As humanity grapples with COVID19 spreading rapidly around the globe, the majority of us are required to lockdown at home. To self isolate and shelter in place.
Melissa and I have been in near complete isolation in our apartment in Singapore since mid January, choosing to settle in and avoid any risk.
While Singapore has been widely recognised as one of the few countries that has done well in handling the pandemic, my wife Melissa has leukaemia.
Meaning that any infection, is far more life threatening to her than it is to most people, especially something as devastating as COVID19.
The stay home orders that are being enforced in many countries, seem like something from a dystopian movie, and the idea of being stuck at home for weeks on end is a daunting prospect.
For many people, myself included, the ability to go outside or meet up with friends is such a normal part of our lives.
*Ominous drums begin*
I remember seeing snippets of news in December, vague headlines reported on an unknown virus, with many experts concerned about the uncontrolled spread.
With concern for the spread of the virus during Chinese New Year, Melissa and I went shopping for supplies to avoid needing to go out again.
We were suddenly aware that our normal supermarket was full of tourists.
In the hours preceding the first lock down of Wuhan during CNY, 10,000 Chinese nationals would arrive in Singapore, these would be the first 32 cases in Singapore, and create numerous infection clusters.
Go home, stay home
Since that day, we have ventured out only for the occasional grocery top up, visits to the hospital and one trip to the park. We have been in effective self isolation, with only a few visits from family, and our friend Jay who has been isolating like us.
For the last 70 days, it has been the two of us in a one bedroom apartment. Every day.
Many introverts are shrugging it off, saying life will be remain unchanged.
But for those of us who are outdoor lovers and extroverts, being forced to remain indoors and isolated during the pandemic, for weeks on end, seems impossible.
Impossible is nothing
It is doable, your day to day WILL be very different, but that is also a blessing, find new things that you can do everyday. Or just spend a month working on something you’ve been waiting for a chance to do.
It’s normal to feel uncertain, these are unknown times we are moving into. However, self isolation doesn’t have to be difficult, Melissa and I have a few useful lessons for how to pass the time and remain sane, which we would like to share with you all:
1. Come together and be apart.
If you are isolating with other people, agree early on how much time you want to spend together and apart. Some days, we feel like we spend too much time together, and then surprisingly, some days we feel like we DON’T spend enough time together. Figure out what time of day you want to keep as your own, and let the people around you know to respect that. We spend time together every evening, but as an early bird I have the mornings to myself and as Mel is a night owl, she has the nights.
2. You suddenly have time!
Sleep in, switch off the news for a bit and take a few days as a pretend weekend. Rest, the stress of the pandemic is so real, and is felt by many of us. Do things slowly, pick a task that you can spend a few hours on, focus on enjoying the precious commodity rather than feeling forced to pass it!
3. Share how you are feeling.
Take the time to listen to those you are with, but also learn to express what you need. There are going to be days where being forced to stay inside is frustrating and enraging. It’s times like these you should express it, say you are fed up, exhausted or just having a crappy day and be sure to encourage those around you to say how they’re feeling.
4. Make some spaces
In our apartment we have been really intentional with creating places for particular things. We have our own spaces to work, we have a Netflix set up with a screen, we’ve got a lunch spot near the window in our room and we take video calls outside on the balcony.
5. Set some objectives
In many places, the isolation period is for many weeks, set yourself a goal, a new skill you want to learn or an old one you wish to master. Organise your hard drive, learn to knit or practice that other language (you can learn anything on Youtube).
6. Work smarter
If you are working from home or a remote worker like us, balance your time off. Take ‘weekends’ or give yourself evenings/mornings off. It is very easy to throw yourself into work and burn out. On the flipside of that, make sure you set up some good habits around your work, a certain place in the house, time of day, or particular type of clothing (a collared shirt). These habits can help you to separate your work time from your down time and can be crucial elements in making the home office a success.
7. Soul food
In many of the dishes we love to eat, time is an essential ingredient that many of us don’t have in our normal lives. Pick an old favourite, your childhood dish of choice or try cooking something new. Cooking good food is a rewarding experience that all of us can reap the benefits of.
8. Reach out
Finally, just because you aren’t able to meet up with people, doesn’t mean you can’t still be social. Video chat is a crucial link for us to stay connected with those who matter to us.
Call your friends and family, send pics, voice memos and messages tell them what you are doing, and ask them how they are. Make a deliberate social connection, don’t just post things on your social media. This is a difficult time for many of us, it’s not the thought, but the effort that counts.
Rarely, do we get enforced downtime at home. Our time off is usually spent rushing to go on holiday or meet up with friends.
We hope you are all staying healthy out there, it’s a scary time, and especially so for those who are immunocompromised or at risk. Thanks to everyone taking steps to break the chain of infection, you are helping protect people like Melissa everywhere.
If you are interested in reading more about Mel’s battle with leukaemia and the rollercoaster of struggles we have faced, you can check out our GoFundMe which has been kept pretty well up to date since her diagnosis in September. In our free time we like to travel, eat good food and see new places. For work we are launching our mental health startup, Bravely, we have a Medium publication about it here.