The one thing I’ve noticed over the last two (or has it been three already?) weeks of quarantine — besides how annoying it is to try and teach my children math — is the insane amount of times I, my husband, and my children touch our faces. It’s ridiculous and I’ve become obsessed with noticing this mindless habit.
The main message we constantly hear and one of the two most important ways we can survive rests on the fact that we do not touch our faces with our viral-ridden hands. (The other is to clearly wash those hands — for at least 20 seconds.)
In other words, we need to socially distance ourselves from our hands.
Things aren’t looking too good over here as far as that goes. Perhaps there’s something else that can prevent the spread? Surely our survival can hinge on some other subconscious behavior being rectified, like mindless eating, or binge-watching?
My hands touch everything, and then immediately gravitate toward my face for either an itch, an eye rub, or to provide solace during a moment of despair where both hands literally cover my entire face as I hold back tears, or attempt to muffle the screams that want to erupt after two hours of homeschooling.
My hands are going to be the end of me. By the time I realize I need to be paying attention to where they are, they’re already attached to my face. My ninja-like hands strike without warning.
In order to control my obsessive face touching, it seems the only obvious way to rectify this unfortunate occurrence is to begin paying closer attention to each and every moment. Every moment I need to be aware, present, conscious and observant. I need to become a Buddhist monk.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t jive with my current way of life. I tend to prefer fueling my anxieties by focusing on how problems can steer wildly out of control in the near future, thus creating this tightening-in-the-chest feeling. And when I’m not doing that, I’m craning my neck to look over my shoulder and into my past so I can ruminate over all the things I should have done differently. Paying attention to my hands and their placement has never been a top priority.
Now I have to pay attention to the present moment. Now I have to police my movements. Already I’ve managed to touch my face at least 14 times while writing this, and those are the moments I noticed. Lord knows how many times my ninja hands stealthily came in contact with my face.
If the survival of the world depends on this however, I’m willing to do my part, and so can you if you find yourself endlessly reaching for your face. This is how we help to flatten the curve (and get our kids going back to school!) If mankind depends on it, we must rise to the occasion.
A few creative ways you and I can begin to flatten the curve:
1. Dole out $1 each time you touch your face. Get a jar ready, you’re about to save up for some cheap airline tickets to nowhere! This jar is going to fill up fast and furiously in the beginning so it’s best to keep a pile of bills right next to your jar and keep it close to you, be it in your kitchen, laundry room, the closet where you escape from your family… wherever you spend most of your time.
2. Tie your hands behind your back. A slightly drastic move but our heroic attempt to stop the spread will require sacrifice. This is a good time to give our kids a little dose of “growing up Gen X” when the majority of the responsibility of growing up fell directly on the kid. Parents were figuratively hands-off back then and we should take heed.
I clearly remember at age 7, I was a latchkey kid watching General Hospital and Oprah after school while doing my homework and getting dinner ready for the family. Buck up little millennialites, this ride is about to get bumpy. (At least they’ll be supervised.)
3. Wear a mask all day long. Preferably it should be one that looks just like your kid's teacher, this way if you’re lucky, your kid will begin treating you with a little more respect. All you have to do is screenshot your kid zooming with their teacher and print it out, cut out the eye holes and get some rubber bands.
Caution: It may be difficult to breathe at times but don’t worry, it’s only because you have the mask on your face, it’s not corona.
4. Do 10 jumping jacks every time you touch your face. Actually, we should all just do this anyway since 99% of us are coming out of this quarantine 15 pounds heavier (and possible alcoholics.)
5. Wear gloves all day long. Again, get creative here and don’t go for the plastic, surgical gloves. Go big and turn your hands into Incredible Hulk hands. This could actually serve two purposes: First, it will keep hands off the face—no one wants big man hands reaching for their faces. And secondly, whenever your kid gives you an attitude about having to do math, you can pound your hulk hands on the table and say “You don’t want to see me mad”.
6. Give yourself a manicure, every hour. We’re all slowly realizing that self-administered nail polish takes a much longer time to dry than at it does at nail salons. No one was prepared for this. We didn’t stock up on nail polish and little portable nail dryers before lockdown, and now we’re really paying the price. Turns out nail polish takes for-eve-a to dry! Perfect opportunity because we’ll end up touching nothing while waiting for our sloppy looking nails to dry.
7. Walk around with a tissue tucked into your sleeve. My grandma knew a thing or two about how not to spread germs. She would always have a trusty little Kleenex sticking out of her sleeve. While unfashionable, this woman survived some of the world's biggest struggles like the depression and a couple of World Wars (not to mention life before smartphones,) so she knew a thing or two about life that we never had to endure — until now. Stop spreading germs and use a handy tissue if you need to wipe your nose or scratch an itch.
8. Repeat every 10 minutes, I will not touch my face, I will not touch my face. Do that for an entire day. If your kids don’t push you over the edge, this will. (I actually tried this, and after the first hour, I became so used to saying it that it became similar to a song being stuck in my head. I ended up touching my face as I was saying it… so while this one was a fail for me, it may work for you.)
9. Carry around a back scratcher to use for any and all itches. You may have guessed it, but this too has an added bonus, like when your kids won’t listen… I’m just kidding! Those little cherubs are the best listeners, no need to whack ‘em behind the knees with a back scratcher to pay attention. The back scratcher should only be used for your face.
10. Glue small pieces of sandpaper on each finger. Warning: This may backfire since it provides the perfect opportunity to exfoliate. I haven’t washed my face in two weeks so it’s primed for a good scrub!
And here’s a late entry but one that surprised me the most in its effectiveness…
10a. This one I discovered by accident but I think it’s a real winner: Rub your chapped and overly-scrubbed hands with the greasiest salve you have and watch how grossed out you immediately become when your ninja hand touches your face. It then gets even worse when you use your other hand to try and wipe off the grease. You’ll be running for the paper towels in no time.
This is the clear victor and that which will help save humanity. You’re not going to want to touch your face with what feels like french fry grease smeared all over.
So that’s my round-up of 10 or so ways you can do your part in helping to flatten the curve and get this virus in check. If we band together and do the small things that can help prevent the spread of this nasty virus, we can hopefully begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Stay safe everybody!
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AM Costanzo is a motivational junkie, loves a-ha moments, and works hard to help others feel strong, powerful and downright fabulous in body and mind!