12 Things You Can Control in Your Life Right Now
Right now it may feel like everything is out of our control: Across the nation, cities are imposing curfews, closing restaurants and bars, ordering us to stay six feet away from friends, and telling us to only go outside for essential needs. Offices have closed. Some of us are without pay and others are trying to work from home, often while caring for children whose schools are also closed.
Nobody can predict what will happen with the COVID-19 pandemic. And that’s incredibly unsettling.
But there are things that you can control in your life right now. Here’s a dozen of them to get you started.
1. Your Mindset
“If you don’t control your mind, someone else will” is a common mantra attributed to John Allston. It may seem cliché, but it’s true. You get to decide whether you focus on the negatives — not being able to hug friends, missing that marathon you signed up for, being stuck inside — or you can find the positives in your situation.
You and your loved ones may all be healthy. Maybe you get to sleep in later. Perhaps you have more time to work out at home or catch up on projects. Take a few moments daily and find the good so that you keep your focus on that.
2. How Mindful You Are
There’s also the adage: “to control your life, control your mind. To control your mind, control your breath.” Mindfulness practices such as meditation, yoga, and progressive muscle relaxation help us focus on the present moment. This can keep us from projecting, catastrophizing, and otherwise creating anxiety.
Try different practices or simply commit to pausing for a breath or two before you check the news. This is also an awesome time to start an at-home yoga or meditation practice.
3. Your Physical Activity
If you can’t go to the gym, it’s an opportunity to discover new ways to move your body. You can still go for a walk, run, hike, or bike ride. Even better, ask a friend to join you. At home, you can do a body-weight workout or use resistance bands or household items for strength training.
If you have kids, encourage them to join you. They may not be able to do every exercise, but they’ll move, and staying active keeps your entire body healthy.
4. Your Schedule
Having a routine is key. Get up at the same time every weekday, schedule workouts or other activities, make (virtual) dates with friends, and establish a routine. It may take a little time to adjust since this is all new, but a schedule provides a sense of consistency.
Don’t forget to include at least one thing a day that you know you will check off your to-do list, such as making your bed. This will give you a sense of accomplishment and a mental boost.
5. Your Emotions
Whatever you feel right now, it’s perfectly reasonable to feel that way. Recognizing your emotions and naming them can help validate them. So can talking to people you trust; you may learn you’re not the only one who feels that way, and that can help manage stress and anxiety.
Also recognize that your emotions have an impact on others, so stop to consider how you feel (and how others may feel) before you speak. You may wish to change your tone or simply stay quiet.
6. Your Work Ethic
Working from home can be a challenge. For some, it’s tempting to stay in bed, wear pajamas all day, and watch Netflix rather than work. Plus, things might be more lenient than usual right now.
But don’t let this change negatively impact your reputation at the office. Keep up that hustle!
7. Your Meals
Meal planning and meal prep can happen whether you’re eating lunch at your office desk or your kitchen table. Depending on your grocery store’s current inventory, you may have to swap out a few ingredients here and there (rice rather than quinoa, frozen spinach rather than fresh kale), but you can still eat healthfully.
Plus, spending a couple of hours in the kitchen today might help you save more time for Netflix and painting your nails tomorrow!
8. Your Social Life
You cancelled that networking event. Your friend had to reschedule her bachelorette weekend. It sucks, and that’s OK. But you can plan coffee, happy hours, book clubs, and even workouts together over FaceTime, Skype, and Zoom.
Reach out and put these in your calendar, because social interaction is key for mental health. (Yes, virtual interaction can offer benefits!)
9. Where You Get Your News
It may be just the time to go on a digital detox or at least cut back on TV and social media.
10. How You Treat Others
The worst of times can bring out the worst in others. See: People running each other over to get the last roll of toilet paper on the shelf. We are all out of sorts lately. But that’s no reason to shove people in the store, yell at clerks, or behave in other ways you wouldn’t normally.
Aim to be the nicest person someone encounters today (from a safe distance, of course). Call or text someone you haven’t seen in a while, and tell them you love them.
11. How Prepared You Are
Have a plan in place in case someone in your household contracts the coronavirus. The CDC has advice on how to clean your home and what to do if someone is sick.
Remember this: Preparation is not panic.
12. Your Level of Perfection
It’s a time of adjustment, so give yourself some slack and be open to “good enough.” That may mean: Being more flexible with your workouts, eating pasta more often because, well, it’s the one thing you do have enough of, or letting your kids watch more Peppa Pig than normal so you can meet your deadlines. Given the circumstances, that’s all great.
Don’t pressure yourself to continue your life as normal, because it’s not right now. But, if we all do our part, hopefully it can be again soon.
- Controlling Mood Disorders: A Matter of Routine www.psychologicalscience.org/observer/controlling-mood-disorders-a-matter-of-routine
- Emotion Theory and Research: Highlights, Unanswered Questions, and Emerging Issues www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2723854/
- Coping with Stress www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/managing-stress-anxiety.html?CDC_AA_refVal=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cdc.gov%2Fcoronavirus%2F2019-ncov%2Fprepare%2Fmanaging-stress-anxiety.html
- Internet and Community journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0002764209356242