Thursday, 26 March 2020

How to survive isolation at home

For years I have worked alone at home and have honed various strategies to reduce the sense of isolation. I thought they might help during these days when people who are not used to being stuck at home find themselves housebound because of the coronavirus scare.

I'm pretty gregarious, as you can tell from this blog, but I feel comfortable on my own, too. The two tricks to surviving isolation are to keep busy and be disciplined. And impose that regime on your family. Busy-ness keeps the blues away as you mind has to concentrate on something other than your own thoughts, and discipline will help you fit so much into your day that you will be very impressed with yourself by the end of it. Slobbing out on the sofa in front of the telly all day is the road to hell. It's allowed as a wind-down mechanism when you normally go out to work or school, but don't do it during the daytime now when you have nowhere to go.

Here, then, are my suggestions for those who work and for those who don't.

Workers and students

So if in this period you are working, or doing school lessons or college study, divide the day into three kinds of activity. One kind is bedtime, one kind is leisure, and the last kind is work. Work is slotted into your leisure time. So the focus of your day is leisure and rest, not work, yet you can do 30-50 hours of solid, uninterrupted work a week. Don't believe me? Read on.

If you're normally in a job from, say, nine to six with, say, an hour's travel each way, plus time spent dressing and undressing your work clothes, you dedicate half your existence during the working week to work. That's typically 60 hours. Yet endless workplace studies show that most workers do about five productive hours a day, what with all the distractions, interruptions, breaks, commuting and so on. Often people try to snatch more leisure time in the evenings by reducing their sleep time, which is not good for you.

This is where the discipline comes in. The discipline to focus on rest and relaxation but dedicate downtime to work. Sounds mad? Here's my working day schedule:

Get up late. I usually like 8 - 8:30 am. I tend to feel ready to be up by then. And every day then feels like you've had a delicious lie-in.
Wash and have tea or coffee, breakfast (if you're hungry now).
9:00 sharp: start work.
10:00ish: 5-10 minute break for stretching exercises, bathroom, staring into space, quick breakfast maybe.
Then back to work.
11:00 Coffee break (half hour), light breakfast if not already taken (or second breakfast, if you're a hobbit), read something fun, do light housework, whatever.
11:30 Work.
12:30 5 minute break to stretch.
1:00 Lunch break (1.5 hours). So long that you can actually cook a good lunch and have time for rest and leisure, family chats, etc.
2:30 Work.
3:30 5-10 minute stretch break.
4:30 Tea break (half hour).
5:00 Work.
6:00 5 minute stretch break.
6:30 Evening leisure break including meal, TV, family time, long scented bath, whatever.

Let's stop there. You've done over 6 hours of full-on work, more than you would have done in the office, yet you got up late, had loads of breaks, and mealtimes were long leisurely affairs with time to prepare them properly. And you didn't have to dress smartly or commute. If you want to make it eight hours work then do 1.5 hours some time between 8:00 and midnight, which is bedtime, the start of a full eight hours snuggled up in bed with teddy (if you're young at heart) or with that cuddly human you found all those years ago but your work usually gets in the way of your snuggling properly with.

This works for me. (Admittedly, I used to go out for my coffee break to get some fresh air and some human contact, which doesn't apply now.) If you have kids of school age then they should be focused on school work when you are focused on work work. Let college students get up later and work late - they have different circadian rhythms. I am an owl not a lark so if you prefer an early start and earlier to bed then adapt your schedule accordingly. Just be disciplined about it.

You'll find you probably need less sleep since you are less tired. I say eight hours bedtime, but you don't actually have to sleep in bed. A good read before lights out? Or morning sex in the leisurely period between when you would normally get up and when I suggest you get up. Which is better than the occasional quickie you manage to snatch before the alarm goes off.

Since you're less hungry and tied than usual you will probably reduce your food intake, which is good for the health and the purse. Do reduce coffee, too, and alcohol. They are fine in moderation during and after a stressful work day, but impair a relaxed day like this.

This coronavirus isolation is a unique and amazing opportunity to find better ways of working and living. It could mark a real revolution in homeworking, thus improving the work-life balance of millions and reducing traffic and emissions from commuting. Obviously, your work may not lend itself to neat slots like this, although most work does. Remember, leisure time interrupted by work calls does allow you to take that call time off your next work slot.

Long leisure

If you don't work or can't do your work at home and are faced with doing nothing then I recommend taking up something wholly new, not the pastimes you normally do in snatched moments of rare leisure at weekends or evenings since you'll get bored with them. Here are some suggestions for big projects.

Write that book we all have in us. Self-publishing your work is not hard these days if you feel the world would benefit from seeing your words of wisdom. My masterpiece Wooffo the Space Hound and the Astral Sausage Invasion should be on the shelves this autumn!

Do something creative like invent a board game, build some furniture or plan an amazing holiday for next year when this is all over.

Practice music or take up a new hobby, instrument, garden sport...

Of course, those tasks like clearing the loft or garage or cellar or shed that you promised you would get round to one day, now's the time for those. The first five minutes are the worst, then you'll be proud of what you've done. Beware of fullscale life laundry, though, as I doubt taking stuff to the dump is considered essential travel at present.

If you are out as a trans person at home, what better time to practise and improve your makeup or epilation techniques!

Hope this helps. Don't be fearful of the current bug, just be cautious and follow the hygiene routines. You've got time for them. Be smart and revolutionise your time. Hope my tips are of some help. See, I've even improved your sex life! You're welcome.

PS In case you're wondering, I'm not really writing a book about Wooffo the Space Hound. It'd be good, though!

Sue x

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