On my social media lately, I’m hearing and seeing a lot of quarantine fatigue, and people having issues doing small and ordinary things, due to boredom, anxiety, depression, huge case of the blahs, what-have-you. Some jokes about it are funny, to be sure (and who isn’t secretly loving not having to wear real pants?) But when I see multiple friends saying things like

“Can’t remember the last time I showered, LOOOOOOL”

and

“Prob should eat something but haven’t gotten out of bed since Sunday.”

Those “jokes” can be a sign of something a little more serious. If you suspect that you’re masking your anxiety and depression with humor right now, you are definitely not alone. If it helps, here’s a little suggestion guide for helping you take care of business if you’re struggling with even getting started.

That second example is not me. I have been eating ALL THE THINGS.

The first number is the bare minimum you can try to accomplish for the day. For each, you’re doing the previous numbers as well. If you can manage number three, for example, you’re also managing numbers one and two. For each number you manage, try to move to the next. Before long, you may feel like you’ve created a sense of normalcy again.

1. Have a glass of water. Every day if nothing else, please, do this one kindness for yourself. If you require meds, wash them down with the water. Add a multivitamin, if you’re feeling particularly confident. Don’t feel bad if this seemed hard. You did a thing! Go, you!

2. Brush your teeth. If you can’t bear to do anything else but drink a glass of water, at least brush your teeth once daily.

3. Wash your face. Use a warm washcloth and soap. Moisturize after. If you’re feeling saucy while you’ve got the washcloth out, give your pits and bits a swipe, too. Whore’s bath for the win!

4. Put on clean clothes. At least underwear. Or, if you’re not an underwear person, clean pajamas or lounging clothes. Even if you’re just going back to bed, you’ve cleaned your body and dressed it. That’s big!

5. Wash your hair / take a shower. Comb your hair. Now, a shower can take a lot of spoons if you’re running low (see spoon theory if you’re unfamiliar.) If it helps, you can break spoon-heavy tasks into smaller tasks. For example, a shower:

  1. Get undressed
  2. Turn on water
  3. Shampoo hair
  4. Wash and rinse face
  5. Rinse hair
  6. Wash and rinse body
  7. Dry, dress in clean clothes
  8. Optional, if you’re up to it: condition hair, shave armpits and/or legs, exfoliate, etc.

Just tackle one step at a time, and before you know it, you’re clean!

6. Fix yourself something to eat. Even if it’s just toast. Eat something.

7. Get outdoors. Look at the sky. Listen for a bird. Smell a flower. Put your hands in the grass or dirt. Attend to a living thing, if it’s an option. Water a plant. Pick a flower. Pet a cat or a dog. If getting outdoors for you looks like stepping onto your tiny balcony and not leaving the house, that’s okay. Take a cup of coffee out there. Stand there in your clean PJs. Squint at your neighbors. Breathe deeply.

8. Tidy something up. Just one thing. Take out the trash. Do the dishes. Change your bedsheets. Clear the laundry off your couch. You’re more or less taking care of business at this level. Maybe your hair is higgledy piggledy and you’re in a bathrobe, but you’re managing. Your major obligations are covered. Go, you! No need to spend hours a day cleaning. Tackle one mess at a time. Ten minutes here or there is perfectly okay. The key is that you’re incrementally improving your surroundings. The result is that you’re going to start believing that you deserve to live in a comfortable place.

9. Consume some frivolous media. Read an escapist book. Watch a silly show or movie. Listen to your favorite music. Do not consume the news.

10. If the mood strikes you, create. Do some art. Play some guitar. Paint. Draw. Sing, even if it’s only to yourself.

11. This is nearly peak quarantine – you’re dressed, clean, watered and fed. You’ve tidied something. You’ve done something that enriches you. You’ve maybe gone for a little walk, worked out, gone for a drive, etc. You’re taking care of business. Can you manage one more step?

12. Reach out to a friend or family member, via text, phone, or video call. Staying connected is good for the soul. It’s okay to isolate, or not to feel like you can face a call with someone, and it’s okay not to do this every day. But you may find that you feel a tiny bit (or a lot) better sharing your feelings with a friend.

As for me? I’m currently looking after my kids full-time, so I hover around an eight, on a daily basis. Sometimes better, sometimes worse. If you don’t, that’s cool. No judgement here! I hit a 12 every few days, and it soothes my soul to video chat with my friends and family. Try to level up as you can. It’s okay to backslide. Some days are harder than others.

Don’t sweat it if you’re not working. You are not defined by your job. Don’t judge your friends if they haven’t reached out. They may not be at level 12, or anywhere near getting there today. The phone rings both ways. We are all experiencing this, even if we experience it differently. And it goes without saying that none of this – none of it – is easy. For any of us.

Hang in there. And?

Emily Parker is a musician, writer, and avid reader who started Bucket List Book Reviews, the ‘1,001 Books to Read Before You Die’ project. For Sweatpants & Coffee, Emily hopes to inspire the reading of the classics by a whole new audience by only reviewing the really good stuff.

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