No place like home: staying in and staying sane

Published: 31/03/2020

With the country now in lockdown to help fight the Coronavirus – from singles, to couples to family units – many are feeling the strain. We thought we would share some of our own tips for preventing cabin fever, from new things to try in the kitchen to making simple changes to your space to promote a sense of calm.

Singles should mingle (virtually)
With social distancing and lockdown in place across the UK, it's vital for those living on their own to have a good plan to create social opportunities online or by phone, and to find a routine that retains as much normality as possible.

With online conference platforms like Zoom, you don't have to cancel your dinner, cream tea or coffee morning plans: you just have to do them by screen. Some gyms and instructors of meditation groups, dance studios and nurturing practices like Ayurveda are also offering face-to-face virtual classes which are not only good virtual social fixes, but also great for your wellbeing: two stress-busters for the price of one!

Although it may seem ironic, try also not to overdo it on social media and getting lost in needlessly scary stories in your feed. Stick to real news for info on Coronavirus and create opportunities for Skype or phone calls with friends instead.

When it comes to food: it can be a challenge to keep variety in your diet when only cooking for one, so batch cook and freeze portions wherever possible. Chilli, lasagna and homemade soups are all surprisingly simple, with hundreds of recipes easily found online.
Don't be 'The Odd Couple'
While the film about two completely unsuited flat-sharers is a comedy classic with its high rates of conflict, it's definitely not how you want to spend your lockdown! Whether it's a flat-mate or your partner, this unusual time will throw you together far more than any other (except perhaps for Christmas, but without the presents or the festive TV - although that might be a blessing).

Figure out ways to give each other space so you can live, work and even exercise either together or separately, and also to have some personal time alone. Look at how can you create all the extra time in each other’s company as something that feels like a choice, and not like cell mates!

Just like the singles out there, any socialising can be transferred online so that you and your friends can still have a few beers on Friday night.

Think about learning something new with online classes, either together or apart. A language perhaps, a craft, or a skill you've been wanting to improve, or even a musical instrument.

Being absorbed in learning, craft, gardening or art is known to lessen stress hormones, and that's vital for your immune system to be at its best. So write a list of things you've been meaning to learn but have not had time for, and seize the opportunity now you're commuting time is free.

When your co-worker is under five
Many parents are working from home with their very little ones underfoot, under table or under sink, and that can feel like a lot.

If you have both parents in the house and perhaps older children as well, consider splitting the role of child-carer between you to give each adult some focusing-on-work time, as well as double-tasking duties.

If you do have older kids who might help, set them tasks and games that will be fun for both age groups, like art projects or making pizza dough. If you're stuck for ideas, there's plenty of advice online (and now is definitely the time to use it).

Keeping kindergarten kids in the routine of a regular day is important for when things return to normal, so use online play dates and story times: a group of parents sharing reading time before afternoon naps can be fun for both kids and grownups, and even create new friendships for a post-viral world.

Tweenies, not screamies
While tweens might want to spend a lot of time staring at their screens, this is definitely not good for their stress levels and runs the risk of their anxiety levels being pushed up through online rumours and disinformation.

Encourage productive online group calls of craft projects, shared problem-solving or cool science from companies like Kiwi, all of which tie in with continued learning. Reading books together using what used to be your commuting time could bring better understanding and enjoyment to the whole family.

Likewise for any budding musicians: time spent playing music, singing, or even writing songs is invaluable, either online or as a household. Or how about a conference call to play board games with their cousins - cheating most definitely allowed! - or to learn chess from a grandparent?

These activities not only continue your kids' growth, but are also absorbing enough to help them feel the ground beneath their feet again. Carrying out the initial research and set-up can help you, the parent, feel more in control of a situation which can make us all feel powerless (a leading cause of stress).

Give your rebels a cause
For teenagers, lockdown with the family might prove to be especially tricky at an age when they are forming a separate identity and struggling with all sorts of new information from their brains, bodies and mates. So finding a way not just to survive, but to thrive, is very important.

It may seem hopeless to try to moderate social media use, but some kind of limit is important. After all, they can't use it in lesson time, so set some ground rules from the off.

Online gaming and other regular home life might continue, but the biggest problem will clearly be the lack of freedom and hanging out. So encourage them to Zoom or Skype with their mates, not just for fun but also for revision to keep a handle on their learning: if they don't use it, it's only too easy to lose it.

A 'bribe' of a holiday or treat when it's all over in exchange for a daily fifteen minutes learning a new language - or improving the one they're studying at school - might inspire them to stick at it. Again, the acts of writing, songwriting, playing an instrument, creating and crafting, along with regular Facetime with their friends to share their projects, can offset the sense of isolation and also develop learning skills.

It might also be the case that future employers ask “how did you use your time” about this period: the answer they get might well swing the interview.

Get outside
It’s no secret that connecting to nature can have profound effects. As the warmer weather fast approaches and the temperature becomes more conducive to being outside, improve stress levels by getting out in the fresh air.  If you can, take a walk in a park or wood (but steer clear of others). Alternatively, venture out into the garden and enjoy a mid-morning cuppa.

In it together
Most of all, while we're enduring these challenging times, it's a time for us to remember that we’re all affected. A virus doesn't discriminate, but outcomes can vary widely from a mild cold to a horrid flu to something far more serious and needing hospital care. So it's vital we follow the advice to slow down the infection rate, check on our neighbours (following social distancing rules) and share ideas of how to foster that spirit of community.

All across Europe, families are putting paintings of rainbows in their windows, while many people are applauding the healthcare and other essential workers. The world is united in the challenge and, if we're lucky, we could come out of this with stronger, kinder and closer families and communities.