By now it is likely you are feeling the effects of confinement. It seems a long time ago when a walk outdoors a cycle along the waterfront were choices we could take on any evening or weekend. Now we are obliged out of responsibility to each other to stay at home. We can only go out for essentials such as food or to access healthcare and each time we leave our home we are faced with scrutiny regarding our intentions. Now is a difficult time.
To keep from losing your mind and from allowing yourself to deteriorate into a spiral of discontent, it is important to take deliberate actions to safeguard your wellbeing. Those who have a companion have different considerations over those in lone isolation. If you have children, depending on their age, physical, social and educational needs will differ. This is not a short engagement. You must keep one eye on the medium to longer term. Job loss or low income will compound your existing woes and the following tips are intended to give you a template to live by for the next few months.
Set up your routine and live it.
Get up roughly at the same time each day. Do not oversleep (unlikely in any event if you have young kids!). Break up your day into hourly segments and ensure each household companion has a similar clear idea of the daily schedule. Write it down and post it on the door. This will help each person in a home to know what to expect next and not to become too bored when they are allowed to drift aimlessly from a time management perspective. Try to include a mix of the following time periods each day. Breakfast, lunch and dinner. Exercise for 30 minutes (yes even inside at home). Reading. Catch-up social time with friends midday. Education for 1-2 hours broken into 45 minute segments with a brief break in between each. It is not efficient to focus on detail while learning for longer periods without a break. Catch up online social time with family in the afternoon. Shopping and a short walk outdoors if you are not in a high risk category. Games and play time - there are a tremendous number of sites available to keep you entertained. Limit television watching to an hour or two a day maximum. Do not over consume global news from the media as it will only depress you and does not generally help you - news update once a day for 15 minutes will tell you everything you need to know.
Go easy on yourself
For people now working from home, define clear boundaries for yourself and your family if you share a space. Go easy on yourself - you will not be as productive as when you are in the office and interruptions are plenty at home. Still, you should try to be at your desk or available during office hours or when you are expected to support. Equally you should switch off when your typical work day is over. Make sure you are working sustainable hours and not checking your work email at all hours of the night. If you can close the door on family for brief defined times, then do this to partition your day - you will be more engaged and in a better mood with less stress if you are able to separate yourself and then enjoy time without the stress of partial engagement.
Don't set the bar too high
If you are a single parent looking after children, don’t set the bar too high. Teaching, clothing, washing and feeding your children in a small confined space is not easy and keeping your temper when all they want to do is kill each other or play computer games is no small task. Give them specific roles to play including chores to help you with. Allow them television time and computer or screen time once they finish helping. Don’t feel guilty about taking time out while they sit watching something - you will need to use this occasionally to maintain your own mental health. If you have a partner, husband or wife, decide together what respite you will give each other. Everyone needs a break,especially the primary caregiver, even if the other adult is working from home.
For some of use, we are in relationships where we are not used to so much close contact. If due to coronavirus you now are in close proximity and stress is turning to arguments, you need to air this and talk it through. Be kind to each other. Most relationships thrive on time together punctuated by time apart. During the day you should still take time to be apart even if it is just to read a magazine or a book or to exercise in front of you tube. Keep in touch with your regular friends and close family and share your frustration. If you find yourself in an abusive relationship and are unable to leave the house, you should seek professional help. Either phone a friend or if you feel threatened you should phone the police for help. Abusive relationships will not improve by spending more time together. Seek help if you are vulnerable to assault.
Pay attention to yourself
Medical problems will still arise. DIY projects may lead to injury especially muscle strain or back injury. Mental health issues may become worse. Pay close attention to your diet to avoid either cardiovascular or diabetes complications. Take a daily multivitamin. Stay hydrated. Consider quitting smoking with nicotine replacement therapy. Avoid self medicating with alcohol or other drugs - they typically lead to dependence and rebound depressive symptoms. If you need medical help then don’t let your symptoms wait. It is still safe to seek help for a medical issue and the risks for most people are very low even if they contract coronavirus.
Other people could be at high risk
At risk individuals with pre-existing chronic health issues and those over 70 years are considered especially at risk from COVID-19. Check in regularly on people in these categories. If you are one of these people you need to stay at home unless absolutely necessary. Ask someone to help with shopping. Consult a doctor by phone if you need medical assistance - do not leave the house unless necessary. Reach out to a friend or family member and ask them to set up a video call where you can see them face to face to break the isolation. Time online with grandchildren can be very uplifting and help grandparents deal with feelings of loneliness. If you don’t have internet access, don’t worry, pick up the phone and call for a chat.
We are in this together for the long haul.
The sacrifice you make today by following the government instruction on staying at home is saving lives. In the next few days the case rates will hopefully begin to slow and within a few weeks you will see the death rates fall. There will soon come a time when you will be able to take a stroll outside along the waterfront. Stay well and don’t hesitate to ask friends, family and professional people like doctors for help when you need it. We are here for each other.