Yesterday was likely our last time seeing friends for our monthly Sunday dinner. At least for the foreseeable future. As I have said my partner/husband Alan is high-risk from the #coronavirus and whether or not the UK government pulls its head out its arse or not, we will begin #selfisolating this week sometime.
That in itself is an ever-changing dilemma. At first, we were being told fourteen days. Then a month. Now the latest numbers they are coming out with is FOUR MONTHS. 120 days or more. That is one-third of a year, folks. In your home with little to no outside contact. But without a doubt, that is exactly what I am prepared to do. For us, this is life and death. There is the rub.
How do you #selfisolate without losing your sanity?
Admittedly, we are called @HomeCrazzyHome for a reason. And I am incredibly proud of our crazy. But insanity is another matter altogether.
The truth is that humans are pack animals. We, even extreme introverts like me, need other human contact. When that contact is limited for one-third of a year to your family, or in some cases – none, that is alarming.
Of course, the Brits, where I have lived for the past fourteen years, are famous for their stoicism. That ‘stiff upper lip.’ The ‘Keep Calm and Carry On.’ Honestly, that is wearing thin at the moment as anger grows at a government that has been incredibly slow to act or even react, and who seems to be following a Darwinian policy of survival of the fittest with ‘herd immunity.’
It is challenging to spend more than five minutes on Twitter without becoming frustrated and despondent. But that is exactly what we need to do most. Yes…
Keep calm and carry on is very much a relevant message of our times.
But how do we do that?
For me, I have begun with a plan. A plan for maintaining my sanity and as much as I can the spirits of my partner and @ActuallyAutistic daughter who will be very hard hit by these #selfisolation measures.
Limit Social Media Time
Perhaps, the first thing that most of us need to do is close our social media windows for a bit. At the very least, limit how much time we spend on them. There is a fine line between seeking news/information and hysteria; that is a line which social media does not always distinguish. Several studies have documented the mental health impacts of spending too much time on social media:
Nonetheless, the reality is that social media such as Facebook and Twitter are perhaps the most reliable way of communicating with friends and family during this #selfisolation crisis. We Chat certainly proved vital in China during their mandatory isolation period.
The key is to find that balance. And that will vary from person to person. Some people can tolerate or perhaps even need to substitute social media for face-to-face connection. Others may notice a quick deterioration of their mental health. If you are feeling anxious, depressed, or paranoid, it is time to close that browser and go do something else.
Personally, I spend less than an hour a day on a single platform – Twitter. I do so primarily to promote my fiction writing and blogs. But I have made some friends who I want to remain close to. And some of the silly list games can be fun to play. But I make a concerted effort NOT to spend too much time on it. I use Twitter’s free scheduler TweetDeck to make certain that my writing posts go out regularly. Don’t worry if you follow me: regular = every two to four hours.
But that is my tolerance. Yours is different. And if you don’t know what yours is…ask your friends and family, I bet they can tell you when you’ve been online too long.
You know all those things that you have been meaning to do, read, or make? Now is your opportunity. My list, Self-Isolation Plan, is rather exhaustive. In fact, it might take more than four months to work my way through it. But that is good. I am going to print and pin that list to the bulletin board next to my desk so I am reminded of it every day. Focusing on other things, things that I can do and have some control over is one step to maintaining a positive outlook on life.
Two things that bring me pleasure are #creating and #learning. So, my plan focuses on those.
I am a #creator. My daughter @PanKwake introduced me to that word. I used to think of all the hobbies like #writing, #blogging, #gardening, #photography, #quilting, and #crafting as separate. But she explained a few months ago that many of her You-Tubers preferred to call themselves #creators because it was a catch-all phrase for all they did. That sang in my soul and I immediately adopted it.
So, I plan to do a bit of all those things for the next four months. A series of #eroticromances I want to finish called Trouble Texas Style. Of course, this special edition series on my blog. And more sewing and quilting than imaginable. And loads to finish at the house too.
Equally, I thrive on expanding my mind. I am a self-directed and lifelong learner. I have always read. Self-help, history, philosophy, as well as fiction. But over the past decade, I have found a number of online resources for challenging your mind, expanding your horizons, and acquiring new skills. I want to share a few of those with you:
Coursera – an online mixed media, primarily video lectures but some reading and written work as well. College and/or professional level courses from top universities around the world that are FREE unless you want or need a certification.
FutureLearn – British equivalent of that, relies more on the video side of things. Has a bit more esoteric courses, not just general continuing ed for professionals. It too is FREE, but has begun to offer an annual subscription that allows you to receive as many certifications as you want (you have to do the work of course).
The Great Courses – Has become my favorite. The caliber of teaching and quality of the video, as well as the selection of courses, is remarkable. Unfortunately, this one is completely a paid service. But it is the best money I have ever spent. I have learned about King Arthur, photography, the world’s great religions, politics, the French Revolution, and the Black Death, just to name a few. If you have older children who will be out of school, I believe this is absolutely a must-have, if you can afford it.
Staying busy with those and growing my own food (I’ll get to the importance of this one soon) are major parts of my strategy for maintaining a healthy and positive outlook during this crisis.
Most of us thrive on a routine, but not all. As the mother of a Pathologically Demand Avoidant daughter, I know that enforced routines do NOT work for everyone. But in this case, I am talking a self-enforced one.
I am a morning person. I get up early, not because I have to prepare for work or commute, but because that is the time when my brain is at her best. I am a regular member of the #5amwritersclub.
My partner is the complete opposite. He worked from home for years for a major American/international computer company. He began work at 2 or 3 p.m. Greenwich meantime and would work until 1 or 2 a.m. That corresponded to the Pacific Standard Time of his employer. When he retired at the first of the year, he wanted to get his body onto a more ‘normal’ schedule. But instead, he is drifting even further the other way, sometimes coming to bed as late as 3 or 4 a.m. That seems to be what his body prefers.
But my daughter @PanKwake is the ultimate example that there is no ‘normal’ schedule. She goes around the clock. In fact, when she was in school and forced into a routine, she had her most frequent seizures. She actually outgrew her epilepsy shortly after I abandoned all pretense of a bedtime routine and allowed her body to control when she fell asleep and woke up. Yes, that may have been just coincidental but she is certainly happier this way.
Bottom line is to know your body and its preference but to feed it what it wants/needs in those terms as well. If you are a morning person like me, then get up early. If you prefer evenings then stay up as late as you want/need. And if you are erratic, then accept that too. But establish a sleep/wake routine that works best for you. Shockingly, this might be the first time in your life that you can do that. Enjoy it.
Other Basics Still Apply
Eating regular nutritious meals instead of binge eating chocolate and chips. This may be more challenging if you don’t cook or did not manage to get your stocks laid in, but doing your best is still important. And those other things can still be used sparingly as treats.
Exercise regularly. Yes, gyms are closing all over America. But that is not the only option. There are YouTube videos, dance around the living room – naked if you want to, use canned goods or your water bottle as weights. Pilates and yoga can be done anywhere, those deep breathing things may actually calm you and circulating oxygen like that can’t hurt your lungs. If you have an exercise tracker, wear it and set it to remind you to get up off your butt and move around every hour.
Fresh air. This may seem contradictory. If you are self-isolating why would you want or need to get fresh air? The Victorians especially believed in the value of leaving windows open even in the harshest of weather to circulate air. And if you not in close contact with someone, there is no reason not to. If you have a backyard as we do, you could even go out for some sunshine, which is important for Vitamin D production. And Vitamin D has been proven to reduce the chances and severity of lung infections. I recommend you read this article for more evidence.
Even if we do only a few of those things, it can help us to improve our mental health during this time of crisis and most medical professionals agree that there is a clear correlation between our mental and physical health. So, I encourage you today to consider which of those might work for you…and to add to that list in the comments.
Stay safe, goddess bless,
From our @HomeCrazzyHome to yours.