As the UK goes back into lockdown, I’ve realised that I’ve got a bit good at this quarantine thing. And I specify quarantine and self isolation as I’ve done both of those a couple of times whereas I’ve done lockdown the same number of times as you have: precisely once.
But, having quarantined twice now; once on returning from China with Lauren and once on returning to China, by myself, in a hotel room, I didn’t find it the worst thing in the world.
However I will admit that I am an introvert who in the before times would occasionally fantasize about having time home alone with no reason to go out and no interruptions. So I understand that the more gregarious of people who read this may find it a lot harder.
But I can say that I managed to survive with my sanity (mostly) intact, so I thought I’d share what helped me get through my quarantines in the hope that it may help someone else.
Disclaimer: I’m not all knowing and this helped me. Please approach with caution. Not proven to get anyone mentally well. You know your mind better than I do. I hope.
->Keep busy. This may seem like common sense but it is really helpful. Write yourself a To Do list and try to cross off at least one thing a day. Include jobs that you’ve been meaning to get round to for years but never quite had the time for. Include jobs that will probably take hours or even days to complete. always include write to do list at the top of your to do list as it really helps me to see that first little tick at the top of the page. Include your hobbies because there’s nothing like feeling productive when you’re reading a book. I found that an utterly unproductive day was bad for my mental health but a single solitary tick turned that mood upside down, especially if it was a project that I’ve been meaning to complete for the last eighteen months. I frequently include my cross-stitching on my list, because I can then be productive while watching TV.
-> Keep a routine. Again, this seems obvious, but the quickest way to an unproductive day, at least for me, is to wake up later than normal, and then not wanting to go to bed until much later than normal and realising that you actually have to be up at 8am the next morning, while also realising that the majority of the day is gone without actually having done anything because you were asleep/in bed/thinking about moving and doing something soon, and then realising what’s the point because it’s already the evening.
Of course, if a nocturnal cycle is one that works best for you, then go for it, but I find that unless I have something due the next morning, I am functionally useless after about 7pm regardless of what that thing I should be doing is, or what time I actually go to bed. I work better in general if I keep to a routine. During my Chinese quarantine (as opposed to the British one), I knew that food would be delivered to my room three times a day, and I had to submit my temperature twice a day, during a specific time frame. Now, I was still suffering from jetlag, so I’ll admit that my 8.30 alarms were occasionally ignored, but I was able to build my own structure around that which I was given.
-> Nap. Now, this may seem counterproductive to the last two of my points, but I argue that it should be built into your schedule and routine, the way that Chinese schools do. In fact, I am writing this while my Chinese colleagues are napping, and I haven’t joined them, because honestly, their napping location isn’t the greatest (however, since I wrote this I have napped twice at school, during our lunch break), doesn’t look comfortable (I napped at my desk, which was also uncomfortable), and I tend to get home and become about as useful as a dried up marker pen (I am only typing this up in the evening due to today’s nap).
But the reason I advocate naps is, as well as them being refreshing, that they eat up time. You may have found that you are one of these weird, uber-productive people who isn’t adding to-dos faster than she can tick them off (Hi!) and so you have ploughed through your to do list and can’t add anything more until the 3 socks and single pair of pants has finished in the washing machine and you’ve eaten a meal to create washing up (if you are, please tell me how you do it. i really want to know!), how about taking a nap? You’ll be surprised at how much time can pass (it’s not wasted, honest) while having a little snooze, and when you wake up, you can make washing up while you cook and you can hang the socks to dry, while searching for the missing of the pair.
Plus, if you wake up befuddled, as I often do, you can lose track of what day it is and that really helps time slip by.
-> Make use of technology. And no, I don’t just mean Netflix. I mean, Zoom, Google meets, or hangouts, or whichever is your preferred platform. I know, trust me, I know it’s not the same as a real person – as my new besties, the English speaking folks who emerged from quarantine at the same time as me can attest to (I’m sorry that a- I talked your ears off and b- started a load of anecdotes without finishing them), but it does help keep the loneliness away. And if my severely technophobic aunt can do it, so can you. I believe in you.
-> Be forgiving, especially towards yourself. Look, humans are naturally social creatures, so locking yourself away is against that nature and is going to have an effect on you, and the people that you cohabit with. I’m sure that in quarantine with Lauren, we squabbled a bit. And I definitely had a couple of spats with my mum during lockdown, but we forgave one another and moved on, which was honestly the only way we could deal with it healthily, even if there were a couple of hours or more of avoidance beforehand, if only so our tempers could cool.
And due to our social natures, isolation means that some days it is hard even to get out of bed. I didn’t, a couple of days of quarantine, or if i did, it was to fetch my laptop, my food, and to pee. but i forgave myself and tried again the next day. it helped that something like “taking a shower” was on my to do list.
And also, please remember that the world is a dumpster fire, and we are in (I’m shuddering as i write this overused cliché) unprecedented (ugh. so much ugh) times. nothing is normal and so if all you can manage everyday is feeding yourself, I’m proud of you, because I even struggled with that for a couple of days in quarantine and I didn’t even have to cook for myself. it was only when I felt dizzy from standing too quickly that I realised I needed to eat more than two yoghurts and a satsuma each day.
-> Hobbies. We all saw on the news how everyone started baking during the first lockdown, and honestly, kudos. i couldn’t have come out the other side relatively unscathed if it hadn’t have been for my cross-stitching. if there is something that you have always wanted to try, now is a great time to start. i also did a free psychology course, much to my parents’ chagrin as they became my test subjects and a friend of mine started to teach herself programming. there are so many resources online, and a lot of them are free. so go, master that language, learn to write in calligraphy, or knit a scarf that rivals Tom Baker’s.
Look I can’t pretend that self-isolation is easy, and I have a naturally optimistic outlook which is something I am very grateful for, and yet I still had anxiety and depressive episodes. I’m just sharing what I found to help me, having had to endure it twice now. It’s okay to struggle as long as you keep fighting.
Now go forth. Except don’t. Stay at home. Go forth mentally. I know you can do this. I believe in you.
P.S. I hope you like some pictures from the summer (since it won’t get its own post anytime soon).