Been there, done that: some top tips on pitfalls to avoid during self-isolation

Yes, it has been a long time since I blogged!

Obviously, we have one global topic dominating our lives at the moment – the Coronavirus pandemic. Many people will have to self-isolate, quarantine over the coming months and I have seen many excellent suggestions on things to get you through it. I thought I’d add in some things to try and avoid.

A few years ago I had to be isolated for almost 12 months during an illness and treatment. I felt relatively fine in the greater scheme of things – the illness and side effects of the treatment left me tired, spotty, fat, achy but also oddly hyper and pretty much functioning. I’ve also been a remote worker for the last decade. If you find yourself in lock down but are well(ish) some of these tips may help you, I hope. I will try and do another post specifically on remote working later but for now this is when you find yourself holed up and you’re not too sure what to do with yourself.

Don’t Binge the Binge Watching

It seems a dream at first. Feet up and delve into all those boxsets everyone has been talking about. Trust me, the novelty can soon wear off and you quickly get TV/screen fatigue. Before you know it you don’t want to watch another true crime documentary. Which also brings me to….

Watch What You’re Watching

If you are feeling particularly anxious, now is not the time to catch up on the apocalyptic dramas. Virus, Pandemic, Survivors probably not going to make you feel better (though oddly for some of us with generalised anxiety and a tendency to catastrophise, we can thrive watching them at this point as we finally have a rationale fear and can do stuff. Yes, we are weird, no need to point it out!) Some teary, emotional movie watching will be fine, but remember you are probably going to be very emotional, maybe more so than you first realise so try not to overload yourself.

Lighthearted programmes, comedies and quizzes can help your mind take some time off and stay occupied with something more friendly for the old noggin. In fact, I would prescribe* a minimum of 30 mins comedy per day (*not a doctor but the saying laughter is the best medicine came about for a reason.).

Look Out for Becoming a Square Eyes in General

The pen is mightier than the sword but screens seems to be mightier than all! Look out for screen fatigue. It can physically affect you, almost binding you to them and before you know it you feel like you’ve run a marathon and your brain has melted. Yes, the TV and computer is going to bring you entertainment, information and a way to keep in touch with others through social media and games but too much and you just feel bleurgh I found.

Give your ears a work out too, try some radio programs (Radio 4 comedy for the win!), audio books and podcasts. Listen to something whilst doing something else, like tidying that drawer you always said you’d get round to, tidying up, a jigsaw, DIY.

That pile of books you’ve always meant to tackle – make some time for them. And craft and create like no one is looking.

Don’t Spend What You Can’t Afford

If you are stuck indoors there is one way to cheer yourself up that is easy to fall in to – online shopping and gambling. By week two you are sick of seeing the same walls, so what harm can buying some new cushion covers do? Or those adverts where the online bingo players are all sat round a campfire with marshmallows – that looks social and fun…and not a bloody thing like the reality at all! Getting any stimulus from beyond the four walls is great but be careful not to fall into the trap of trying to buy yourself out of boredom. Hopefully, those able to still be out and about will do things to keep you feel in the loop – send one of their books through the post, a cross stitch kit (a friend sent me a chocolate bar and a puzzle book and I cried with thanks!) but…

Be Prepared to Find Out Who Your Friends Are and Deal With Disappointment

Clearly the current situation is one of the widest reaching in living memory and everyone is rightly worried for themselves and their loved ones but you are going to see sides of people you haven’t before. People you thought you could rely on will disappear (especially people who found you really useful when you were out and about, not so much now!), and people you thought were mere acquaintances will be like guardian angels. It can feel really demoralising at time but in the current climate we need to try and retain our empathy and understanding as much as possible.

Remember, Not Everyone is on Your Clock

Similarly to above, the empathy has to go both ways. If playing Words With Friends is keeping you sane but your opponent isn’t playing back in real time, appreciate they may be occupied with something else. At the moment my work & study life remains totally the same (too much to do, too little time!) and I am really busy so, my check-ins with friends may be a meme or a few lines rather than a tome of an email but I remember those daft check-ins when I was in longtime lock down kept my spirits up.

Look for some ways you can continue to be social with friends and family online, it maybe starting a book or recipe (insert any interest) facebook group just amongst your friends and family which people can drop in and out of when time allows them. If there is a time you know you will all be doing something say watching a particular TV show – have a watch party.

Don’t Let the Zzzzzzzs Rule You

Sleep and sleep patterns can go haywire. If you’re thinking ‘ah I don’t need to get up tomorrow for x,y,z’ so you watch a few more episodes of the latest boxset before you know it your new bedtime is 4am and you go totally out of sync (and being awake during the day and getting as much light as you can is your friend!). On the flip side, ‘I can sleep in/Catch up on all that sleep I’ve missed’ is great at first but can easily fall into sleeping just to stave off boredom and your energy will plummet. Try to keep to some sort of schedule but…(see how many buts this situation has!)

Don’t Go TimeTable Crazy

Control freaks, who’s writing up to-do lists and making timetables like they are back at school? I WILL do yoga at 10am, read from 11am, sort out my wardrobe at 12pm’. It gives you a lovely sense of control to start with, at a time where control feels totally lost, but can soon feel like you are being you own prison warden. Be kind to yourself.

Don’t Let Pyjama Day become Pyjama Everyday

Hey, I slob out at home, few excuses are needed. Slobbing out feels lovely at first but after a few days it can make you feel miserable to the point you almost convince you must now be ill, feeling lethargic and scuzzy. Now, you don’t need to go the full nines each day, I’m mean ladies it is a joyous bras are optional time. Dig out all the elasticated waists for sure, mix and don’t match, comfort not tailoring but don’t fall into the Bridget Jones dumped look (or whatever the male equivalent is) for too long.

Basically, if you are going to wear a onsie, make it your good one 😊

Don’t Become an Armchair Expert

You need to stay aware and informed but you don’t need to watch the newsfeeds around the clock. In my case I had to stop researching my illness (which was super rare so I found myself in a well of full blown medical level research). Choose your information point, check in a couple of times a day. Even if you feel you are a strong-willed, level-headed person you may still find yourself becoming increasingly anxious about things you cannot control . As a wise person once said, look for the people running towards, there will be good news and heart warming stories too and that positivity will be vitally important to your mental well-being.

Crisps are Not a Meal Substitute

Snacking’s great isn’t it? And when you are holed up and bored, what better way to spend some time snacking 😊 Guess what, it’s another thing that can lead to you feeling sluggish (and let’s not start on the bowel affects because then we might have to discuss toilet paper!) Try to keep your eating in check and as for advice from me on that subject – have you seen a picture of me!! Not my strong suit but food and cooking can be something to stave the boredom and baking was a good time killer (with a lovely outcome).

Be Honest and Ask For Help

There’s no medals for a stiff upper lip. If you are feeling down, anxious or scared please do reach out to someone, your being open may often help others, as we all realise we are not alone. These are not irrational thoughts, you won’t be judged (or if you are I can guarantee those people are dicks). I found amazing support in my immediate circle and also in strangers on the internet going through a similar thing.

Hoping everyone stays safe! Does anyone else have any top tips of some pitfalls to be aware of?

best, Rebecca

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