Self-isolation tips: 20 things to do in quarantine

I wasn’t going to write about this on here, but as the coronavirus situation escalates and social distancing/self-isolation look to be something we’re all going to have to experience in the coming weeks and months, I thought it might be helpful to share my own experiences of self-isolation so far, along with some tips to help you stay sane if you have to put yourself into quarantine. I’m absolutely fine, by the way – but I’m in week two of self-isolation after returning from Italy just before it went into lockdown. So it’s been the #quarantinelife for me, and I’m sure this won’t be the last time before the year is out. I hope that this post is useful for anyone who’s about to shut themselves away at home in the name of fighting the wretched COVID-19.

Self-isolation: my own experience

I’ve been symptom-free the whole time and it’s been tough staying indoors, particularly as I live on my own. That’s despite the fact that I’m an introvert and spend a lot of time on my own anyway, as I’m a freelancer working from home all day everyday. So during the day, life has basically carried on as normal for me. And don’t get me wrong: I love being cosy at home. But it can feel different when you have no choice about it.

The difficult thing for me has been not being able to get outside – I live in a top floor flat so haven’t even been out into the shared garden, and I normally go for a walk everyday when I need a break from work – and not being able to do things in the evenings. Apart from sometimes going flying during the day, evenings are my social time, and a normal week has maybe three or four evenings spent with friends, one at the cinema on my own, one at the gym, and one or two nights home alone. To go from that to having to stay home alone the entire time has been tough. Greater introspection than normal is inevitable, and I’ve already had some fairly profound insights into where I’m at in life right now and what’s missing from it.

I’m prone to anxiety at the best of times, and after several days alone the continual stream of dire coronavirus headlines have been getting to me at times. I haven’t been worried about getting the virus myself, but I’ve started to feel really worried about people I love dying. I’m also worried about my freelance business, as I’ve already had a couple of cancelled projects due to the effects of the virus. When you’re on your own without much to distract you from the doom and gloom, these fears can start to spiral out of control. I’ll write another post with tips on how to cope with anxiety, as it’s a big subject. But I have tried to keep these thoughts at bay and make the time go quickly by keeping myself as busy as possible, so without further ado, here’s my bumper list of things to do when you’re in quarantine.

20 things to do in self-isolation

At the beginning of my quarantine period I wrote a huge list of things to do, and what follows contains many of the things on that list, along with general tips for staying sane when you can’t leave the house.

  1. Talk on the phone – in the absence of seeing people in person, a chat on the phone is the next best thing. Or FaceTime/Skype if that’s your thing (it’s not mine – camera too unflattering!).
  2. Open the windows – if you can’t be out in the fresh air, you can at least have the fresh air come to you!
  3. Look out of the windows – notice what’s going on in your little bit of the world outside your windows; here the magnolia tree in the garden is about to bloom, birds are busy making nests and there was a beautiful rainbow during a period of sunshine and showers the other day.
  4. Order online – this hasn’t been without its difficulties owing to the high demand, but I’ve been managing to get groceries from Ocado and also from Gousto. I included one or two treats to brighten up my solitary days, e.g. Jaffa cakes. I confess I have also treated myself to a new pair of jeans and to an artificial orchid from M&S. ;-)
  5. Send lots of messages – life doesn’t seem quite so lonely when you have plenty of text conversations going with friends. It’s a great opportunity to message people you’ve not talked to for a while, or to write that email you’ve been meaning to send to a friend.
  6. Yoga – I’m sure there are plenty of other workouts you can do at home with no gym equipment necessary, but yoga is always my exercise method of choice thanks to its calming effects. There are tonnes of guided routines on YouTube, whether you want to do ten minutes or an hour.
  7. Spring clean – I’ve made the most of isolation to give the flat a really good spring clean: tidying, hoovering, dusting, cleaning the bathroom and kitchen and even cleaning the windows (you don’t realise how much this needs doing until you do it!).
  8. Life admin – now’s a great time to tackle all that life admin you’ve been putting off. For me, it’s sorting out a few more bits of name change admin, like updating my passport.
  9. Reading – if you’re anything like me, you’ll have a big list of books on your ‘To Read’ pile. What better time to start working your way through them?
  10. Television – steer clear of the news – it’s too depressing. Binge-watching boxsets is the order of the day. I watched the whole of the gentle comedy “Detectorists” on iPlayer, and now I’m on “Last Tango in Halifax”.
  11. Radio – I’ve always loved having the radio on for company when I’m pottering about in the kitchen, but it’s been especially good during isolation. Radio 4 is my station of choice, and I would particularly recommend Desert Island Discs – there are loads of episodes available online.
  12. Vlogs – there’s something about the vlog format that makes it feel more personal than watching TV or listening to the radio – it’s feels more like the presenter is talking directly to you, so in a way it’s better company than watching TV. Ones I like are Sailing La Vagabonde, Eight Miles From Home and Casey Neistat.
  13. Cooking – really take the time to prepare yourself nice, nutritious meals. There’s never been a more important time to look after your own health.
  14. Baking – I enjoyed doing some baking on Saturday afternoon, and made enough for me to have right now as well as some for the freezer.
  15. Recipe planning – if, like me, you have tonnes of cookbooks but never seem to make anything new, now’s a good time to make a cup of tea and peruse them in search of recipe inspiration.
  16. Study – there are loads of free online courses around, and if there’s a subject you’ve always wanted to learn more about, why not see if there’s an online course you could take while you have all this time on your hands?
  17. Musical instruments – if you’re lucky enough to play an instrument already, quarantine has no effect on your ability to practice and just enjoy playing your favourite pieces.
  18. Scrapbook – I’m an avid scrapbooker and used some of my quarantine time to paste in all the tickets, receipts and other mementos I’d been setting aside.
  19. Research future trips – travelling might be on hold for now, but that doesn’t mean you can’t start planning future trips. I’ve got my eye on Egypt, South Africa and Australia once all this madness has blown over.
  20. Plan your next projects – it’s not just trips that you can take this time to start thinking about. If there’s another project you’ve always thought about but never had time to devote to, now’s a great time to start planning it – whether it’s setting up your own business, writing a novel or even changing your life…

Of course, in addition to all this, I’ve also been using the time to crack on with work. But you’ll go crazy if you try to work the whole time. I’ve found it really important to have “time to myself” as well, which sounds ridiculous given that the entire two weeks is “time to myself” – but switching off from work is vital, especially when you’re not used to working from home.

The constant media scaremongering makes it hard to keep things in perspective, but I’ll end with a reminder – for myself as much as for you! – that most people who get the virus will only get it mildly and will soon get better. These feel like dark times, but this too will pass.

Have you had to self-isolate? What are your top tips? Let me know in the comments!

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