12 Ways to Make Your Self-Isolation Easier

I’m listening to the medical experts talk about how important it is to stop our normal routines – right now – and start to separate ourselves from others as a way to slow down, or ‘flatten the curve’ of the Corona Virus epidemic.  If we do this right, we can all contribute to lessening the devastation this virus has the potential to create.

“You won't ever know if what you did personally helped. That's the nature of public health.
When the best way to save lives is to prevent a disease rather than treat it, success often looks like an overreaction.”

     - Epidemiologist, Mari Armstrong-Hough

So I’m in.  I want to be part of the solution, not the problem.  I would love to look back and feel this wasn't so bad. But if you are as active as I am, the prospect of really staying at home for the near-future, and perhaps even longer, is somewhat daunting.  Work life, family life, hobbies and socializing will all change.  Habits created over years are up in the air.  This disruption feels a bit uncomfortable.  So I share some ideas about how you might live through self-isolation without sinking into depression or overwhelm:

Exercise.  There are many ways to exercise that don’t include interacting with others or with equipment that others might have used that could be infected with the Corona virus.  Specifically, consider fast walks, running, hiking or biking.  Gardening, doing lawn care or tree trimming can also get your heart rate up without risk of infection to you or others.  Exercise is great for emotional balance – seek it out, keeping in mind you want to avoid groups and equipment that could be contaminated.

Pay attention to sleep!  Try to avoid letting your upended life lead to less sleep, as sleep deprivation will lower your immune response while  increasing ADHD symptoms and irritability.

Clean your space and wash up regularly.  Use reminders.  We put a note on our exterior doors – WASH HANDS to help us remember that this is the time to overdo it on hand washing.  Every time we enter the house we are reminded to clean up.  Large notes will help kids remember to do this, too.  Wipe down handles and knobs regularly.

Pick up that project you never seemed to get to.  Organize (or delete) photos; create that music play list; write the outline for the book you’ve been thinking about; practice a musical instrument.  Give yourself permission to dive deeply into something you normally don’t get to.

Simultaneously step up and stand back.  With more people at home for more hours, it’s likely things will get messier.  Have everyone in the family step up to try to keep things neat – perhaps with a 15 minute ‘put away race’ each day or some such.  At the same time, step back a bit if things do get out of control. Remind yourself that this is temporary and this, too, will pass.  The most important thing is that everyone stay healthy.

Split kid duties in a scheduled way, if possible.  Your kids may well be home from school – and depending upon their age, you may need to be on hand for them more than you are used to.  If you split kid supervision in a predictable way, for example one of you takes them for the morning and the other for the afternoon, then that might ease work strain, too.

Turn it into a family positive.  Set aside some time to learn new card games, watch fun family movies, picnic in front of the fireplace, bake cookies, make silly movies together, turn the garage into a big project art space.  If your kids are also participating in social distancing, consider temporarily upping video time if needed, and Skyping with other family members to stay in touch with those outside the home.

Create an end of the day check in with your partner – possibly also with your kids.  Talk about what happened to you that day, what you are worried about, what’s working at home and what’s not.  Kids may be scared, particularly if you are in a hot zone.  Also take some time to coordinate around tomorrow.  This helps keep you partners, rather than having one partner ‘in charge’ all the time.

Keep an eye on public programs that can help you make ends meet if changes impact your financial situation.   Congress is considering a wide range of possible aid as of this writing. Also remember to check in with your community services group and/or your church, mosque or synagogue for support programs they may mount for the emergency.

If you can’t eliminate them all together, shrink your get-togethers.  Instead of a 40 person birthday party for your child, consider a family only gathering only, and other similar adjustments.  Very small groups are less likely to spread infection, particularly if you wash your hands upon entering a home, are not hugging, shaking hands, or within several feet of each other.  Keep glassware and cutlery separate and well identified.  Avoid all large gatherings.

Practice gratitude.  Social isolation on a large scale is new and will feel awkward and, sometimes, hard.  Humans are social and tribal.  Yet there are many things for which each person and family can be grateful.  Make a point of spending 5 minutes or less a day completing the sentence “I am grateful for…” If you have kids, include them in this exercise.  The things for which you are grateful don’t have to be big.  Just as long as they provide a way to reflect for a bit on what is going right in your life at the moment.

Reach out and stay connected.  There are so many ‘distance’ ways to connect.  Use them!  Text, phone or video.  Take the opportunity to keep your connections strong – they are important to your mental health.

Let’s hope that everyone takes the need to stay away from each other seriously and we can have a ‘that wasn’t so bad!’ moment a few months from now.

Virtual hugs to all!