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5 ways tech can help you stay sane while you stay home

I can’t stop thinking that I am in the middle of a thriller about a sinister virus that causes a global pandemic. But this is no made-for-Hollywood screenplay. It’s a real catastrophe.

Many people are dealing with frustrating tech challenges while trying to find a new normal. You can Google anything; it’s just that you never know if the search results are legit. That’s why, in my Komando Community, I’m helping readers and listeners just like you get answers to their tech questions.

Whether it’s an issue you’re having trouble with working remotely or trying to figure something out, you can leave questions on our forum for myself and a team of experts to answer. You’ll also be able to listen to my most recent national radio show and have access to the past three months of shows.

But if you’re just going a little stir-crazy, tech will do wonders to bring back some semblance of your previous life. Let me show you how you can use certain apps, sites and tools.

1. Reach out and see someone

To flatten the curve, we’re all staying home. This drastic change is tough, especially for close-knit families and people accustomed to working as a team. Remember, a text is nice but seeing someone’s face takes communication to a different level.

If you have an Apple device, there’s FaceTime. It’s straightforward to use. Simply select your contact’s phone number or Apple ID and then Video. You can connect to up to 32 people at once. The bummer is it only works with other Apple devices.

For times when everyone is not in the Apple camp, there are other options. Microsoft’s Skype has been synonymous with video calling for many years and supports calls for up to 10 people. It’s simple to set up and works on Mac, Windows, Android and even some Linux machines.

Google Duo works on Android and iOS devices and supports calls for up to eight people. It also has a feature called Knock Knock. When you make a call, the person you’re calling sees a live video preview of you before they answer — just something to keep in mind.

Facebook Messenger works well because it’s likely everyone you know is already on Facebook. You can group video chat up to six people; however, 50 more people can listen in on the call and send emojis, GIFs and stickers during the call. In the Messenger app, just tap Groups to get started.

You’ll find the apps above in Apple’s App Store or Google Play. Since the kids are home, schedule regular daily or weekly calls with any elderly family members, friends and neighbors. If you’re working from home, have a morning video call with your team members to start the day and maybe another one later on.

RELATED: Stay up-to-date on the coronavirus with my free newsletter. No ads. Just news. Tap or click here to get The Current.

2. Get in shape for free

Many fitness companies are responding to the coronavirus with freebies to help get, or keep, you in shape while you’re stuck at home. The mega hit Peloton is offering a 90-day free trial to their at-home workout app that includes yoga, HIIT, and stretching. Best of all, there’s no bike required.

Gold’s Gym has over 600 audio and video workouts in their Amp app. It’s free until May 31, 2020.

Planet Fitness is streaming classes live on Facebook every day at 7 p.m. ET. If you’re a morning person, Blink Fitness streams live on Facebook at 8 a.m. ET.

3. Play games virtually together

Instead of firing up a game to play by yourself, break out of your shell. Truly, there are multiplayer games for everyone from Fortnite or Monopoly to Words with Friends. Ask your friends to name a game they like and start playing with them. Or check the charts in Apple’s App Store or Google Play for inspiration.

I play Scrabble on my phone with my family. You can play with up to three people using the app or online at Promise that you will not use any of the Scrabble Word Finder sites because that would be cheating. But if you’re curious, these little gems let you enter up to 12 letters to come up with possible words.

4. Expand your horizons

Maybe you’re like me. With all this time at home, I’ve finally cleaned out my office — twice. I’m ready for stimulation. Whether you want to learn a new skill or you’re ready to branch out to a different career, the internet is a true goldmine.

CodeAcademy is the place for you to learn software development along with HTML, Javascript, Python, Ruby on Rails and CSS for free. But if you’ve ever wanted to take a class at Yale, Stanford, MIT or Harvard, check out OpenCulture. You’ll find free on-demand audio and video courses from the world’s leading universities.

For all those times you couldn’t remember why something was the way it was, or how to solve a math problem, every parent in the world should know about Khan Academy. It’s a good place to brush up on anything that you needed to know in school.

There are also several subscription-based learning sites. LinkedIn Learning offers thousands of classes in business, design, tech, web development and more for $19.99 per month. Udemy is a similar site that offers a more diverse range in business and hobby classes. You pay by the class, usually under $20.

MasterClass is different in that it offers more than 80 classes from names you know for $15 per month. Wolfgang Puck will teach you how to cook, Neil deGrasse Tyson will bestow his knowledge of Scientific Thinking and Communication, or have Bob Iger give you tips on Business Strategy and Leadership. Regrettably, even though Christina Aguilera offers singing lessons, I know that’s not for me.

5. Keep in touch

Why watch Netflix alone when you can have a Netflix Party? After you install the Chrome Extension, play the video you’d like to watch with friends. Click “Start Party” and share the party URL to invite others. The video is synced with your friends’ devices and a chat box lets you all talk about the movie, or whatever, in real-time.

To stay sane, some people are using the video chats I mentioned earlier to digitally hang out with friends for after-work happy hours, birthday parties and even poker games. It’s a great way to beat self-isolation and take your mind off everything.

Remember, we need social interaction for our health. So stay home and use tech to stay sane.

What digital lifestyle questions do you have? Call Kim’s national radio show and tap or click here to find it on your local radio station. You can listen to The Kim Komando Show on your phone, tablet, television or computer. Or tap or click here for Kim’s free podcasts.

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