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30 “isolutions” for coronavirus self-isolation

A lot has changed in the last month. 

In March, preventative measures aimed at “flattening the curve,” or slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus, halted daily life around the world. 

Now we’re into April, and at least one-third of the global population is under some sort of restriction, over 90 percent of Americans are under stay-at-home orders and at least 46 states and Washington, D.C., have closed non-essential businesses.

Needless to say, people are spending most of their days inside — alone or with family — and trying to stay healthy during these uncertain times. 

Our staff is also trying to stay healthy, through productive, calming and often eco-friendly activities — what we’re calling “isolutions.” Below are 30 activities for your time spent in isolation. 

To keep your brain strong

Read long books

Now that our social life is on hold, we can dive into some of the biggest books that have intimidated us for years. Suddenly, losing yourself in the random, postmodern mess of Gravity’s Rainbow sounds more appealing than ever (or is that just me?). Other behemoth books I’ll try to tackle in the coming weeks/months: The Power Broker, The Recognitions, A Little Life and 1Q84. Oh, and pretty much anything from 19th-century Russia. 

— Brandon Pytel, Communications Manager/Writer

Do 15-minute daily meditations and keep a gratitude journal

In times like these, it’s easy to focus on negative things. I’ve found that dedicating just 15 minutes a day to sit down, breathe, stay present and aware of myself and my surroundings has given me clarity. The simple, but often hard act of sitting down is so important right now. I use the Calm app and highly recommend it for beginners. I challenge people to try it for just a minute or so, and get your thoughts down on paper — before and after — to see what you notice. 

— Matthew Lefler, Manager of Earth Day Africa

Dig into yoga

Many yoga studios are offering free classes for the month of April (and for the foreseeable future) — if that fails, here are 59 free classes on YouTube. I try to watch videos in styles outside of my normal yoga comfort zone, and I’ve also been creating my own flows based on how I’m feeling each  day. It’s been a great way to explore my practice and maintain a sense of peace.

— Sabrina Scull, Food and Environment Campaign Coordinator

Handwrite letters

We’re used to writing short, instant messages to our friends and families. I’m getting back into the habit of handwriting letters — it makes me slow down, think more and write what I really want a friend to know. I certainly have enough alone time for that reflection, so I want to spend at least some of it thinking about the people who are important to me.

— Halsey Payne, Intern and Volunteer Coordinator

Meditate

I join a live meditation everyday at 12:30pm EST that Jay Shetty leads (which is about 15-20 minutes), and it has been incredible. As we get further and further into isolation, maintaining your mental health is important. Meditation, and the practice of mindfulness, helps alleviate stress, anxiety and depression. Mindfulness is about staying in the present moment, without thinking about the past or what’s to come.

— Jillian Semaan, Food and Environment Director

Create mini-goals

Create mini-goals each week to establish a sense of achievement, despite the uncontrollable circumstances. These goals can include completing a stretching routine or a new workout; reading a book; journaling; teaching kids how to change the oil in the car; or gardening. At the beginning of the week, create a list (written lists are shown to be more effective!) of 4–6 things to do that week. And, don’t beat yourself up if you don’t complete them all — the focus right now is to carve out five, 10 or 20 minutes for yourself, no matter what that looks like. 

— Nicole Turner, Digital Media Assistant

Activ(e)ities

Start a pushup challenge with a friend 

I don’t know about you, but I have a lot of trouble working out unless someone is pushing me to do it. A buddy and I set daily pushup goals for each other through our isolation. We text at the end of the day to keep each other honest, and we know that this is going to end eventually — so, I could fake my numbers when we meet again, but not my reps.

— Halsey 

Bring movement into your life

Practice yoga and dance. I’ve found that my yoga practice allows me to re-center, dedicate time to my physical and mental health and open my heart to positivity. I video chat with loved ones while on my mat, too! Learn to dance by watching YouTube videos or just movin’ and groovin’ to songs you like. Now is the perfect time to put on your favorite song and dance like nobody’s watching (because really, no one is)!

— Rachel Weisbrot, Education Associate

Complete a backyard race

Mike Wardian, 45-year-old American ultra-runner won the Quarantine Backyard Ultra on April 4. This event had over 2,000 runners from around the world taking part in the virtual competition. Now, I’m not saying you have to run 100+ miles in your backyard. However, if you have been training for a race that is now canceled, run it around your neighborhood! Neighbors and friends can gather from their yards to cheer you on.

— Nicole

Pick up birding

The National Audubon Society just created a COVID-19 digital care package about the benefits of birding outdoors, which include a sense of calm and renewal. I use the Merlin Bird ID app to identify birds during my walks or from my window. The app asks you the bird’s size, color, behavior and location and then suggests what it’s likely to be. My favorite part is playing the bird sounds once I’ve identified the bird and seeing them react to it!

— Kira Heeschen, Education Coordinator

Bike in place

Getting enough physical activity can be challenging in these times and can hurt our health. But there are still ways to stay active while being stuck inside. I set up a regular bike as a stationary one and put it in front of my TV so I can feel like I’m biking anywhere in the world. 

David Ayer, End Plastic Pollution Campaign Manager

Donate ski goggles to hospitals

Goggles for Docs is an effort to collect used and new goggles for healthcare workers who currently have no eye protection as they treat COVID-19 patients. It’s easy! Just select your state, a hospital, enter how many goggles you have to donate, mail or drop off in your area and spread the word!

— Nicole

Create a cozy campsite (in your backyard)

Don’t hate on backyard camping until you try it! Whether you’ve roughed it in the backcountry or are new to camping, sleeping out in a tent is a blast. Immerse yourself in the outdoors without all the packing. Use a tent or make one, roast s’mores, spread out a blanket for some stargazing and share fun stories if you’re in the company of kids or a partner. If camping solo, read, journal, play/listen to music — the night is yours!

— Nicole

Take time to stop, smell the roses and read the signs

I’m fortunate enough to live in Washington, D.C., completely surrounded by history. I have a very large dog and a tiny apartment, so even during times of quarantine, she needs long walks. We are very careful to keep our distance from other people and not to touch anything. And, we’re also using this time to learn more about our neighborhood and city. We stop and read every single sign, plaque, inscription and text that we can find. 

— Tracey Ritchie, Vice President of Programs and Partnerships

Change where you sit for a day

Some of us use the couch, bed or a homemade desk as our remote workspace for the long days spent in isolation. But, if you can, why not move to your porch, balcony or the backyard? I’ve been reaping the benefits of being outdoors despite never leaving the apartment. Spending even a few moments outside can reduce blood pressure, relieve stress and strengthen the immune system — so imagine the benefits of spending an entire staff meeting in the sun. At the very least, try opening the blinds and sitting near a window. Even viewing a blooming tree in the sun helps. 

— Sam Liptak, Artists for the Earth Assistant

Learn to embroider

I’m in quarantine with my family, so my mom and I decided to pick up a new hobby together: Cross stitching. Cross stitching is a form of embroidery where you sew two small diagonal stitches to form an “X.” I have no sewing experience, but it’s really easy to do — plus, you can embroider just about anything you want. There are even free guides available online to help you get started or make more complex patterns. Throw on an environmental documentary series (or movie) and start stitching away! Best of all, it helps relax the mind. 

— Tyler Yezman, Intern

Do some spring cleaning (finally)

Nearly a month into spring, and with more time at home than ever, I can no longer delay spring cleaning. This last week I organized and labeled all my clothes (I now have a box exclusively for chinos), converted my closet into an office (I live in a studio apartment, okay) and dusted off my tank tops, shorts and swim trunks. With stay-at-home orders in effect for the foreseeable future, ensuring my living space is clean is an absolute must. 

— Brandon

Okay, crayons, now let’s get in formation

Cleaning up (forget about working) while kids wreak havoc inside the house can feel like a Sisyphean task. Hear me out: I’m no expert, but I’m convinced that kids secretly crave order. Or maybe I just crave order. Whatever it is, I’m organizing our crafts and keeping like supplies together and in appealing storage situations. I’m not exactly alphabetizing the Crayolas, but I am trying to put out semi-organized trays of art supplies so the little ones feel inspired, not overwhelmed. It might buy you a few minutes to, you know, work, or just stare off into the distance…

— Justine Sullivan, Director of Digital Media and Communications

Make bagels

Has the novelty of making your own sourdough bread worn off? It’s time to mix it up. Making bagels is a long process, so now is the time to perfect your technique. There are a couple ways to make the dough and plenty of recipes online for each kind. Use regular baker’s yeast for a classic bagel or sourdough starter to make the sourdough variation. Now, to make bagels the traditional way, the dough should be mixed in the afternoon, shaped into bagels in the evening and put in the fridge to sit for 12 hours. The next morning, boil the bagels in a pot of water for a minute, top with your favorite seeds (sesame, poppy) and bake. Your first batch may not be the prettiest but it’s not about that, is it?

— Sebastian Rosemont, Green Cities Coordinator

For your relationships (and enjoyment)

Watch movies with a friend (virtually), part 1

There’s some great films out there. And I don’t mean new stuff — we all have a list of films which we’ve wanted to check off our lists. Brandon, who you’ve read before, is motivating me to see some of the great ones. For camaraderie and help catching the finer touches on the film, we start watching at the same time and live text our thoughts. Once this is all finished, I hope to be able to contribute to a discussion about Hitchcock, rather than giving my best well-informed nod.

— Halsey 

Watch movies with a friend (virtually), part 2

What has been a weekly Sunday night tradition over hummus and Hollywood has turned virtual. Now, Halsey and I live text movies we watch “together.” It’s a great way to give hot takes, work through the plot or just say, WHOA, DID YOU SEE THAT EXPLOSION. I also recommend simultaneously video calling, if you want to replace texting with “face-to-face” commentary. 

— Brandon 

Take in some art (with your kids)

The last time I went to the art museum with my kids, it was not relaxing. But art in the time of coronavirus is totally different. Instead of peeling my toddler off of a priceless sculpture while a security guard shoots us dirty looks, we can tour virtual exhibits from more than 2500 museums around the world. Google Arts & Culture has partnered with thousands of museums so we can take in the art without setting off any alarms. Bonus points if you get your kids to sit and paint a still life afterwards. 

— Justine

Make infinite plants

If you’re stuck at home, you might be spending too much time with your plants. I’m not saying that you aren’t reaping some major (and much-needed) mental health benefits of caring for plants — I’m saying that you might be helicopter parenting your plants. If you feel the need to keep tending your plants, put down the watering can (you’re more likely to over-water than under-water them right now) and pick up the shears. For the right plant species, a snip below the nodes and 1–2 weeks in water will let your cuttings grow roots, turning those cuttings into new plants. Plant your new babies in soil, water as needed and voila: Infinite plants. 

— Justine 

Share the classics 

As a professional introvert, I’ve had a slightly easier time adjusting to quarantine days than some of extroverted friends and colleagues. Staying in and watching movies was already one of my most favorite activities. On weekend nights, my boyfriend and I take turns picking classic movies we just can’t believe the other one hasn’t seen. There are very few rules: it has to be something funny and lighthearted, and we are allowed unlimited vetoes. So far I have introduced him to as many Kevin Kline movies as I can find streaming. A Fish Called Wanda can bring anyone out of a isolation funk. 

— Tracey

Solve mysteries

We have a Sherlock Holmes mystery game that gives us a story and a booklet of leads to follow. We throw on a little mystery movie soundtrack music and compete with Holmes to see who can solve the mystery fastest (hint: it’s not us). Don’t have the game? Find a cold case podcast/docuseries/chatroom to discuss the evidence and develop new theories!

— Kira 

Create some DIY house decorations

Quarantine got you feeling cramped? Does Jimmy Fallon’s home/tree fort with an indoor slide make your place feel lame? Find new ways to spruce it up with DIY canvas paintings: painting a geometric or chalkboard accent wall or displaying that weird collection of baubles in your closet in a new way. I am also using an app to flex my interior design “skills” to design new houses!

— Kira 

Start a Wes Anderson movie marathon

A thing I have in common with one of my friends is our love of Wes Anderson movies. The cinematography, characters, quirky story lines; all of it! In fact, we had talked about how amazing it would be to someday have a Wes Anderson movie marathon. Aside from my copies of Moonrise Kingdom and The Grand Budapest Hotel, I haven’t watched most of his films for a second time… until now.  My isolution is organizing a Wes Anderson movie marathon that others can join from their homes, and if all works out, another one based on his favorite films

— Helen Rose, Faith Outreach Coordinator

Stay connected with your loved ones

In our busy world, it can be hard to stay connected with friends and family. I’m making a point to connect with loved ones even more than before, as a way to keep my spirits up (and theirs!). Social interaction is often linked to happiness, and speaking with others is key to remembering that you’re not alone during this time of social distancing. We live in the age of digital connection — there are so many great ways to stay in touch with others virtually. Also, your loved ones want to hear from you, too… so, giving an old friend or relative a call could make their day. 

— Sabrina 

Experiment with watercolors

If I can’t go outside, the outside will come to me. Aspiring to break into Washington, D.C.’s Top 100 Watercolor Artists, I recently started painting scenes of the outdoors to deepen my connection to nature. What’s more, I use excess water that accumulated from my storm drain to serve as my brush water. Lastly, I take requests, so if any Earth Day Network patron would like to commission a painting, the bidding starts at five cleanups. 

— Austin Downs, Global Cleanup Coordinator

Watch birds and squirrels duel

I recently bought a bird and squirrel feeder for my backyard and have enjoyed watching the squirrels acquire and then bury nuts in both my yard and my neighbor’s. The birds will take the nuts and talk amongst themselves to distribute their earnings. One time the birds and squirrels got into a fight, but the squirrels were victorious. 

— Austin