The Unwind: How we’re finding calm during quarantine

Yahoo Life

Flattening the curve by self-isolating at home is a small sacrifice during the coronavirus pandemic, but it’s not without its challenges. How does one ward off loneliness in the absence of community? What can we do to keep anxiety at bay during such an emotionally fraught time? How do we fill the hours stretching out before us, and use this time to make connections, pursue long-neglected hobbies and discover new ones, and inject a little positivity and calm into our everyday lives?

Introducing The Unwind, a new, recurring feature in which Yahoo staffers share the ways we’re finding moments of peace, levity and inspiration during these trying times. From adopting soothing strategies to boost our mental health, to losing ourselves to virtual social calls, newfound passions and other joyous diversions, these are the things getting us through the quarantine. The days may feel uncertain, but beauty and bright spots abound.

Gardening

Jen Fox is turning to gardening to help her relax during the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo: Jen Fox)
Jen Fox is turning to gardening to help her relax during the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo: Jen Fox)

In early February I took my 3-year-old son to the local garden center to pick out strawberry plants. I was determined to get him excited about gardening. However, his excitement lasted about as long as I expected — a day or so — and then the reality of taking care of strawberries set in and I became the sole proprietor of my balcony patch. California’s stay-at-home order went into effect in mid-March, and I’ve since found caring for the plants to be a form of therapy almost. It provides me with a sense of calm and peace that is completely nonexistent during the hours my husband and I navigate full-time jobs and an overactive (and under-stimulated) preschooler. Sure I’ve potentially entered into obsessive territory — spending more money than I’ll ever get back in fruit and releasing close to 2,000 ladybugs in an attempt to clear an aphid infestation — but it’s been great fun. Now my mornings are spent watering, picking off the bits that shouldn’t be there and watching the fruits of my labor arrive in the form of sweet red berries. In my head I’m the star of a Nancy Meyers film — maybe one similar to It’s Complicated, where Meryl Streep tends an immaculate garden — and although it’s only for a few minutes each day, it's a totally zen moment. — Jen Fox, senior manager, visual production

Calm app for sleep and meditation

I've been using the Calm app to fall asleep for a while now, and I've found it very useful as a way to chill out in the afternoon lately. While my 4-year-old daughter is absolutely delightful, she has been known to test my patience. After explaining for the 268th time why it's important to wash our hands after wiping our butt, spending 10 minutes zenning out with the Daily Calm is just what I need to get my mind right. Then I'm ready to calmly explain why we can't have ice cream for dinner — for the 326th time. — Nick Paschal, Yahoo Entertainment senior producer

Adopting a cat

Beth Greenfield and her family have a newly adopted cat to keep them company. (Photo: Beth Greenfield)
Beth Greenfield and her family have a newly adopted cat to keep them company. (Photo: Beth Greenfield)

When we decided, about two weeks into the NYC shutdown, to adopt a new cat, it was out of character — our last cat had died, unexpectedly, just a month before, and normally we would’ve waited longer out of respect for him. But these were not normal times — and we wanted a cat for our daughter, 11, because we knew things were about to get lonely, fast. Arlo, a 1-year-old tabby, came to us through a family needing to rehome him due to their baby’s allergies. We’re all still adjusting to each other, but it’s been healing to have someone outside of ourselves to care for and get to know and to help put the world in perspective.” — Beth Greenfield, Yahoo Life senior editor

Gratitude Sundays

It’s easy to get bogged down thinking about everything that went wrong on a given week. (Dinging a neighbor's car to get groceries was a lowlight on Wednesday, as was getting thrown up on by my daughter hours earlier.) So, every Sunday we go around the table and say one thing we're grateful for that happened. I'll start: This week, I've loved squeezing in time during work breaks to read to my 1-year-old (even if she does throw up on me!). Give it a try, whether you're solo or doing video chats with loved ones. It's a nice reminder that life could be worse. — Taryn Ryder, Yahoo Entertainment senior writer

Yo Re Mi baby yoga

My baby only really learned to walk in late January; now, thanks to my desperate YouTube dive for quarantine entertainment that didn’t involve “Baby Shark” remixes, he’s a full-on yogi who will signal he’s ready for his Yo Re Mi videos by unfurling my old yoga mat and plopping into a downward-facing dog. At 18 months old, he and I are doing kid-friendly moves led by husband-and-wife team Dan and Rachel Costello. While most routines are playful and involve earworm-y songs and repetitive motions (“We’re Making a Pizza” and the bang-on-trend “Wash Your Hands” are favorites), quite a few teach basic poses and even mindfulness and meditative breathing. The Yo Re Mi app features expanded routines for subscribers. — Erin Donnelly, Yahoo Life writer and editor

Sewing masks

I was inspired by all those DIY mask tutorials to attempt to make face masks for my 4- and 6-year-old sons, who had been mostly stuck inside for a month. I figured if I could make them with fun fabric, like my kids' old Batman pajama pants, they would seem less scary or sad. I haven't sewed regularly since college (when I used to make pillows and sell them for gas money) but figured it would be a productive way to unwind. I even stitched on mute during one of my conference calls at work. It was fun, but my masks sucked: too big, too tight, wrong fabric, weird fit. Luckily, my neighbor is a fashion designer who converted her entire studio to making thousands of masks for hospitals, and she offered to drop off a few for us. Lindsay Powers, Yahoo consultant and author, You Can't F*ck Up Your Kids

Group dance classes over Zoom

Jen Kucsak and her friends are learning pop dance routines over Zoom. (Photo: Jen Kucsak)
Jen Kucsak and her friends are learning pop dance routines over Zoom. (Photo: Jen Kucsak)

I never liked dancing, so I certainly never liked taking dance classes. But in the age of quarantine, and since I'm all alone in my apartment, I figured what better way to pass the time than to log on to Zoom with friends and finally learn my favorite dance routines in the comfort of my own home. And so, every day after work, we gather around our computers and play our favorite pop culture videos and dance along. From NSYNC's "Bye, Bye, Bye" to Britney Spears's "Oops I Did It Again," we've taught ourselves the best party tricks in the book for when the day comes that we can actually party again and bust out some moves. — Jen Kucsak, Yahoo Life and Entertainment supervising producer

Coloring

A bunch of artists I follow on social media started offering free downloadable coloring pages while we're all sheltering in place, and I figured what better time than now to jump on the adult coloring train. After finishing my first page from James Jean, I totally get the coloring hype. It's an easy, relaxing activity that doesn't require too much commitment or energy but still feeds my creative juices and gives me something pretty I can share on Instagram or use to decorate my walls. Check out Audrey Kawasaki, Together Gallery, Felicia Chiao, Eric Junker and Michael C. Hsiung for inspiration. — Chrissy Nguyen, Yahoo Entertainment executive editor

Face Mask Friday

I’ve found it really helpful to have little rituals to look forward to, particularly “Face Mask Friday.” Despite never having toilet paper, my drugstore has plenty of sheet masks — an inexpensive treat. My “facial” begins with a charcoal mask. About 20 minutes later, you’re peeling dirt and oil off your face, along with the week's worries! Then it’s 20 minutes with a moisturizing gel mask. You can’t do much wearing the masks, so I zen out for 40 minutes. Light candles, play music and have a straw handy for your wine. Your skin will thank you, but your soul may need it the most. — Becky Horvath, Yahoo Life and Entertainment supervising producer

Animal videos

One of the (many) unexpected things to come out of our coronavirus-induced shelter-in-place orders has been me and my wife’s daily routine of watching animal videos online. It’s not for lack of affection or wanting — we have two small dogs and a rather large cat — but it’s a nice, soothing thing to look forward to each day, and one we share with our furry kids. Anything not related to the virus, its spread or the curve is welcome viewing but I think watching animals in particular — be it social media-famous pets, animals from the Shedd Aquarium or Cincinnati Zoo or short featurettes on Disney+ — gives a glimpse into a carefree existence, one where real-world issues like COVID-19 or bills or childcare don’t exist. Some suggestions: Crusoe the Celebrity Dachshund; Tucker Budzyn; Walter Geoffrey the Frenchie; Charlie the Golden; Shedd Aquarium; Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Gardens. — John Parker, senior manager, content operations for Yahoo Sports

Virtual escape rooms for kids

Because we (literally) can't escape, my 5-year-old son and I have been doing virtual escape rooms with kid themes such as The Avengers, Cinderella and Alice in Wonderland. Despite the cartoons, the escape rooms are quite difficult and involve math, memory and critical thinking (equally challenging for me) and use of the computer. Digital escape rooms are also a fun supplement to homeschooling and even reading, as each room has a fun "mystery" storyline, and kids finish with a sense of accomplishment. — Elise Solé, Yahoo Life writer and editor

Backyard birdwatching

Ethan Alter's family has been keeping a close watch on their bird feeder and the creatures it attracts. (Photo: Ethan Alter)
Ethan Alter's family has been keeping a close watch on their bird feeder and the creatures it attracts. (Photo: Ethan Alter)

During the first week of quarantine, we got my daughter's clay-made birdfeeder out of winter hibernation and restored it to its perch. Since then, we've had a front-row seat to a backyard nature show, complete with a regular cast of characters. There's a cardinal couple who drop by together in the mid-morning and late afternoon, a solitary blue jay that swoops in every other day and a bright yellow goldfinch that's achieved "Very Special Guest Star" status. Scene-stealing comedy antics are provided by squirrel visitors, Itchy and Scratchy, who fight and fight (and fight and fight and fight) to get first dibs on breakfast. But there are also moments of natural harmony: Just the other day, a sparrow visited the feeder, while a chipmunk waited for its turn and a squirrel hunted for loose seeds on the ground. Sharing is caring, y'all. — Ethan Alter, Yahoo Entertainment senior writer

Chess matches with friends by phone

Even if I don’t win, and even though it's on my phone, finishing a game of chess (via Chess.com) feels like a small victory. And in a time when victories of any size are in short supply, it’s comforting to check something off for the day, something stimulating that requires thought and strategy and which ends conclusively, especially when so much of my daily routine increasingly resembles Groundhog’s Day. Also, there’s a certain joy that comes from talking trash with friends in the AIM-esque chat feature. It almost feels normal. Super-nerdy, but normal. — Jon San, Yahoo Life and Entertainment producer

Tie-dye

Kerry Justich is diving into the tie-dye trend. (Photo: Kerry Justich)
Kerry Justich is diving into the tie-dye trend. (Photo: Kerry Justich)

Tie-dye is having a resurgence at the perfect time, it seems, as people everywhere are stuck at home and looking for fun loungewear. But while online stores are serving endless ads for tie-dye sweat sets for an upscale price, social media has quickly become an encyclopedia on tips to DIY tie-dye at home. Using TikTok and YouTube videos as guides, I've been able to create some vibrant T-shirts for warmer weather with a tie-dye kit purchased online, plus a sweat-set that I made my own with just a bit of bleach. — Kerry Justich, Yahoo Life news and features writer

Zoom game nights

I’m not a great joiner of activities, but when your friends suggest playing Bingo over Zoom, there are few things as tantalizing as a random number generator, dozens of Bingo cards and yelling at your computer screen when you win. Bingo hasn’t been my only game of choice. I’ve held marathon gin rummy sessions with my husband, joined virtual trivia with friends hosted by the same emcee who holds games at a local bar and even taken to solving the New York Times Spelling Bee. Games are a welcome distraction weeks into stay-at-home orders, and they are keeping me sharp — and sane. — Alexis Shaw, Yahoo Life and Entertainment news editor

According to experts, people over 60 and those who are immunocompromised continue to be the most at risk. If you have questions, please reference the CDC’s and WHO’s resource guides. 

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