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Living / Mental Health In Quarantine

How To Make Socially-Distant Plans You Actually Look Forward To (Without Resorting To Zoom Parties)

By Monday, October 19, 2020

As an introverted-extrovert, a small part of me enjoys that some “regular” social plans are now canceled for the time being. I really don’t miss going to parties of acquaintances, or work events that I didn’t fully want to attend but felt obligated to. Not to mention, during this time, I’ve also been able to prioritize my close relationships without much distraction. Plus, I definitely value “me-time,” and I try to protect it even though the other, more extroverted part of me likes to overbook myself at times, too. For now, low-key evenings at home are the new norm.

The current social restrictions in place due to the pandemic have meant fewer obligations for many of us and much more free time. With the initial Tiger King Netflix binge behind us, and Zoom parties losing their appeal, these days, filling our spare time with plans is becoming more of a creative task, than anything. But planning is important in structuring our lives. Without plans, it’s easy for our sense of direction to spiral out of control.

In an effort to maintain a sense of balance, consider making low-stakes plans in your daily quarantine life. Even small engagements can help us achieve some normalcy. Here are some tips, below.

Why Should We Keep Making Plans

About six months ago or so, many of us lost our sense of routine; whether you were laid off or told to work from home indefinitely, this change was difficult to bounce back from. By now, you may have developed coping strategies to deal with the adjustment — personally, bullet journaling and setting boundaries are approaches that have helped me. 

But even as we become accustomed to the new normal, it’s easy for hours to slip into days, and even into weeks, without much to mark the passing of time. 

This Toronto Star article seeks to understand why time seems to have slowed down during the pandemic. In the article, writer Douglas Quan notes, It wasn’t so long ago that we were complaining about how there’s never enough time in a day to get things done and bookstores were flooded with self-help guides on how we might ‘reclaim; our time.”  Quan’s statement really speaks to the kind of reality flip we’re experiencing, and the many ways our everyday lives have been turned on their heads. 

In turn, making and committing to plans – no matter how small – is helpful in curbing this weird time warp. With our daily planners blanker than pre-Covid times, (also, think about how long ago those days seem), boredom is something we often consciously wrestle with. 

So here’s why (and how) you should keep making plans with not only others but yourself too:

  • Separate work and life: Having a plan with yourself to make tea and paint your nails at 5:00pm will give you the mental headspace that says, “Time to close that laptop, work is over.” Plans can help you set work/life boundaries in a time when those two worlds are easily blurred.
  • Give yourself something to look forward to: In university, I used to reward myself with a piece of candy after writing 500 words in my essay. Sometimes, I still do. Motivating yourself with a plan works in a similar way; your desire to get stuff done, whether that be a work task or a less-than-desirable chore, will increase when you have something fun to look forward to afterward.
  • Make sure you’re socializing with someone other than your cat (or other pet): If you live alone, or maybe with roommates who you aren’t close with, it’s now easier than ever to go days without much social interaction. Even introverts need human connection. Making plans to see friends, even if from a distance, is crucial right now. 
  • Structure your day: Waking up on a Saturday with nothing to do can be freeing, to a point. But after a while, it’s easy to get into a depressing spiral of yearning for when weekends meant big family breakfasts and dance parties. While we might not be able to do the things we used to, planning exciting things can still help us gain a sense of normalcy and structure, bettering our mental health.

So What Should You Do? 

While making plans during COVID-19 will look different for everyone right now — depending on your location, current restrictions and health — consider these ideas if they’re suitable for you. 

For a weekday night at home

  • Get creative: Having ample downtime means more mental clarity and time for creativity. Making a plan to do something creative can be vague, so allow inspiration to strike when the moment comes. Or you can set aside time for a specific activity, like journaling with prompts, experimenting with watercolor paints, DIY re-fashion hacks or even just doodling!
  • Try something new: Whether it be a new recipe, podcast or homemade cocktail, dipping your toes into a new-to-you activity will help you feel refreshed, even amidst the monotony. 

For a sunny afternoon outside

  • Move your body: When the majority of everything you do is from the confines of your home, taking an opportunity to go outside is essential for your mental health. These days, I try to do most of my exercises outdoors, whether that be a stroll around the block, backyard weight lifting or going for a bike ride. Make plans with yourself or a loved one to exercise outdoors for a healing combination of Vitamin D and endorphins.
  • Plan a picnic: In the event that the weather is starting to get cold where you are, there (should hopefully) still be some time to eat outdoors before the snow hits. Indulge in your favorite snacks, some sparkling water, and heck, maybe even bring a fancy picnic blanket.

For the perfect weekend

  • Map it out: Even if you want to have a slow Saturday at home, jotting down what you plan to do that day can save you from watching old reruns of The Office each and every weekend. Personally, I like waking up on a weekend morning with a few things on the docket, even if the plans are as simple as reading my book and having coffee on my porch. 
  • Make dinner an event: I used to eat out at restaurants a lot on Saturday nights, and I miss it. But recreating that plan by either making something delicious at home with my roommates or picking up my favorite take-out keeps the tradition alive. For added ambiance, don’t forget the candles, music and drinks, too!

What do your plans look like these days? What pre-COVID plans are you trying to keep alive? Let us know in the comments! 

Ashley is a freelance writer and on-going contributor at TFD based in Toronto. An avid traveler, she recently returned home to Canada after two years living abroad in Vietnam and Japan. She loves to read, try new things in the kitchen and get outside. You can learn more about her work here and can follow her adventures on Instagram @ashley_corb

Image via Unsplash

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