I am writing this at the end of what has probably been the most disconcerting, fast-moving, and possibly anxiety-provoking week that many of us have had to face. First the cinemas closed, then the gyms and pubs, then we were advised to self-isolate if we were vulnerable or unwell,then we were all banned from going out unless it’s for essential purchases or once-a-day outdoor exercise. The situation is very different for “key workers”, who are probably more stretched than ever; but for the rest of us, forced into self-isolation at home, it brings different challenges.
Once the initial excitement of being able to watch films on demand, or stay in our lounge wear throughout the day, or pick up a book we never had the time to read, has gone…what else can we do to stay sane and connected to life around us? For what it’s worth, I don’t believe the answer lies in constant checking of digital updates, whether about the spread of the illness, or anything else. There has been a huge surge of evidence that individual connections to digital platforms, the constant scrolling and swiping, is not good for our emotional or mental well being. And yet, what can we do, in the absence of regular routines and real-life social interactions?
The answers I found are those that helped me in the past week (and which I am expecting to follow for the foreseeable future, as the self-isolation currently has no end date):
• going for a daily walk in nature (or the closest space we can get to nature), without the phone, headphones, or any other technology
• listening and smelling more intently: the birds and the flowers do not seem to be aware that this spring is different from others
• walking more slowly and looking around: smiling at any passing people, or taking a moment to look at a branch or a flower more intently than I otherwise would’ve done
• breathing more deeply
• shopping more frequently, in person, and with smaller loads: the opposite of stockpiling, this enabled me to only shop for what I needed for the next few days, and support the smaller retailers who are at risk of going out of business
• doing whatever I can to support the most vulnerable parts of our society: donating to the food banks, taking food or small amounts of money to any rough-sleepers who are still out on our streets, talking to hem
• reaching out to neighbours, friends, family n a relational way that enables dialogue (the opposite of “broadcasting to many” functionalities of social media platforms)
• scheduling specific times in the day (no more than twice a day) for checking news updates, and allocating a finite amount of time (no more than 30 minutes) for these
• taking personal responsibility for activities that bring me joy, whether that’s reading, walking, watching a film or reading a book