Quarantine: A Housebound Person's Guide
Updated: Mar 22, 2020
The threat of the coronavirus, which once seemed so far away is now up close and very personal. It has reached the cold and choppy shores of Great (lol) Britain. You’ve been told it’s time to self-isolate and there is a very real chance that the country may soon enforce quarantine. “Wahey! A few weeks working from home in my pyjamas,” you think, naively. At first, it is a fun novelty but as time passes and you’re living off frozen peas and toilet roll on toast, unsure of what day it is or who you even are anymore, you will begin to miss the outside world. You’ll miss your friends. You’ll miss pubs and going to gigs. You’ll miss going out for bottomless brunch every weekend and having interesting things to post to Instagram.
Now, cut to your third of fourth week in isolation and you are now losing the will to live. You feel disconnected from your community and the world outside your front door. You are lonely and fed up. You are slowly losing your grip on reality. You don’t know where to turn.
Fear not, my friends for I am here to save you from this misery.
Professional Housebound Girl at your service!
Don’t be lured in by think pieces like, “I was quarantined in my eight-bedroom country cottage for 48 hours with only my two nannies and my chef for company, here’s what I learned.” No, no, no. Leave this to the professionals. I have almost three years of experience in this field thanks to my multisystem, neuroimmune disease and I will not leave you to fend for yourselves in this legitimately scary and strange situation we find ourselves in. I am a woman of the people and I am here to be of service. I will wipe the biscuit crumbs out of your hair and save you from yourselves. Heed my advice and you shall make it through this with (most of) your sanity still intact.
Let us begin:
1. Wash more than just your hands
When you are stuck inside the house every day, it can seem pointless to observe the basic rules of personal hygiene and fashion anymore. No one is going to see you, so why not just slob about in your scruffs all day? Sure, at first this will fill you with that ‘sick day’ high – that feeling that you’re getting away with something. It’s 1pm on Tuesday and you’re in your pyjamas, what a thrill! But believe me when I tell you that this novelty wears off and it wears off fast.
To keep yourself sane whilst on house arrest, the first step is to not allow yourself to become a bog monster. Get up every morning and have a shower, brush your teeth and get dressed like you would any other day. I’m not saying you need to put your work attire on – feel free to find a comfortable alternative to chinos and a shirt. You could even take a leaf out of mine and my fellow sickies’ books and have designated day time pyjamas that are somewhat fancier than your regular bedtime pyjamas. You’ll feel so much better if you just get dressed every morning and observe the same social norms as before. It helps you to feel that you’re still going about your business as usual. Except now you never leave your house and you’ve forgotten your own name, but at least you’re dressed!
Basically, what I’m saying is that you need to still attempt to be recognisable as an adult human because on your third day of going to bed in the same outfit you’ve had on for the last 76 hours, you are going to start losing all sense of who you are as a person and you’ll probably also stink.
2. Get out of bed, you lazy toad
At first, it might seem fun to be free from the shackles of your morning alarm and to be able to take your lunch break whenever the hell you see fit, but the quickest way to lose all grasp on reality is to throw your routine out of the window. As I assume most of you will be working from home, you will still need to get up at a reasonable hour anyway, to log in and get shit done. However, for those of you who have a more flexible situation, I cannot stress how important it is to stick to some semblance of a routine. Try to get up at the same time every day, preferably before This Morning starts. (Side note: also avoid This Morning and all other such vapid nonsense, if you don’t want your brain to turn into a dripping pile of mush) Make your bed, have your breakfast and your morning coffee at the same time, in the same way you would on any other day. Eat your lunch at the usual time and if you always had your fag break at the same time every day, then do the same now either in your back garden or out of your window or whatever. Yes, there are some elements of your routine that will inevitably have to change, but the more you can keep the same the better.
I know this may all sound pretty rudimentary but take it from someone who has pretty much been in self-isolation for 3 years, one of the things you will first start to miss about your regular life is the routine of it all. Getting on the bus at the same time, calling at the same coffee shop every morning and saying hello to your favourite barista, timing your arrival at the office for the same time every morning to ensure you avoid the overly perky colleague who is so jolly she could very well be on speed. You may take them for granted just now but believe me when I say that all these little moments that make up your day are important, and without them you suddenly feel like you are missing something.
At a push, I’d say the only thing you won’t miss about your routine is that one colleague who always puts their hand up when your manager asks if anyone has any questions at the end of the staff meeting.
3. But have you tried yoga?
But seriously, have you though? It definitely won’t cure the coronavirus, but I can say with some certainty and a decent level of authority that after being cooped up inside for a week or two, you’re going to want to start moving your body. You’re going to feel restless, and you’re going to have a lot of pent up energy to burn off. Yoga is great for making sure you don’t start seizing up as a result of your new, more sedentary lifestyle, and there are so many types and different levels catered to every ability. Yoga Nidra is great if you’re anxious and need some deep relaxation. If you want something a bit more active that will make you get a sweat on, then Vinyasa yoga is great. If hot yoga was your thing – easy – just whack your heating up before you do it. If you were more of a goat yoga kind of person, just stick a little fake beard on your cat and encourage it to join in.
The added advantage you all have of course is that you’re able bodied, so your options for movement are far less limited. The world is your abled oyster. If Regular You is a gym bunny, then Quarantine You might want to find some HIIT workouts on YouTube or order yourself some weights to do at home. God knows there’s plenty of people with YouTube fitness channels so, knock yourself out.
Being stuck inside all the time is really not the jolly everyone seems to think it is and when we add in the extra element of general pandemic anxiety, it’s safe to say that a lot of you will feel the effects on your mental health. I’ve found that movement is one of the best ways to relieve any low moods or anxiety, and running was usually my go-to for this. Nowadays, yoga is perfect for me because its gentle enough not to cause an M.E crash but it also has the added bonus of including some guided meditation and deep breathing, which we all know is good for us even if we don’t want to admit it to ourselves.
If neither yoga nor exercise are your jam, then just take 10 minutes every day to have a little dance party in your living room. Will you look mad? Yes. Can anyone see you? No. Will it boost your mood? Most definitely. So, go for it. Do it naked if you want. Just move around and burn off some of that excess energy in whatever way feels right. And if money is tight for you during the lockdown, maybe film your naked dance parties and sell them to perverts on the internet for a high price.
4. Fresh Air
There’s no two ways about it: during quarantine you are going to really start to yearn for the outdoors. You’re going to miss feeling a fresh breeze on your face, or even getting caught in the rain. If you are lucky enough to have a garden, I recommend that (weather permitting) you spend as much time out there as is physically possible. Eat your breakfast out there, exercise out there, work out there if you can. Now is the perfect time to take up a bit of gardening, or to paint your shed. Do whatever you can to get as much fresh air and vitamin d as is humanly possible. This will genuinely recharge you and make you feel like a human being living in the world, instead of existing as a ghost hermit version of yourself who has forgotten what clouds and trees look like.
If you don’t have a garden, don’t worry, there are still things you can do to bring nature to you. Order yourself some pots, compost and seeds and start growing some indoor plants or herbs. Crack the windows open as much as possible to refresh the air in your home. Open all blinds and curtains to let the natural light in, so you don’t evolve into a little vampire bat. Nature sounds are also a helpful tool: rain sounds, insects, birds, wind. There’s an endless supply of these on YouTube and Spotify and they do help, trust me.
This one is crucial, you guys. I know it sounds obvious, but it is very easy to lose your grasp on your proverbial marbles when you’re cooped up inside for weeks on end, so please take my advice and start engaging in whatever kind of nature therapy is accessible to you. Nobody wants rickets on top of coronavirus, do they?
5. Social Media Control
I’ll level with you: the thing that most of you will struggle with most during quarantine is loneliness. What most of you currently don’t realise is that every time you leave your house, you experience some level of social interaction. Whether it’s direct contact with your friends by going out for dinner or having a drink after work, or passive communication like idle chit chat with colleagues in the staff room or commenting on the weather to a stranger on the bus. Every time you have a human interaction, however seemingly inconsequential, you are topping up your little social metre. It grounds you and solidifies your sense of community, and of your place in the world. Without it, you’ll very quickly start to feel lonely and isolated.
This is going to be a difficult transition for most of you, unless you’re a massive introvert, in which case - congrats! Your time has finally come! For everyone else, the way you socialise will change drastically. Many of you will find that you become at least 50% more reliant on your phone for keeping in touch not only with your pals but with the wider world. You’ll likely be checking your news apps more to keep abreast of the latest coronavirus updates. You’ll be idly checking twitter to see what the latest hot takes are and scrolling through Instagram to find the funniest quarantine memes to share to your stories.
All of this is, in fact, great. We are very lucky to live in an age where we are always connected. Even when unable to leave the house, we can still communicate with our loved ones easily. We humans are social creatures who thrive off connection and relationships, so it’s important to keep checking in with your friends or relatives who live alone and to keep texting or calling your pals to exchange idle chit chat like you usually would. All of this will help to stave off the feelings of isolation and keep you from becoming a sad, modern day Miss Havisham.
The danger is, however, that the more time you spend on social media, without the luxury of being able to put it away and leave your house, the more you’ll realise what an absolute hellscape it can be. But fear not! We professional housebound types have got you covered. A lot of you will do this already, but now is the time to become prolific with the mute, block and hide features on social media platforms. Being connected to the news cycle 24 hours a day is not good for anyone, ever. Least of all at a time like this. You are also going to want to curate your follow lists with the precision of an army sniper. A good general rule of thumb is to treat your social media feed in the same way you would your inner circle: allow no space for people who make you feel like crap. Apply this rule to the accounts you follow on social media and I promise you’ll be at least 40% less anxious and angry, and you’ll have much more energy for your naked dance parties.
Also, although your phone will likely be the key tool to beat quarantine induced loneliness, do enforce a little bit of no screen time on yourself. Read a book, play a game, have a little pamper, maybe take a leaf out of the Italians’ book and start a singing flash mob? Just please god don’t do it with Mr Brightside.
Finally, just try to remember that this will pass. There is a lot of uncertainty and anxiety flying around at the moment and nobody really knows when the pandemic will die down, but one thing is for certain: you will get back to normal life eventually. It’s going to be difficult, stressful and strange for everyone but we’re all in it together and I think if we all start practising some community spirit and looking out for each other, we’ll be ok. Look out for your elderly, sick or disabled neighbours, check in with your Chinese friends who will likely be suffering some level of racism as a result of all of this. If you know of people on a low income who might be struggling, maybe offer to contribute to their food shop if you can. Or donate a few tins or household items. Keep texting and calling those friends or loved ones who live alone and will be desperate for some human interaction. Isolation can really take a toll on your mental health, so let’s make a serious commitment to checking in with each other during this difficult time.
Please also remember to factor the most vulnerable members of our society into every decision you make. If you’re healthy: fabulous, good for you. Now use that privilege of yours to protect those in our society who aren’t. There are many people for whom this virus will not be “just a flu”. Finally, remember that for you, this is a temporary disturbance to normal life but for many sick and disabled people this is just life. I hope that once this is all over, we can all practise more empathy toward each other and be more aware of the ways we can help one other.
And just one final point: if you are under quarantine and also have several small children to entertain, then I have absolutely no advice to offer and can only say this: good luck and Godspeed.