Written by Anjelica McMillan
We’re living in unprecedented times. Birthdays celebrated via Zoom, work meetings done in your sweatpants, restaurant food delivered to your door not by choice, but out of necessity.
On my weekly outing to the grocery store, I find myself spilling intimate details about my life to the checkout person due to my desperate craving for face-to-face human interaction. Friends with whom I’ve only ever texted before have become bosom buddies thanks to long winded phone calls.
On Mother’s Day, I met up with my mother-in-law in a parking lot to give her a gift. We both wore masks, and I placed her gift on the ground in between us in a paper bag. It felt naughty, as though the police might approach at any second and ask us what we were doing outside of our homes.
While some countries—and several states—are slowly reopening, it will be a while before life returns to what we’d consider “normal.” Some things may never be the same, since the infrastructures of industries like restaurants and hospitality are being radically challenged.
It’s true that you can’t have the big backyard barbecues and family reunions you had last summer, but that doesn’t mean you have to stay cooped up in your house, peeking tentatively through the blinds at the outside world. Here are five ways you can safely spend time outside of the home, without annoying the grocery store clerk with stories about your cat.
One of the easiest ways to beat cabin fever also happens to be the healthiest. The sun naturally increases serotonin production in the brain, which can boost your mood. Movement also causes your brain to release endorphins, those happy chemicals that provide that elusive “runner’s high.”
And you needn’t be a pro athlete to enjoy the outdoors. Besides intentional exercise like running, jogging and cycling, other fun outdoor activities include hiking, canoeing, kayaking and stand-up paddle-boarding.
If you’re not into working out in a traditional sense (i.e. gyms make you want to cringe) walking outside can be a great alternative, as it tends to feel more refreshing and less like exercise. Even walking for just an hour can have you clocking three to four miles, depending on your pace. Plug in those headphones and turn on your favorite podcast—who knew you could exercise and learn how to make chicken cacciatore at the same time?
Thousands of families are suffering financially due to the pandemic, which means that shelters and soup kitchens need assistance now more than ever. Many people who rely on government assistance are finding it difficult to provide for their families’ basic needs.
If you feel called in that direction, Feed America is a great resource for finding shelters in your area. You can help by dropping off non-perishable items or by serving meals.
Another way to volunteer is by providing thoughtful gifts to essential workers, such as police or hospital staff. Hot meals, homemade cookies and fresh flowers are all ways that you can brighten the day of the essential workers in your life. Check out this inspiring story of how cookbook author Hawa Hassan is bringing hot meals to employees at Brooklyn Hospital Center in New York.
Go for a Drive
We’re blessed to live in such a beautiful part of the country, with snow-capped mountains, lush green forests and sandy beaches. On those days when the spring rains have given way to clear skies, consider packing the kids into the family Subaru for drive out on I-90 or down near Mt. Rainier.
Rent a Boat
Getting out onto the water is the perfect warm weather activity for social distancing. Check out Seattle Boat Rentals or boatsetter.com for more information on renting a boat in the Seattle area.
Host a Parking Lot Tailgate
As long as it’s limited to ten people or less, and depending on your guests’ comfort levels, it’s considered safe to host a small tailgate picnic. Choose a big public parking lot in a nice, open area. Ask everyone to park at least six feet away from each other and to wear masks. Make sure kids and pets stay at a distance, too. Dogs love to socialize, so keep them as restrained as possible. Oh, and BYOS—bring your own snacks (and don’t share them).
Although we’re still living in the midst of a pandemic, that shouldn’t prevent us from leading full and active lives. Getting outside often, gathering safely, and giving back to the least of these in our community are all ways that we can wisely spend our time. Let’s prevent ourselves and each other from suffering the symptoms of depression and anxiety that isolation can bring. Let’s be good stewards of our time and talents. And let’s always thank God for the surprising ways in which He continues to bless us, every single day.
Anjelica McMillan serves with The Hallows Church Communications Ministry. When Anjelica isn’t providing ideas for how we can still get out while social distancing, she is using her skills as an actress, content writer and blog author.