For most people out there, working from home is the new “normal” due to the coronavirus.

While work takes up a lot of time, it shouldn't take up all of your time. You should still try to create separation between your work life and home life, even though you may be home for both right now. 

it is important to establish a routine, stay active, eat healthy and communicate often with friends and family.

I’ve listed five categories below with suggestions from my own experience in case you’re in need of some new ideas to liven up your day or improve your surroundings.

(Disclaimer: I am not an expert. We're all figuring this out together!)

HAVE A VIRTUAL PIZZA PARTY!

Get the family together -- virtually! 

Last weekend my parents surprised all of us (i.e. my siblings, nieces, etc.) with a pizza delivery for dinner to our respective homes.

Of course, I did have a sign on the door that asked the pizza deliverer to ring the doorbell and leave the pizza boxes at our front door, so we could avoid contact. I put their tip inside of an envelope and taped it to the front door as well with a label that said, “tip for pizza, thank you!”.

Before the pizza was delivered, I gave my parents a quick tutorial on how to start up a Group FaceTime so we could enjoy this pizza party together.

Whether you are using FaceTime, Skype, Zoom or Google Hangout, there are numerous ways to easily video chat multiple people at the same time. 

The best part about our pizza party video chat – was the chaos! (Just like our actual family gatherings.) You end up talking over each other, having kids crawling over parents and pets peering into the camera with concern. We loved every minute of it and needed the laughs.

We’re already talking about our next group video chat in which we plan to play one of our favorite quiz games dealing with classic movie quotes. You can use video chats to work out with your friends, host a virtual happy hour or start a variety of clubs to stay connected, from book clubs to cooking with friends.

The key is to stay social, while social distancing. 

If you aren't equipped to take on virtual gatherings through technology, I highly recommend writing letters to your loved ones and friends. I've found it therapeutic and you will likely brighten someone's day with a positive message. 

If you want to involve your kids, you can have them draw pictures for your loved ones, especially older family members in need of more compassion right now, and send them out in the mail. 

EAT HEALTHY

Now more than ever we should take advantage of eating healthy. It will save you money and it will make you feel better. You will be more productive and feel more energized during a difficult time.

My family has been avoiding the grocery store in person. We are all using InstaCart to buy our healthy groceries. 

Just like I did with our pizza delivery, we have a sign outside that kindly asks the InstaCart shopper to ring the doorbell and leave the groceries at the door to avoid contact. This protects both parties.

This is a great time to plan out healthy meals and try out new recipes. 

Stores may be out of toilet paper, but they are full of fresh vegetables and fruit. Try cooking with a vegetable or a spice you've never used before. 

p.s. You can also still support local businesses while eating healthy. Most restaurants will now deliver for free or offer take-out. Some local restaurants are even transforming into miniature grocery stores as they sell individual ingredients.

  • When storing vegetables and fruit: 

Immediately thoroughly rinse your produce and place it in an airtight container. Don’t keep food in the original plastic containers or it won’t last as long. You want to maximize your groceries since store shelves are unpredictable right now.  

  • When planning out meals:

If your family is missing dining out, you can still get them excited about mealtime by asking everyone in your home what they would like to eat for the upcoming week and then try to incorporate everyone’s favorite meal in your planning. 

If you see a beautiful forecast ahead, you can plan an at-home picnic in your yard or on your porch. 

If you are cooking alone, I still suggest meal planning. It will keep you on track and give you a schedule to follow outside of work. 

When we make a new meal we love in our home, we take a picture (no, not to post to social media) to store in my phone with other delicious meals if we ever need some cooking inspiration down the road.

  • When cooking for the day:

Tell your loved ones what they can expect for lunch and dinner so they can look forward to it and establish times for eating meals. This way, everyone can plan out their day accordingly. Setting meal times prevents the hours from running together. 

This planning will also prevent unnecessary snacking because you know a healthy, hearty meal is in the works.

Since you're at home, take advantage of preparing meals early. For example, set out your meat early so it's defrosted by the time you are ready to cook or create a mixed salad in the morning and then cover it with saran wrap and place it in the refrigerator for dinner later. 

If you know you have a busier day than usual coming up, plan the night before. For example, I will make chicken salad and let it refrigerate overnight (it’s always better after a day of refrigerating) so we have it fresh the next day and no cooking is needed.

Split up responsibilities so you don’t feel overwhelmed. 

You can look at cooking as a nice break. When I’m cooking dinner after a day of work, I make it enjoyable. I keep the windows open for a nice evening breeze. I turn on my favorite music, usually my ‘Golden Oldies’ station on Pandora. I light a candle. I may pour a glass of wine… And voila! I’m ready to enjoy the process.

I recommend enjoying both lunch and dinner at your dining room or kitchen table. We turn off our laptops, we say the blessing and we take a short break to eat. (It gives your brain a quick mental break.)

For dinner, I recommend using your nicer plates, silverware, glasses, etc.; this makes dinner a nice experience and separates it from other meals.

STAY ACTIVE

Yes, you CAN practice effective social distancing while staying active and enjoying the outdoors! (If you are healthy and have not tested positive for the coronavirus, of course.)

Go for an afternoon and evening walk around your neighborhood, while keeping your distance. Go for a bike ride after work to enjoy the cool evening air. 

Personally, to stay active inside our homes, we are working out daily. 

If you need some suggestions, you can find some personal trainers on social media. I like to take different routines from workouts and mix and match them so each workout is different. If you need someone to start with I recommend @SugarySixPack on Instagram or the “Insanity” 90-day workout series with Shaun T, which you can purchase online. (This is not an endorsement, just suggestions from my own experience).

Whatever you choose to do, commit to 30 minutes a day. Blare your favorite music, work up a sweat and reward yourself with that hearty cooked meal you have planned for dinner.

OPTIMIZE YOUR ENVIRONMENT

Your home should be your sanctuary (especially right now) so make it a peaceful environment.

Keep it clean and sanitized. Take this time to organize and declutter. 

If you can, turn off the A.C. during the day and let fresh air fill your home (with the help from fans to keep air circulating if needed). Open the blinds, curtains and windows in every room of your home to maximize natural light.

Light a scented candle and keep your workspace organized and consistent. Avoid working in your bedroom, since that should be a calming place reserved for sleeping. 

Make sure to take a break and stretch, go for a walk or FaceTime a friend every few hours. Just as Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry advised, avoid any discussion of the coronavirus during these breaks. Smile and wave at your neighbor if you see anyone from a distance. 

When you’re done working for the day, pack up your materials and put the room back in order so it looks like home again. That way, you can feel like you are stepping away from the office.

CREATE A DAILY ROUTINE THAT WORKS

Working at home every day – and being forced to stay at home indefinitely – can become monotonous, if you let it. The days can start to run together and you can get stir-crazy. 

Fortunately, there are things you can do to minimize that feeling.

For me, sticking with a routine helps. 

I begin each morning by reading a few pages of a book with a cup of coffee and some breakfast. I do this before ever even looking at my phone or accessing social media. I also open the blinds and windows almost immediately to let fresh air come through the screen door and natural light to pour in.

I make the bed each morning and I get dressed for my workday. My husband and I will talk about the best time to work out since our schedules are ever-changing lately. I still put on some jewelry each day, even if it’s just a pair of earrings, because why not?  

I also take some time to write down what we have been doing lately and detail good memories. If you aren’t a big journaler like me, you can jot down some bullet points at the end of each day on a calendar in order to prevent that monotonous feeling of the days running together.

If you aren't working at home, but you're stuck inside your home, trying making a to-do list. Make every day intentional. This list can be comprised of tedious house tasks or of activities you've always wanted to do but have never gotten around to, like making a photo book or taking up a hobby. 

My last piece of advice is to take home videos. They can be silly or they can be sincere. You will appreciate these videos someday. 

Remember, we are all in this together. Don't go through it alone. 

If you have any suggestions that are working to improve your everyday life while working from home, please feel free to email me at sdanielsen@firstcoastnews.com

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