I’m writing this at the beginning of my fifth month of social distancing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. I’m currently missing french fries, game nights with friends, and hugging my mom. I’m daydreaming about getting another tattoo and have decided to try to highlight my own hair (check out our Instagram stories in the coming weeks for updates on how that is going!) I’ve gone through ups and downs throughout quarantine, but thankfully I feel like I’ve had more ups than downs so far. I’m lucky to be an introvert and a homebody, and I have a lot of hobbies. I’m still getting mentally fatigued by the lack of stimulation, though. I’m noticing this fatigue coming out in subtle ways-an uptick in online shopping, more cravings for munchies. I’m trying to find more productive ways of combating monotony and channeling my desire for variety. I’ve been spending a lot of brainpower thinking about how to engage my senses to create some of the variety I was used to getting when out and about a lot. I’m not going to be able to travel to another continent right now, but I can work to manage the anxiety the pandemic causes by creating varied sensory experiences to sooth my mind. Some of the things I’ve done have been free, some have been redirecting money I would have spent anyway (like my grocery budget), and some have been intentional investments. Here’s how I’m thinking about this exercise, breaking it down by each sense:
I’m starting with sight because it is the sense that makes the most impact for me. I’m very aesthetically driven and derive a lot of joy from arranging visual compositions. Creating visual variety makes me feel more uplifted than adjusting other sensory experiences, so this is what I’ve thought the most about:
- Free: I’ve varied my running/walking routes through the neighborhood. I used to have one set route I’ve always run, but as walking has become my main break from the house, my walks have gotten longer. I realized that exploring parts of the neighborhood I don’t normally see is a good option for recreating the feeling of experiencing a new place. Instead of a new restaurant or travel destination, though, I’m checking out new streets. I have parts of the neighborhood that I’ve never seen which I’m intentionally saving to explore as other areas become more familiar and mundane.
- Free: I move around the house throughout my workday. I have four main spots I move between: my kitchen table, our living room couch, another chair in our living room, and my desk. These subtle changes in perspective offer just enough variety to break up my work day. I’ve also realized this is actually really helpful for making sure I stay focused, because in the office I start to get antsy and distracted after several hours in the same place at my desk.
- Free: Rearranging things around your house is great for combatting monotony. You can rearrange your furniture or restyle your bookshelves. I swapped out the duvet in our guest bedroom with an older one I’ve been holding onto.
- Investment: Greg and I have had a handful of home purchases that we’ve been saving towards, like an outdoor couch for our patio and curtains for our bedroom. I’m trying to be really careful not to buy things just to have new things. These things were already in the plan, though, and we have a lot of budget categories we aren’t spending money on right now (like travel and date nights out). We’re redirecting some of what we would normally spend on doing things out to cover some of the home purchases. This also brings new visual elements in our space. In the case of the patio couch, it has also helped us embrace other areas of our home which didn’t get much use before.
Free-ish: Taste is an easy one because we all have to eat, right? I love cooking, and I’m doing it a lot more since we’re not eating out much besides takeout a few times a month. I’ve been experimenting with new recipes and techniques. Here have been some of my favorites:
- Peanut butter cookies from Creme de la Crumb
- Amanda’s soft sugar cookies
- Amanda’s Grandma Hope’s beer chicken
- Hand pies from Grandbaby Cakes
- One Pot Creamy Tuscan Pesto and Artichoke Pasta from Half Baked Harvest
Touch has been another easy-ish one. The low-hanging fruit is petting my fur babies every day. Celia’s fur and Remy’s ears are so soft! Here have been some of my other experiments for combating monotony with textural variety:
- Free: I’ve been trying to spend as much time outside as I can to enjoy the breezes and the sun on my skin. It’s been suuuuuuper hot in Austin lately, though. I guess this creates more sensory variety (heat and sweat), but it’s not necessarily pleasant.
- Free-ish: I’ve been baking a lot, which gives me a lot of opportunity to involve my sense of touch in preparing our food. I make all our bread, hamburger and hot dog buns, etc, from scratch, so I get to play with dough a lot. I’ve also been playing around with pastry, mostly pies, which gives me another way to get my hands messy.
- Low cost: I’ve been working on some crocheting projects, and I really like the texture of the crochet stitches.
- Investment: I bought a weighted blanket from Bearby because I’ve been having a lot of trouble sleeping. The weight has definitely been really soothing, and I’ve slept through almost every night since I started using it, which is a major accomplishment. Before the blanket I was waking up every two hours or so. I chose this blanket in particular because it’s made from sustainable, natural fabric rather than synthetic materials.
My sense of smell isn’t very strong due to lots of allergy/sinus issues, so it’s not a sense I think very much about. I’ve been trying to give it more attention recently. It’s another tool in my arsenal for combating monotony. I’ve found a handful of ways to work scent variety into my routine:
- Free-ish: Most of the aromas in our house come from cooking. I’ve been trying to pay attention to these scents and really appreciate them-the smell of baking bread, the concentration of cinnamon and cloves from a simple syrup I made, the scent of onions cooking on the stove.
- Low cost: I’m not normally a candle person, but a small thing I can do to change up my routine is burn scented candles. I’ve been loving this peach-champagne candle lately.
- Low cost: This one has been less intentional, but I’m counting it! Based on availability, I’ve been changing up the scents of the hand soaps we use.
Sound is the only scent I haven’t really done anything to update. I’m really sensitive to sound and usually prefer to have as few extra sounds in my environment as possible. I start to get anxious if too much audio input around me. Here are some suggestions for playing with sound in case it’s your thing:
- Free: Try out a new podcast! My favorites right now are Sooo Many White Guys , My Wardrobe Malfunction, Young House Love Has a Podcast, and the A Beautiful Mess Podcast
- Free: Try experimenting with white noise, like nature sounds.
- Free-ish: Experiment with a genre of music you don’t normally listen to, or listen to something you haven’t listened to in a while. Try picking a category of music (Greg recently did “British Invasion”) and only listen to that for a day or two.
Thanks for reading this post! I’d love to hear how you’re combating monotony during this time of social distancing. How are you adding variety to your day? What sensory experiences are engaging you? You can drop us a comment below, or connect with us on social media. For more ideas for social distancing, check out my recommendations of Books to Read While Isolating, and join our email newsletter to get updates about new posts!