What California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced on Thursday, March 19, 2020 around 6:30 pm was unprecedented in the history of California and the United States. He effectively shut down the most populous state in America to try to stop the spread of coronavirus. California’s 40 million residents were ordered to shelter in place.
These are very frightening and uncertain times. It’s normal to feel scared and anxious, especially if you've lost income or worry about the health of yourself and family members. (My oldest daughter, Alana, texts me throughout the day admonishing me not to go out.) But while some see dire circumstances or panic, it is a very rare break from our too busy lifestyles. For many of us run ragged by 10-12 hour work days combined with 2-hour commutes in unending traffic, this break can be much needed.
I wrote about "How to Survive a Layoff" in the February issue of Comstock's magazine. I talked to workforce experts from LinkedIn, Rutgers University and Human Resources managers. Suddenly finding yourself at home after a layoff is much like this forced shelter-in-place order we're living under now. Instead of worrying about what to do, we now have a rare time to slow down, rest, relax, recharge, spend time with family, get caught up on life, do those pending projects, read motivational books and restart that hobby. One friend is taking online guitar lessons while another is learning Spanish. It's also time to develop that home workout to stay healthy.
Remember when California ordered work furloughs in 2009, forcing state workers to take two days off a month without pay? Anger and protests at first. But many soon discovered newfound time and opportunity on their hands. Some started exercising, walking more and running. They got healthier. Others planted gardens, tried new recipes and finally cleaned out the garage.
Americans work harder than other countries. Research shows 47 percent of Americans didn't take all of their vacation time last year and 21 percent left more than five vacation days on the table. What I learned from work experts and those who unexpectedly found themselves at home:
* The coronavirus and any sudden life change forces us to reevaluate our lives. What do we really want out of it? Now is the time to review your life, career goals and future vacation plans. They have suddenly been halted. When this pandemic has passed, what do you hope to accomplish in your lifetime, be it work or family? What are your plans for life when we return to what was once normal?
* Spend intentional time with family. Dust off that Monopoly game, cards, puzzles and bring out the art supplies. Do activities together. A competitive family game is filled with laughter. Your children will remember it. Come up with a project . One family I know is building a chicken coop! Many workers who lost their hard-charging jobs rediscovered their artistic and creative side, be it painting, music or writing.
* Model behavior by taking an hour to read books. The whole family shuts down for an hour to read the book of their choice. Then have a discussion about what you read and thoughts about it. This helps expose children to both classics and critical thinking.
* Learning doesn’t need to stop. Coronavirus offers a great opportunity for teaching at-home schoolchildren about science and math by learning about the search for a vaccine and charting the growth of the virus. I did this with my 12-year-old grandson. Scholastic has set up online classes for schoolchildren to learn new things while Khan Academy offers free classes for all ages. (One friend is actually learning Algebra) You can take a virtual tour of the Monterey Aquarium, tour zoos, museums or watch a bald eagle nest via webcam.
* Plan dinners together and get everyone involved in the production from chopping to mixing. Someone suggested on Twitter to share best recipes for canned food. Have your family invent a Doomsday meal! It doesn't have to be perfect. Whether it's made of canned beans, chili and rice, it's sure to be memorable.
* Stay healthy and fit. Establish an improvised home gym. Develop a home workout routine. Some people have weights at home or a yoga mat or resistance bands. Look around for heavy things to lift. If you don't have equipment, there's countless online home workouts for whatever you want. Walk, run or bike your nearby trails. It's important to stay active while isolated. You don't want to get the #Quarantine15
* Most important? Take care of you. Slow down. No more 8-10 hour days and long commutes for a while. Sleep in if you can. Take a luxurious nap. Curl up on the couch and watch movies and Netflix. Read that book you've been putting off. Breathe deep.
In a time of crisis, you’ve been given the gift of time. What will you make of it?