On Monday, I started my third week of self-isolation as part of current requirements around COVID-19. I don’t have it or anything, but the company I work for was one of the first to send people home preemptively, so here I am.
Now, I know for a lot of people, this has been a wildly stressful time with a lot of adaptation and change.
For me, though, not much has changed. And realistically, this isn’t the first time I’ve been in a situation like this; as many of you remember, I accidentally cut myself off from society a few years back when I lost my job and didn’t know what to do with myself.
Sure, it was anxiety-induced and not a pandemic, but the end result was the same.
So today, for everyone who’s found themselves struggling to adapt to current circumstances, I thought I’d share some of the things I’ve learned both as an avid gamer and as an experienced self-isolator to help you stay sane.
1. Don’t be afraid of new routines.
Humans are creatures of habit, and generally speaking, we’re not great with change. So when our habits change unexpectedly, it can be pretty stressful.
The key to minimizing the effect this has on you is to shift how you’re thinking about it; instead of thinking that you have to change what you do every day, try to think about what you’ve been thinking you might like to implement into your routine, and try to build a new one around that.
In fact, it could be helpful to think about it the same way a gamer would if a game they’d been looking forward to for a long time finally came out. Yes, it would change their routine as they tried to find ways to fit it in amongst everything else—but ultimately, it builds a new routine that they’re excited about, so it’s easy to stick to.
It’s also worth recognizing that this doesn’t mean everything has to change! For example, I’ve worked hard to maintain my normal morning routine, even though I don’t really have to worry about getting out of pajamas or driving to work now, and I’ve switched in a few other things I like having done for the things I’m not currently doing.
2. Find ways to keep yourself busy.
For a lot of people, they’re home because there’s no work. And take it from someone who spent six months basically treating a video game like a full-time job: If you stay home with nothing to focus on, it will eventually drive you crazy.
Even if you don’t have work right now, there’s lots you can focus on. Maybe you have some unfinished projects around the house, or maybe you have some bits and pieces for a new hobby you’ve been meaning to take up. Now’s the time to do those things!
If you don’t have a list handy and do want to look into projects around the house, realtor.com is a pretty good source. They’ve been doing a series for the last week or so of easy things to do, some of which I think I might have to try out myself.
Bonus: If you stick to doing these things within what would normally be your working hours, you’ll find it both helps you focus on these tasks better and makes it easier to switch back when it comes time to return to work.
3. Adjust expectations if you have to.
You might be expecting yourself to keep up with everything you were doing before, but it’s important to be flexible with yourself on this. Trust me.
For example, I don’t have kids, but I have seen first-hand this week the chaos that can ensue from trying to work and maintain a full home-schooling regimen at the same time. So many parents I know have put an expectation on themselves to basically replace school right now.
If you’re home with kids, whether you’re working or not, it’s important to remember that they’re not going to look at you as their teacher. No matter how much you try to recreate their typical school day at home, you’re still Mom or Dad.
One mom I work with explained it to me this way; she had to change her own expectations for what she could do for their education, and find ways to adapt her boys’ learning to their home environment.
It’s actually really similar to what some of the kindergarten classes in North America have been doing recently with play-based learning; let them learn from what’s around them, even if it’s not conventional, and find ways to turn everyday situations into teachable moments.
4. Avoid spending too much time on social media.
Social media gives most of us FOMO at the best of times, and honestly, this is hardly the best of times for a lot of people out there.
While social media can be a great way to catch up with friends, especially those who are far away, and it can be a great way to escape for a little bit—it can also be harder to deal with.
Even in the last week I’ve seen dozens of travel influencers, for example, who are now restricted from their normal habits, continuing to post their backlog of travel photos—which leaves the rest of us, who are envious at the best of times, feeling even more trapped.
If you do decide to spend your extra time on social media, remember—they tend to sort content by what you typically interact with, so you can slowly phase out this kind of content by interacting more with different kinds.
Personally, I’ve been trying to find more posts and accounts about hobbies and other things I can do while I’m home, especially baking and bullet journaling.
5. Remember that you’re not alone!
Something that tends to happen in situations like this is that people start to feel alone, not just isolated. And when that happens, anxiety skyrockets.
Technology will be your friend in stopping this. It’s not the same as being able to go for a visit, sure, but calling your mom or having a video chat with your best friend can remind you that everyone is going through the same thing with you, which makes a world of difference.
That’s one thing I think the gaming community does really well; we’re really good at staying connected across any distance, and we don’t have to be face-to-face to maintain friendships. A lot of the time, we use virtual call software or even chat groups to stay connected at any time.
6. And remember that you’re not stuck indoors.
Even now, in most places, self-isolation doesn’t mean you can never leave your home. I know in a few places it means you can’t necessarily go for a walk around the block, but there are still ways to feel like you’re not trapped inside.
If you have a yard or a balcony, have at it! If you can get out and go for a quick walk around your neighbourhood, that’s a good plan too. Even if all you can do is open the curtains and windows to enjoy the fresh air and sunshine, it can help. Just be sure to follow best practices for social distancing and staying healthy!