For those of you who follow my blog then it comes as no surprise to know that I have been effectively practising for social isolation for the past two years. Ever since I chose to start writing full-time in fact. Now, due to the Covid19 crisis, and in an effort to assist any of you who might be struggling I’m going to share my observations about staying sane in isolation.
Now, while my close friends have joked about my life ‘as a hermit’ I am not, in fact, a total recluse. I have my family around me and, of late I’ve struggled in my productivity because they are around me that much more. I know, it’s odd right? The thing is, when I’m writing I cultivate a comfortable atmosphere that suits me and, while I’m being mindful of my impact on others in the space, I cannot tailor it exactly to my wants and so, this past week and a half, I have had to learn and adapt that environment to work for all of us, not just me.
So, my particular situation aside, many of you are missing your daily interactions, face to face meetings, the commute maybe/maybe not and those familiar aspects of your daily routine and that’s the crux of it, Routine. While your home surroundings are, in a sense, familiar to you, the enforced confinement has interrupted your routine, so it’s time to make a new one. While, at times, I’ve felt inclined to indulge myself and stay in bed or blow off a day it’s these first few weeks where you, as a newly established hermit, have to set the routine and stick to it.
I can recognise the symptoms some of my friends are complaining about online, lethargy, anxiety, inability to tell the days apart. When you remove the traditional working week (and let’s face it, a lot of people are discovering that they can work from home, that those meetings could have been emails) then you have to make a greater effort to recognise and enforce societies structure of time upon yourself.
Whether you are actively working from home or are in another situation you should maintain a pattern to your day. Rise, wash, coffee/tea, breakfast, housework. You need a rhythm, think of your life as a piece of music, without rhythm all you have is chaos. So it is important when you get up and that sets the boundaries of when you go to bed. Falling back into adolescent forms of haphazard sleep patterns is completely beyond my own bodies ability to adapt to and you have to ask yourself whether you can do it anymore.
Beyond the day, setting out a routine for the week is important. Exercise on particular days, whilst the regular activities of meeting friends, family and colleagues and, even shopping, are restricted there are other options. Telephone and video calls can take their place. Put on the kettle, make a brew and Skype or Discord your friends. I know how expensive video calls can be so use the free messenger service alternatives. I know it restricts what formats can be used and where they can be used from but, it’s not like we’re getting out much are we?
I’ve said before how tragic it is that, in the age when we have all this technology to connect us, we seem more distant than ever. I can tell you, from experience that, as good as a few ‘likes’ on your status can feel, it’s the passing satisfaction of a bag of popcorn when compared to the cooked meal of a face-to-face conversation even via the medium of a camera. If you’re truly isolated you might reason that others have their own problems right now and it might not be the time to call or message them. Ignore yourself, isolation is like quicksand, it can, at times, drag you down. You have to be aware of your emotional health at times like this and, if you find yourself trying to talk yourself out of talking to someone else, it might be all the more reason you need to do so.
So, virtual coffee house meet-ups, online gaming, Face-time jam sessions. Now is the time to employ the technology we’ve been handed. It’s time to read those books, learn that instrument, finish that game or that piece of art and, more than ever, it’s time to share that experience with the people close to you. We all need to give each other a boost in this difficult period and, when that call comes in, take it. If you are busy then say so but make the effort to reschedule and actually reschedule. Not the vague, ‘I’ll call you back sometime’, set a time, have the conversation. Humans are social animals and, in this time of social distancing we have to find ways to continue being so.
Talk to each other people.