How to create a routine when you’re in isolation? Not a question many of us would have pondered until recently, but due to the coronovirus pandemic the world over, many of us suddenly are.
Whether you’re self-isolating, practicing social distancing, or you’re on enforced lockdown, knowing how to create a routine when you’re in isolation can be a lifeline.
Perhaps you’re working from home for the first time. Or you’re trying to stay active within the confines of your home.
Whatever your position may be, it’s likely that most of us will be spending a lot more time at home now and in the near future. And that you want to feel productive and positive whilst doing so.
When Kate Turner, of @OhHelloKate, reached out to me this week, I was inspired by her story. Kate’s been living in Madrid for the past seven years, and as you may have seen, Madrid has been on government-enforced lockdown for the past seven days (it’s due to continue for a further week).
During this time Kate and her partner have had to navigate new realities. Working from home full-time, together. Being inside (mostly) for 24 hours a day. And experiencing the ebbs and flow of international news.
It’s a challenge Kate’s met with a resilience and attitude I admire, and I’m so grateful to Kate for sharing her experience here on the blog with us all today.
Read on for Kate’s first-hand account of living in isolation due to coronavirus. And her advice for staying healthy, happy and productive if you too, are housebound because of COVID-19.
How To Create A Routine When You’re In Isolation
Self-isolation: Notes from Madrid
by Kate Turner
Standing by my open window in Madrid, I can hear birdsong. A week ago, that wouldn’t have been possible. Instead, I would have heard car engines and the chatter of neighbours going about their business in the capital of Europe’s noisiest country.
But today, I can hear nature – because the whole of Spain is on lockdown due to COVID-19.
On March 9th I travelled to work as usual, aware that the virus was out there. I glimpsed a few masked commuters out of the corner of my eye.
During the course of the day, the number of cases of coronavirus in Madrid doubled. And by the evening, it had been announced that schools in the capital would close for 2 weeks.
This was the first domino to fall; by March 11th, council services such as libraries and sports centres shut their doors, working from home was encouraged, restaurants and bars were ordered to close.
Until on Friday 13th, the Spanish Prime Minister announced a ‘state of alert’ across the country, ordering us all to stay home for a quarantine period of 14 days.
A New Reality
Fastforwards to now, and the majority of Madrid (myself included!) is working from makeshift home offices for two weeks. We’re only allowed out for essential journeys such as food supplies, or travelling to work if we’re unable to work from home.
Supermarket staff have suddenly become key workers and unsung heroes, keeping the country fed during the self-isolation period.
It’s a strange time, but it feels as though by staying indoors, we’re doing something positive, hoping it will help to ‘flatten the curve’ of the virus.
The Mental Shift
To some staying indoors for two weeks may seem like nothing (I swear it is my fiancé’s dream come true, apart from the having to work aspect – he’s a real homebird!); to others, knowing that you can’t step outside for an innocent walk is a real challenge.
I struggled with the idea at first, I must admit. When you don’t personally know anyone who has the virus, even friends of friends, it’s hard to perceive the threat. But gradually, reports trickle through of acquaintances with symptoms, and the numbers continue to shoot up on the nightly news.
While this is painful to see, it’s helped me come to terms with what we have to do, and makes it easier to accept staying indoors and watching life through the (open) window.
There are bright sides, too: there’s a feeling that we are all in it together. Friends and colleagues in Spain seem more connected and supportive than ever.
We’re there for each other without being able to physically see each other.
And we haven’t forgotten those who are out there on the modern-day front line either. Every night at 8pm, we rush to our windows or balconies to applaud medical staff’s efforts in fighting the virus.
And every night, the applause gets stronger, as more neighbours join in.
It feels like we have found a sense of humanity and community that we had somehow forgotten.
COVID-19 could change us in more ways than one; there’s no denying the effect on the economy will be catastrophic, but I hope this sense of community carries through as we move forward.
There are a few things I’ve learnt so far during our quarantine period, so whether you’re choosing to self-isolate or have been instructed to, here are some tips.
How To Take Care Of Your
Mind, Body, Work and Relationships
Set a routine
When you’re not used to working from home, it’s easy to think that it’s a treat to answer emails from your bed. But there’s a reason we don’t wear our pyjamas to work! Get up, shower, get dressed and work from a desk if possible: it helps you to concentrate, and to divide leisure time from working hours now that there’s no physical separation.
Choose your news
Try to avoid sensationalist stories that are only going to make you feel worse and look for a reputable news source instead. Choose your favourite newspaper, website or channel, and check in once a day. It’s great to be informed, but if you read updates constantly, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and let the situation take over your thoughts entirely. Also, be sensitive with what you share: try not to bombard family and friends with news stories they may not want to receive: instead, just ask them how they are, or talk about something normal!
Social (media) distancing
It’s easy to feel surrounded by the topic, so if it’s getting you down, don’t be afraid to unfollow or mute accounts that are giving you constant reminders, or just step away from social media entirely for a few days to give your brain a break. I felt quite anxious last week, so logged out of Instagram and Facebook, took a step back from the news and immersed myself in exercise, books and films until it passed.
Do something creative
While it’s great to make the most of this time at home to be productive and finally get stuck into that wardrobe declutter that kept slipping down your to-do list, plan something you’re actually looking forward to. Get creative in the kitchen, have a go at sketching, pick up your abandoned crochet hobby. Bonus points if your creative activity of choice doesn’t involve a screen!
Doing some exercise when you’re stuck indoors is really helpful both mentally and physically – I’ve been enjoying my nightly session of routines from Popsugar, Yoga with Adriene and Blogilates. Whatever your choice of exercise, YouTube has you covered, and lots of apps and trainers are offering free access during these uncertain times. I swear I’ve never been so aware of my core!
Take screen breaks
Now that I’m sitting down most of the day with no physical meetings to go to, I’m trying to take regular screen breaks to move or stretch – our dining chairs definitely weren’t designed for home office use, but needs must! Also, try to take phone calls standing up or walking around your home.
Look after your skin
For me, a real bonus of 14 days quarantine is 14 days without make up! I’m stepping up my skin care routine and enjoying it – honestly, why are people stockpiling toilet paper instead of (cleansing) face masks?
Keep in touch
Most people around Europe are now in a situation where they are working from home, or their working lives are in some way affected by coronavirus. Keep in touch with your colleagues, not just by email or messenger (although my team are certainly making the most of Slack right now!) – give them a call, or organize Skype check ins just to say hi and see each other. This is especially important for anyone who lives alone, as self-isolating can be very isolating indeed!
Personalize your space
Try and make your temporary home office as comfortable and inspiring as possible – I’ve struggled with this one, as there are two of us side by side at the dining table! With two of us in a one-bed flat, there’s no other option – but I’m certainly learning a lot about IT!
Now you don’t have to physically go to the office, it can be difficult to separate work and leisure time. Try to keep to your hours, and don’t be afraid to switch off and step away from your computer at the end of the working day!
Self-isolation affects everyone in different ways; if you have a partner, be open about how it feels for you. I’m definitely the more active one in our relationship, so feel more cooped up than my partner, who is loving all the extra time to play FIFA! Be patient too: some people can’t see the need to ‘social distance’ or find the idea of quarantine challenging – this is unprecedented for all of us, so try and be kind and listen, rather than judging or comparing to your own situation.
Check in with friends and family and see how they’re doing; set up Skype dates with friends and enjoy a glass of wine and a catch up even though you can’t physically meet up. I have so appreciated messages from friends and family in the UK over the past week to check how we are; these small gestures mean a lot.
Keep smiling, try to stay positive, and look for unexpected upsides – like a sense of community walls can’t contain, or the sound of birdsong in the heart of the city. I’ll see you on the other side – with glowing skin and abs of steel.
What’s Your Take?
Are you currently in isolation? If so, how are you finding it so far?
Are there any tips you can share?
We’re in this together!
Originally from Lancashire, Kate Turner has lived in Madrid for 7 years. She works in publishing, and has previously contributed to publications including Rough Guides and The Manchester Evening News. You can find her on Instagram @OhHelloKate.