For Kameron Sol, 22, an economics student at the University of Toronto, the first few days of quarantine were spent reading an Italian dictionary, page by page.
It was his way of making the most of the unexpected time at home. He’s now using the app Duolingo, which provides free, personalized learning services.
Like Sol, some people are trying to make the most of unexpectedly quiet time brought on by the coronavirus pandemic and the lockdowns that officials have imposed. As a result, COVID-19 is slowly shaping global psychology forcing people to adapt to their new environments.
Sol is doing his best to stay positive.
“What we’re experiencing is beyond inconvenient but it’s now the lived experience of many,” he said.
Watch: How to make the most of your time at home
In Toronto, people are expected to remain in lockdown for weeks, if not months. According to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, success will depend fully on how successful are at practicing social distancing.
“To stay at home, to continue this period of isolation and distance is the best way to get out as quickly as possible, but certainly it will be a case of several weeks, perhaps several months,” the prime minister said in one of his daily updates from Ottawa.
Learn something new
Chances are most people have a lot of time on their hands. Sol suggests using it to learn a new skill.
“The best thing you can do in times of self-isolation and to stay motivated is to learn something new,” he said in an interview. “Learn a new language, learn something you’ve always wanted to do but never had the time to actually sit down and go through the motions in your really busy schedule.”
For many people, it’s difficult time to stay positive. Corporations continue to announce massive job cuts, bank giants Morgan Stanley to airlines, such as Air Canada laid off over 40,000 employees in a single week. The struggle workers face fallout from the coronavirus pandemic has very human costs.
Work on your financial plan
Heidi Timmons, 22, worked for Air Canada handling check-ins, which recently laid off over 16,000 of its workers. With a dream of one day becoming a pilot while paying for her studies, she is one of nearly a million Canadians who have filed for employment insurance as a result of the pandemic.
“I feel financially insecure,” she said in a Skype interview.
“I realized I should have had some savings, for emergencies like these, or some other source of income. This whole experience taught me a lot. I learned to not lose hope and to take precaution for future unexpected events.”
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In March alone, Canada recorded the largest one-month increase on record, according to a report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.
The psychological load of this kind of news can be crushing — particularly when it directly affects you. But techniques like mindfulness can help.
Learn to love yourself
Corinne Smith, a biology student at the University of Toronto, says mindfulness and self-awareness are crucial in times of despair.
Smith, a personal trainer with more than 8,000 followers on Instagram, focuses on fitness and health coaching by guiding her audience throughout her day. The influencer is mostly known for waking up at 5 a.m., for her positive energy, and tips on how to stay focused in a world filled with distractions.
“The brain often prepares for behaviour even before we intend to act,” she said. “Through quarantine I want individuals to learn how to self-love, through their lens, because people often forget.”
Amid thousands of gyms closing, including well-known gym chain GoodLife Fitness in response to coronavirus spread, health coaches are finding ways to recreate exercising indoors. Smith, 20, is one of thousands of influencers providing free services live on Instagram.
Have fun with fitness
Janet Omstead, a nutrition coach, personal trainer, said it’s important to keep moving, even when you’re cooped up.
“All movement matters, the fact that people think they are stuck to only move in a gym is a big misconception,” said Omstead, author of The Play Book, in which she shares tips on how to have fun with fitness.
“I want people to understand that they can and should move their bodies anywhere anytime as long as you follow simple parameters. My personal favourite is stop using the drive through, park your car and walk. Use stairs instead of an elevator.”
The World Health Organization recommends 150 minutes of exercise a week for basic health sustainability.
“Try something you may have loved as a kid, like a hula hoop, because it’s really fun,” Omstead said. “Or make a playdate, like going for a walk, the more you keep accountable to somebody you are one step towards finding the right balance.”
Accountability is key. It’s easy for unstructured time to slip away.
Make a daily schedule
That’s why making a schedule each day is so important, according to Akarsh Shetty, a 20-year-old management Student at the University of Toronto. It’s one way of keeping up your momentum during the pandemic.
“It’s really important to me to stay motivated, which I usually am because I go to school everyday but now that all the classes are online, I am going to take this to my advantage and plan to make a day-to-day routine,” he said.
The Sleep Foundation recommends establishing a schedule during the lockdown that includes a fixed wake-up time, wind-down time and consistent bedtime, along with specific meal time and set times for work and exercise.
Back in his apartment, isolated from the world, Sol is daydreaming about international travel. He’s working towards a goal as he learns Italian.
He is planning to make a trip to Positano as soon as the travel bans are lifted.
It’s something to look forward to as he works his way through that dictionary.