A woman walking down a trail

I wake up inside the same four walls of the studio apartment that’s served as my refuge the last six months. What day is it? I wonder.

Rolling over to my side, I take off my eye mask and glance at the light slipping in through the shades. I slink out of bed and head to the bathroom to brush my teeth. After rinsing, I splash water on my face, determined to make today feel more inspired than the day before.

We’ve been quarantined for almost half of the year. That’s a little crazy. When this all began, I swore it’d blow over in a week. Clearly, we’ve got a ways to go.

There’s an ebb and flow I’ve noticed when it comes to my emotions, a cycle of highs and lows that’s hard to predict. Some days, I’m motivated and creativity is pouring out of me. Other days, I feel stifled for seemingly no reason and want nothing more than to throw the covers back over my head.

There’s no roadmap for this time. Some of us are living alone, going long stretches without seeing another human. Others are living with family, at times at their wits’ end wishing for more space, but there are also brilliant moments of connection, renewal, clarification and alignment. Quarantine is a bit of a mixed bag.

Quarantine is a bit of a mixed bag.

So how do we break up the monotony of quarantine when it feels like our days are on a never-ending loop?

In search of the answer, I gently pull the shades toward the ceiling and crack my window open, feeling the breeze. The sunlight and fresh air make me smile, and I realize it’s a start. Letting new air in, clearing out what’s stale.

I begin the day in the corner of the room with a tall glass of lemon water by my side and my journal in hand, writing out the many things I have to be grateful for. Even during a pandemic, the list is long. My heart feels content, but when I think of the things I have to work on today, apathy looms. 

I take a few deep breaths, resting my gaze across the room. A deep inhale for a count of four, holding it for seven, exhaling eight. I try to focus on my breath. It steadies me. When I’m present, I don’t feel anxious. I sit there for a few more minutes, counting.

After meditating, I check in with myself to see what I need in this moment. The word “movement” reverberates through my soul. Instead of diving into work, I decide to listen to that voice. I put on some leggings, throw on a hat and grab my mask and keys.

I get in the car and start heading toward the Hollywood Hills. My friend sent me the address of a hike she recently discovered, and I’m ready to try something new. I make my way through the winding roads and pull into a small neighborhood where I snag a nondescript parking spot.

I see the trailhead, sandwiched between mansions and begin making my way down the mountain into what feels like a private backyard. Without a mask, and with no one in sight, I feel light and free. I have no idea where I’m going, but I confidently make my way down the slope, over the cobblestone bridge and toward the lake I see in the distance. Everything around me is unfamiliar and exciting, and I notice I feel happier than I have in a while.

Everything around me is unfamiliar and exciting, and I notice I feel happier than I have in a while.

By the time I make it back to my car an hour later, I feel I‘ve lived a thousand mornings. It’s not even 9 a.m. Now back at the apartment, I start brewing coffee and pour oat milk into the frother I recently purchased, a token of appreciation to myself for surviving a pandemic (so far). I walk over to my diffuser, filling it with water and a few drops of lavender oil. The calming scent starts to fill the room. I put on some music. 

I hop in and out of the shower before the coffee is ready, and as I’m getting dressed for the day, I decide to put on real clothes, makeup even. I opt for jean shorts and my favorite tank, with layers of gold necklaces that maybe no one will see today. You look great, I think to myself, which feels both affirming and weird.

As I sit down at my desk, thinking about my to-do’s, I realize that I no longer feel indifferent or overwhelmed. On the contrary, I’m refreshed and ready.

I make a mental note for the days when complacency tries to sneak back in. Check in with yourself often, and go out of your way to meet your needs. Be kind in your approach. Think outside of limits, and dare to do things that allow you to take the day in with wonder.

It’s a good formula for breaking up monotony, quarantine or not.

How have you learned to break up the monotony of quarantine? What’s one exciting thing you can do this week to take in the day with wonder?

Image via Jennifer Callahan

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