When we entered the first shutdown (call to stay home) I would joke with people that I basically spent my childhood practicing social isolation. The further we get into this though the more I realize there is a lot of truth to it as well. I grew up in very rural area, which naturally lead to a lot of social isolation.
I come from some of the original Montana homesteaders and our family history actually takes us back to the last pandemic….
The Spanish Flu
My family unfortunately had a harrowing past experience with the last pandemic or Spanish Flu. The Spanish Flu came fast in 1918 and left many dead in its wake. We lost a whole generation (on my father’s side) due to it.
After contracting the Spanish Flu, my grandfather Walter (known as Mick) and his little brother Teddy were lucky enough to survive, but his father, Richard, succumbed to it in a matter of days. Mick was only 13 years old when his father reminded him on his deathbed that he now had a family to take care of.
Mick stepped up as the head of the household and cared for his mother and siblings, who were homesteaders and ranchers in central Montana, waiting until his late 40s to have a family of his own. Because of this my grandfather was the same age as my Great-Grandma Dixon (on my mother’s side).
When I think of what it must have been like to live through the last pandemic it makes me feel very lucky that we have our current outlets and comforts! (For example, my great-grandmother wrote about how excited she was to finally get wood planks as a floor – a big upgrade from the dirt floor before.)
When I say I grew up in the middle of nowhere, I mean it! I am lucky to get to say that I was raised on a working ranch (Grandpa Mick’s) in Central Montana where our closest neighbor was over a mile away. The nearest grocery store is run by an Amish family and we are 5 miles (on dirt roads) from town. Waving at all passing cars is expected and considered impolite if you don’t. (Before the Amish store opened the closest grocery store was roughly 20 miles away!)
In Montana it doesn’t take much to be a town – a bar and post office is about it – and the town I grew up next to didn’t have much more than that. Moore’s population is under 200 and the public school is housed in one building.
To put it in perspective – in high school you still eat in the same lunch room as the kindergarten class. 🙂 My graduating class was 8 (yes eight!) and my brother’s was only 4. (We were also an all-girl class from 1st grade through 7th grade!!)
And while there are some drawbacks to that kind of rural living it also taught me some amazing lessons “city folks” didn’t get.
Now, as many of us enter another lockdown, I’m excited to share with you ten of my favorite tips I’ve picked up to help make social isolation not only bearable, but enjoyable!
Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. This means if you click on the link and purchase an item, I will receive an affiliate commission at no additional cost to you. All opinions remain my own.
You should have known this would be number 1! 🙂 The reason I’ve become so comfortable in the kitchen is because I happily spent a HUGE amount of my youth in there.
Baking tends to take a fair amount of time and is perfect to do while you’re stuck in the house!
I consider this a whole other category from baking! “Cooking is an art, baking is a science” This is so true! While baking is so fulfilling and fun it is also harder to adapt and change the recipe without some major failures along the way. Where baking is more regimented, cooking allows you to be creative!
Growing up, if I wasn’t in the kitchen I was probably making music. I was obsessed from an early age and thankfully my parents indulged this. By the time I left for collage I played the piano, flute, violin and harp! Yes HARP! 🙂 My mother even built my current harp for me from a kit – which falls under #6 in my tips. WOW!!!
You don’t have to make music to get the benefits though. Just listening to music can seriously change your mood.
Did you know that the largest percentage of your brain is activated when you listen to MUSIC?!? Cool, right! So put on music while you do things around the house. This helps the house feel less empty and is sure to boost your mood almost immediately!
Books are soooooooooo (x infinity) much better than television! There is nothing like finding a story that sucks you in. Many of the television series and movies you love come from….BOOKS! And I have to say they are way more fun than watching a screen. There is something special about making yourself visualize what is happening in the story rather than someone else giving you the imagery.
Try picking up one of my favorite books:
- The Magicians Trilogy by Lev Grossman
- The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis (I read these countless times growing up)
- Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel
- Alaska by James A. Michener (or any of his other novels – a great escape in lieu of travel!)
- His Dark Materials Trilogy by Phillip Pullman
- Anything by Dean Koontz or James Patterson (my guilty pleasure mystery/triller reads)
- Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig
- The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
- The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
- Code Girls – The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of WWII by Liza Mundy
Your new BFFs! Ok maybe not forever, but probably for the time being. 🙂 Don’t shy away from taking home a plant because you’re afraid to kill it. It’s obviously not the goal, but it doesn’t mean you’re a failure. If you’re new to the plant world there are a ton of ones that are almost impossible to kill. Below is a list of great house plants that are easy to care for:
- Aloe (plus this plant can be used to treat burns)
- Jade (we have a jade plant that has been in the family for generations and everyone gets a cutting of their own)
- Snake Plant
- Rubber Plant
- Spider Plant
- Many varieties of cactus
- Air Plants (Try making a terrarium – so fun!)
- African Violets
- Peace Lilly
Or you can try starting a window herb box so you can have fresh herbs any time!
Plants can help boost your mood as well as clean the air! Read more here about the health benefits that houseplants can provide.
6. Crafts + Hobbies
Picking up a new hobby or learning a new craft is perfect when you have extra time on your hands! It not only helps enjoyably pass the time, but it allows you to gain a new skill. When we learn a new skill our brain must then create new pathways and neurons, helping keep the brain active and young. It also releases a rush of dopamine – a “feel good” chemical for our brains!
I have picked up countless crafts and hobbies throughout my life. I’m definitely a “Jill of all trades.” There are many of them that have become just another craft of the minute, but some have become a huge part of my life.
Some of my very favorite crafts and hobbies include:
- Mini Models (My favorite new hobby from 2020!)
- Paper Quilling
- Adult Coloring Books
- Cross Stitch
Or try out some of these fun Other DIY Crafts!
I grew up in a family that played games! We loved card games, board games, video games, physical games, you name it – we probably played it. 🙂 I know my poor father played Candy Land so many times he was ready to throw the whole thing out.
The adults in our family all played Pincohle. You likely haven’t heard of it. It’s an old card game that has fallen out of favor, but it is seriously amazing if you can find a group to play with! As kids we would study the adults as they played. It was a badge of honor to finally be invited to play and it was our favorite form of entertainment. We spent many a Sunday around the table playing cards, only taking a break for pie.
Some of my personal favorites are:
- Ticket to Ride
- Settlers of Catan
- Kings Corner (My grandmother and I played this endlessly)
- Gin Rummy
- Speed (My cousin and I spent hours playing this before we were allowed to play pinochle with the adults 🙂 )
- Phase 10
- Jaipur (One of the best 2 player games!)
- Gloom (So unique and SO fun!)
- Mad Gab (Hilarious!)
Or try out some of these other Top Board Games!
8. Meditation + Quiet
They say we are only truly able to be creative when our brains have a chance to be “bored.” We spend so much of our time now distracting ourselves from the quiet with electronics. Instead embrace this downtime and get to know yourself and your thoughts. You may just get the breakthrough you need on some project or idea!
If you have never meditated try these techniques.
Another great place for peace and reflection is in nature…
This is the perfect time to get more familiar with nature!
Montana is known as the Big Sky State for a reason. There is something truly wonderful about being able to see for miles. Growing up in rural Montana meant we always had access to nature. I certainly wasn’t able to appreciate how amazing this was until I moved away. Most days were lived outside and practically every summer weekend was spent in the mountains…
When you are removed from the buzz of other human activity it can be very calming and centering. Try going for a hike, nature walk or visit your local park. If you have access, I highly recommend camping in the warmer weather months.
10. Physical Activity
Physical activity has so many benefits! Not only does it aid our bodies in countless ways, it helps produce those happy chemicals like dopamine too. And it doesn’t have to mean doing things you don’t enjoy. Just taking a walk or dancing around the house counts as physical activity. Participating in organized sports or games is also a fun way to get exercise without even realizing it!
My preferred ways to get out and move are:
Read up here to learn more about the benefits of physical activity!
The REAL #1 Recommendation
My true number one tip to stay sane during times of social isolation though…MINDSET. Your mindset is the most important aspect of staying happy and sane. Not to say that means you don’t get frustrated, angry or anxious, but your mindset plays a huge role in how you perceive your situation. Rather than look at this as what you DON’T get to do – look at it as an opportunity to learn and grow. There will always be loss in our lives, but it’s up to us how we deal with it.
I hope you are all able to stay safe, embrace and enjoy this chance at social isolation a bit more!