This is an old photo from one of those misty mornings I went out walking, seeking out the isolation.
I’m ok with being on my own, I crave time alone each day, and I need it to keep grounded. Yet on the flip side I also crave the company of others, and I’m sure a lot of people are feeling uneasy about living their lives without direct contact with people and the outside world.
As someone who has previously spent a stretch of 10 weeks on a hospital corridor of at its busiest point just 6 patients, I actually want to reassure you. We had no internet or phone access, so no contact with the outside world. In a quarantine situation we have all this amazing technology at our fingertips so we can chat and get creative and learn new skills and all sorts of things. No, it’s not the same as having that friend sat on your sofa nursing a cuppa and decompressing in unison but maybe we can each make a cuppa, sit on our own sofas and have a good ol’ video/virtual chinwag for a little while?
My strongest recommendation is: routine. We need it. Without it time merges + spirals and it feels like eternity. Routine also keeps our body clocks on track + helps us to keep healthy physically and mentally. It also helps the kids. It doesn’t have to look like a school timetable but a gentle sectioning of the day and the week will help you to get through it, I promise.
The unit was small. A box room each, a nursery, a room to eat. We had a tv room on our corridor with just the 5 channels, and you know what, people took it in turns to choose and it sparked conversation between us. Make it a social occasion with your family if you can. I’d recommend maybe making a list of things that will uplift you and things that will really hold your attention like a great drama, pieces that will add value to your time. The same goes for books and magazines - why not choose a mag with longer pieces in and take your time to dip in and out? If you need noise to make you feel less isolated, the radio is amazing. Or podcasts. But with radio you don’t even have to search for anything, or concentrate necessarily, the hubbub can just help you feel less alone.
We didn’t have the liberty of going out to do a food shop so I will be doing mine mindfully, slowly, and calmly, appreciating the sights, sounds and smells as I go. Talking of shopping, just be mindful of your spending habits. As I’m sure any new mum would tell you, when you feel cooped up in the house it can be all too easy to whip out a card and buy something impulsively, hoping that it’s going to solve all your problems. Be mindful, take the time to research and consider and really really ask yourself why you are buying this! Be wary of the dopamine hit! (She says, having learnt the hard way...)
Keep your space clean and organised. Obviously partly for the whole decontamination thing, but mainly for the sake of your mental wellbeing. When things have a place it feels much more manageable and relaxing. And it can help with maintaining routine too! But also, it doesn’t have to be immaculate, you’re living in it, remember?
Fresh air. So good for the soul. Even 5 minutes. If you’re not able to access a garden or balcony, crank open the window and breathe in the good stuff. And consider a houseplant for healthier air inside, or a bunch of flowers just to be cheery :)
Motivation: I find it helpful sometimes to just write down or tick off the things that I’ve done, because a) I generally forget by the end of the day and days can begin to merge, and b) it gives me a sense of achievement however minute! This could be; cleaned the kitchen, sent that email, made a phone call, did colouring with the kids. And for the kids (or yourself!) it can be great to have a list of ideas to have to hand - we have a ”boredom buster” list over the school holidays of toys and activities that Oscar can pick up, or we can turn to for ideas when our brains are fried. And I don’t see why it has to be just for kids, or for boredom, it could also be an ideas list for self-care and soothing.
In periods that are more difficult, I often look up through our velux window to the stars. It helps me to feel connected, and I like to see how they move across the sky through the weeks and months. It’s good for concentration and distraction, especially if you are up in the night.
I know a lot of people are talking about taking on new projects, which can be a great idea and way to fill some of the time, but don’t beat yourself up if you don’t have one planned or if you don’t get round to it. There’s a new normal to get used to and we don’t have to keep up with the Jones’s!
Lastly, but by no means least, there are chronically ill and disabled humans amongst us who experience periods of isolation frequently or periodically, often unpredictably. Please appreciate the unseen things that they experience regularly if not daily. And if you get stuck, I’m sure the community will be happy to give you some tips :)
My hopes for this period of difficulty are that some good emerges. A sense of community that we have been so lacking in most areas. A realisation that flexible working and working from home can actually work, and progress towards proper shared parental leave. With the flexible working and working from home, we may actually get better access to work for so many chronically ill and disabled members of our society - we have a lot to contribute if you’ll give us and our bodies the opportunity.