“Am I hungry or just bored?” I ask myself probably every 10 minutes or so. It’s been nine days since I closed the door to the outside world and I feel, funnily enough, isolated from any sense of normality. One more day to go, I think to myself.
My housemate had contracted Covid-19, so it was up to us to isolate for 10 days. According to the rules, we were not allowed out under any circumstances and must remain inside until the time she had tested positive, 10 days later. I live in a small flat with no garden. Three of us live here and it’s no problem most of the time, as we are close to the centre of town. Just three busy town-centric twenty-somethings at home for 10 days; a piece of cake, right?
Upon receiving my self-isolation notification, I made a list of behaviours I should adhere to throughout in order to preserve my energy and look after my mental health during quarantine. I didn’t actually test positive for COVID-19, so wasn’t at risk of developing symptoms. Therefore, my isolation plan looks very different to those with the virus, whose priority is most likely to sleep and eat hot soup. That being said, I didn’t follow every single rule I set out to do, but for the most part, I stuck to it. Some behaviours were definitely more productive than others, and I have reflected on a few of them below.
Routine. Routine. Routine. Absolutely crucial to your wellness at this time. “But it’s basically an excuse to do nothing, right?” WRONG! Trust me, doing nothing will not serve you at all. In fact, it will make you feel a lot worse. Keep your sleeping pattern in check, set your alarm for the same time every morning and make sure you actually get up. Make a plan for your day, you don’t have to follow it completely, but make sure you set aside meal times and a slot for exercise. Yes, every day, okay?
Food. Most people love snacking, I know I do. But this is one thing you must try and avoid. Excess snacking combined with lack of activity will most likely make you feel sluggish and tired. That is not to say don’t eat anything, if you’re hungry absolutely eat! But maybe don’t reach for the Ben and Jerry’s at 10 am because you’re bored. Remember the gut controls a lot of our mental wellness too.
I love to cook, so I took to brushing up on my culinary skills and making some fiddly and time-consuming recipes. However, if cooking or preparing food is not something that brings you joy, just try to make sure you’re getting major food groups and eating enough fruit and veg!
Although it’s tempting to order takeaways when you cannot get to the shop, try to refrain from doing it often. Your wallet will thank you! However, I found that ordering food a couple of times over the week was a nice treat and something to look forward to, as well as making me feel like I was, in some form, ‘going out’. If you are caught off guard with the isolation message and are either running low on supplies or cannot get a supermarket delivery as soon as you would like, it may be useful to know that food delivery service, Deliveroo, also has a range of supermarkets you can order from. This is a super quick way to get supplies delivered, often arriving at your home in under an hour. However, it is important to note that the variety is limited and the prices are higher than in-store.
Exercise. Now, I am no athlete by any means. I get most of my exercise through walking, which isn’t ideal when you are confined to a small space. However, I made a conscious effort to exercise for at least half an hour a day, mixing it up every time. If you’re into exercise, this may be a priority for you and a way to pass the time. But, if it’s something you have to muster the energy for, I would suggest trying 10-day challenges (or 10 days of a 30-day challenge - it might stick!). I enjoy Yoga with Adriene (https://www.youtube.com/c/yogawithadriene/featured) for a gentle workout that keeps my muscles moving. For something more cardio-focused, Joe Wicks (https://www.youtube.com/c/TheBodyCoachTV/featured) has a variety of fitness videos on his YouTube channel, to suit all levels.
Drinking alcohol. If it’s something you partake in, the occasional tipple can be enjoyable. However, drinking in excess is never a good idea, especially so during isolation. Alcohol is a depressant, therefore will most likely affect your mood, especially with limited access to the outside world and greater focus on your thoughts. Consider beforehand if drinking alcohol is the right option. Why not try your hand at mocktails? Alcohol-free pina colada anyone?
Clothing. This might seem a strange topic, but I found it did actually affect my mood. I tended to slump into the same joggers and hoodie most days, which only helped to exaggerate the sense that days were blending together. Even though it was a ‘routine’, it wasn’t a healthy one, and after a while made me feel quite lethargic. I’m not suggesting you wear your Sunday best, but at least switch it up every couple of days.
Contact. It can be easy to withdraw from others, especially if you have a history of mental health issues. However, it is important to remember that self-isolating is not the same process as national quarantine, you may have to do a majority of the reaching out. The world has got busier; people have gone back to work and started socializing in person again, so it’s important that you remind yourself you are not being forgotten or left behind. Remember to actively stay in contact with loved ones. If you are struggling or feeling lonely, tell them.
Self-isolation doesn’t have to be as awful. It’s never going to be fun, but there are ways to make it more bearable. Hey, I even learnt how to crochet. Plus, it’s our public responsibility to do so, so you can sleep easy knowing you are doing your bit.
For more information and other Covid-19 related updates, please check the NHS website. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/