Surviving – maybe even enjoying – social isolation

The Covid-19 pandemic has shaken the world and has changed our daily lives in so many ways. We are being advised to stay at home, to stay away from our friends and family; all day trips and holidays are cancelled. This is, sadly, what it is going to take to minimise the spread of the coronavirus – social isolation is not negotiable. We all have a part to play.

This is a frightening time, not only in terms of the health threat Covid-19 poses but also the equally real threat to our mental and emotional well-being. If you are anything like me, you want to be aware of what is happening so you’re reading and watching the news; awareness is a natural inclination but there comes a point in time when awareness will instil worry (and I think we are all there already) which can easily escalate to fear and panic. Look around you at the people stockpiling in the supermarkets and you’ll see that there’s also a pandemic of selfishness loose in society (which makes me almost happy to be socially distant from other humans).

I have been in self-isolation for a week now. I’m not sick but I fall into the category of people who are vulnerable and therefore I am working from home for the next 12 weeks. Theoretically speaking, this should not concern me because I am, generally, a home bird.

I suppose I am a sparrow, a stay-at-home bird.

Gladys Taber

It’s now Saturday, though; ordinarily, we’d be spending the day by the sea or visiting a National Trust property with family and finding cute tearooms or coffee houses to enjoy a leisurely brunch. I like to indulge in a little baking and try out new recipes at the weekend, sometimes; but I’m self-isolating so I can’t get what I need and, anyhow, we’re following the rules – Simon is going out one day a week for essential shopping only! This time last year we were getting ready to spend the Easter holidays in Paris. There’s going to be none of this for an indefinite period of time: holidays are cancelled.

This Saturday, we could only go a couple of kilometres up the road to walk the dogs. I couldn’t bake that cake that I wanted to try because I am missing a couple of ingredients but I *did* bake some scones (and they were a perfect way to enjoy my homemade jam).

Tea! Bless ordinary, everyday afternoon tea.

Agatha Christie

Today started off a little resentful and then I stopped for a moment and did a reality check. How many days have I wished for more time to indulge my hobbies? How often have Simon and I complained about not having time to do DIY jobs in the house? How many days have I wished I could take my dogs to work? Now I am sitting working on the sofa with a shih tzu on either side of me. It’s really not all that bad.

There are plenty of things we can do with this enforced downtime. Here’s a few suggestions for keeping a positive outlook over the next few weeks and months.

Learn a New Craft

I like to think of this as a time of sewcial isolation. One week in and I have two new dresses and a new jacket hanging in my handmade wardrobe. I’m taking a break from sewing up a jersey skirt (pattern review to follow) this evening just to write this post. I know so many of you have sewing machines that you never even took out of the box! You might not want to make garments from scratch but I am sure you all have a few things in the wardrobe needing repaired or altered. Now is the time to do it! You could learn to knit, cross stitch, weave, crochet or paint with watercolours – there are amazing Youtube tutorials out there that can teach you pretty much anything. Trust me, the time flies in when you’re being creative.

I find sewing and knitting to be meditative – these activities put me in the here and now, which is very useful when you find that the news has stressed you out a little.

Catch up with family and friends

One of the most horrible aspects of the pandemic is that it turns your family, friends and social life into something threatening. And, yet, this is a time when we – and our immune systems – need our friends and family more than ever. Isolation is not good for our species. We know this. So what can we do? The only thing we can do is to make use of technology – invite your friends for a drink at the usual hour you’d meet at the pub – and use video calling! Check in face-to-face with your family and ask them what kind of creative activities they’ve been indulging in. Download the Houseparty app and have that book club. Why would you not? You’ve all had time to read the book this month, after all.

The scale of Covid-19 and what it’s doing to us is worrying, but an hour chatting with family and friends in the evening will help to reduce anxiety – and also make you feel less alone.

Spend some time in the garden

So I can’t go for my weekend strolls through the beautiful gardens of the National Trust right now but I have a huge garden that is crying out for some attention. I want a herb garden and a wildflower garden but I have never prioritised gardening; honestly, I always have something better to do. These days, however, I am starting to really think about getting the gardening gloves out and making a start. We can’t go far from home, after all, so why not make being at home that little bit more pretty? Gardening will connect us with nature (and I think I’m in the majority of people who could benefit from this right now as movement becomes limited) and there’s something about watching things grow that just fills us with positivity. Even if you don’t have a garden, there are plenty of things that can be grown indoors or in window boxes.

DIY / Decluttering

Spending more time at home will undoubtedly make you more aware of the little niggling projects that you’ve been avoiding. There are more than likely little jobs that need done in all of our houses – Simon has already started on a few things here at home and I’ve begun the mammoth task of decluttering and rearranging things, which is very satisfying. The wardrobe is due a clear out, not least because, since I have started sewing, I’ve noticed a real change in what I want to wear. What’s more, given the time I have to sew, I’ll be needing to make room for my new makes.

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