It has been a year since life came to a standstill as schools, stores, jobs and restaurants shut down while cases of the coronavirus rapidly spread across the country. For many, at first, this brought about a wave of optimism: Quarantine was an opportunity to complete old projects, learn new things and relax. Now, perspectives on prolonged isolation are a little different. Many miss their normal lives, and the fads of early quarantine — Animal Crossing, whipped coffee and daily workouts — seem long gone. The rollout of vaccines brings a new wave of optimism, but until things return to normal, here are some things that you can try to ease your social-distancing woes.

1. Discover new music and podcasts

There are tons of ways to expand your music taste. If you have a Spotify account, try checking out the “Discover Weekly” playlist the streaming service releases each week. It’s based on your listening habits, so you’re sure to find a couple of gems in the playlist. And while you’re at it, you can also try making your own playlists for different moods — whether it be for studying or planning your karaoke party debut once life picks up again.

Podcasts are another great way to pass the time when you’re doing mundane tasks like laundry or the dishes. If you aren’t in the mood to listen to one of the playlists that you’ve definitely made by now, podcasts are a great second option, and there’s something out there for everyone, whether you’re looking to laugh, learn something or listen to gruesome stories of true crime.

2. Art and journaling

Many psychologists believe outward forms of expression are effective methods of soothing our internal worlds. That’s why a trip to your local craft store or bookstore may be a good idea. It’s easy to be intimidated by painting, especially if you, like many newcomers, feel completely inept with a paintbrush. But painting can be a great way to pass the time — it’s peaceful; you can take your artwork in any direction you desire; and when you’re doing it alone, there’s no pressure to re-create the Mona Lisa. Maybe you can even listen to one of your playlists while you’re at it.

Journaling can help with that feeling like all the days are a constant blur of sleep, studying and work. Not only does it help you get all your anxiety on paper, but it lets you “unblur” the days and remind you to take a step back from the chaos every now and then. It’s also an excuse to buy cute stationery under the guise of productivity.

3. Working out

Now that the weather has started warming up, it is a great time to take a walk or go for a run (with a mask, of course). If you’re uncomfortable with going outside, there are plenty of free workouts on YouTube. Some fan favorites are Yoga with Adriene and Chloe Ting, but you might find some others that you love.

4. Change up your style (in your room and your wardrobe)

You might have done this when quarantine first began, but as the days get longer and warmer, it’s nice to make your room a space that you enjoy. If you don’t want to spend money on decorations, there’s always DIY tutorials on YouTube. Rearranging your furniture and improving the feng shui is believed to help you relax and even sleep better.

Don’t stop at shifting the placement of your dresser; change what’s in it, too. Even if you don’t enjoy shopping for outfits, it can be fun to look for style inspiration. Websites like Pinterest are amazing for discovering your aesthetic and offer great fashion and self-care advice, too.

5. Gardening

Spring is the perfect time to fill your room and garden with all sorts of plants. Even if your backyard hasn’t grown anything in decades, you could always try getting a small plant or succulent for your room. And who knows, you might discover a long-lost affinity for growing plants.

Niveditha Bala is a senior at Mandela International Magnet School. Contact her at niveditha.bala@mandelainter

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