I think we can all agree a lot has changed in the last week. Even if you worked from home, this new Coronavirus has upended our usual way of living. You’ve probably heard a lot of people talking about ‘flattening the curve’ and social distancing as a way to stop the spread of COVID-19. This means not going outside for anything but work or shopping. For most people, this is a big ask, but one thing I realised was that for myself and many other people with chronic illnesses this was already our way of life way before anyone had heard of COVID-19.
I’ve tried to collate as much information as I can from my personal experience of staying at home long term. One of the things I learned was that isolation can affect your mental health and its something you need to watch out for. The things I’ve mentioned in this post aren’t a solution, but I do hope you will find them of some use.
What To Do When You’re Stuck At Home
A note from the writer
Okay, real talk time, I’m just about to post this, and I still have no idea if its right or not to continue blogging. Personally, my head isn’t in the right space for blogging, but based on views and affiliate referrals, it seems like a lot of people are getting into journaling right now. I understand why, journaling can help during hard times.
I don’t want to come across like I’m trying to take advantage of the situation. No one knows how things are going to play out. This is scary; everything is changing so fast the information in this post will probably be out of date by the time you read it. But if finding a hobby or just writing out your feelings helps in some way, I’m glad that this blog might play a part.
A Little About Me
Hi, my name is Emma; in 2014, I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. CFS can cause all sorts of problems, but the big one was low energy levels. It’s not the right time for me to go into detail about Chronic Fatigue; all you need to know is that it made it very difficult for me to leave home.
2014 was a while ago now; I’m very fortunate that my CFS has improved over that time. I’m currently in my penultimate year at university studying Graphic Design. But I still have problems because of my Chronic Fatigue. My energy levels are better compared to 2014, but nowhere near what they were before I got sick. This means I’ve had to change my daily routine a lot to cope. Even though I’m a student, I still spend most of my time working from home.
I want to share some of what I’ve learned over the years. I realise that for many people, social distancing will have caused a considerable change in your day to day life. It can be hard getting used to that change. For me, it has been easy adapting to staying at home full time, on my best weeks I wouldn’t leave home much as it is.
Weirdly social distancing has been a good thing for me. My university moving online has made it easier for me to work and take part in classes because I’m not using up energy just getting to university. But I know most of you won’t be in the same situation and this is going to be quite a shock.
What Is Social Distancing?
A lot of countries are trying to stop the spread of Coronavirus by using something called social distancing. This means staying indoors unless you have to go out for something. The extent of these rules depends on where you live. In Italy you can go out for shopping but not much else. In the UK companies are being encouraged to introduce work from home policies, many universities are moving to online teaching. This article from The Washington Post has a great example of how social distancing can stop the virus from spreading.
One of the reasons we want to do this is to make it harder for the virus to spread. Based on the evidence so far, if you are young and healthy, you should be fine. But we want to stop the health system from being overwhelmed, which can happen because older people and those with existing health problems will be severely affected. COVID-19 is a virus, which like most viruses means there isn’t much doctors can do to make you better.
Some people can’t take part in social distancing. If you can, you should, but this isn’t always possible. Unfortunately, I have no recommendations for people who can’t. I’m just hoping to offer some advice to the people who are.
How To Cope With Social Distancing
Based on the evidence shown above, social distancing works at stopping the virus from spreading. But it involves having to isolate yourself at home for weeks. Depending on where you live, you may still be able to go out, but at this point, you should avoid any unnecessary trips. Even if you will be fine if you catch COVID-19 you could pass it onto someone who won’t be.
One of the hardest things I found with being isolated is that initially, it sounds like fun. If you’re working full time or in education, of course, you’re going to look at this as a chance to relax and catch up with Netflix. The problem is that the novelty soon starts to wear off. You are going to get bored at some point, and chances are you will want to go outside.
Please believe me; I say this from experience. Staying at home all the time is really boring. Yes at first it seems fun, you sit on the sofa and watch TV. But at some point, you’re going to realise all you’ve done for three weeks straight is binge watch Grey’s Anatomy. Boredom will set in, and this can lead to mental health issues.
Using Social Media To Communicate
The internet is an incredible tool when it comes to communication. It is now easier than it has ever been to share your thoughts with the world. Your first assumption might be that online interaction will suffice rather than in-person conversation. I would be hesitant to make this assumption. The internet is great because you can talk to people through things like Twitter and Facebook. But it can’t replace having an actual conversation with someone.
I would highly recommend trying to have a conversation with an actual person each day. Either in real life or over the phone. Video chats are a great alternative. I’ve seen people on Twitter talk about their work setting up daily conference calls, not necessarily to have a meeting. But just to feel like you’re not alone in a room.
Social media isn’t always great. This advice may be a little more specific to COVID-19 rather than social isolation in general. You may want to think a little about your relationship with social media. I know I’ve been finding it hard to focus on anything. It’s easy to get into this loop of checking websites to see if there is any new information. Hank Green recently made a short video on this exact subject. He referred to it as the ‘anxious scroll’, where he thinks he’s doing something productive. But in reality, nothing is changing, and he is getting stressed out from the process.
There are things you can do if social media is getting you down. First of all, use Twitters blacklist feature. If that isn’t enough consider blocking your access to social media. In the past, I’ve used Block Site, which has various settings, including the ability to block access to a website during certain times of the day.
Social media can cause anxiety when there isn’t a pandemic infecting most of the world. During these uncertain times, it’s essential to manage how you use social media, so it doesn’t make your mental health any worse.
Get A Routine
One of the best things you can do if you’re stuck at home all the time is getting into some sort of routine. Like many of the things I’ve mentioned in this post, it can help your mental health. If you work away from home you probably have some sort of work routine, one of the best things you can do is stick to that same routine.
Start work at your normal time. Take your lunch and breaks at your when you would usually do so. Its always a good idea to get up and walk around if you can, don’t just sit at your laptop all day. One of the things you’ll probably find is that you walk less because you’re at home all the time.
Despite saying that, if you want to change up your routine, this is also possible. If you know you work better in the morning have a routine where you get the most important things done during that time. One of the advantages of working from home is that you can set up your routine.
I know that with working from home, it can be tempting to stay in pyjamas all day. I would advise against this, mainly because getting dressed is one of those things which mentally gets you ready for the day.
It can be a good idea to have a set time where you stop working. Unlike traditional office jobs, working from home means you don’t get away from work. It can be easy to continue working far into the evening. Set out times to relax or work on other hobbies. You need time where you’re not thinking about work which can be hard if you feel a constant need to do more.
One of the best things you can do to help yourself is by going outside. This all depends on the quarantine rules where you live. Going out can boost your vitamin D level; it can also help with stress and anxiety. If you’ve been working from home, I would highly recommend taking breaks every so often and going outside.
Going for a walk can be a great way to get away from everything that is happening right now. If you can’t go for a walk, try just getting out of your home. If quarantine rules are so strict, you can’t go outside at least open some windows and let fresh air in.
How To Fight Boredom
I think for a lot of people one of the big things will be what do you when you’re stuck at home. If you can work from home, that’s great, but not everyone will have that opportunity. Your initial response might be to do nothing, which is perfectly valid. But you’re going to get bored eventually.
You don’t have to decide on some massive project to work on during this time. You don’t have to invent gravity as Issac Newton did. But having something to do will massively help. Being bored can hurt your mental health, causing depression and anxiety so you should try and find some sort of hobby.
As I said, this doesn’t have to be anything massive. You don’t have to write a full novel. But you could always start by building a daily writing habit. The important thing is you do something.
This is a perfect time to try out new hobbies. I’m a designer, so I would always advise doing a hobby where you make something. It’s great getting to the end of a day and having something to show for it, especially if you made it yourself.
When I first got sick, I started blogging regularly. As you may be able to guess from reading this blog, it turned out well. Blogging may not be a full-time job, but I have learned a huge amount from it, which has proved to be very useful over time.
Further down this post, I have put together a small list of hobbies and other things which you could try in your free time.
One of the problems with staying at home is it’s easy to do nothing all day. I’m not saying you have to be super productive. But also you might find yourself getting distracted when you have something important to do.
This is where accountability comes in. If you’re working from home, chances are someone will still be checking to see if you got your work done. University students still have deadlines even with the move to online learning.
The problem is when you don’t have anyone checking to make sure you are doing something. Like I said before, it’s easy to sit all day not doing much. But that isn’t good for your mental health. You want to look back at the end of the day, knowing you did something.
When it comes to being accountable, telling other people what you plan on doing can help. Set specific goals for what you are going to do. Don’t just say I’m going to read more during this time. Set a number of pages that you will read every day. It doesn’t have to be much, but it should be something.
When I was ill, one of the things which kept me accountable was my blog. I was writing posts, reading and reviewing books; it all gave me something to do, which in turn helped me cope. Looking back, I can say it really helped me. I would not be writing this post if it weren’t for that time. Now is a little different but you get the idea.
Basically what I’m trying to say is it can be hard to do stuff when you have so many things which can distract you. The news is the number one problem right now. If you’re looking for someone to hold you accountable, send me a tweet with your task list, then send me another when you’re done. I will try to be encouraging and help you finish your tasks. I realise it’s not much, but we all have to help each other right now.
What To Do When You Have Nothing To Do
I’ve tried to come up with some examples of specific hobbies or other things you could do while social distancing. This is not an exhaustive list; most of the suggestions are based on things I have done in the past. Some also come from on my interests so maybe just use this as somewhere to start from.
I’ve tried to make sure all these suggestions cost very little money or are free. I don’t know what your financial situation is like, but based on UK sick pay I’m assuming most people won’t have much money right now.
Repair your clothes
Okay, so I’m adding this to the list in hopes that I actually do it. The advice should be, do those things you keep putting off because you’re always too busy. Though if you do have clothes which need to be repaired this is a fantastic time to do so. Climate change isn’t going away just because we’re all focused on COVID-19.
The clothing industry has a massive impact on the environment. Clothes are made using unsustainable practices, damaging the environment in the process. Most clothing items usually end in landfill, where they leach chemicals into the soil. One of the best things you can do to reduce the environmental damage of the fashion industry is to repair your clothes rather than buying new.
I want to avoid talking about lots of artistic things you could do if you’re stuck at home. But I did want to suggest one thing to try, collage. Collage is when you make a piece of art by sticking together images and photos and whatever paper media you can find.
I love collage because you need zero artistic skill to make something beautiful. You also don’t need any special art supplies. Paper, glue and scissors is all you need. Don’t go out looking for magazines, use whatever you have lying around your home. This is the perfect chance to do something with any old magazines or newspapers you have lying around.
You might think collage doesn’t sound like a real art medium. But there have been many famous collage artists over the years. Matisse was one artist who was well known for making collages. In the final years of his life, he focused on collage because it was something he could do while being ill. He would tear up huge sheets of painted paper and turn them into figures, all from his bed.
If you want to try something creative I would highly recommend checking out Skillshare. Skillshare has lots of classes made by artists and other educators. You can find a class on pretty much anything subject. Previously I wrote a more extensive review of Skillshare, in that I shared some lessons which I found particularly useful.
Some classes are free, but most you will need a Premium account to access. If you use my referral code, you can get a free month of *Skillshare Premium*. This is a referral link and I will also get a free month if you decide to continue your subscription. I also have a non-referral link if you choose to use that instead.
Skillshare also recently announced that they are making thousands of classes available for free to students in the US. All you need is a .edu or .k12 email address to sign up, and you’ll get two free months of Skillshare Premium. If you’re not a student check out this article which has other ways to gain free access to Skillshare Premium.
I’m a graphic designer so I want to share some design specific resources you could use during this time. If you want to do some personal projects but don’t have a particular project in mind, check out Briefbox. I also have a more extensive post on this. Briefbox has a series of project briefs with various deadlines and deliverables. It gives you a chance to practise new skills and try projects in new areas.
I am really into hand lettering right now. I love hand lettering because its something you can do with very few art materials, you just need a pencil and paper. I’ve also learned so much about typography from this. If you want to get into hand lettering, I would recommend this video on YouTube or this class on Skillshare.
If you already have some experience with hand-lettering you can find resources such as Lettering Maker, which will give you a small lettering brief similar to how Briefbox works. Lettering Maker will randomly generate a quote along with a lettering style and help you set a deadline. If you have problems deciding on a quote to letter you can check out WTF Should I Letter from Lauren Hom. Again this will randomly generate a quote for you to handletter. Most of these are quite silly, which makes for a fun hand-lettering piece.
One of the fantastic things about the internet is the possibility to go out and learn about pretty much any subject. Most of the time, this can be done for free. YouTube is an incredible resource if you want to learn. If you decide on a subject, usually you can find lectures which have been uploaded for anyone to use.
My favourite lecture series was one done by Brandon Sanderson. Not only is this guy a writing machine, but he also does it while promoting books and working as a lecturer. This series of lectures has a focus on fantasy writing and world-building (of course it does its Brandon Sanderson). I’ve found this series very enjoyable even though I’m not a fantasy writer and have no intentions of being one.
Crash Course is another excellent channel made by the people who brought us Vlogbrothers. If you like learning about planes Wendover Productions is the channel for you. Tom Scott is great for weird facts. TED also uploads talks to their channel so you will always be able to find something interesting to watch. One talk I watched recently was by Simon Lindegren, and it might change how you perceive social media.
Improve your blog
I know bloggers all have different ideas on if its right to post or not during this time. I’ve had an existential crisis just writing this post. If you don’t want to continue posting this may be a good time to do some spring cleaning on your blog.
For example, you could go back through your old posts and see if any could be improved. Or could you take better pictures for a post? If you want to get serious with improving, I would recommend taking a look at the Blogger Growth Action Plan from the Thrive Blogger podcast.
This was a series of episodes released in 2019; each episode focused on a different part of blogging and how you could improve in that area. They featured topics such as Pinterest, Facebook, Email Marketing and SEO. I found this series of podcasts beneficial last year, and they formed the basis of many changes I made on my blog. Which eventually resulting in my views doubling over the last 6 months.
Chances are, if you’re reading this you have a pile of books waiting to be read. Don’t lie; you probably do, I know I do. Read some of the books you’ve meant to read for years. If you have no books, there are many ways of obtaining more. Amazon is one obvious choice, I’ve also seen some bookshops say they will take orders over the phone.
MORE LIKE THIS: 5 Must Read Calligraphy Books For Beginners
Books are expensive, and there are ways around this. Try buying second-hand books. You could also look into the Internet Archive, which has a huge amount of older books. There probably won’t be many books on there which you are interested in. But if you want to learn calligraphy, there are some fantastic old resources.
One of the things I did years ago was read some books recommended by WellRead40. This is a reading list made up of pretty much all the books which would typically appear on an arts and humanities course reading list. It should be noted that most of these books skew towards western canon. The list starts with some of the oldest surviving books and gets more recent from that.
I made my way through a good part of this list before starting art school. One of the things I was surprised by is how many times these books were brought up during my university course. You wouldn’t think The Epic of Gilgamesh or The Book of the Dead is relevant to a graphic design course. But cave paintings have been found from 30,000 years ago and grid-based design goes back to hieroglyphics. There is also the added advantage that most of these books are so old they can be found online for free.
This is scary. I’m not going to lie. Nothing like this has ever really happened before in our lifetime. As I’m writing this, my sister is ill with a cough; my brother-in-law also has a cough. My parents are having to miss work because they don’t know if they might be sick. I’m scared, and I’m sure a lot of other people are too. In these times, I think its right to acknowledge that fear and do what is best for you. In some cases, that may mean taking a step back from social media.
If you’re young and healthy, you’re probably going to be okay. But please don’t become complacent and assume this is a regular flu. You could pass it onto someone who becomes extremely ill. At times like this, we need to think about other people. Check-in on your family and neighbours. Try to stay inside as much as you can. Wash your damn hands and sneeze into a tissue.
Links and other resources
- WHO Advice for the public
- UK Coronavirus Figures
- BBC Coronavirus Explainer
- UK Gov COVID-19 Updates
- Stay The Fuck At Home – Quarantine manifesto
- Why Coronavirus spreads exponentially, and how to ‘flatten the curve’
- Spending time outdoors is good for you
- The importance of routine
- Headspace app for your phone. Free guided meditations to help with anxiety
- If Coronavirus scares you, read this to take control over your health anxiety
- Block Site: Website Filter
- Daily UI Challenge
- Hand lettering step by step
- A Comprehensive Guide To Hand Lettering
- Lettering Maker
- WTF Should I Letter?
- Convertkit Creator Fund
- Skillshare Premium *Referral link*/ non referral
- Other ways to get Skillshare Premium for free
- Adobe is giving away 2 free months of Creative Cloud for existing subscribers
- Brandon Sanderson lecture series
- Wendover Productions if you like videos about airplanes.
- Tom Scott makes videos about stuff
- Simon Lindgren – Media Are Not Social, But People Are
- Chase Jarvis interviews Austin Kleon
- Crash Course has great videos to watch on a wide range of subjects
- Not really relevant but this episode of Drunk History with Lin Manuel Miranda is funny
- This guy is a junior doctor in the UK and has started a series about working in hospital during this pandemic. He has also been interviewing doctors about whats going on.
- Thrive Blogger Podcast
- Blog Growth Action Plan – Episode 1
- SEO Is Not Hard – A step by step SEO tutorial for beginners that will get you ranked every single time