I am delighted to announce that after a 4 year extended hiatus, today, I am making an iconic comeback and updating my blog. And it only took a global pandemic and mandatory quarantine for me to finally feel inspired.
In what I can only describe as an absolutely outrageous turn of events, the world is currently gripped in a pandemic, with a virus known formally as COVID-19 tearing through almost every country on Earth and putting large swathes of it into quarantine.
Those who live with me in beautiful Barcelona will be all too familiar with our new, quarantine lifestyle. However for those whose governments are fucking around instead of making firm, life saving decisions, let me tell you what life in quarantine looks like.
Everyone who can work from home, does. People are only allowed to leave their homes to travel to their jobs, to buy groceries, to go to the pharmacies and to go to the bank. If you have a dog, you are permitted to take them on a short walk alone and must maintain the safe minimum distance from others. If you are caught outside by the police without due cause, you will be asked to return home. If the police happen to be absolute pricks that day, you may also receive a hefty fine.
There are queues for supermarkets. Everyone must remain a mandatory distance apart when in public spaces. Toilet paper, pasta and beans are like gold dust. People are wearing all varieties of home made hazmat suits in an effort to protect themselves – especially the elderly, I have noticed.
It is an entirely new way of living.
I am not a scientist and I am not here to frighten you or to give you information on COVID-19; that is not my place and quite frankly, there are already a few too many sudden, armchair scientists for my tastes (you know who you are).
What I want to do is talk honestly about how I am staying sane during this time. My friends in quarantine are naturally anxious and afraid – what is happening in Spain right now is barely the tip of the iceberg and we are not yet at peak infection here. Those in countries not yet in quarantine are curious and in all honesty, likely to join us all very soon.
While it seems we have apparently stumbled into a dystopian nightmare, I am trying to remain positive. In that spirit, I present to you my guide for surviving a minimum 15 day house confinement.
Incidentally the government of Spain says 15 days in quarantine but we all know we are staring down the barrel of a 30 day quarantine minimum.
Keep to a Schedule as Much as Possible
Look, I am not your mum. Thankfully, I am not anyone’s mum yet because even with 28 years of experience I can barely look after myself. I have 0 qualifications to back up the advice I am about to give, but I believe it to be true, so I am going to dispense it anyway.
Keep. To. A. Schedule.
As much as your anxiety will allow you to, do your best to create structure and routine in your new indoor life.
You might assume that working from home will help you create structure, but working from home cannot miraculously provide you with a routine – it requires you as an individual to make smart choices for yourself: get up and go to bed at times reasonable for your job. Make an effort to shower and get dressed properly each day. Incorporate what you still can from normal daily life. Exercising, cooking, meditating, gaming, creative pastimes and socialising via apps are all still perfectly available for you to do if you make the choice to do them.
Regardless of whether you are working from home or just having to stay there indefinitely, if you start keeping irregular hours, stop looking after yourself and refuse to keep any semblance of a normal life, then it’s fairly like you’ll end up feeling 1000x worse than is necessary during an already difficult time.
Practice Self Care
Ahhhh “self care.” Remember when self care was a thing you enjoyed doing and not an overused marketing term rammed down your throat by every raw, natural, vegan, handmade, organic company on Earth? I remember those days. They were good fuckin’ days.
But as the old saying goes, you either die a hero or live long enough to become exhausted marketing jargon in a capitalist nightmare.
All (true and relevant) jokes aside, I do believe it is important to step back and think about what self care as a concept really means to you.
For some people it is ensuring they take the time to exercise. For others, it is a face mask and doing their nails. There are those that find solace and time for themselves in arts, crafts and music. I am even told that there are some people – people very different to me – who face their anxiety head on and practice self care through meditation instead of by drinking an entire bottle of red wine.
However self care looks for you, make sure you take some time to look after yourself. Show yourself kindness. You deserve it and quite frankly, the world could do with a few more good vibes right now.
Whether you love it or hate it, science stands firmly united behind the fact that exercise is good for both body and mind.
My journey into exercise was a slow one that began when I turned 18. Before this, I was adamant that any kind of exercise was just not my vibe, and if someone had told me that just a few short years later at 21 I would be running and climbing mountains for fun, I would have laughed straight in their faces.
It has now been a decade since I turned 18, and incorporating regular exercise into my life remains one of the biggest, accidental gifts I have ever given to myself.
For me personally, exercise allows me to either consider my own thoughts in peace or to disconnect from them entirely. It gives me a place to channel my frustrations and my anxiety in a beneficial manner instead of a self destructive one. It helps my body work better and more efficiently; it has banished the back pain I get from a job that finds me mostly sitting at a desk.
I could extoll the virtues of exercise all day long but ultimately, if you are not sold on it and cannot find a way to enjoy it, then me insisting that you try to work it into your daily quarantine (lol) is just going to annoy you.
What I would say however is this: while quarantining, exercise has taken on new roles in my life that are helping me adjust to the big changes. I am not allowed to be outside often, so exercise gives me a reason to move my body. It helps add structure to my day in an otherwise deeply chaotic time, and I am someone who thrives deeply in structured environments.
And the great part is, there are TONNES of apps and online resources to help you: YouTube, Freeletics, Kayla Istines, YogaAnytime – the list is endless and several of them are currently free to download until the end of March, when this first round of quarantine is supposed to end (spoiler alert: it is not going to end after 15 days).
So even if you despise exercise passionately, finding ways to move, expend energy and add structure to your day will only help.
Try To Be Healthy and Consistent With Meals
I mentioned earlier that I am not your mum and this fact, unsurprisingly, remains true.
However let me tell you something that you might expect to hear from a mum / dad / parental figure / whoever it is in your life still telling you what to do despite the fact that you have consistently been paying your own bills for 10+ years now.
Eat some fucking vegetables.
Seriously. Everyone in Spain seems to be hoarding pasta and beans despite there being an abundance of fresh or even just different produce. And all I can think about is how awful it is going to be for those people when they need to take a shit after a full 15 (30 lol) days of eating only kidney beans and pasta.
I am not saying now is the ideal time to begin a gruelling new health regime and I would never advocate for that anyway. Just don’t be an idiot that lives on kidney bean chickpea black bean pasta either.
And of course, don’t forget to treat yourself. Times are strange and life is short. A cheeky Deliveroo (or food delivery service of your choice), is good for your mental health and chocolate is soothing to the soul.
Just don’t forget to eat some fucking vegetables too.
Don’t Feel Like You Have to Constantly be Using the Extra Time “Wisely”
Yesterday I saw this tweet by LaChrista Greco on her Instagram page, @GuerrillaFeminism. And it spoke to me.
Let me be clear: I was one of those people offering hot takes on how all this extra time indoors could be filled.
While I am grateful that I can still work and believe there are steps that can be taken to minimise the impact of quarantine on mental wellbeing and daily life, feeling like you have to use the extra time to do more work is unlikely to be the wisest use of time at all.
Right now, it is normal to feel afraid or anxious about what is going on because it is unprecedented in our lifetime, and it will be something that the entire world will speak about long after it is over.
As the tweet says, our main priority is to look after ourselves, our loved ones and each other as much as possible. Everything else is secondary.
Lean on Friends and Family – And Be There to Lean on in Return
I am in the fortunate position to be living with my boyfriend, who also happens to be one of my best friends in the world. His natural messiness aside, he makes me laugh every day during a difficult time and reminds me why I enjoy being alive.
Not everyone is so fortunate. Some people may live alone. Some may have disabilities and be dependent on the help of others. Some may be forced to isolate with a partner who is also their abuser.
Some of these are unfathomable scenarios for a person to find themselves in. Now more than ever, we need to make sure we reach out to one another and lean on one another and show each other the best of humanity instead of the ugly parts.
Humans are social creatures by nature and to be locked inside is unnatural to us. If you know someone who might need some extra help to get through the isolation, make sure you text them to check on their well being and schedule some time to speak.
Likewise, feelings of loneliness, stress, fear, anxiety and restlessness are all a reality of the situation. If you need to reach out to someone, then do it. And don’t think for one second you will be annoying someone, even if you have not spoken for a while.
Since being in quarantine I have been in some form of text chain or video chat with around 75% of my friends. One of the most beautiful parts has been reconnecting with older friends living in different places. These are people whom I love fiercely but who have different professions, in different countries and timezones all over the world. We struggle to make time because an adult schedule is notoriously difficult to balance. Now, with the extra time, a chance to reconnect and catch up has appeared, and it’s been a surprising bright side in amongst the utter shite of the entire situation.
Obviously I can only advise you based on what is working for me, and we are all different. But we are also all human, and humans prosper in environments that are good for them. The above is a selection of actions that have been helping me create a good environment and that are helping me stay mentally resilient in a trying time. My hope is that they might help you too. And if not, well my blog is pretty funny a lot of the time so I hope it at least made you smile.
See you in four years for the next post!