8 ways to switch up the new at-home normal

8 ways to switch up the new at-home normal
Posted at 4:20 PM, Apr 24, 2020

As COVID-19 sparks closures, cancellations and stay-at-home orders, household stressors are piling up. On top of health concerns, lost incomes and lack of child care amid the pandemic, there’s also coping with isolation, whether individually or as a couple or family.

Kate Nelson, a school administrator from Colorado, is adjusting to losing an income stream and working from home with distractions: a spouse, three kids and home-schooling assignments. Like others, she’s been using technology — videoconferencing and blogging — to help.

“My family, we are all spread out, and we’re very close,” said Nelson, 33. “Right now we’re talking every day. They’re in some ways a lot closer than they’ve ever been.”

As you take precautions against the coronavirus and stay at home, here are some services, discounts and ideas that may help lighten your load or strengthen bonds with loved ones.

1. Reinvent game night

A game of Pictionary via videoconferencing service Zoom was a hit with Nelson’s family. Multiple people can join a call and draw figures with Zoom’s whiteboard. A basic subscription is free.

Illinois couple and content creators Ruth and Thomas Phinney are able to work remotely as they abide by their state’s stay-at-home orders. But they’re still channeling their competitive streak, playing virtual games with friends on apps like Trivia Crack and Houseparty.

“We’ve been able to get into contact with friends that we haven’t talked to in a long time,” said Thomas, 25. “In a time that could be really anxious, we’re just trying to make the most of it.”

2. Go on dates, at home

The Phinneys are also preserving date-night traditions. Through their Date Mates YouTube channel, they document unique date ideas like the “Chopped Cooking Challenge,” based on the “Chopped” TV show that challenges chefs to make a dish with unconventional ingredients.

Thomas’ main course combined short ribs, root beer, bok choy and guava.

“It ended up being delicious,” said Ruth, 26. (She had to make dessert with cottage cheese, crescent dough, Frosted Flakes, mint and prunes.)

The couple also used a rewards credit card on grocery purchases to earn points, which they plan to use toward travel, eventually.

3. Treat yourself to dinner

If your budget permits, take a break from meal planning and order food for delivery . Uber Eats is waiving the delivery fee on eligible orders at select restaurants, and as with similar services such as DoorDash, you can facilitate no-contact deliveries.

Or you can go get the takeout yourself. Many restaurants are offering curbside pickup, and you might even cherish the car ride.

4. Host a virtual meeting

You don’t have to gather at a theater. Organize a video call with friends, stream the same film simultaneously from your own homes, and add commentary over popcorn or wine.

If TV is more your thing and you’re running low on shows to binge, Showtime’s streaming service has been offering a 30-day free trial.

5. Set up camp

Camping indoors or in the backyard can offer a change of scenery. Nelson’s children — ages 7, 4 and 2 — will soon be camping overnight in her family room.

The Phinneys are heading to their backyard. “We’ll probably do some stargazing, make hot dogs and tell scary stories or sing some songs,” Ruth said.

If you’re looking for non-scary campsite stories for kids, Audible is offering free audiobooks while schools are closed.

6. Change the routine

Nelson shares struggles and activities on her lifestyle blog, Avenue Kate, to help parents. One of her ideas: a scavenger hunt in which kids search for signs of spring around her property and document them with photos or drawings.

“Anything that changes up the routine for them and makes it feel like it is fun and out of the ordinary is kind of the focus right now,” Nelson said.

7. Try new workouts

If you’ve been wanting to get in shape, you may now have more time and resources. The YMCA launched free online classes via a program called YMCA 360 to help people stay active while indoors.

Several other gyms and studios like Planet Fitness and CorePower Yoga are also providing free live-stream workouts.

8. Find peace in meditation

If you’re feeling anxious about COVID-19, the Calm app for sleep and meditation is offering free resources .

Aileen Xu, 29, a California-based content creator via the Lavendaire blog and YouTube channel, uses meditation to be present and mindful. Xu focuses on being still, breathing and reeling her thoughts back to the present to avoid worrying about the future.

“The only thing you have control over is the present moment,” she says.

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Melissa Lambarena is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: Twitter: @LissaLambarena.