Social Distancing Done Right: A Guide to Following The Rules Whilst Keeping Your Sanity

Mar 27, 2020

Health & Lifestyle | Lauranne Heres

Unless you’re Jared Leto and have just returned from some retreat to find the world in total disarray, you are fully aware that a new pandemic, Covid-19 (a form of Coronavirus), has been spreading globally since at least last November. The virus originated in the Wuhan region of China and has spread to almost every country in the world in the last few months.

While health officials try to figure out a cure and a potential vaccine, the only way to slow the spread of the virus is social distancing. This means that millions of people in the world are now stuck working from home (whenever possible), or self-isolating because they are in an at-risk group (the elderly, people with pre-existing conditions) or in quarantine as recommended by their local government.

Unless you’re a natural couch-potato, an introvert or have been working from home for years, this is all very new to you and you might be realising that it can be very difficult to be stuck in the same place for potentially weeks on end. Here’s some basic useful advice on how to get through this difficult time without losing your mind!

How to Prepare for a Period of Quarantine

Since the outbreak has spread, people have unfortunately been stock-piling essentials like toilet paper, water, non-perishables like pasta, rice, cans etc. This has caused unnecessary panic-buying and leaves those most at risk without the things they need. Supermarkets are struggling to restock shelves and if we continue this way, we will soon run out of supplies even though there should be enough for everyone.

Unless you are planning on getting Norovirus as well as Covid-19, you DO NOT need hundreds of rolls of toilet paper! A household of 4 people uses one roll a day on average, sometimes less if there’s children. This can be lowered by using wet wipes for a number 2 or installing a bidet to your toilet.

As for water, we’re in the midst of a virus epidemic, not a hurricane that’s knocked down water-supplies. In Europe and the US, tap water is perfectly fine to drink in most places, and if you don’t like the taste, you could install a filter directly to the tap, or get a Brita System.

If the government decides on a quarantine protocol where you are, you will be allowed out to go to the supermarket to get essentials. You should have enough supplies to last you for a week, and its best to keep some cupboard staples so you can eat every day without having to go out constantly to buy more. You could get a whole chicken and use it in pasta, some rice or salad. You could also gather every vegetable left over in the store and make a cool soup or cover it in cheese and bake the lot. Also have some snacks and fruit around. But you only need enough to feed the people in your house for a short time. Remember that some people do not have the means to bulk-buy and they will also need supplies.

Keep a safe distance from other shoppers at the store and respect the new guidelines regarding amounts you are allowed to buy.

How to Work From Home

Since the beginning of the outbreak, my Facebook feed has been showered in tips on how to most efficiently work from home. So here’s a fairly reasonable recap of the best advice out there.

  1. If possible, set up a dedicated workspace. If you have a desk, great. If not, commandeer a side of the dinner table, the couch, the bed. You can invest in a laptop support or portable laptop tray which you can perch on your knees everywhere. If you have to give your workspace back at the end of the day, keep your things in a box and get them out in the morning again. If there’s two of you at home and you don’t have enough rooms to separate, try to be mindful of the other person’s needs. He has a work-call and you’re just answering emails for now? Move to somewhere else for the duration and they’ll do the same for you.

  2. Some people insist on putting on “real” clothes to get in the right mindset, others don’t see the point of getting out of their pyjamas, and some prefer to go with leisurewear since they’re not likely to go outside. Wear whatever you like, as long as you’re comfortable. If you have to take work video calls, make sure your upper half looks reasonably professional (avoid frayed T-shirts) and if you’re doing a job interview, wear a smart sweater or shirt at least.

  3. Set yourself some tasks. In an office, a lot of what we do is dictated by the people around us, a meeting, a brainstorming session, an idea you had over lunch or coffee. If you’re at home, it can be difficult to concentrate for hours on end without seeing anyone. A simple to-do list should do the trick, and you can separate each task with something else, much like you’d get up to get tea at the office. Try answering some emails, then starting a load of laundry, followed by a report due for work before cooking lunch.

  4. Avoid mindless snacking. Keep some nuts around or eat some fruit. Allow yourself one sweet snack a day and make sure you move around and drink plenty of water.

  5. Make sure you get some air! Open the windows, get out on the balcony or sit in the garden, take a walk with your dog. Working from home does not mean being inside 24 hours a day. People are allowed to take short walks to exercise themselves or a dog, so take advantage of that. You can even go to the park as those places are big enough to keep a distance from one another.

How to Keep Fit

Gyms are now a no-go zone, and even those who didn’t have a membership before might now have to think about how to exercise when you can’t leave the house much. Plenty of YouTube channels are a great help, as are some Instagram accounts and other online supports. If you’re a runner, you are still allowed to go out, just keep a safe distance from other people and don’t run in groups.

If you don’t have any gym equipment at home, get creative! Dumbbells can be replaced by full bottles or books, a simple staircase can be a stepper or obstacle course, and there are a million things you can do that do not involve any equipment.

If you have a Wii, make use of it and play tennis, box or do your exercise routines.

Have a dog? Now’s the time to take him on walks! Enjoy this time with them, as you are allowed to take them on one big walk a day. They will also be glad to have you home all day and will bug you for attention, so grab a ball and throw it, or take 5min to roll around with them on the couch before your next conference call.

How to Entertain Yourself

Even if you work all day, exercise and keep busy with chores, there will invariably come a time when you will be bored. It’ll probably happen sooner than you think, so it’s best to keep on top of it. This is your time to catch up on all the books, movies and shows you’ve been meaning to start!

And all those hobbies you keep looking at on Pinterest, why not give those a go as well?

  1. If you have a pile of books waiting to be read, organise them so you start by reading something you really love, like a favourite author, and then follow it up by something you’re maybe less keen on, like a biography someone insisted you have to read, or the complete works of Shakespeare. And if you don’t like a book after the first two chapters, give it up and donate it to your local charity shop when you next go. There’s no point in forcing things. Fans of travel should try Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, or The Call of the Wild by Jack London. If you love a good rom-com, I recommend anything by Paige Toon, Jill Mansell, Sophie Kinsella or Katie Fforde. Fans of historical fiction should turn to Philippa Gregory, Anne O’Brien or Jane Thynne. If you like action and a bit of a thrill, try Steve Berry or Dan Brown, and for non-fiction why not read about Barack Obama, Harvey Milk or Nelson Mandela?

  2. Always endlessly scrolling through Netflix or Amazon Prime and never settling on anything to watch? Why not practice your language skills and start a foreign show like Casa de Papel or Chicas del Cable? You could also take this time to finally cave in and watch your friend’s favourite shows like Outlander, The Good Place or Downton Abbey. Only have iPlayer, ITV and All 4? Enjoy classics like Call the Midwife, listen to the soothing sound of David Attenborough’s voice in Planet Earth or catch up on your reality-TV with Love Island, First Dates and Married at First Sight. If you’re home with a partner and children, take turns choosing what to watch, so everyone is happy, and you’ll discover new things. And if you miss talking about the film with your friends, try Netflix Party, an add-on you can download to watch a movie together, start and pause at the same time and discuss the action. Oh, and don’t forget Disney+ just launched!

  3. Have a puzzle you’ve been meaning to start? Or a did someone gift you a crochet kit or a paint by numbers set? Get cracking! Anything to keep your mind off the news.

  4. If you have a garden or a balcony, now’s the time to try out your green thumb. Sew some seeds and watch them grow, repot some plants that are too big for their current home and try and attract bees and butterflies to help the environment. If you have a bird feeder, leave out fruits, nuts and seeds, and watch as Robins or Blackbirds (or Squirrels!) feast on your snacks.

How to Keep Your Children Busy

As schools, nurseries and universities close and exams are cancelled, children are suddenly at home all day, but it’s not a relaxing holiday as usual. Many of them will feel the stress you are under and react accordingly, with teenagers taking on some of the burdens, and young kids unable to formulate their anxiety. Try to shield them from your worries as much as possible and use this time to teach them things or simply reconnect.

  1. If their school has organised distance-learning, make sure they keep on top of it. Some schools will have video lessons, while others will use digital classrooms to organise a group project. Make sure your child takes breaks and keeps in touch with their friends and classmates; and encourage self-study so they can learn at their own pace. Unfortunately this might mean you have to get another tablet or laptop as they will have to be on it all day, same as you.

  2. Teach your children the value of alone-time and let them get bored. Today’s world is filled with constant stimuli, and many children don’t know how to play alone or to entertain themselves if the TV is off or the phone if out of battery. Especially if you are working from home and they are aged 6 and above, when they come to you and moan about having nothing to do, tell them to find something to do by themselves. Have supplies at hand for arts and crafts and keep some classic games around the house.

  3. Always complaining about the lack of useful things to learn in school? This is your moment! Teach your children about your car and how to change wiper fluid, check tyre pressure and know what’s what under the hood. Get some easy recipes online and teach them basic and useful dishes like spaghetti Bolognese, an omelette or pancakes. Show them how the washing machine works and to separate colours from whites, and if you’re feeling frisky and have an older child or a student at home, discuss CV writing, interview skills and taxes!

  4. If you have a garden, your kids can have free rein! However, if you live in an apartment complex, this might not be possible. Use your one walk a day to burn up their energy. Some parks have been closed, but if you have one near you, feel free to go and let the kids run around for a bit. Just make sure they keep their distance and do not use the playground or jungle gym as you never know who’s touched that!

  5. Your kids will be missing their friends or the rest of your family, so make sure to help them keep in touch. Encourage a group or family chat on WhatsApp, let them call their friends when they want to, and reassure them that this is not permanent, and things will get better again soon.

How To Survive a Lockdown With Your Partner/Family/Flatmates

You barely make it through Christmas holidays without murdering your older brother? You love your partner but if they leave another dish perched on the side of the sink, you’re going to get a sledgehammer? You’re stuck in a 3-bed apartment with one bathroom and two other people you don’t really like? You will fight. Just remember that now and don’t worry about it too much. There is no way you can be locked in together 24/7 and not fight. Here’s how to make the best of it!

With a partner: Try not to argue about who’s forgotten to empty the dishwasher and whose turn it was to feed the cat. This is like that long holiday you always want to take, and then when you’re there at the hotel, all you can do is argue about which restaurant to go to. Try to let go of the small stuff. You will discover new things about your loved one and some will be weird (he likes to eat crackers all day long?) and some will be interesting (she loves to listen to crime podcasts when she works) and some will take your relationship to the next level (we both enjoy having a nap on the couch after lunch). If you can have one space to yourself in the house, even just for a few hours, don’t hesitate to do it. Maybe you like working from the balcony while it’s sunny, or you don’t mind taking a meeting while folding the laundry in the bedroom.

With your family: For the first time in a long time, everyone is home. Mum, Dad, your siblings. You have enough batteries for the remote, but your WiFi isn’t strong enough for 2 conference calls, a remote lecture and your little sister’s Disney+ obsession. Things will get harder before they get better. If you can stay in your room to work, it’s best to do so. Some people need quiet, others like music on or having their meetings on speaker. If you all gather in one place, this will be impossible. Don’t force everyone to have set mealtimes together, except for dinner. Not everyone likes to have lunch at noon sharp, and some people prefer to snack throughout the day. If you’re the one cooking, make a big batch and leave it out for people to eat when they feel like it. Or prepare sandwiches that everyone can have as they please.

With flatmates: Whether you chose them and get on with them, or whether you were forced together by a greedy landlord and don’t even know their first and last name, you’re now stuck together for the foreseeable future. If you get sick, they will have to help you and vice-versa, so have a chat about that before things go tits up. Agree to put all issues to the side and set up a plan. If one of you goes down, the others have to shop and cook for you, even if it’s just CupASoup, and they will have to get your medication and make sure you’re not dead. If you never had the chance to socialise because everyone is always out, this is your moment! Talk about the shows you’ve been bingeing, lend each other books and exchange recipe ideas. Maybe you’ll end up with a new friend. And if you don’t, that’s ok too. Sometimes you just can’t force a friendship, but that doesn’t mean that you have to be rude or dismissive. This year is already pretty crappy, there’s no need for petty post-it notes left around the house. Maybe everyone should have their own toilet roll supply though, just in case things get ugly.

Well this is it; you have everything you need to prepare for the apocalypse. I mean, 2020. I mean, the temporary lockdown measures. I hope this will help you get through this, and please let us know if you have any tips to share!