The Five Challenges of Staying at Home
How staying home affects your mental health, and what you can do about it.
Posted Apr 06, 2020
The coronavirus has put the world on hold and forced most of us to stay indoors. By keeping a distance from other people, we not only decrease the risk of infecting ourselves but also decrease the risk of unintentionally infecting others. I can’t remember a time when it seemed possible to save lives by staying home and doing nothing. And yet it does not feel like nothing.
Although many of us have often longed for a day off, staying at home quickly turns into a psychological challenge when we are being forced to do so, making us feel restless and stressed. Naturally, a lot of this stress stems from the fear and losses due to the virus itself. But even outside of corona, being homebound is a challenge for our mental well-being.
Many of our daily routines and habits are suddenly no longer feasible because they require us to get outside and be with people. We have to redesign our entire days to meet not only our financial and material needs but also our psychological and emotional ones while maintaining our distance.
If we want to step up to the challenge of this pandemic, we need to become more aware of how it is affecting our mental health. In the following, I will highlight five challenges from being homebound, and what we can do about each of them.
1. The Challenge of Movement
Despite our fancy cars and technologically advanced smartphones, we are all still animals. And like any other animal, we all have an innate need to move and use our bodies. When we get stuck at home, however, this becomes a challenge.
The link between physical movement and psychological health is well-established, and everybody “knows” they should probably exercise more. Now that much of the world’s population is forced to stay home, this is probably truer than ever before.
The obvious antidote to a lack of movement is to move your body. Yes, you can no longer go to the gym, but this does not mean that you need to give up exercising altogether. Push-ups, sit-ups, squats, and even burpees—these exercises require little space and no equipment at all.
Put strength, flexibility, and movement throughout your day. Your body and your mind will be grateful.
2. The Challenge of Staying in Touch with Nature
When you take a walk through the woods, you might notice something curious: You start to feel more energized, your body moves more easily, and your mood brightens. This is because nature has a direct and measurable effect on our well-being.
Fresh air, direct sunlight, and the scent of plants affect us physically and psychologically. However, when we stay indoors for an extended period of time, we miss out on these effects and suffer from their absence.
Unless you are living in an area that is on complete lockdown, you may still be permitted to go outside. Make the most of it. See if you can walk through the woods or a stroll along the lake.
When there, bring your full awareness to the world we live in. Smell the air and feel the grass underfoot. Look at the sky, watch the clouds, feel the breeze. Listen carefully and see if you can hear nature through a chirp, or a rustle. Savor it. Your soul will be uplifted.
3. The Challenge of Meaning
We are all creatures of habit, and chances are you have certain habits that provide you with a sense of purpose and meaning. You might get fulfillment from doing your job, or from keeping up your hobby, or just from spending time with the people closest to your heart. Naturally, a lot of these activities are no longer feasible.
This means you have to re-examine what is truly meaningful to you and find new ways of living true to your heart’s deepest desires. You may no longer be able to go to band practice, but you can still practice on your own And you may no longer be able to visit grandma, but you can still call her. You may not go to work, but you can still work on being helpful to others.
Reflect and redefine how to bring fulfillment and meaning into your life.
4. The Challenge of Accountability
When you are required to stay home, it’s easy to lose track of any structure. Waking up no longer adheres to a strict timetable and any chore can easily be postponed because there is nothing else on your schedule.
It's tempting to slack off, and not do a thing. Instead, however, take the challenge of self-accountability.
Decide when you wake up, and what you do each morning. Commit to a time when you start with work and when you stop. Read a book you wanted to read; practice a new skill you wanted to practice. Grow, in the way you want to grow.
5. The Challenge of Connection
We all crave human connection. It is one of our heart’s deepest desires, directly at the core of our being. Ask one hundred people about what matters most to them, and almost everybody will give you an answer that revolves around being connected.
When we decide to socially isolate ourselves, however, we deny ourselves a piece of our humanity. Research on orphans has famously shown how a lack of connection can severely disrupt our psychological and emotional well-being. And if you isolated yourself over the past weeks, you might already notice the effects on your own mood and well-being.
Being safe is about physical distance, not social distance. Even if you have to stay home but can rise to the challenge and learn how to be more socially close than ever.
Ask more meaningful questions. Listen more. Stop trying to be so interesting, and focus more on being interested. Talk with your friend. Send them pictures of things you did together. Try a Zoom trivia game to see who remembers more about past adventures. Confide in them, laugh with them, and share your fears and worries and hopes and dreams.
Feeling connected to other people goes beyond mere physical contact. Instead, it’s about being emotionally available for others, having people who are emotionally available to you, and knowing you share the same humanity and the same human experiences with billions of people all around the world.
These five challenges each contain unique energy. Yes, that energy might show up as a “problem” or a frustration, but look deeper and it presents a challenge and an opportunity, to learn more about how to pivot that energy in a direction of growth that will allow you to be more fully human; to be more whole and free.
Facebook/LinkedIn image: CC7/Shutterstock
If you want to explore this idea further my book, A Liberated Mind may help.