How to survive self isolation
As an author I know all about self-isolation. I’ve spent the last twenty years holed up in my back bedroom, with just my laptop and imagination for company, writing twelve novels. Listening to the recent advice by the government, I understand that many people are worried and anxious by the prospect of having to self-isolate, especially the over 70s who have been told it could be up to twelve weeks.
But I’m here to reassure you that it can be done, and not only can you retain your sense of humour and your sanity, but you can also learn to love your alone time.
So here are my top tips to staying positive.
· Get a routine
When I first quit working in an office to become a full-time novelist, I was thrilled by the idea of not having to set an alarm, loll about in my pyjamas till noon and set my own work hours. I loved this sense of freedom. It felt liberating to do away with the predictability of my life. But it’s been proven that humans need routine. In most people’s normal every-day go-to-work lives there is a set routine and without it it’s easy to feel directionless, unmotivated and lethargic. All of which can easily lead to depression. Before you know it you can lose hours mindlessly scrolling and not achieving anything. And trust me, shuffling around in your dressing gown all day does nothing for your self esteem.
Loneliness can be the biggest killer when working from home, so it’s important to have some social interaction. Luckily we have the wonder of Facetime and Whatsapp video. Actually seeing the faces of your friends and family makes a huge difference for beating the blues.
No more flat-whites or chocca-mocca-whatevers from Starbucks, now you’re on lockdown you’re making your own morning coffee at home. Think positive. This is going to SAVE YOU A FORTUNE. At £3 a day, that’s £15 a week or £60 a month or, if the advice to stay home does extend to twelve weeks, it basically adds up to the equivalent of a whole new wardrobe from Zara. Perfect for when we can finally all go out again.
OK, so I know I said you shouldn’t wear them all day, but seriously, there’s really nothing lovelier than getting into them at 5pm.
· Never having to iron. Ever. Again.
Being home alone means being freed from having to wear your office wardrobe. So wave goodbye to that pile of ironing. Crumpled is king.
· Online communities
Social media has a lot to answer for, but it’s priceless for providing companionship, community and real human connection when you’re forced to stay at home. As a novelist I’ve been a member of many writer groups, where writers can share their stories, tips, trials and tribulations and find encouragement, advice and support. I love my job, but being an author can be a very lonely and these online communities have been vital to my mental health.
Many Facebook groups have recently sprung up in the face of the corona crisis to bring people together. There are online book clubs, yoga lessons where you are still part of a class only in virtual reality, Whatsapp groups where we create a pub from home and all have a glass of wine at 6pm and video conference each other. Be inventive. Reach out. Join up. It’s fun and really makes a huge difference.
· Pot plants
I’m serious. I have a selection of succulents on my windowsill that I tend to every day. Along with some hyacinth bulbs on my desk which are beginning to flower, these plants bring the outdoors indoors. Many Londoners don’t have the luxury of outside space, but taking care of a plant (watering, feeding) has been scientifically proven to increase serotonin levels (the happy hormone) and create calm. Which, in times like these, is exactly what we need.
· Change the narrative.
It’s so easy to look at this time as ‘being stuck indoors’. To feel frustrated and disappointed about cancelled plans or holidays, or to be bored and restless. But look at this time to stay home as a once-in-a-lifetime chance to slow down from your busy hectic life and press the re-set button. If you’re staying at home with children, look at this time as an amazing chance to spend valuable time with your family when you’re not all rushing about doing different activities. We have time to talk to each other, to hunker down with that book you’ve meaning to read for ages, to watch a film on Netflix. Now is not the time to feel guilty about catching up on that boxset.
And how about looking at this as a fantastic opportunity to give the house a spring clean, do a bit of redecorating, check off that to-do list that you never seem to manage to complete? Relax, breathe, and enjoy your time at your home with your loved ones. Be grateful. Live in the moment. Dare I say it, #feelblessed. As long as we all keep safe and healthy, that’s really all that matters.