BaLENS: Little Ways to Care for Yourself and Others During a Pandemic

stay home

BaLENS is a column written by Jerry Yan about wellness, self-care and positivity. The name consists of “balance” and “lens,” meaning finding your life balance through the lens of life.

It’s early May now. Almost two months since I said goodbye to my friends in front of the glass window of the Starbucks on Franklin; almost one month since my friends in Charlotte Facetimed me and told me that North Carolina would be under the “stay-at-home” order; and I’ve already lost count of the number of days I’m quarantined at home with my mom.

Personally, I’ve grown up well protected as I never encountered anything that dramatically contrasts with my expectations or shifts away from what was planned. COVID-19 is pretty much the first large-scale, worldwide disaster that has a direct impact on me. 

To me, this global pandemic means not being able to travel abroad with my class during Spring Break, not being able to take graduation pictures with my friends on campus, having little to no luck getting a job offer by the time of graduation, celebrating my birthday under quarantine… I can go on and on.

Trust me, staying at home almost 24/7 is extremely difficult, even for an introvert like me. Sometimes I miss the moments when I was at parties making friends and having interesting conversations, or that time I flew for 20 hours to Australia by myself just to see an old friend down there. Now, I’m just having too much “me-time” but too little motivation to do anything, and that even includes starting “Tiger King.”

In the past few weeks, I’ve spent most of my time getting tangled up in my multilayered emotions. I wondered what I could be doing if the pandemic simply didn’t exist. At some point, the frustration of not having what I typically could get so heavy that I stayed in my bed for the majority of the day. 

However, I remind myself that people always miss what they don’t have. It’s totally normal if we feel a bit confined at home and miss the times out with people we like. Feeling and experiencing different emotions are inevitable because it is a huge life change that we’re forced to deal with, shifting all the plans we hoped for pre-pandemic. It’s important, however, that we recognize what exactly we’re feeling now and what causes us to feel this way.

In fact, we should feel honored to experience whatever we’re feeling at home, because we’re on a meaningful, uplifting and lifesaving mission by just staying home (and by wearing masks and other forms of protection for essential travels). We’re making the world brighter by doing ‘nothing!’ 

Moreover, we’re actually pretty privileged; at least we have a home to stay in and food to indulge. Many don’t. The homeless are facing a lack of resources to adequately protect them from the virus, while essential workers and volunteers are fighting tirelessly in hospitals and exposing themselves to greater risks. If you feel like you have the financial ability and the strong intention to help, by all means, lend a hand.

Here comes a question that’s often asked now: What can I do at home? I’d normally say, well, it’s your life and your time, so do whatever you want. But I’m not as chill as I usually am, so I went ahead and made a short list for both you and me, just to make our lives more enjoyable at home.

  1. More me-time means more read time. How many times have you said, “I’m too busy” when someone asks whether you’ve read a book? If you’re looking to check off some books on the ‘to read’ list you made or want to kill the boredom and broaden your horizons, now is the perfect time to do it. Support your local independently owned bookstores by ordering from them online.
  2. Try to sleep and wake up early. When’s the last time you went to sleep before 11 p.m.? Maybe back in high school? (If you’ve been keeping a healthy sleeping schedule even under quarantine, kudos to you!) I won’t even go on to say the benefits of having a healthy routine. Believe it or not, it’s not that hard to sleep earlier, just put your phone away and start reading that book you like. It works like melatonin pills.
  3. You can still have social interactions. Virtually. No matter how shy or introverted you are, humans are social animals after all. Loneliness is the biggest challenge for many during quarantine because we naturally look to interact with others after being alone for a long time. It might help a lot if you’re at home with a pet. If not, Facetime your parents or grandparents and ask them what they’ll eat for dinner; call your friends and discuss your getaway plan after quarantine. If you’re quarantined with your family, don’t be too cool and stay in your room all the time. Go around the house and do stuff with them. Personally, I cook with my mom and help her garden every day, and it even deepened our already-good relationship!
  4. Learn something new. Did I say cooking in the last one? Well, I’ve been trying out so many cooking and baking recipes, and now I’m confident enough to impress everyone with the food I’ll be making at my post-social-distance party when this is all over! And how did I learn to cook? Youtube! You can pretty much find a tutorial of anything on Youtube, from sewing a dress to designing an avatar on Adobe Illustrator. Or you can even learn how to be a Youtuber on Youtube.
  5. Protect your eyes. With Zoom classes and TikTok videos to keep us busy at home, we’re subconsciously damaging our vision. The blue light coming from screens is never good, and now we’re getting too much of it. Remember, the Internet isn’t the only place to kill time. You can also read a physical book, write in a diary, meditate, declutter your room and so on. And if you’ve spent the last two hours watching countless TikTok videos, why not learn the dance moves and make one yourself?

Staying at home can be hard. However, remember what we do now is for a greater cause and a better future; there is a silver lining to everything. If we think about things more positively, what we get in return will also be rewarding.

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About Author

Jerry Yan is a senior studying public relations at the School of Media and Journalism. Born and raised in Guiyang, China, Jerry speaks Mandarin and English and is influenced by both cultures. During his free time, he likes to travel around the world, write about his life on a blog and do yoga.