Now that the new coronavirus pandemic has been unfolding for months, you’re probably wondering how to feel normal when basically nothing is normal. Whether you’re social distancing from loved ones, managing your kids’ homeschooling, taking care of someone with COVID-19, recovering from the illness yourself, or figuring out your new professional reality, there are reminders every day (several times a day) that nothing is exactly as it was.
And yet there are these moments when life does seem almost, well, normal. It might happen when you glance out the window and notice your favorite tree has sprouted leaves again, or when you’re watching your kids have the same fight they’ve had for the last 12 years. Maybe it’s when you pull on your favorite sweater or laugh as you text friends about the most recent episode of Insecure every Monday morning. Just as you’re allowed to feel joy right now, feeling normal—even for brief flashes—is necessary too. But at a time when many of us are struggling with how to feel normal, you might need some inspiration.
To get a few ideas for how to feel normal right now, I asked 15 people about the small things that make them feel like themselves. Maybe some of their tactics will inspire your own, or they’ll simply remind you that there’s more normalcy in your day than you realize.
1. Drinking coffee
Having your familiar cup of coffee (or other a.m. beverage) might lift your spirits. “Coffee and I have history,” Jovana F., 34, tells SELF. As a child, Jovana watched her parents have coffee with a side of toast each morning, and as an adult, she reaches for a cup whenever work or life gets hectic. While other activities like making face masks and dance breaks have helped lift her spirits, “[They don’t] give me the joy of that first sip of hot coffee,” she says.
2. Scheduling plans
This is not a directive to make big ambitious blueprints for your future right now. Your plans can be as small as having an appointment with your TV or doing your laundry at a certain time. For Mhiya B., 27, taking daily nature walks has helped her find hope and a sense of normalcy. “The consistency of it is peaceful and offers a sense of stability that does not exist for me right now,” she tells SELF.
3. Driving aimlessly
Malaika A., 35, tells SELF that driving around for a little while has helped her feel like her pre-pandemic self. Once or twice a week, she gets in the car and hits the open road. “I have nowhere to go, but it reminds me of better days when I actually had destinations,” she says.
4. Playing hostess (via Zoom)
Even if Zoom parties don’t give you the same exact charge of an IRL hang, they can be a very effective way of connecting with others. For many who like to plan and host, gathering loved ones together online reminds them of simpler times. “I normally host different events throughout the year, and it still excites me to see my friends and meet new people through Zoom,” Bernice W., 35, tells SELF. “It really feels like we are gathered in the same space.”
5. Doing DIY manicures and pedicures
If the thought of doing your own nails at home is stressful, then this isn’t the tip for you. But if the extra effort might give you a sense of continuity, then it might be time to try. “I still like to feel cute even if no one is watching,” Christina, L., 35, tells SELF. Plus, a cheerful color might make you feel good every time you look at your hands (which is probably a lot, what with all that handwashing and sanitizing).
6. Following the usual morning routine
“I still get up and watch a portion of Good Morning America. I put on jeans three to four times a week, I listen to Oprah’s Super Soul Conversations on Spotify, and I slap on some concealer and mascara,” Cree V., 48, tells SELF. Carrying out her normal morning routine helps Cree manage the uncertainty around her. “I can’t control what’s happening out there, but I have 100% control over my response,” she explains. “For me, some accountability is essential.”
7. Coloring and drawing with kids
Coloring and drawing are pretty well-known stress-relievers, but for LaChele P., 35, doing these activities with her nephew has an added bonus. Watching and imitating the drawings they find on YouTube “helps me feel normal right now because I work in education, and it’s something I would be doing with my students every day if I were at work,“ she says.
8. Getting (or staying) active
“Before the pandemic happened, I always worked out and practiced yoga, so continuing my routine—even if it is at home rather than at the gym—makes me feel normal,” Racquel W., 31, tells SELF.
Even if you had a hard time being active on a regular basis before the pandemic, this huge shakeup in your routine might provide the opportunity you need to figure out what works for you. That’s what’s happening for Bri B., 35, who explains that, before the pandemic hit, she hadn’t worked out on a consistent basis for years. Now she goes on long walks and attends online classes that her schedule wouldn’t have allowed before. “It lets me know I’m in control of some things in my life,” she tells SELF.
9. Doing beautiful hairstyles
The internet is filled with memes about disastrous attempts to cut your own bangs, but for some folks, DIY hair care is soothing. “Doing my hair—braids and twist styles—has always been something that has made me feel good about myself,” Taylor S., 30, tells SELF. “It’s easy for me to just pull it back into a bun, but even in quarantine, I want to keep up with doing it.“
10. Daydreaming about the future
Concentration can be difficult right now, so taking a minute to think beyond daily tasks can absolutely serve as a reminder of normalcy. “Daydreaming about what the future has in store keeps me motivated in a time when it seems everything has slowed to a near stop,” Bree J., 29, tells SELF.
11. Putting on makeup
“I work from home,” Minu P., 37, tells SELF. “Putting on makeup is a treat that makes me feel better.” Whether you’re using this time to perfect your cat eye or you’re simply primping to remind yourself that you’re actually cute, doing makeup can help you remember who you were before all of this happened.
12. Sticking with a skin-care routine
During this time, Kimberly B., 32, tells SELF that she has “committed to maintaining my full skin-care routine even though no one will truly be able to see me outside of my husband and my clients on a blurry Zoom screen.” Not only can skin care be soothing, it can also serve as a grounding ritual. “It signals a start and end to my day when I go through my full routine versus putting it off until a ‘self-care Sunday,’” she adds.
13. Hugging loved ones (in the same household)
A lot of us are missing physical contact with other people right now. For those of us who are lucky to shelter in place with loved ones, sharing moments of physical affection can bring us back to ourselves. “To be able to hug my mom, who lives with me, reminds me of a time before COVID-19,” Tiani K., 30, tells SELF. “I feel extremely lucky to be able to share these moments with my mom still.”
14. Savoring the good parts of this new normal
Even though everything might be different, new norms are starting to emerge. “The funny thing is that in some ways my life looks more ‘normal’ now,” Danielle F., 32, tells SELF. “I now have the opportunity to actually sit down and enjoy my meals instead of the rushed, on-the-go lifestyle I was living before.” During a time when so much is in flux, savoring each meal in a way that didn’t seem possible before the pandemic has been “particularly grounding,” Danielle says.