I’m an introvert, but having to stay home and not meet up with my friends or extended family over the past week has been painful.
Since COVID-19 broke out in December 2019, it has infected over two million people, with more than 117,000 deaths—and causing lockdowns and supermarket frenzies all over the world.
Singapore—where I reside—has not been spared. Two Fridays ago, the government announced “Circuit Breaker” measures, which included the closure of schools and non-essential workplaces. Stricter measures have since come into effect, including bans on social gatherings with family or friends who do not live together and eating out. Residents have been instructed to stay at home till 4 May and only leave their homes for essential tasks like grocery shopping.
Since these measures have kicked in, I’ve missed eating out, studying in the library together, and gathering in church with my friends. I’m sure many others feel the same way—and for some, cabin fever has probably set in already. I know of friends who struggle to keep up with the days of the week, or eat and sleep regularly. And the thought of having to go through three more weeks of this arrangement is just dreadful . . .
But before cabin fever hits us all too hard, here are three things that have helped me stay sane (and loving) during this period. Perhaps you might find them helpful as you think about how to fight cabin fever:
1. Remain Connected
Introverted or extroverted, all of us are social creatures. We need to interact with others. Being cooped up at home—unable to gather physically in churches or houses—doesn’t mean that we must be anti-social.
To avoid feeling isolated, I’ve found it helpful to focus first on the people physically around me—my family members. Now that everyone is home for longer periods of time, it’s easy to get frustrated with each other over small things, whether it is not washing a used cup or even who gets to set up their “home office” in the study.
But being around our families for longer periods of time doesn’t have to lead to frustration—it can lead to opportunities to build a deeper understanding of each other. Take this time to bond with your family and get to know them better. Instead of watching Netflix alone while eating, have meals with your family. Instead of playing Animal Crossing by yourself in your room, play board games with your family. I know of a family with young adult children who have even restarted their childhood tradition of doing family devotions together every night.
And let’s not forget about our larger church family, too. While these new Circuit Breaker measures are also a game changer for churches, they serve to remind us all that the Church is not a simply a place to meet, but that we are the Church. So let’s make use of video conferencing apps to meet our cell groups, singing praises, praying with and for one another, reading God’s Word together, and ultimately encouraging one another in the faith (Hebrews 10:24-25). With or without COVID-19, no one should be walking his or her faith journey alone.
2. Have a Routine (And Pick up A Hobby)
I’ll be the first to admit—I love to sleep. However, once the Circuit Breaker kicked into place, I told myself that I would not spend excessive amounts of time lounging in bed and oversleeping.
Admittedly, this habit of mine has been hard to kick, but I’ve learned to get up early and start my day right. I spend the time I would have spent travelling to work or school with God, reading His Word, sitting at His feet, and talking to Him. This sets the mood for the whole day as I become consciously aware that the Lord is with me and submit every aspect of the day ahead to Him.
I’ve also learned to set aside dedicated periods of time to work, eat, and rest, which has helped me stay focused in completing my tasks, giving me a little more time to learn something new—calligraphy. Picking up calligraphy hasn’t just been fun and exciting, but has also kept me occupied this past week. I practice for about an hour every night and scheduling that “happy hour” into my day has given me more motivation to finish my work quickly and also something to look forward to at the end of each day.
3. Bless Someone
Some of us are bored being cooped up at home while others have their hands full, taking care of their children and helping them with their Home-Based Learning (HBL) while working from home at the same time.
For those of us who are blessed enough to have the resources, why not buy lunch or even a box of brownies and have them delivered to your friend’s house? For the friend who lives alone and is working from home, it is a kind gesture to remind them that they are not forgotten. For the busy parents doing the best they can in the hectic environment, it could save them some time (and some dishes to wash too!) and help them stay sane.
While you’re at it, don’t forget minority groups in your midst. Even as most of us are working from the comfort of our homes, the cleaning staff are working very hard to disinfect common places and keeping us safe. With the surge of infections among the foreign worker dormitories in Singapore, perhaps we can also consider stepping up to donate face masks, food, or even money to top up their prepaid cards so that they can call home.
The best place to start is with our own families. I’ve started to prepare snacks and drinks for my parents who are working from home. With the trendy Dalgona coffee making its round on social media, I decided to make one cup for my mother first before making it for myself. I also made Oreo truffles for them so that they could snack in the middle of the day without heading out to buy food.Small gestures like these (in whatever capacity you can) are not only a good distraction and break from work but also a way in which we can show love to our immediate family and those around us (Hebrews 13:16).
Reflecting on the past week and thinking about the weeks to come that we’ll be “stuck at home”, I realized that what would really differentiate us as believers is our response to the Circuit Breaker measures.
Will we grumble and whine incessantly about how we can’t meet our friends or will we show that the Church is beyond a building but a loving community? Will we go stir crazy and rush to the supermarkets to hoard food or will we trust that He provides us with our every need (Philippians 4:12, Matthew 6:31-34)? Will we “rejoice in hope, patient in tribulation and constant in prayer” (Romans 12:12) or will we wallow in despair?
Perhaps our ultimate goal as Christians during this period is not to stay sane or avoid contracting the virus, but to learn to be more intentional with what we say, do, or even post on our social media platforms. Let’s use our precious time well to bless others, to spend time with the Lord, and to truly show God’s love to others. We are not “stuck at home” but God has graciously given us unique opportunities to be blessings from the comfort of our homes.
How can you respond differently today?