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Like many of you, I am feeling somewhat anxious about the current COVID-19 pandemic, including how isolation measures may impact our lives. But having become progressively more and more debilitated over the past few years, I actually have a lot of experience of being stuck indoors and unable to go out. I know how frustrating and lonely it can feel. However I also know that it is possible to survive it, even when you’re running out of food and your child is driving you crazy as they’re bored!
So I thought the best thing I could do right now would be to write a post with my best tips and resources for getting through the coming weeks. I’m going to cover a fair bit of ground in this post, so for ease of navigation I have split it into sections and you can click on the links below to go to the relevant spot in the post. I hope you find these useful, and invite you to share your own tips and resources in the comments.
What’s included in this post?
The emotional and psychological effects of self-isolation
Right, I’m going to start with this because it really needs to be said: staying home for prolonged periods of time is hard. There are no two ways about this. Whether you’re staying at home because you are unable to go out due to ill health (in which case, the frustration is doubly hard because you can’t even make the most of your time at home), or because you’ve been told to stay at home to delay the spread of the virus, you’re going to find it tough.
I can’t count the number of times people within the chronic illness community have been told that others wish they had the “luxury” of staying home all day. But the reality is far from a luxury. This cannot be compared to a week off work when you enjoy the break from routine, because this will become your new routine very quickly. There are only so many hours you can enjoy watching TV or reading books before you itch to go out and do something else. And there are only so many odd jobs you can do around the house before you start to feel trapped by the same four walls. Which is why the rest of this post is dedicated to sharing some of my favourite ways of coping with the tedium that prolonged periods at home bring with them.
So, prepare to be frustrated and bored. But more importantly, remember that it is perfectly okay to feel these emotions. You can feel utterly overwhelmed by the situation without feeling guilty about it. Far too often we fall into the trap of thinking that if we complain about our situation when others have it much worse then we are simply ungrateful. This isn’t true at all. We can find our current circumstances frustrating without losing sight of the fact that we’re still very privileged to have a roof over our head, food on our table, or to not be in one of the at risk groups (to name just a few things we may feel grateful for). There’s a big difference between counting our blessings and beating ourselves up for having a hard time.
Nobody knows how to deal when the unimaginable happens. It’s all a great big learning curve. So be kind to yourself during this challenging time. Vent your frustrations (although don’t take them out on others). Share your fears and concerns, don’t bottle them up. Make the most of the social side of social media to connect with others during isolation. And take advantage of the tips and resources being shared by so many right now.
If you’re feeling ill…
Before I get into the tips and resources I have for getting through the coming weeks, I want to make a note about how to survive when you’re feeling ill and unable to do anything but lay in bed and feel sorry for yourself. I have a lot of experience of this, and so I wanted to reassure you that it’s okay to rest. Too many times in my life I have tried to push through symptoms only to end up prolonging my recovery as a result.
Of course there are some things that have to be done regardless, such as making sure you stay hydrated and keeping any children you have at home with you safe. But if there is anything you can let drop, then let it drop. There is all the time in the world to get to it once you’re feeling a bit better. And if you can ask for help, then ask for help. We’re all in this together, so don’t be too proud to reach out for support.
This means that if your child ends up spending all day watching TV, playing games, or entertaining themselves in another way, then that is perfectly okay. They will survive, trust me. Little Man and I have been through 4 Summer Holidays whilst I’ve been too ill to do anything beyond lay next to him in bed whilst he watches something on YouTube. Some days I’ve been too ill to even have him in the same room as me. And he has survived perfectly fine. He has Autism and struggles with social interactions and as much as I wish I could take him out more it just isn’t possible. But do you know what? He is fine. Chances are, unless you are chronically ill, you will only be out of action for a short period of time. So if we can survive weeks of it every year, then you can too. Do not add more guilt to your plate when it comes to this.
Distraction techniques and resources
Okay, so let’s get down to business. One of the best ways to get through the long days and weeks ahead is to have a whole bag full of distraction techniques and resources to help pass the time. What you choose to do will completely depend on the things you enjoy doing, but they could include books, films, crafts, games, or social media. Let’s look at some of these in more detail below.
If you’re a reader you will already know the joy of getting lost in a book. There’s nothing better than finding yourself in a whole new world, making you forget about your worries for a while. And if you find a series that spans a few books, you can lose yourself for days and weeks at a time. I’m a big fantasy fan, which is great because so many fantasy stories are part of a series. Some good examples of this include Harry Potter*, The Chronicles of Narnia*, and The Lord of The Rings*. I’d also highly recommend Tamora Pierce, as she has so many series set in the same two universes. I’ve written about them here, and you can currently win the series of your choice (giveaway ends Sunday 22nd March at 11:59pm).
If you don’t have many books at home, don’t worry. You can easily order books online using Amazon, eBay, or places like Abe Books which specialise in second hand copies. Try to think about supporting independent bookshops and indie authors as well, many of whom have their books available on Kindle Unlimited*. There is a great writing and reading community over on Twitter, so use the hashtags #WritingCommunity and #ReadingCommunity to connect with them and find your next read.
Don’t forget you can also borrow books, and many libraries now offer eBooks and audiobooks that you can access online without having to leave your home. Overdrive is an app that you can use on your phone or desktop to access audiobooks from your local library. And Audible* also offers a free trial, and is a great way to save money on audiobooks if you decide to continue with it. You get 1 credit per month but can choose to buy more, which works out cheaper than buying many audiobooks without credits. However some audiobooks are much cheaper than a credit, so make sure you check the price of each one before buying. Audible also often runs deals like 2 for 1, so you can build up your personal library very quickly.
Films and TV
There has never been a better time to binge watch your favourite TV series or find a new one to fall in love with. Many of the original series on Amazon* and Netflix came out at the end of last year, and there are some real gems to boost your mood such as Grace and Frankie, The Good Place, and The Marvellous Mrs Maisel*. If you don’t want to pay for a subscription to a new streaming service, there is always On Demand options you can scroll through as well. And let’s not forget YouTube, which offers some real delights at times. One of my favourites at the moment is Good Mythical Morning, which I discovered when I had the flu at New Year and have become quite addicted to.
Arts and Crafts
Have you got a stash of crafting supplies that never get used? Is there an art form or craft you’ve always wanted to try but never had the time for? Now is your chance to fill up the hours with these things. You can follow tutorials for all kinds of things online, especially on YouTube, and find tons of free patterns for things like knitting and crochet on places like Ravelry. Why not get ahead of yourself and use this time to create handmade presents ready for birthdays and next Christmas? Or make something that your local hospital or homeless shelter needs, like blankets, hats, and scarves. Or just enjoying making something for yourself and your home.
This includes both games you may play on your own on your phone, as well as board and card games with the family. You could build “game night” into your new routine, giving each member of the family the chance to choose a game of their choice. Make it interesting by playing for rewards such as “the winner is exempt from washing up for one day” or “the winner gets breakfast in bed tomorrow”.
Learn a NEw Skill
There are so many online resources and apps that make it possible for you to learn a new skill, and this is the perfect time to do the thing you’ve always wanted to do but never had the time for. Check out sites like edX and Future Learn for courses on a range of subjects from universities around the world. These are all free. Or if you want to learn something specific and want to support small businesses, check out places like Teachable and Udemy, or see if the blogger or influencer you love to follow has created a course. And don’t forget there are apps too, such as DuoLingo which makes it fun and easy to learn a new language, which is a great skill to have when you want to connect with others around the world.
It’s all too easy to get sucked into the darker side of social media at a time like this, I know. But social media can be a force for good, and it can be a lifesaver when you’re stuck indoors and feeling totally isolated. Take advantage of the options to mute certain words and phrases (or accounts) that you do not want to see on your timeline (I suggest muting anything which triggers a sense of anxiety in you), and try not to spend too many hours obsessing over the news. Instead look for things which fill you with inspiration, and fill your feed with that. Interact with people who make you feel better. Thank them for sharing things.
Share your own thoughts and feelings. Connect with others within your community, whether that’s a community based on your location or a shared interest. Look at the hashtags being used by those who inspire you and start searching for others using those hashtags. You can even follow hashtags on places like instagram or by setting up a feed in something like Tweetdeck. Make social media work for you, and be conscious of how you use it. You won’t regret it.
Meditation and other mindfulness techniques and resources
As helpful as distraction techniques are, we also need to spend time sitting with our emotions, including our fear and frustration, in order to process how we’re feeling and find a way to live with such big feelings. After all, they will not just disappear because we’re distracting ourselves for the time being. This is where meditation and mindfulness techniques really come into their own.
There are so many different forms of this, which is great because there is something for everyone. And the great news is that many teachers of these things are available online, so you can always find someone to help guide you through new techniques. Try heading to YouTube and searching for things like yoga, meditation, mindfulness, and relaxation. See just how many different results there are for each one, and then try to narrow it down to what you need in any given moment. Examples might be “yoga for anxiety”, “meditation to calm the mind”, and “guided visualisation for healing”.
This is also where you may find faith and philosophy teachers helpful. I personally find daily chanting really helpful, I love yoga sessions with One Woman Revolution, and regularly check in with a variety of Christian resources including Pray As You Go, YouVersion, Mummy Meditations, YouBelong, and resources provided by The Methodist Church and other denominations. Find what works for you and try to make time for it each day, even if it’s just for 5 minutes before you go to sleep!
Surviving weeks at home with restless children
As I mentioned in the section on if you’re feeling ill, it’s perfectly okay to sometimes sit your child in front of a screen all day. They will not be harmed by the occasional lazy day! We’re not aiming for perfection here, just a way to get through the long monotonous days. That being said, there are lots of different things you can either do with your children or let them do them on their own. My suggestions aren’t limitless, but they are a start (and they’re all possible even if you’re feeling rough, or have limited time as you’re trying to keep up with work). Below are some of my best tips:
make a routine
We have found having a printed routine really helpful in our home at times. It is a visual guide that helps us all know what is expected of each of us and when. We have different routines for holidays to school days, as well daytime and evening routines for when we need to break it down even further. We use whatever works at any given time, and keep enough flexibility in them to allow for changes when necessary. I’ve created downloadable templates of our Daytime Routine, Evening Routine, and Holiday Routine for you to print off and fill in.
Choose activities you know your kids love
Try to plan activities around the things you know your kids love. You’re all going to be bored and short-tempered at times, so this is not the best time for trying something new. By all means try a few new things, but have some tried and tested favourites to fall upon. For us this includes lots of time drawing. Little Man absolutely loves to draw and so giving him some pens and paper can keep him entertained for ages. Others kids may enjoy making things with Lego or Playdoh. Some may love role-playing games. Whatever you kid loves to do and can do from home, let them do plenty of that.
Try something new with them
As much as I said this is not the time to try something new with them, it is a good opportunity to occasionally try something different. But keep it simple. For instance, if your kids like baking, try a new recipe that pushes them a little bit, but still uses the skills they already know and love. You may have to be inventive anyway if you can’t get hold of the usual ingredients you use! If you’re looking for new ideas, check out Get Your Kids To Eat Anything by Emily Leary of A Mummy Too.
If they always draw with pens and crayons, let them try using paints or some other medium. If they’re a Lego fan, challenge them to create something completely different and unique to them and let their imagination run wild. Basically the idea here is to break any kind of monotony that seems overwhelming whilst still keeping it familiar enough to not feel overwhelming.
Take advantage of resources provided by schools or offered online
Most schools are preparing home learning packs to help during prolonged breaks from schools, and sites such as Twinkl are offering free access to their learning resources to help during this time. In fact there is a wealth of information and resources available within the Home Learning community, so why not try following some blogs or social media accounts run by those who teach from home every day? Some of my favourites include Diary of a First Child, Let Them Be Small, Living Life Our Way, and Monkey and Mouse.
YouTube is your friend
I know, I know, there is some truly awful content on YouTube that you would never want your children watching. But there are also lots of great channels that are ideal for children of all ages. I’ve previously written a post sharing 10 of the best channels for preschoolers, but from primary aged kids there are just as many good choices. Some of our favourites include Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell, Netflix Jr, and Cosmic Kids Yoga.
Any other ideas?
I hope that these tips and resources are helpful to you over the coming weeks. Please do let me know in the comments if there is anything you would add to this list. And don’t forget that you can follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I also run a small faith-based group (open to people of all faith paths), if you want to connect with others during this time. Let’s support each other through the isolation – you’re not alone!