How to get your life together during a pandemic

Orange County, NY
Source: Melina Renee

Okay, so all that talk about how COVID-19 would be a thing of the past by the end of April/May? Yeah, so not true. As disappointing/sad/devastating as this all is, life has to go on. If you’re like me, you’ve spent a good deal of time binging shows on Netflix, scrolling through your phone, Googling “coronavirus updates” several times per day, and snacking like it’s 1999.

While doing all of those things are totally okay, you may be feeling like you want to get your life together just a little. I live in New York City, apparently the worst place to be during all of this. The New York Governor, Andrew Cuomo (bless his heart) just announced another extension of the “stay-at-home” order until May 15th. I personally think they’ll keeping extending until God knows when–airport delay-style.

This really triggered something in me. I thought to myself “Melina, you cannot keep living your life like you did when you were 16.” So slowly, I’m trying to uncurl myself from fetal position and come out of my shell. I know it’s not easy, but if this is going to be your “new normal” for a while, it might be a good idea to accept how things are and make the best of it.

Disclaimer: this is not to shame you for being unmotivated during this time; listen, it’s hard out here! This is to help you get your life together during this unprecedented time, if you’ve been feeling like that’s what you need to do to feel your best.

How to get your life together during a pandemic

Go outside and play

Greenwich, England
Source: Melina Renee

You’re not a child but honestly, using those words helped me to reframe the purpose of my going outside for fresh air. I don’t know about you but “sanity walk,” or even worse, “solitary walk while social distancing” just don’t do it for me. I’m sorry but I’d rather stay on the couch. Once I started to say to myself “let’s go outside and play” I’d get a tad more excited. I knew I was going to be going for a walk or run by myself but hey, anything that helps, right?

You don’t always need to walk or run while outside, I just do so because I don’t have an outdoor space at my apartment and there’s a huge park nearby. You can garden if you have a backyard, read a good book, do some stretching or yoga, have a coffee, or just sit there. No matter what you do, getting outside is going to help boost your mood. And, you need vitamin D to feel energized to go about the rest of your day like a boss!

Go to bed earlier and wake up early

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Yeah, I see you. Going to bed at crazy hours, waking up just before you have to sign in for work. Actually, that’s me. I do that. I go to bed at midnight and wake up at 6:45am; just before work starts. And it has to stop. If you’re also in this boat, let’s improve together. Starting tomorrow, let’s get our butts into bed at a reasonable time. Let’s then wake up early, so that we have a little time to ourselves before we have to start our day.

This isn’t just because we need more sleep, it’s also because we need to quit throwing off our circadian rhythm because when life “returns to normal,” we’re going to be screwed. Adjusting back to normal life where we have to get up super early to commute to work is not going to be fun if we’d spent however many months doing the opposite. And, sad to say, the weekends also count–just not as crucial as the weekdays. Do yourself a favor and set your alarm!

Make better choices with food

Photo by Wendy Wei on

You knew this one would show up. It’s been SO EASY to just eat. All day, everyday. Snacks galore! Even when you’re not hungry, you indulge in the baked goods you spent all weekend perfecting. Doing this makes you feel good, but only for a short period of time. I recently started to notice that I feel super sluggish and a little puffy. I’m not really worried that I gained weight but I’d regret to not mention that most of us are wearing stretchy and baggy clothes every day, so it’s hard to tell. What I’m most worried about is my overall mood and energy levels.

It’s so much easier to pop a bagel in the toaster and smear some oh so good butter all over it than it is to make protein oatmeal because oatmeal takes longer and you have to watch it for spillage. But guess what? Bagels have little nutritional value and micronutrients. They also aren’t known for their protein content. The one thing you know is that they’re delicious! So that’s why you grab a bagel *or insert any high carb, low nutrition breakfast food here*.

So what has helped me? Being more conscious about what I’m putting into my body and why. I’ve had a sweet tooth like no other lately and it’s because I’m stressed. Emotional eating might be the culprit for you as well. Something I’ve been doing lately is logging my food into the MyFitnessPal app. To see what I’m eating and the nutrition facts. If I know more about what I’m consuming, I make better choices. For example, if I know I only had a bowl of HoneyCombs for breakfast, I know my next meal needs to have more protein and fat. I also know that if all the food I ate that day adds up to 3,000 calories (which is way too many calories for my personal metabolism), I should try to be more mindful the next day.

I’m being careful here not to judge myself for eating less-than-nutritious foods or for eating too much, and just raising awareness to help my decision-making. It can be a slippery slope, but it helps to see what you’re doing or what you’ve done if you tend to eat and forget. I hope this makes sense. If not, shoot me a message!

Move your body each day

Photo by Daniel Reche on

This is important. Very important. You as a human being are designed to MOVE. To walk, run, jump, stretch, squat down, pull up, push up, etc. That’s why exercise was invented–to *try* to emulate what you were designed for. Obviously, going to a gym is not an option in most cases. But who needs a gym when you’ve already got a body that was designed to move? There are so many ways to move your body and any of them are so worth it.

And I get it. You’ve got no energy (ahem, food choices) and you just wanna watch Tiger King. Look, I sometimes have to pry myself off the couch and just get to it. Yesterday, I forced myself off the couch and told myself I would just go for a 15-minute walk. Well, I ended up walking for 62 minutes. You just have to start. Once you get started, you’ll have the momentum to keep going. That’s half the battle.

The other half of the battle is choosing to move in a way that suits you. No, you don’t need to go for a 5-mile run. No, you don’t need to do the push-up challenge from Tik Tok. Do what YOU want. There’s running, walking, yoga, calisthenics, resistance training (if you have weights or resistance bands), stretching, home gymnastics, body-weight circuits, cycling, roller-blading, skipping rope, the list goes on. The best part is that you can get in the best shape of your life without having to pay for a gym membership.

Move your body each day and you’ll feel great, trust me.

Learn something new each day

Photo by Retha Ferguson on

Everyone keeps talking about how this whole quarantine thing feels like the movie Groundhog Day. I’ve never seen the movie (I’m a millennial), but I take it to mean that they feel like we’re experiencing the same day, every day. To that I say: impossible if you’re learning something new each day. The beauty of this additional time that you *might* have is that you can learn. Reading non-fiction is a great way to constantly learn something new. Right now, I’m reading The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson and learning new concepts to improve the quality of my life.

Reading isn’t the only way, though. You can learn a new recipe to cook, learn new dance moves, learn proper form in your exercise regimen, and even learn to fix that pesky leaky faucet yourself. YouTube is a powerful tool for learning new things (just don’t fall down the rabbit hole!). I also like to listen to podcasts while I walk or cook to continue learning. Keeping your mind fresh and excited will make you feel good and keep you sharp.

Do something good for you that you’d normally never do

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Going along with removing the “Groundhog Day” theme, you’ve got to keep things interesting. I’ve been trying to do things that are good for me that I wouldn’t normally do. Like trying yoga and taking the time to take extra good care of my teeth. I also got into coloring and drawing, something I wouldn’t be caught dead doing before because i’M nOt gOoD aT aRt. These are things I wouldn’t consider doing during “normalcy” but heck, why not now?

There are so many things you can try without ever having to leave the house or your neighborhood. For a list of things you can try during quarantine, click here! And maybe you’ll like something so much, you can turn it into a hobby that you enjoy after quarantine ends.

Sleep on it before you tap “place order” for online purchases

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Ah, online shopping: the destroyer of bank accounts all over the world. And even more so now that we cannot physically go to the stores. When quarantine first started, I was on Amazon every day. I was buying so much stuff, most of which I justified by saying it was an “essential” item. And most of it was, except for the non-essential things I added to my cart along with the essentials. Look at how sneaky I am!

It didn’t occur to me that I was probably going overboard until 2 days ago when I purchased yoga blocks and a yoga strap. I mean, really? I know I said earlier that I was trying yoga out and everything, but yoga blocks? Haha. I’m probably not going to use those long-term. And had I slept on that purchasing decision, I probably would have deleted them from my cart the next day. And, since Amazon isn’t allowing returns on most items, I have to live with that decision.

If you’re thinking about buying non-essential items, sleep on it before you press “place order”. I know it’s like Christmas morning when you get a new package, but constant online purchasing really does a number on your bank account. A negative number. Minus signs all around. And right now with all the uncertainty floating around, it’s a good idea to have extra cash on hand just incase. Give yourself at least until the next day to complete your order of non-essentials. See how you feel about the item(s) then. And if you feel less inclined, save that money, honey!

Whew, that’s a lot of stuff to do, Melina.

I know, and that’s okay. Even getting your life together in just one of those areas will help improve things more than you can imagine right now. If you’ve chosen to get this far into this article (and I thank you), you’re really interested in making positive change during this tough time. You want to show up for yourself and feel your best amidst the uncertainty, stress, and sadness. Now you have some ideas on what you can do to get started.

The most important thing to take away from this is to just try your best and let the rest be. We’re not aiming for perfection, but rather progress. Taking on one of these areas–nutrition, movement, fresh air, learning/doing new things, and watching your online shopping habits, can really take you far! You’ve got this! Take care of YOU and the rest will fall into place.

Before you go, tell me what area of your life you want to improve on right now. Is there something you’re doing for yourself or you want to do for yourself that I didn’t mention? Let a girl know in the comments!

Melina Renee

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