How I am coping during Isolation – It’s okay not to be okay

Before Boris Johnson put the UK onto Coronavirus ‘lockdown’/isolation, I had an incredibly distorted image of what it would be like. I had imagined myself contentedly sipping tea and happily binging on Netflix, enjoying bubble baths and applying moisturiser, whilst practising Yoga and being mindful. Sadly, I could never had imagined the reality of it.

It has awakened my every insecurity, the germ phobia I thought I had squashed in my teens has resurfaced and the thought of going to the shop sends me into an anxious frenzy. My Grandad has been in the hospital battling the virus before the lockdown was even introduced and I worry about every ache, pain or cough of my own. Graeme and I are isolating separately, my work has had to close, and I keep finding myself anxiously staring out of windows.

I am struggling to adapt to this new way of living; there is so much that I miss and I long for life to return to normal.

It is the start of the fourth week of isolation, but only now am I starting to see a fresh perspective and a glimmer of light throughout the darkness of the last three weeks. My Grandad has finally been discharged from hospital and is finishing his recovery at home, I’m filling my days more productively and I’m starting to see positivity (however small) in aspects of our current situation. So, instead of staring at a wall and panicking silently inside like I have spent weeks doing, why not try some of these uplifting ideas to keep yourself busy during isolation:

Get creative and write something

Writing more and growing this blog was one of my goals for 2020, but trying to juggle that with a full time job can be troublesome. Since my work closed, I have tried to focus on this goal and spend more of my time writing. This wasn’t easy as we first went into isolation – my concentration had dissolved completely – but I am starting to find my feet. I have been creating new blog posts, brainstorming ideas and I have even attempted short story writing after discovering a hefty book of creative writing prompts on my bookshelf. Writing has allowed me to negotiate the tension, worry, and stress that has defined this isolation period for me and I felt immensely better for it. However, it might seem a little intimidating at first, so why not try one of these writing prompts to get you going, that I have taken from 642 Things to Write:

  • You find your great-great-grandmother’s diary. On the 16th June 1856, she wrote….
  • Start a story with the line “My mother broke every plate in the house that day”
  • You have a time machine, but it can only go back in time two days. What would you change?

You can purchase the book here.

Cook something new

I adore cooking and if you know me, you know that food brings me unrivalled joy. But, the delight I usually absorb from good food and cooking was beginning to evaporate into the creative inspiration vacuum that is the Coronavirus pandemic. Despite this, I had been delegated the daunting task of cooking for my mum and I during our isolation. It’s peculiar how something that makes you happy becomes a Herculean task when your appetite is lost and your only preference is buttery toast and tea. But I am thriving in the kitchen now, using recipes that I had convinced myself I didn’t have time for in ‘real’ life. I found myself craving the safety of comfort food that reminded me of being a kid, so I delved right in and started with one of my childhood favourites, Toad in the Hole, using this super easy recipe. I have also been missing Italian food, as I haven’t been able to visit my favourite Italian Restaurant, so I made this versatile Beef Ragu (that I paired with wholegrain spaghetti for a tasty Spaghetti Bolognese and also intend to use as a base for an indulgent Lasagne). I have also swapped my favourite takeaway for this incredibly easy recipe for Pizza Dough, that I loaded with my favourite toppings and lashings of extra cheese! Who said isolation food had to be boring?!

Learn Something New

Whilst this one may prove quite challenging within the current climate with limited availability to some products and restrictions on deliveries, you may need to get a little creative. I have been rather fortunate in that my mum is an avid crocheter and seems to have an endless supply of wool to keep us both busy, so she has been teaching me some basic crochet stitches. But learning new things doesn’t need to be limited to a practical skill, it can also extend to broadening your knowledge on particular topics of interest. I have found great comfort in listening to podcasts particularly on days when I’m not feeling so productive; it gives me the illusion that I am actively learning something rather than idly watching the day pass me by. I have been enjoying Stephen Fry’s Victorian Secrets, Audrey: The Girl before the Girl and Fry’s English Delights, but there really is a podcast out there for everyone.

Exercise

Aside from the permitted daily outdoor exercise, I had been avoiding all other forms of exercise in the same way that I currently avoid people, because in the ‘real’ world I do not exercise. After suffering a couple of particularly emotional weekends, I decided, after Graeme championed the restorative effects that exercise had been having on him, to give in. I dug out an old yoga DVD that was collecting dust under my bed and I attempted an energising flow. Still sceptical, I went to bed feeling no different, but at least I could say that I had tried. To my surprise, I woke up the next morning feeling completely energised and my mood had lifted significantly. Even if, like me, you don’t normally exercise, it is definitely something that I would recommend investing some time into in our current situation. If you are not sure where to start, you can buy the DVD that I have been using here. It is particularly great for beginners, offering helpful modifications based on skill level. However, you don’t need to spend anything to access guided workouts, just have a look on YouTube for something you fancy and give it go.

Catch up on your reading

There could not be a more perfect time to catch up on the reading that you have been neglecting whilst living your normal life. My reading list was beginning to spiral out of control, but I have been able to spend more time happily immersing myself in the books with a cup of tea (not far off my initial image of lockdown I know!). And, if you’re anything like me and have a tendency to collect books for them to just mindlessly sit on your shelves, then why not get organised at the same time? Have a big tidy up, donate to charity anything outdated and create a list of the books that you want to read first, then settle down in a quiet corner somewhere and enjoy! Graeme recently gave me a copy of P.L Travers, Mary Poppins, and this has been the perfect isolation book for me. It is full to the brim of fantastic escapist adventures that transports you back to the magic of childhood and has you forgetting about the real world, that exists less favourably outside of Number Seventeen Cherry Tree Lane.

Spend some time looking after yourself

Another one of my goals for 2020 was to focus on myself more, and whilst the current situation isn’t perfect and doesn’t let me commit to this goal in the way that I wanted to, it is certainly allowing me more time and space. I have been able to slow down and eliminate the splash, dash associated with my usual busy working week. I have found myself spending more time relaxing and enjoying my own company and thoughts, exploring my goals and really understanding the things that make me happy in life and the things that don’t; I am able to focus on my self-care routine and I can invest more time into my skincare. For me, one of the more positives aspects of isolation will be to allow myself to form healthier habits that will make me happier when things do return to ‘normal’. So whatever ‘looking after yourself’ means to you, try and enjoy this time in any small way that you can and really get to know yourself.  

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I know that this period of isolation is not easy and you will have days where you feel completely devoid of positivity and just the thought of being productive makes you feel sick (these days seem to come at the weekend for me now), but these are just some of the simple things that have allowed me to keep focussed and make my way from one day to the next without crying myself to sleep every night.

It may feel challenging to find remnants of positivity in our current situation, but I promise you it is there, you just may have to dig a little deeper for it. It might be something as simple as getting up and brushing your hair, or trying out a new recipe, or even just being able to sit down and eat a meal together with the people you are isolating with – I know me and my mum never do this with our different schedules. Just take solace in each small victory and anything that brings you a little bit of happiness as these are the things that will make this seem a lot easier. There is no right or wrong way to deal with isolation and if staying in bed binging on Netflix, or cleaning every nook and cranny in your home is what works for you, then that is okay too!

This wont last! I hope you are staying safe and if you have any suggestions or ideas of what else I could try I would love to hear!

Jade x

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