As Coronavirus spreads across the world, at some point in 2020, it looks as if most of us will be in self-isolation or lockdown, either self-imposed or forced upon us. Coronavirus is affecting all our lives, with whole countries in lockdown, towns, cities, stations and airports deserted. UK supermarket shelves are being cleared of the essentials and non-essentials such as toilet roll, pasta, rice, oil, tinned food, shampoo, soap and hand sanitiser. More people are working from home, kids are off school and we are encouraged to keep our distance from each other.
The news screams at us about the number of deaths and potential deaths rising daily, the measures the governments are imposing and what we should and shouldn’t do. It is a worrying time and there are no certainties in life anymore.
Self-isolation – making a positive out of a negative
Self-isolation could potentially be seen as a negative experience: all the things we can’t do, can’t see, can’t visit or travel to. However, I see it as an opportunity for us to re-evaluate our lives, slow down, give ourselves time to breathe and open ourselves up to new opportunities.
The Chinese symbols for the word ‘crisis’ are often misinterpreted as ‘danger’ and ‘opportunity’, but actually, it is ‘danger’ and ‘a changing point’. Let this crisis be a changing point in your life…….
Time in self-isolation
Time, that elusive thing we always want more of. We spend all our time (ironic, huh?) trying to save time, worrying that time is running out, bemoaning the fact that there is never enough time, rushing, cutting corners and saying that if only we had the time we would do x, y or z.
Well, guess what……… you now have time!
How to use your time when you are in self-isolation
To begin with, the concept of having all this free time can be quite overwhelming and you may be paralysed with indecision as to what you want to do with all the hours you have to play with. I get it, I was there too.
I took a large piece of paper and started writing ideas down; not the normal list style, but random, letting my brain go free and jotting down all the things I could do or wanted to do with my time. There was no self-editing, just a complete brain dump.
The result, for me, is this blog post:
Establish a self-isolation routine
It is so easy to slip into bad habits when you have too much time to yourself and without structure. You start getting up a bit later, snacking all day, binging on Netflix boxsets and hanging about in your PJs, the days can just drift by without purpose. While I am not suggesting that you are regimented in your routine, maybe just establishing some ground rules may help.
Whether it is getting up by a certain time, eating your meals at regular intervals or keeping to a normal working schedule, it is important to work out how you are going to spend your time.
Whether you are working from home, homeschooling, studying or just biding your time until the lockdown is lifted, it can help to get dressed and not hang out in your dressing gown all day. If nothing else, it gives your day a beginning – getting dressed – and an end – getting undressed for bed.
You may think “well who is going to see me in my pyjamas?” but it is more for your mental health to be dressed. You don’t have to be suited and booted (well, not unless you are still carrying out business meetings online!), just comfortable. It signals to your brain that you are actively awake and not drifting through the day.
Try setting a morning routine with The Miracle Morning
I have tried – and failed – over the years to follow the Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod.
The idea is that you wake up early – 5 or 6 am – and start your days by doing 6 things: Silence (meditation), Affirmations, Visualisation, Exercise, Reading and Scribing (writing).
These six disciplines make up SAVERS which prepares your mind and body for the day. You can set an hour aside each morning to do them, it doesn’t have to be at dawn, but try to do them together.
It is one of the things that I will be trying to implement while I am in lockdown. Anyone fancy joining me?
Reading, Writing and Arithmetic
The three ‘Rs’ (sic) that we were taught in school. Maybe it is time to catch up on them.
Take time for a bit of reading
If you are like me, you will have a pile of books that you have been meaning to read… when you have the time. I have fiction, non-fiction, romances, thrillers, self-help, biographies, big fat juicy novels and slim books of poetry all crying out to be read. Magazines with recipes, the New Scientist, Marie Claire Ideés, all sitting about unread.
Take time to open a book – a real one, on a Kindle, or other devices – curl up in a chair and lose yourself in the words. Let yourself be amused, excited, inspired, get your brain working, or slide into a love story.
Get it down on paper/screen
Writing can be therapeutic, clearing your head of your thoughts, letting your mind explore what is going on or just random scribbles. You could write about your experiences going through the coronavirus; about your childhood; write a letter or card to someone you care about or start a blog or even just write a shopping list.
Journalling or writing a diary at times like this can help pass the time and give you something to look back on in years to come when our memories of how things were have faded.
Budgeting – keep track of your finances
While most of us are not spending as we normally do on coffees, meals out, clothes, transport and travel, also many of us are not receiving a wage. Your outgoings may have gone down, but so too will your income.
While the governments sort out what financial packages will be offered and when, bills still come in and rent or mortgage has to be paid.
Most mortgage companies are offering 3-month payment holidays which will help to ease the burden.
Working out how much you have coming in and how much is going out will help you through this time. Also, factor in that your electricity and gas bills may go up in the coming few months as you are at home more.
Do your 2019-20 Tax Return
While we are on the subject of money…. let’s talk tax.
I know, it is not the most fun job in the world, but those of us who have to fill in a self-assessment tax form, maybe now is the time to get it all prepared. You may not be able to submit it yet, but it will be ready for when you can.
Imagine the joy next January when you are not scrambling to get it done. Even if you just get all your receipts and bank statements prepared, it is a step in the right direction.
Look after yourself
Look after yourself. It is easy to get sucked into listening to every bulletin and constantly watching the news for updates, but it really does not do your mental health any good. Keep yourself informed, but don’t go into overload.
Get fresh air
With the drop in air pollution, take the chance to open the windows and breathe in some fresh air. Go out and walk in nature if you can. If you are in a big city this may be more difficult. Remember to keep to official distancing guidelines when you do go out.
Try a bit of pampering
It is tempting to get a bit lax with washing your hair, doing your nails or even shaving your legs, but personal hygiene is still important.
Have a long soak in the bath. or shower; treat yourself to a face pack (you can make your own with stiffly beaten egg white and lemon or rub the inside of an avocado skin on your face).
Keep yourself made-up
Go through all your make-up and try it on, or chuck it out if it is old or you never use it. I have recently moved to using Trinny London makeup but still have all my old powder shadows which will be consigned to the bin. My make-up brushes will also get a thorough washing before I decide if I still need them.
Use an SPF cream or foundation outside or even when you are sitting in front of a computer screen. You are still being open to UVA light and it can have a damaging effect on your skin.
Paint your nails in all the different colours you have and see if you like them or whether a few are past their sell-by dates.
Fresh Flowers and plants
I know it is an extravagance that you may not be able to afford but treat yourself to some flowers. It could be a £1 bunch of daffodils when you are doing your shopping, or indulge in some gorgeous flowers from Freddie’s Flowers. The flowers are delivered once a week or less often if you require but the bouquets are beautiful, handpicked and come with lots of tips and information about displaying them and how to look after them.
Or maybe choose a new flowering house plant.
It is not an essential to buy flowers or plants, but they will give you a lift and make you smile.
Stuff, stuff and more stuff!
My Mum used to say “a place for everything and everything in its place”. I can’t say I have kept to it. I have to admit I am not the tidiest of people, but I am trying my best to declutter.
Is your wardrobe stuffed with clothes, your drawers overflowing and paperwork everywhere? Have you been longing to put Marie Kondo’s advice into practice? Now is the time to lighten the load and get your life organised.
Tackle one area at a time and accept the fact that the place may get messier before it gets organised. Arm yourself with bin bags, a paper shredder, if you have one, for sensitive documents, folders, files, pens and storage bags.
Divide your clothes, books, ornaments or whatever you are decluttering into Keep, Sell, Donate/Give Away and Dump and get sorting. It can be very cathartic, and although you don’t have to hold each piece and see if it sparks joy, you can make some serious headway in minimising the stuff in your life.
You do not have to go for a spartan minimalistic look, but just so that you don’t waste your time looking for things all the time. It does take discipline and won’t be achieved overnight.
It is not only our physical space that gets cluttered but our digital space too. We store so many random things on our computers from emails that we have not opened or never read, files that we have forgotten about, photos that are blurry and we will never look at again.
It is time to liberate yourself from all the hoarded files and emails and regain space on your hard drive and get your files in order!
For me, certainly, it is a pretty major task. I have photos and images all over the place. So I have started looking at what I actually have in terms of storage devices, and then slowly go through all my photos and get them into a semblance of order, deleting the ones I will never use as I go.
Emails are easier to go through. Delete and unsubscribe from any newsletters or emails that you are not interested in or don’t read. Create folders and file the emails you want to keep.
I may never get to a zero inbox……. but it is the target to aim for.
Food, Glorious Food
As panic buying doesn’t seems to be slowing down, food resources are getting more limited so it is time to be a bit more inventive with what we cook.
Food and Cooking
Try making your own bread, pasta, cakes or biscuits, plunder any cookery books you own or scour the Internet for ideas of how to use what you have got.
To extend their life, blanch and freeze vegetables and fruit. Buy one extra loaf of bread or carton of milk, or pack of butter and freeze it. You don’t need to hoard, just be sensible with what you need and will use.
Food and Diet
If, like me, you are carrying a few extra pounds after the winter, now is the time to look at your diet and make some adjustments.
As I am not going to the shops daily, I am not tempted to buy crisps, biscuits or chocolate. Instead, I am eating healthily and actually having three proper meals a day with only some fruit in between.
But if you want to binge on chocolate all day, please do not let me stop you… I will just be green with envy!
Get your body moving
At the moment in the UK, we are allowed to go out alone or with one other housemate to exercise once a day. Go for a walk, maybe with your dog, saunter down to the shops or go for a run or bike ride, but keep to social distancing guidelines and don’t abuse it by meeting up with friends, picnicking or partying.
If this is not your kind of thing, there are plenty of YouTube workouts to get you going. Try Yoga with Adriene, Joe Wicks’ P.E. with Joe (good for kids and adults alike), maybe Blogilates for a Pilates workout or for some hardcore action try Les Mills Body Combat. Whatever you like doing, from HIIT, yoga or weights and strength training there is something for you.
If you don’t have your own weights, improvise with full water bottles, cans or other objects around your home.
Cleaning, exercise in disguise
I have to say that my least favourite chore is cleaning. I do it because I have to. Actually all the bending and stretching when you vacuum, dust and clean is giving your body a mini-workout and getting the place clean too.
Whether you are a clean freak or not, it is better and healthier your house is clean and doesn’t harbour any bugs. Wipe down bannisters, door handles – indoor and outside – light switches, taps and toilet handles and anything that you come in contact with. Don’t forget fridge doors, cooker knobs, dishwashers and washing machines.
And above all, remember to wash your hands well after touching anything from outside, papers, bags, envelope and even wash the fruit and veg you buy.
Use your time to learn something new
Do you have a list of things you want to learn or fine-tune? Time to up your career or move to a different one?
Learning, stretch your brain
With apps, YouTube and websites offering courses in everything from languages, photography, knitting, painting, cooking, dancing even how to make your own YouTube videos there is something for everyone.
Maybe you are looking to learn a new skill for your career, or to change career altogether. You have the gift of this time to put things in action.
If you are learning a language look at apps like Duolingo, Babbel, Memorise or Mondly where you can learn any language from Hindi to Mandarin to Hawaiian.
If you are wanting to start writing a blog, check out Nomadic Matt’s Superstar Blogging Course or The Travel Hack’s The Blogger Course. For more courses, tip and hacks see the Blogging Resources page.
If you are learning a new skill, language or craft, why not buddy up with a friend or colleague to keep you motivated? It will also help your mental health to be seeing someone, even if it is only on a screen.
Let your mind wander
Time to Think
Our brains are full of stuff and we rarely give it free rein to wander or just be still and let the random thoughts come and go. Maybe write them down or take a piece of paper and do a brain dump.
Do you remember as a child dreaming of all the things you wanted to do or be when you grew up? And even as adults, we dream about things we want to do with our lives. Give yourself permission to indulge in your dreams.
In September 2014, I wrote down my dreams:
- Travel as much as possible
- Start a travel blog
- Stop paying household bills and mortgage
- Be debt-free
- Have multiple streams of income
Over the years, I referred back to them, and by June 2018, I had achieved all my dreams. Our imaginations and dreams are really powerful things. What are your dreams for your life?
Make a Plan
Make a plan. It could be planning the next year, 5 years or 10 years, all the things you want to do and achieve in your life. Which way do you want your career to go, your exit strategy or a new business.
As we will all be holed up at home for who goodness knows how long, plan where you want to travel to when we are released. You can explore and read up on all the things you can do when you get to your destination.
Maybe create your ultimate travel list of places around the world to visit and work out the best routes.
If you are a homebody, plan any home improvements and scour the internet for ideas on decorations, furniture and colour combinations.
Blogging and websites
Are you tempted to start your own blog? Maybe you have a blog or website idea that you have been toying with for months or years and haven’t got around to putting into action. This could be your chance to get it all started.
Starting a blog
Buy your domain name and get going! Use some of the resources on the Blogging Resources page, search Google for advice or ask in a forum. If you want any help or advice, I will see what I can do, just email me on email@example.com.
Depending on what you blog about, your blog could be languishing in the doldrums at the moment. Any travel bloggers, me included, have seen their numbers fall off the cliff. So now is time to:
- Revise and update old posts
- Check all your alt tags
- Make new pins for Pinterest – check the Pinterest templates in the Passive Income Superstars’ Shop
- Update your media kit, or create one if you don’t have one yet
- Write, you can still write posts and keep them in drafts or publish to get some Google link juice
- Look at redesigning your site with a fresh theme
- maintain your Instagram feed
- Build up your followers on Twitter by following others
- Take part in or arrange some collaboration posts
- Engage with your readers
- Check your site for broken links, site speed and out of date affiliates
- Move from http to the more secure https
- Make your blog earn you money while you sleep with Passive Income Superstars
- Learn how to start a YouTube Channel with an Introduction to YouTube by Greg Snell.
Remember, this will pass and your readers will come back, so be ready for them.
Staying in Contact
We all need to hear another voice or see another person when we are in isolation, even if we are isolating with others. If you are out, smile and say hello to people. You may be the only person that they speak to all day.
Arrange a Skype call, WhatsApp, a Zoom meeting or have fun on the new Houseparty app. Pick up the phone and just chat.
And finally…… be kind
Be kind to yourself, be kind to others. We have been given the time and space in our lives to improve ourselves. And maybe when all the cloud of Coronavirus lifts, our lives will have changed for the better and we will have 20-20 vision again.
I hope these tips and suggestions will be of use to you while we go through these extraordinary times. If you would like to add anything, please comment below!
Larch lives a semi-nomadic life. Her life changed 20 years ago when a silly accident left her with restricted use of her right arm and neck and was told she would never work again. She turned her life around, retrained herself and set up as a self-employed website designer. This allowed her to work wherever she was in the world. Her passion for travel led her to start up her travel blog The Silver Nomad, to inspire over 40s to explore new destinations and expand their horizons. In 2019 Larch qualified as a CAA Drone Pilot which she combines with her travels.