Updated: May 6
It's day 11 of self- isolation and I have learned a few things that I wanted to share. Firstly, to give you a background on myself, I am an Irish expat living in Berlin. I work for a consultancy and am one of the very fortunate people who can work from home at this time. Since midnight of Monday this week, there have been stricter regulations on leaving your flat here in Berlin. When I do leave my flat, I have to carry ID and proof of my address. I am not allowed to walk on the street with more than two people. That might seem drastic to some, but it has to happen in order to manage the spread of the virus. As long as I can go for either a walk outside or a run every day I am happy. My daily outing is what is keeping me sane at this unusual time. Of course, I thought about going home to my family, but my first fear was about the possibility of bringing anything home with me, and the second one was not being let back into Germany. Now that would have been less than ideal. “Hi work, I am not allowed back in the country''. That could prove to be a bit awkward. I think many of us are just over a week in. China and South Korea are finally starting to come out the other end. Italy are still seemingly in the thick of it and I think I can speak for everyone when I say we are all thinking about them constantly. Stay strong Italy. Across the world our offices, schools, bars, clubs, cinemas and gyms are closed. It's a weird, scary and uncertain time for all of us and on top of that we have some pretty embarrassing world leaders. We have never seen anything like this and hopefully never will again. When this whole thing all kicked off I was panicked. I was so worried about my parents. My problem was that I kept going balls deep down the rabbit hole of every article that was published. The media have a lot to answer for in this pandemic, they have created a LOT of unnecessary fear. When you are reading articles about the virus, remember the more shocking the headline and content, the more people click in and read, the more money these media outlets will make. FROM YOUR FEAR. It’s that simple. I have pretty much stopped looking at it all now, I will visit WHO website when I feel I want a quick update and that’s it. Stay away from Tabloids (Daily Mail, Sun, Star, Mirror, Express etc). I said it. Don't even go there. You can mute people on Instagram (without the awkward unfollow) by holding your finger over their story - there's a #lifehack that makes all the difference. Be mindful of what you look at and consume. As mentioned, I am lucky enough to work for a very people focussed company and can do my job from home. We have to remember, so many people have lost their jobs as a result of this epidemic. If you have the ability to work from home, please be mindful when sharing your beautiful home office all over social media. It really is salt in the wound for those who don't have this luxury, who have lost their jobs or been put on unpaid leave. You should also be mindful of those people who are stuck in a dingy corner of their one-bed flat with kids roaring in the background or hanging off them. I think we really owe it to one another right now especially, to share useful, funny, kind things if we are on social media. We should try to think about what we post, will it put a smile on someone’s face? Will it make someone sad or envious of my life? We don’t always think about these things. I don’t always think of these things, but being more aware of our motivations behind why we post what we do is a great start. It is a very difficult time for many, so I do think it’s important to support one another, lift each-other up. If you do a workout online, hear a song or a good podcast or read something nice, spread the word. Send it to someone you know it will make smile or improve their day. I have learned a few things myself and have a few personal tips for ‘successful isolation’ having done (like many of us) just over ten days. As human beings, I think we adjust very quickly to things. I do feel personally I am adjusting to this new way of life relatively quickly, it's not ideal for anyone but it's do-able. There are a few factors contributing to this which I want to share and also some great things happening as by-products which I also want to mention.
Structure your day This is the single most important thing to me. My daily routine has been to get up (around the same time every morning), make my bed, get dressed and go for a long walk or a run. Come back, have my overnight oats and my coffee (highlight of my day) and start work. I look at my day ahead and make sure I have a to-do list ready to get through to keep me on track. Getting outside first thing is so important for me, being out in the air in the early morning is such an incredible gift. I have a wonderful body that is strong and works so well. I can walk, I can breathe in this air and I can see and appreciate the beautiful world around me. It makes me so incredibly happy. I also realised recently how full my life is and has been all along. I love and am loved by so many, this is something I never thought about before.
Separate work from personal life
If your 'office' is in your bedroom like me, make sure you are not letting your work bleed too much into your personal life. Create boundaries and if you've done your daily tasks, close your laptop and finish your day at the time you normally would. This is to protect your personal space and maintain a decent work-life balance. This can be very hard to put into practise which is where structure and routine can help.
Have a clear space
I am constantly talking about sorting out my room, anyone who knows me will confirm this. I finally have time! Working from and living in a clear tidy space will improve your mental health more than you can imagine. Get rid of that shit you don't need, if you haven't worn it in a year, say goodbye. Our bodies change as we get older and that's ok babe. We all have the jeans we are holding onto for 'when I'm thin'. Embrace your wider hips and extra layer of beautiful softness. You give nicer hugs now and let me tell you no-one wants to spoon an ironing board.
Connect with loved ones Yes we cannot touch (I have never gone so long without a hug and everyone knows how affectionate I am) and I have never been so removed physically from people but at the same time so connected. Most days on my morning walk I call my mum, and we usually talk for over an hour. We never did this before. Our calls were normally a quick FaceTime every couple of weekends, we all live busy lives but now I am speaking to her and my beautiful family almost every day. Yesterday I played games with my nieces on the house party app, I'm having virtual gatherings with my girls from home and catching up daily with my Berlin family. I am reconnecting with so many wonderful people in my life who I haven’t been able to make time for in the past few months. This is so wonderful and much needed at this time so connect with whoever you can that you may have lost contact with (not your ex).
Form new habits There’s nothing like a good ole global pandemic to make you change your habits up a little. I am trying to make sure I do some form of exercise or movement every day and have created a small recipe book to add healthy ideas to develop a habit of eating better and being more prepared with food (go to Pinterest for ideas, it's brilliant). I am trying to force myself to think about a balanced diet, not having too much sugar (this is so frigging hard I have to stop buying chocolate asap) and there’s obviously a huge motivation right now to have a high immune system, so I am getting into a habit of eating for this. Get those fruit and veg in kids! Get through the long list Life admin has never been so exciting. OK, I’m sure you agree, there are a few things that we put on the long finger and leave on the pile of paper shoved on top of the dresser or in the drawer but I bet you have started to sort it all out now, am I right? Spotify has an excellent playlist called 'Deep Focus', get on this one for the life admin! Enough on that topic.
Learn new things There are so many places to learn online and heaps of free information available to us. I have bought some courses on Udemy, they offer hundreds of courses and they're so cheap. YouTube is another good source of learning content. You can try and learn some basic German phrases on your lunch break like me :) Use this time to feed your brain. The chances are you’ll never go through this again in your lifetime, so sharpen your axe. Yes Netflix is great but don’t let it suck away all of your precious time (give yourself designated TV time). Do think about what you could spend this on, think of what you can learn with the space and your recent ability to be more present.
Your sleep will probably improve I don’t know about you but I have been getting my 8 hours every night and wow is it a beautiful thing. My skin feels better, I feel rested, energised and my body feels good when I move. I am so sorry if I rubbed that right in to all the people who have small kids, you are doing a wonderful job and we love you.
Meditate This is something I am really trying to get better at, it really helps my mindset and offsets cabin fever. Headspace & Calm are both wonderful apps for beginners especially. What I usually try to do is ten minutes in the morning as soon as I wake up from YouTube. You just have to search ‘morning meditation’ and I promise ten minutes is enough. You will have so many options. Not everyone is going to be good at it, your mind will wander off, you will think about breakfast, lunch and the day you have ahead a number of times but just try it. It makes all the difference in how you can handle this ambiguity. Watch your alcohol consumption This is an interesting one. There are lots of memes joking about drinking your way through quarantine etc. which I personally don’t like because they glorify drinking which is unnecessary and not the right message to be sending. I do get it, I really do but I would be very careful about this becoming a dangerous habit. If you do find you are drinking too much try to check yourself, this can be a slippery slope and you might be using it as a coping mechanism. It could be making you feel more anxious and upset about what is going on. I have had a glass here and there but I'm generally trying to avoid it because I know it will make me feel more anxious about this whole epidemic but that's me and everyone is different. Sis, if it makes you happy and you need it to get through, drink the wine. No guilt in quarantine.
Check yourself, what sort of company are you? I know you think you are self-aware, but really, how are you to be around? Are you making other people in your household miserable because you feel low? I’m sorry if you do but please ask yourself this question, what does it feel like to be in my presence? This time can be intense for everyone but you have the choice of how you make it feel for the people surrounding you. Please be mindful of this and try to have a little more patience with people. Check up on your loved ones, if they are pushing you away maybe there is a reason for this. The ones who are hardest to love often are the ones who need it the most. Keep a diary I have started a real life written diary and I feel adorable (and 16). My handwriting looks like a 7 year old boy's but hey, not the point. I don’t write in it every day, maybe every second or third. It helps me think about how I am feeling, how I can reflect on the day before and what I want to achieve in the coming days. If anything, it’s just nice to write things down and make sense of them. Lot's of mental health professionals suggest writing as a great coping mechanism for stress, anxiety and depression. Often, when you see your thoughts written down you can make more sense of them. It's also wonderful to imagine myself reading these pages in a few months when it's all over. Imagine that feeling of pride, think about what you will have gone through and how you handled it. It will be a reminder of your strength and you may want to read it to your grand kids someday.
Have gratitude I personally am reminded the full life I had before this (and still have just a little less social). I have made a list of things I want to do after ‘quarantine’ and the places I want to visit this year. I think we will come out of this with a whole new perspective on life, with more gratitude for freedom and being around our loved ones. We will love the hugs even more, and we will cherish the togetherness. It makes us realise how full our normal lives really are. How many friends we have, how many people love us. This time is not easy for anyone, I do think trying to see what you do still have is important. This isolation period is not easy for anyone and it really is what you make it. You can look at it as a total hindrance in your life, or you can look at it as a way to reset your daily habits, choices and perspectives which will inevitably improve your life coming out the other side. We will come out the other side. But please be kind to you, don't put too much pressure on yourself and make sure you're using a kind inner voice. You got this sis. Everyone is different and do what you need to do to get through it. These are just my learnings and thoughts.
Think about that light at the end of the tunnel because it does exist and we are getting closer to it every day.