2020 has started in a way that nobody could have expected. With the coronavirus pandemic affecting people throughout the world, we have seen our lives turned upside-down in ways the majority of us never expected.
Following Government guidelines and social distancing advice gives us the best way in which to fight the further spread of the virus, however it’s not without its challenges. Not being able to see friends and family, work in our jobs, head to bars and restaurants or plan a holiday begins to take its toll.
Keeping mentally healthy during this period is one of the most important things you can do. Be sure to keep in touch with loved ones with a call or video call, make sure you get fresh air where you can whilst respecting social distancing, and try to have a structure to your days. If you’re spending more time at home than you’re used to, why not use the opportunity to learn a new skill, cook that meal you always wanted to, or get that book off the shelf that you never managed to read.
From the start of April I will be on furlough leave from my employer, for around 8 weeks. Although this is going to be challenging, I am going to use the time to focus on a number of things, most importantly looking after my mental health, including finally trying to work meditation into a daily routine, practicing mindfulness techniques, and spending much less time on phones and laptops. I am going to increase my exercise, pushing myself for my first half-marathon in September. I’m also aiming to immerse myself in as much of the Spanish-language as possible, practicing the skills I have been learning for the last 2 years. BSL have also opened up their online sign-language courses due to the current situation, and this is a skill I have wanted to learn for some time.
I reached out to the blogging community to share their top tips on how they are coping with social distancing and isolation at this time. Check them out below.
One of the hardest things about self-isolation is missing big social events, or get-togethers with family and friends. Last weekend, I organised an online pub quiz for my family. We had five teams, divided by household, and five rounds of ten questions each. I had a really fun day thinking of questions, and sprinkling in some about out hometown’s history and other unique topics! Then I hosted the quiz on a group video conference using Zoom.
I wrote up a full guide to hosting an online pub quiz on my blog, so check it out if you’d like to do something similar. It wasn’t quite the same as seeing everyone in person, but it was a fun way to catch up with everybody, get competitive, and spend a night feeling almost like we’d gone out!
Random acts of kindness are good for you so do something simple for a friend. It’s not just about keeping up relationships, it’s a reminder that there’s a lot of good in this world: I phoned him, got him to his back door and chucked a packet of tea over his fence. Play board games again – and with friends over video calls. It really can work, although you might have to trust them to be the banker in Monopoly. Most important for me is to find something beautiful in each day. These are tough times and a little beauty – be it in a sunrise, a photograph, or a film – goes a really long way for your mental health. And books. Please, lose yourself in a book – with your phone locked under the floorboards.
A frequent traveller is all too familiar with the phrase “help yourself before assisting others”. This also applies to this strange new lifestyle we find ourselves in!
It can be tempting to want to dive right into helping your neighbours, friends, and family with their needs. But have you taken a moment to check how you’re doing?
Communication at this time is imperative. It’s crucial to maintain connections as we socialise and work from home. When we can’t physically be together we turn to technology to help us out – at least a couple of verbal (or video!) conversations every day is definitely healthy to avoid going nuts.
However, if you feel you’re getting invited to one too many catch ups it’s OK to give yourself some space. Don’t put pressure on yourself if you’re feeling overwhelmed with this new way of life, you need to look after your own well-being as well as those around you. If you’re feeling positive and energised, you’ll be in the best position to support others.
It is still rather unbelievable that we have been in a partial lock down for a week now with most of the usual amenities shut and the streets of London are virtually representing a ghost town. So, in a bid to remain active and dispel the blues as best as I can, I have been creatively filling my time with my hobbies virtually in between working from home whilst in isolation. You might find that some of these activities are something that you would also like to experience or perhaps these will provide some inspiration to try something different.
The daily dance workouts on YouTube from the English National Ballet at 11am are a good start to my day followed by a HIIT workout on Instagram from Ciara Madden and are a good way to remain energetic around lunchtime and take a break from the desk. Later in the day there is a virtual cocktail making session on Instagram Live from Thomson & Scott at around 4.45pm or 5.00pm which are quite fun to watch with alcoholic and non-alcoholic cocktails made from ingredients around the home, just before the daily press conference updates. On Wednesday evenings at 8pm GMT (9pm BST) and a few other days of the week there is also a dance class that is run by the choreographer Debbie Allen on Instagram Live which is a lot of fun and covers different dance styles.
Some of the film festivals have also become virtual, such as BFI Flare, and so I have been watching more films which is a film fan’s dream. Plus, there are online film clubs on Twitter such as that of The Film Crowd on Fridays where a film is watched and then discussed using the hashtag #TheFilmCrowd. Some of the new releases for independent films such as System Crasher retained their release date but went on to the streaming services such as Mubi, BFI Player and Curzon Home Cinema and so this may be a good time to catch up with some films.
There have also been the opportunities to join in with some virtual Q&As with film directors that have been occurring on Zoom with a live video call which also provide that sense of community. Some of the new film releases such as The Invisible Man have also been screening on VoD now and there was a Twitter Watch Party recently where people were encouraged to watch the film collectively and share their comments and photos for their night at home using the hashtag #TheInvisibleManatHome. The weekly film Twitter chats are ongoing such as Movie Talk on Sundays which are at 8pm using the hashtag #MTOS and anyone can join in.
There have also been virtual concerts online from international musical artists to watch live on Facebook or Instagram from artists such as John Legend amongst others. The BFI Flare film festival also held a virtual closing night party with a dedicated play list and so there may be more opportunities on Instagram to join in with virtual parties and to create your own. I would usually attend a weekly dance class as well and the dance classes themselves are now still continuing virtually by the dance school, Swing Patrol, and so this may be a good form of escapism which will also help you to keep fit indoors. I am also aware of some virtual events that the travel conference organiser Traverse Events are running for the travel community such as a virtual pub quiz and there will be a virtual gallery as well.
The National Theatre has also recently announced that there will be the streaming of some of its performances available every Thursday, starting 2 April, on You Tube which will be an ideal way to catch up on some of the theatre productions.
Being in isolation has still provided the opportunity to study; my weekly French class at the French Institute is now offering a virtual class and so it’s a good opportunity to pick up a few language skills and Frantastique are also offering a few daily tasters for the French language for a month. I have also started an e-course that the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine is offering on FutureLearn which is very informative about the coronavirus and there are a variety of courses on FutureLearn that could be followed if you wished to improve any skills.
Whilst there are so many virtual options, this may also be an ideal moment to relax and so you certainly can’t beat a good book for helping to unwind. Furthermore, breathing fresh air outside will also be very beneficial during these times and a short walk around the neighbourhood whilst social distancing would probably also be another way to relax during these times of isolation
Our top tip for dealing with social isolation is routine. Our current routine is a mix of structure and fun. First, we try to go to bed and wake-up at the same time everyday. This really helps with feeling good and energized throughout the day. Second, we’re doing some form of heart-rate increasing exercise at least three times a week. This can be anything, like doing TikTok dances, a home workout or going for a run. Increasing our heart-rate makes us feel more energized afterwards. Thirdly, we do something we love every evening. In our case, it’s watching Netflix or playing video games. Doing these things relaxes us and is the perfect way to end another day at home. Sticking to this routine makes it easier for us to get through social isolation. But most importantly, don’t be too hard on yourself. If you struggle with finding structure, focus on the things you love to do. Your happiness should always come first!
For me, keeping to some kind of routine and purpose is a big part of keeping sane during lock down. I feel making myself accountable helps my days have a little structure, and not all blend into one. Im doing 30 day’s of Yoga with Yoga Girl, which I do every morning. Great for keeping moving, but also mentally grounding. Iv done a couple of online courses so far. SEO, and a Pinterest one. I also make myself get up every two hours through the day and just do something to get my body moving for 10 minutes. Things like run up and down the stairs a few times, put a fab song on and dance like no ones watching, or pace round my garden for 5 minutes. Anything that gets the heart rate up a little. I just hope my neighbours dont see as they may think I have succumbed to Covid madness….
As someone prone to insomnia, I know how easy it is to slip into a bad sleep routine and at a time with less structure, it’s harder to motivate yourself to prioritise a good night’s sleep.
Try to keep an ‘ideal’ bedtime in mind and consider how long it takes you to wind down. I try to stop over-stimulating activities (like writing or social media) at least two hours before bed. I then take time for Calm, such as a movie, gentle stretches and drinking camomile tea. I also turn the blue light on my phone during this time.
If you can’t sleep – or wake up in the night – try sleep stories or ‘get back to sleep’ meditations on apps such as Calm. I have an eye mask if it’s too light, other people might need earplugs. If you’re ruminating or feeling anxious, remind yourself that even this time of rest is beneficial. You may want to get up, read some short stories, do some gentle stretches in bed or write in a journal until you’re feeling tired again. Be forgiving of yourself if your mind is racing and you truly can’t sleep. It’s totally normal to feel this way sometimes, particularly in the current situation.
Similarly, I try to wake up at the same time each day. I’m NOT a morning person so I make sure I’ve got some breakfast food and good coffee as an incentive. Ha! Another tip for sleepy mornings is to at least open the blinds as soon as you wake up.
Check out Cassie’s mental health guide for self-isolating for some more great tips.