Top 30 Things Dental Hygienists Can Do During Self-Isolation

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Twiddling your thumbs, strangling your significant other if they even look at you the wrong way, and changing from day pajamas into nighttime ones by 7 p.m.? Stuck in a rut and not sure what to do next with yourself or your beloved children who are so bored you’d do anything at this point to keep them busy even for half of an hour? Here are some ideas (some with hyperlinks) that are sure to spark some new or forgotten interests. Enjoy!

Time to grieve: Allow yourself to face some unprecedented circumstances at this time where the whole world has slowed down, closed up shop, and told us we need to be on standby until decisions are made for us. Yes, it is beyond our control right now, for the most part.

We are all handling this self-isolation differently. That’s OK. What we all do need to do, however, is allow ourselves the many emotions and stages of grief we are certain to encounter. It’s natural, and it’s healthy to go through the process of grief and to help others through it if we are able, even by phone, email, Facetime, etc.

Then, dust yourself off from the floor, give yourself a warm embracing hug, and remember that this won’t last forever. (Hugs from me to you!)

Inner artist: Ever been in touch with your inner Bob Ross? Have you always thought in the back of your head about how fun it was to paint freely way back in kindergarten? Ah yes, messy fingers full of primary colors. It was all rainbows and sunshine. Like Bob often said, “Let’s get crazy!”

Yoga: Posts on Pinterest, YouTube, and even Facebook groups give free (or inexpensive) lessons on how to do yoga from your home. I highly recommend trying a few to keep yourself flexible while you wait to return to work. Besides, the deep-breathing and calmness you’ll feel afterward will be worth it. There are lessons for beginners too! Here’s a link to a fellow hygienist who offers specific yoga exercises that she feels are great for us too.

Lose that last 10 pounds: Don’t need to lose weight, you say? Let’s say you’re telling the truth, though, and you’re fit as a fiddle. First…I’m so jealous! Second, exercise anyways! Here is a beginner cardio workout. Keep that perfect bod you are rocking. The endorphins created will help you manage stress levels and create that happy vibe you might be missing right about now. Like BatDad says to Jen, “Do squats, get swole!”

Inner writer/blogger/novelist: I’m not even sure how many books and short stories I’ve started in my head with interesting plots, twists, and characters. Then nada! I get too busy with everyday life. I certainly have the time now. So, no excuses for me! Maybe you’d like to start a blog to either journal your feelings to reflect on later. Maybe you’d like to make money with affiliated advertising as your blog grows?

What have you got to lose? There are online resources (thesaurus, dictionary, etc.) for writers to help you out if spelling, grammar, etc., are not your strong suit. There are very helpful writing programs out there too that give you, for example, a downloadable template for how to write novels, short stories, etc. Here are a few programs to look over here, here, and here.

Become a home chef: “Mmm yummy! Can I have more?” Always wanted to hear this from your kids, hubby, very picky mother-in-law? But you just don’t know how to really use all the ingredients you presently have in your fridge to make something fantabulous to feed the masses? A ton of recipes and how-tos out there, and they are so easy to follow with pictures, directions, and even reviews from people who have tried each one. Hey, if it doesn’t turn out, just give it to the dog!

Indoor gardening: Did you know that there are many fruits and vegetables you can grow from the seed, root, or pit of something you just ate and were going to throw into the compost or trash? Why not create an experiment with the kids or even just for your own entertainment and look up ways to make a new one?

Freeze-dried herbs/oils: Have some fresh herbs that you don’t want to go bad and really enjoy them mixed with different oils in your cooking or in a salad? Did you know you could freeze them in ice cube trays and use one at a time, as you need it? They melt well, and the flavors infuse over time. Personally, I like olive oil, fresh basil, thyme, and chopped garlic cubes.

Fresh face: I can’t remember the last time I even put makeup on. I’m enjoying the break from the time it takes to sport a smokey eye or perfect lip. The best thing, though, is the much-needed break my skin is getting. Here are holistic recipes for making natural makeup wipes, facial toners, and scented bath salts that will melt you away to your happy place.

Learn to knit: I am determined to one day knit at least one baby hat, especially now that my daughter is expecting a baby this winter. I feel the grandmother in me just burning to don a warm winter bonnet on the wee lad or lass. There are lots of how-to videos on YouTube that show you how to do this, even as a beginner.

Learn a new instrument/how to sing/karaoke: Have you been staring at that brand new Gretsch guitar and thinking about your inner rock star? Do the ivory keys of that baby grand mock every time you pass it? Why not take those instruments for a spin, learn how to play, and maybe even sing a tune out loud in the privacy of your own home?

Learn to can fruits/veggies: This is something I’ve always thought of doing, and I wish had, prior to being cooped up. But, hey, it’s never too late! Here’s how!

Reorganize closet/junk drawer: Face it, we all have had one or more of these in our home at some point. That famous junk drawer! Why not make a designated spot for each item? You’ll always know where things are, and you’ll feel so much better when things are clean, organized, and tidy. There’s a book and a TV show by Marie Kondo that gives very helpful hints on this very topic.

Mentor others: Maybe it’s your turn to help out a fellow hygienist who isn’t handling this present situation well. Or maybe you’re on a Facebook forum where others are reaching out for advice, and you know the answer. Without sounding like a know-it-all, try to be inspirational or lend an ear. Pick up the phone even and check in on loved ones to see if they need to talk.

Scrapbook: Be creative with odds and ends you have around the house and make a masterpiece that’ll last a lifetime. Kids love doing this kind of thing too. Maybe have them make their own from things they find in their room (Maybe a good way to get them to clean under their bed?).

Kids online school/games: Are there free online education courses offered in your area? Would your kids be able to access these? If not, how about give them topics to research online and present to you after writing a paper about a topic of choice? They may surprise you with what they have found. Here are a few ideas for your child to keep them busy for a while.

Dinner at table, no phones (game): Everyone sits at the table for at least one meal a day, no cell phones or other distractions. The first one to say anything negative has to wash the dishes! Also, everyone needs to say at least one nice thing about every person at the table and/or something they are grateful for that day.

Discover your spouse’s love language: Whatever your beliefs are or aren’t, couples who take the time to really understand each other’s needs and put each other first are the ones who really make it. These times are very challenging for a marriage, so maybe this is the best time to take a free online quiz. There are quizzes for couples, singles, teens, and children. You’d be surprised at what you find out about each other. Come on, quizzes are fun!

Try a new hairstyle: It’s just hair. It’ll grow back! Don’t listen to the nay-sayers who warn you not to cut your bangs. Do it already! Oh, and post a pic for our entertainment? Ahem, I mean constructive criticism? I personally love trying vintage hairstyles such as victory rolls or pin curls!

Spa day: Hey, get the kids involved, the hubby, even the dog! Paint those nails, make stations for new up-dos, cucumber eye treatments, and minty foot scrubs. Wrap your hair in a towel. When everyone is looking glam, take a family photo! Maybe save it for your next Christmas card, or post on your Facebook page and encourage others to do the same!

Get CE done: Are you one of those procrastinators who wait until the last month? Maybe you’re short a few, or many, credits and don’t have a lot of money to attend any in person? There are countless approved continuing education courses available for free (or cheap) online. Some are live webinars, and others are prerecorded.

Budget: Since we are at home and not spending so much money on dining, entertainment, etc., why not learn how to do a proper budget? Here are free interactive budget tools can get online that use Excel, and you don’t even have to know how to use it. Financial gurus like Dave Ramsey, Derek Sall, or Gail Vaz-Oxlade make it so easy for you to follow the program and learn effective saving and debt-paying strategies

Tea party: Now who doesn’t like a tea party with all of the trimmings? They aren’t just for kids (but make sure to involve them). Extend formal invitations to immediate family members in your home, and plan menus, seating arrangements, background music, fine china (or plastic tea sets work very well in a pinch), and make it a big event!

Dress your pets: What cat doesn’t like putting on a tiara or grandma’s newest ugly vest? How about a bandana and booties for the dog? Just think of the YouTube videos you’ll be popping out!

Learn a new language: I’ve always wanted to learn Spanish and Mandarin, but accents and proper phrasing is not my strong suit. Paid programs such as Rosetta Stone are really good. Or for free, you can download apps on your phone like Duolingo, OpenCulture, Livemocha, Babbel, and Mango.

Themed dinners: Why not go on a staycation where a theme is picked from a hat, and you invite friends for a virtual potluck? Everyone dresses up and brings their themed dish to their own table, and you dine via Zoom?  Next time it’s someone else’s turn?

Make your bed: “If You Want to Change the World, Start Off by Making Your Bed ”.  Watch this motivational speech made by William McRaven, U.S. Navy Admiral, then, even if you aren’t going anywhere today, put fresh sheets on your bed, maybe mist some homemade linen spray on your pillows, and make that bed pretty and crisp. It just feels so good!

Puppet play: Every kid loves to perform for their parents. Find some old socks they can create characters, some cardboard to make a stage out of, and a sheet to throw over a table to hide under. They will absolutely love it, and it’ll keep them busy for a while too.

Start an online business: Maybe you are crafty and know how to sew scrub caps, knit mittens, or bead together necklaces? Sell them on Etsy! Make some extra cash!

Pray/journal/meditate: Whatever your belief system, take the time to have gratitude for our blessings and ask the universe to bless others, especially during these difficult times. Examples of spiritual guidance can be found here and here.

Hopefully, within this compilation of ideas, there’s at least one idea that you never thought of! I want you all to know how much you mean to me, your hygiene community, your family, friends, and our patients who depend on us. We are all family in one way or another and only human after all.

Let’s support each other as much as we possibly can and give ourselves the big hugs we need and deserve for going through this trying time together. I’m proud of you all and to be part of this wonderful dental family!

Now Listen to the Today’s RDH Dental Hygiene Podcast Below:

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Corina Hartley, RDH
Corina Hartley, RDH, is a Canadian Durham College graduate from the province of Ontario. Practicing dental hygiene since 2006, she has experienced the challenges of commuting to big cities, working in remote areas, and temping at various offices with differing ethnic backgrounds. While her family will always be her first love, the dental world is certainly the field she is passionate about, and writing about it brings her immense joy. Corina has a unique ability to relax the most phobic patient and calm an irate one with a smile, an understanding attitude, and a special sense of humor. She enjoys really getting to the heart of the matter with everything she does in life, and this is demonstrated by her witty writing abilities. Corina’s biggest desire is to share life with as many people as possible through close-up experiences, storytelling, and simply just being present.