More than just keeping a record of your day, a journal can help you explore and sift through your feelings and experiences and learn from them.  These are powerful ways to connect with – and get to know – you. And it’s probably a lot easier than you think!

It’s also great to choose a beautiful notebook and use a pen you like – but the most important thing is to just get started.

And here are 7 journaling prompts to get started:

  1. Today I am feeling _________. I think this is because __________.
  2. Even during this crisis, I am still grateful for _________.
  3. One big thing I have learned during this crisis is _________.
  4. I remember the last time I was stuck in the house, I was _________.
  5. One thing that’s surprised me recently is _________.
  6. What matters most to me in life is _________.
  7. Describe your ideal day. My ideal day starts as I _________.

“A journal is expressive by nature and it contains feelings, emotions, problems, ponderings and it is more reflective on the meaning of life being lived.” Lynda Monk

You may find this How to Journal article from the IAJW (International Association for Journal Writing) helpful to get you started.

4) Live Your Values

Fierce Kindness Example Values Sheet

Click to Grab Your Example Values Sheet

When we align ourselves and our actions with our values – we’re being truly authentic and we understand what motivates and drives us.

And when we build our lives around our values, we create a life that is meaningful. It’s a very satisfying and fulfilling way to live.

Living our values could be the single most important thing any of us can do right now.

Try this Values Check-in Exercise:

If you know what your values are:

  1. Make a list of your values on a piece of paper – or in your journal.
  2. Give each value a score ___ / 10 as to how fully you’re living each value in your life now.
      • For your scores that are 8 or more out of 10:
        • Great – you are living this value at the moment
    • For your scores that are 7 or less out of 10, try asking yourself:
      • What, specifically, am I not doing that negatively impacts this value?
      • How could I express this value more in my life right now?
      • What could I do differently or approach differently, so that I feel good about how I live this value in my life?

An example: you have a value of “Fun”, but you’re only managing to ‘go through the motions’ right now – your score is 4/10. Ask yourself how you could have more fun during this time.

And if you don’t know your values:

Now is a good time to start thinking about them! To give you a quick start, please use this Values Example List >> for ideas and inspiration:

Please note: Identifying your values is a much deeper exercise than simply picking from a list, however this is a great way to begin!

5) Gain a New Skill with Online Learning

Grow your personal or creative skills or choose a new skill to learn and take back to work. If there’s something you always wanted to learn, search for it! There are so many FREE opportunities online to gain a new skill and they’re growing by the day.

Here are some free online skill-boosting ideas:

And there are many paid options too:

Obviously, if you’re going to pay for learning, read the course descriptions thoroughly, check reviews if there are any – and check money-back guarantees!

  • Search for career skills with online training providers like Coursera or Udemy.
  • And I love these Masterclasses. Classes taught by experts like Margaret Atwood (Writing), Helen Mirren (Acting), Anna Wintour (Creativity and Leadership), Dr Jane Goodall (Conservation), Massimo Bottura (Modern Italian Cooking), Christina Aguilera (Singing), Judd Apatow (Comedy), Annie Leibovitz (Photography) – and I just found Making Cocktails (Mixology)! There are over 80 classes to choose from, with approx. 20 lessons per masterclass in nice 10 minute bite-sized chunks.

With so many learning options ranging from FREE to tens of dollars to the low hundreds of dollars, there will be something out there just perfect for you.

6) Laugh

Distracting ourselves from our fears can be a perfectly valid technique for feeling better!

Smiling and laughter especially releases helpful chemicals in our bloodstream – Endorphins (our natural “happy” drug) and Dopamine (part of our bodily “reward” system).

What are your favourite comedy shows? Is there a comedian you like? Netflix and similar have so many watching options, so find something that makes you laugh!

Some light comedy shows (20-30 minute episodes) to watch on Netflix include:

  • Brooklyn 99  (Did you know there is a new season just out?)
  • Kim’s Convenience
  • Grace and Frankie

And thank-you to to Karen Lukanovich who pointed me to this huge list of online resources on the ADHD Chatterpack blog! Smile and relax as you Explore Venice, visit the Museum of Modern Art in New York, watch Bella the Hummingbird on her Nest, watch the Guide Dogs of America Nurserypeople surfing on Ehukai beach in Hawaii and and many more…

IMPORTANT: We should NOT use over-use distraction as a way of coping. And it shouldn’t be used for ongoing and persistent fears in regular life. But for a situation like this, where this isn’t much that any of us can do other than sit and wait – distraction can be a great coping mechanism.

7) Learn to “Be” in the Moment

Being in the moment is peaceful – and a great skill to learn for when life returns to “normal”. During this crisis, remember that as you read this:

In this moment you are OK.  You are safe.

Take one day at a time. One hour or even one breath at a time if you need to.

This is about being super-present, not thinking ahead or remembering the past, but BEING.

Being in the moment is a PRACTICE – meaning you will have to do it over and over again – bringing yourself back to the NOW. Over time it gets easier, and it’s a great skill to have to take back to “normal” life.

So when you notice you’re worrying, or feeling twitchy and want to pick up your device and find out what the “latest” is about the COVID situation, say to yourself, “It’s OK. In this moment, I am safe. In this moment I am OK.”  You can add in, “In this moment, my children/husband/family are safe.”

I also love the Insight Timer Meditation App (free) which I have on my phone and set a bong every 30 minutes to bring me back to the present moment. It has guided meditations galore too! Get it at the Google Play Store  or Apple Store.

And if you’re looking for something more spiritual – you may like Whit Hornsberger’s online meditation course. My husband went on Whit’s retreat last year and loved it, and after having all his in-person retreats cancelled due to the COVID crisis, he created this online version. Suitable for beginners. Please note there is a fee (150 EURO).

Woman building character muscle8) Build Your Physical Strength or Flexibility

Building your physical strength is good for you! Not only is physical strength and flexibility life-affirming and good for our health, but feeling more physically powerful actually helps us feel more empowered and less helpless in life too.

A few years ago I started going to a strength-building exercise class. About 6 months in, I noticed I was beginning to get little bulges on my biceps(!) and I remember this glowy feeling – I was so proud, and felt powerful and ready for anything.

So try to include some physical activity into your schedule – as little as 15 minutes daily.

There are many ways to do this and here are some ideas:

  • Learn do a press-up or push-up. Then see if you can get to 10 (or more – depending on where you start)!
  • Take up a yoga practice – excellent for strength-building, flexibility – and calm! There are lots of online options including Sarah Beth Yoga on Youtube who offers everything from 10 minute classes for beginners to advanced practice.
  • There are many more online exercise classes on Youtube – for beginners, experts – with equipment and also with no equipment whatsoever. PopSugar Fitness has many options including this no equipment 15 minute workout for beginners .
  • I also love Alice Bracegirdle’s Bellyfit (I met her at a women’s conference over 10 years ago). Note: I did find the website (and purchasing process) a little hard to navigate. However – at the moment, Alice has generously made her Bellyfit library available free with the coupon code: keepdancingwithbellyfit

REMEMBER: BEing stronger = FEELING stronger and more in control.
Building your PHYSICAL strength or fitness = REDUCED feelings of helplessness!

9) Explore your Life Vision

Rather than watching endless television and news streams, you can choose to focus on a bigger picture – your future. What do you want from the rest of your life? What would you be disappointed you did NOT do? Where do you envision yourself in 10 years?

Having a clear vision of how you want your life to be is a powerful motivator. A vision helps us work towards our goals, take action and make change. Soon, we’ll all be super-busy again – and a vision to work towards might be just what you need stay focused.

Here are 5 visioning questions to ponder or journal around:

  1. What do you desire or yearn for in your life?
  2. How do you want to feel?
  3. What do you really, really want to be different in your life?
  4. What would have happened in 3 years time such that your life is spectacular and you feel magnificent about yourself?
  5. What’s your dream for this lifetime? Imagine you’re 90 years old and looking back over your life; what did you do that made you proud and happy?

And/or I invite you to re-read your answers to the visioning parts (Steps 2 thru 5) of your 2020 Goals Workbook.

Important: Think possibility not probability!

This means: don’t limit yourself and your ideas and desires because you don’t believe something is likely. Instead believe it’s possible – and even if you don’t get all the way there, you may get close – or even find something better along the way!

Lastly, if you like guided meditation, you can meet yourself 20 years from now – ask any questions you have and receive a ‘gift’ in this “Still Lake” Guided Meditation (20 mins).

10) Be Kind

Kindness/compassion is one of the most powerful tools any of us have in our toolbox right now. Even though we’re getting used to the situation, there is so much that is still strange and odd.

3 Ways You Can Be Kinder:

  • Use kindness to comfort yourself – and others – when feeling afraid, anxious or fidgety. Be gentle with yourself. Imagine you have to soothe a small child or animal who is afraid – what would you say to them? Then say that to yourself!
  • Use kindness to give yourself – and others – the benefit or the doubt. Instead of getting upset when you see other people behaving badly, remember that we all do silly things when we’re scared.
  • You can also imagine you have a kind, wise self. A part of you that is unflappable, intelligent and unconditionally loves ALL of you. Now, when you need it, imagine that kind, wise self is with you, supporting you, maybe giving you a hug – and saying exactly what you need to hear (not just the sugary stuff, but also the tough love and common sense).

11) Learn more about your world with Non-Fiction Books

What keeps you up at night? There’s probably a book about that! What do you wish you were better at? There’s probably a book about that too!

Why not use this time at home to educate yourself with non-fiction books. There is so much to be gained – like self-confidence, negotiation skills, health (sleep, nutrition), how to have difficult conversations and much more.

In fact, I invite you to take a challenge to read one non-fiction book a week – for a year! And even if you only read half that – you’re going to have a new outlook on life by the end of that year. See my first 10 book suggestions here >>  (more posts with more books will follow!)

Become more interesting!

Reading one book will expand your mind, reading several of these books is going to make you more interesting, help you learn new skills – and maybe make you more employable too!

12) De-Clutter

I bet you have some “get organized” things on your to-do list that have been on there for a while – like going through summer/winter clothes, sorting out toys to donate or tidying the laundry closet. Use this isolation period to get them done!

Organize your closets, your garage, your books, your office, your kitchen equipment. Or perhaps you need to go through your receipts or file your taxes! This is a great way to exert control over your life – and feel a sense of agency.

  • And if you need a smile and some inspiration (plus great clothes-folding tips) you could watch the Marie Kondo series on Netflix!

Here’s a super simple 3 Step Method to go through your stuff:

  1. If you decide to keep it, be sure to also DECIDE where it will “live” from now on.
  2. If you’re not keeping it, create two piles:
    • Things to DUMP
    • Things to DONATE (and if relevant to pass on to specific people).
  3. When you’re done, put each pile into labelled bags or boxes. Then once this crisis is over you can get rid of what you no longer need.
  • TIP: You don’t need to do any of this ‘in one sitting’, do an hour a day – you’ll be surprised how much you get done if you keep it up for a week!

My next project is to go through our food cupboards – tins, bulk, herbs and dried food – get organized, and then look for recipes to use the ‘older’ food up.

Think how amazing it’ll feel to have it done!

13) Help Others

Helping others is empowering and makes us feel better. And remember that just because we’re getting used to the situation doesn’t mean everyone else is. If someone was vulnerable a few weeks ago – they likely still are.

Here are a few easy ways you could help others:

  • Check in on a neighbour or friend and see if they need anything. You can do this by phone, or maintaining a 6 feet distance.
  • Offer to get someone groceries if you’re going.
  • Help someone less technically savvy learn how to use Zoom or WhatsApp or whatever they need to get online.
  • Donate to the local food-bank.
  • Host a virtual get-together with your regular friends.
  • Reconnect more deeply with friends or relatives who have moved away.

14) Grow Something (or Get an Indoor Flowering Plant)

Growing food and gardening has taken off during this crisis! We have some friends who run a small ‘plant start’ business (plants grown from seed, ready to plant) and they can’t keep up with demand!

That’s because there’s nothing quite like growing something – whether it’s flowers, fruits or vegetables to make us feel good!

Even if you live in an apartment, you could grow fresh herbs on your windowsill or balcony to cook with!

  • Get some seeds, (a pot and some soil if needed) and get started.
  • Many plant nurseries are still open, or you could order seeds etc. online.
  • Follow the instructions – and remember to water your plant/s!

If this sounds like too much work, get yourself a spring bulb or succulent (cacti) planter, or an indoor plant. Also, a Spathiphyllum* (Peace Lily) is easy to take care of and is good for cleaning the air of pollutants.

* Some plants are poisonous to pets – so check this and be aware.

15) Get Cooking!

Assuming you haven’t already, get the cookbooks out – or look up exciting recipes on the internet! There are so many creative ways to play with your food – we’re adults so playing with your food is totally allowed!

Here are 7 cooking related ideas to get you started:

  1. Get baking – cakes, bread, cookies. Comfort food you love. (My mom made Croissants from scratch last weekend and said they were delicious but wasn’t sure it was worth the 4-5 hours it took to make them!)
  2. Learn to carve fruit and vegetables – the Japanese art of Mukimono! (I have a book on this, and it’s so much fun – especially seeing people’s faces when you serve them!)
  3. Try a (complicated) recipe for a food you love, and repeat it until you perfect it.
  4. Try a whole new cuisine.
  5. Go vegetarian for a week – or a month. If you’re already vegetarian, try going vegan for a week or a month. (My husband, Duncan and I have just done a “Vegan Month”. We’re mostly vegetarian anyway, and have done a few “Vegan Months” before. But it was wonderful for this to be our ‘easiest’ vegan month yet, plus we’ve discovered some DELICIOUS new vegan recipes!)
  6. Plan the most awesome dinner party for when this is over, and perfect the menu!
  7. Get creative with what you find at the back of your cupboards – those things you bought on sale or something you bought, but never quite knew how to use. But check the expiry dates first 😉

Wrap-up

So, which of the above ideas resonated with you?

Because when we choose to make the best of a difficult situation, we always find a way.

We have plenty of opportunity during this crisis to boost our potential for happiness by building the 3 important connections:

  1. Connection to ourselves: Breathe deeply and take everything more slowly. Pay more attention to your body and your feelings. Learn to LISTEN to yourself!
  2. Connection to others: Who matters most to you? Focus on them. Give them the gift of your intention and attention.
  3. Connection to something bigger than ourselves: We can all now clearly see how inter-connected the world is – it’s people, technology, our businesses, economies – and importantly the natural world, of which we are a part.

Remember that this strange COVID-19 situation will end. And when it does, you’ll be proud of the effort you made to grow – whether it’s yourself, your relationships, knowledge, skills or something else!

“Change the world, start with you!”

Image of Person jotting down ideas for things to do during isolation by simona pilolla 2 via Shutterstock

2 Comments

  1. Lynda

    Hi Emma, great ideas!!! Thank you for mentioning our journaling resources!
    Thanks for being fiercely kind, Lynda xo

    Reply
    • Emma-Louise Elsey

      Dear Lynda, you are MOST welcome! Your resources and journaling knowledge are fully deserving of mention! 🙂 Warmly, Emma-Louise

      Reply

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