• Tyler Valencia

What Is Normal in Quarantine?

What is normal? I think that question is open-ended and depends on who you speak to, and I think my body and mind have figured out my “quarantine” way of life during these last several weeks at home. I wake up from 5 to 5:30am. My usual time used to be 4:30am or earlier, but it appears my body clock is now set for a later time. I’m not complaining! Usually the only time I get deep, rested sleep is if I’m on vacation. If I sleep in any longer than 5:30am, I find my Siamese cat laying on my chest and pawing at my cheek telling me she wants to get up. I appreciate her diligence in keeping me on track and I do what any animal lover does, listen to the kitty and get up.

I wander to the kitchen, grab my coffee, feed the kitties and then take a very short commute down the hallway to the right of the hall bathroom into my home office. This commute is much shorter than it used to be! I get settled in with coffee in hand, kitties walking over my keyboard, jumping on my office chair, and playing under my desk as I wake up my home computer and log into my work laptop. My day starts with the soft glow from both screens. Our new Bengal kitten (Axel) is quickly learning a new level of mischief thanks to Ivy, the Siamese.

After working a couple hours, I head to the bedroom to complain to the kitties about changing out of my comfortable pajamas and into my cold shorts, shirt, and shoes…but like anything, once I get going I’m fine. I know if I didn’t stick to this routine, I’d be in my pajamas all day long; not that I have a problem with that, but since one day blends into another it’s nice to keep to a schedule to keep my mind intact and give my body the purpose it needs to move around during the day. Some mornings are more challenging than others, and some days I just do not feel like walking, but I know if I don’t get my morning walk in that my entire day will lack the energy I need. I have found this daily walk to be the key to my productivity and positive outlook.

One day last week, I was busy with a conference call and before I knew it the morning was gone -- it was 1:30 in the afternoon! I was still in my pajamas, dirty dishes in the sink, and feeling a bit irritable from not eating anything yet. As much as I tried to take a walk that day, things popped up for work and I never left the house. I had a hard time sleeping that night, tossing and turning as I flipped the covers on and off all night long.

I have learned I need to keep to my routine. Not only does it break up the morning, but to feel the sun on my face, the breeze at my back, and to get my heart rate up all encourage those good endorphins to start doing their thing. I am definitely not someone who could stay indoors all the time and not incorporate some sort of movement into the day. When I missed one walk, I felt awful…so I can’t imagine never going outside – it would drive me crazy!

Lately, I have taken notice of the sidewalk chalk around the neighborhood. I think it’s awesome that kids are getting outside and expressing themselves! I often wonder how this will change their perception of the world; how they will live from this point forward. It makes me thankful that I grew up in time where the only technology was the up and down motion of a seesaw and swinging so high the swing set would literally lift off the ground. My childhood was spent outside exploring, riding my bike, playing with Barbies, building forts, and making mud pies in the backyard. AH, mud pies……….

As I walked around my neighborhood, I took some pictures of the drawings and the hopscotch on the sidewalk. Everything I saw was uplifting, happy, and encouraging. You couldn’t help but stop and feel the expressions of positivity. I truly appreciate the artwork, the extra-long hopscotch, and signs that happiness is around us.

I wonder if other people see what I see? I wonder how many children understand this quarantine and are making the best of a not-so-great situation, being at home and away from their friends and teachers. In the sidewalk chalk, I see children sharing their feelings and sharing their joy for everyone to see. It puts a spring in my step when I walk by the sidewalk chalk and read the word “smile”. I do.

I have been keeping track of my time spent walking to music. I can clear out a mile in less than 15 minutes if I am walking to 130 beats per minute, but if I walk to 136 beats per minute, then it’s 11.5 minutes per mile. I find the music that I use for group fitness instruction is very effective in keeping a steady pace. It can be hard in the beginning, but once I get my groove on - I’m good!

I see a lot of the same people at 7:30 in the morning and the same people at 9:00am, so I know I’m not the only one who has adopted a new routine. I notice even more couples walking now than I did three weeks ago, which tells me one of them might be encouraging the other to get moving! To date, I have found a total of 71 cents -- my goal is to end up with at least a dollar in change when this is all over.

I recently read an article on the AFAA website called “Emotions in Motion: Exercise as an Anxiety Intervention” which included the importance of exercise to keep anxiety and depression at bay. The article discussed the impact of physical activity in improving feelings of low energy and fatigue by making exercise a regular part of a person’s lifestyle. One statement that resonated with me was "physical activity positively contributes to all aspects of quality of life, including physical, social, emotional, spiritual and cognitive well-being”. I find this true after surviving my “down” day. I’m sure there are many people at home experiencing some signs of anxiety by having their normal routine be put on hold with no confirmed end date. It is frustrating to me too, as I am a goal-setter and not having a confirmed end date to this quarantine drives me batty!

I did get out of my comfort zone and did my first virtual class for students who are enrolled in my class at Paradise Valley Community College. I have to say, once I got the hang of Zoom it wasn’t so bad! I did my first class in the living room, and of course the kitties wanted to be part of the spotlight, my husband came home during the workout, and there was outside noise as an added distraction, but…I received positive feedback. The best comment I received from one of my students was “this is exactly what I needed! I’ve been in a funk, so working out is the best thing for me!” It not only reinforced that article I read from AFAA, but the importance of getting outside and moving every day.

I will leave you with this challenge: if you walk around your neighborhood and see a hopscotch -- go for it! Just a few seconds hoping around will do wonders for you. If you don’t see one nearby, go grab the chalk!

-Charlene Tate

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