Little things to help when self isolating

Like everyone, I have definitely had my ups and downs living in the UK at the moment while self isolating. For me, avoiding consuming too much media regarding current events, has been one of my top coping strategies (unless of course when it comes to essential information). I have though really been struggling with negative feelings (before these current events as well), which is why I haven’t been blogging. However, I’m having a little burst of positivity at the moment and I want this blog to be a place of positivity so here are a few things that have helped keep me along.

Essentially this is a list of things we all know we should be doing but sometimes (me included) we avoid doing, especially when you get stuck in that pattern of repeating yourself. But for me it really helped just starting small and everyday trying to do one little thing to get me through it.

Reading

I’ve had a difficult relationship with reading the last few years. At my core, I absolutely love reading. As a child my mum could not keep up with the volume I was reading (making a library membership essential, where I’d leave each week with the maximum amount of books I was able to take out), but somewhere within my degree and post University life I lost my enthusiasm. Now, reading has a weird pressure associated with it for me because it has been so long – it feels like something I SHOULD or HAVE to be doing rather than something I love.

The way I have been trying to get past this is reading in small chunks (not the massive marathons I used to have); keeping a book by the bath (I LOVE reading in the bath) and a book by my bed (where I am now stationed) and reading a little bit throughout the day. Gradually, as each day passes I find myself wanting to dip in more and more. Honestly, that is my advice, which I wish I’d followed in the past. You don’t have to always go guns blazing, i.e. when you first started learning languages on Duolingo and did 2 hours a day for a month until you eventually didn’t do it one day, which then turned into 6, which then turned into forever (or is that just me?!). Doing a little bit of reading (or another activity) I have found still helps me get through the day and is a lot less pressure and easy to manage.

It’s also important to do an activity in the moments you want to do it and not force yourself into it. Hence, keeping the books in easily accessible places but importantly it’s not something to ‘tick’ off your to do list. If you want to do it, it’s there, if not that’s fine.

I think reading is just a nice way to switch off from the online world at the moment as I don’t know about you but I’m still somehow comparing myself to people while isolating (I can’t help that everyone has much better flats/ houses than me!)!

An amazing song about comparing yourselves to others.

I am lucky that my mum has held onto my large vault of books so I have access to a large selection to go through (I might also go back through and read my comic collection again). I also have a kindle so I can digitally buy books instead of ordering through the post. However, I know for some people it might be more difficult especially if you’re craving an analogue experience over a digital screen.

My advice then if you have access to reading materials is to start small with something easy to read (don’t pick up the extremely challenging text with bits of French that takes you too long to translate) – personally, I’ve been reading a bit of vintage John Grisham at the moment and dipping a little bit into the latest book in the Undercover Princess series. Also, easy to read as I’m sure you all aware does not mean not well written!

If you need a bit of group motivation and want some social interaction I’m sure there are plenty of online book clubs about as well, like Emma Watson’s Our Shared Shelf book club (from what I’ve gathered Emma now recommends books personally on her Instagram but the GoodReads page remains open for members of the community to discuss titles).

An old image if it’s not immediately obvious by the colour of the leaves.
Another old image – and another recommended read to add to the list below.

Recommendations:

  • So Lucky – Dawn O’Porter
  • Rebecca – Daphne du Maurier
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower – Stephen Chbosky
  • The Virgin Suicides – Jeffrey Eugenides
  • Carrie – Stephen King
  • House of Night series – P.C. and Kristen Cast (I haven’t read this since being a teenager and I’m not sure if I completed the series but I remember the series had some interesting takes on vampires).
  • The Morganville Vampires series – Rachel Caine (another teen fiction series with an interesting take on vampires).

Exercise

I know, I know. All of these lists always mention exercise but I’m not saying you should burst into a home HIIT workout and crash into your dining room table if you don’t want to (if you do maybe still try to avoid any furniture); but just do a little something to stretch your body out. My knees especially have definitely been feeling the strain of sitting down, and moving around every day even just a little has definitely helped.

If you are able to, go for a nice secluded walk for the fresh air where possible (though I know this isn’t possible for everyone) or exercise in your garden (I know this isn’t possible for everyone – it’s not something I actually feel comfortable with at the moment as our fence blew down and I feel a bit exposed to my neighbours!).

It’s been cramped and a bit difficult but I’ve been doing workouts with my partner in our small living room (not aided by the fact that my partner is very tall so needs a lot more space than a normal sized human) and a little bit of yoga myself every day, as I noticed my flexibility has got awful (I am talking 10 minutes – seriously start with ten minutes – it doesn’t need to be 40 minutes or an hour long to make you feel better!). My mum has even been getting in on the action and I’ve been teaching her a few exercises and she’s already improving!

However, if you improve during isolating, great! If not, that’s perfectly ok. Honestly, I notice so much more improvement when I do exercise I actually enjoy. So move a little to make you happy, mix it up everyday and get fresh air when you can.

Personally, I’m going to start running again (giving pedestrians right of way and trying to avoid busy times of day) because it’s something I have missed – I am very much someone who before this liked to have one walk or stretch outside a day to clear my head.

An image taken on a walk to get groceries (we don’t have a car).

Recommendations:

  • Yoga with Adriene
  • Natacha Oceane
  • Fitness Blender
  • Ballet Beautiful
  • Zumba (if you have space) – you can find routines on YouTube
  • If you belong to a gym, I’d check their social media as they might be suggesting some home workout routines you can try!

Cooking

Unfortunately, I am well aware how cooking is a bit of a difficult one at this point in time, with lots of people struggling to access food, while at the same time I have seen social media fill with pictures of isolation loaves and banana bread (see below for mine, ha ha)!

Food is a difficult topic at the moment, but all I can recommend is to try to eat healthily where this is possible for you, not in an attempt to cut any weight or anything like that while isolating, but I know how much not eating my fruits and vegetables can really affect everything from my skin to my mood and physical performance! Also, by healthy I don’t mean restrictive or anything like that, I just mean food that you know makes you feel good.

Cooking is also a way I like to relieve stress, as it’s something that when I’m doing it I’m just focusing on that. So look at your favourite food bloggers and make that one thing you’ve always wanted to try and never had time for (for me it was seitan, a meat substitute) – providing of course you have the ingredients.

Banana bread is always my number one source for using up extra ripe bananas –
Recipe: Running on Real Food (I subbed the flour for plain white flour and added 1/2 cup more)
Recipe: Running on Real Food (this was quite stressful as my blender isn’t that great but I’m pleased with how these turned out)

Recommendations:

(To inspire)

  • Masterchef
  • The Big Family Cooking Showdown

(Vegan food bloggers – I’m vegetarian so feel free to pick bloggers who would apply to you)

  • Cheap Lazy Vegan
  • Bethany’s Vegan Kitchen
  • Sarah’s Vegan Kitchen

Streaming

Or simply a message to watch things you enjoy!

I don’t know about you but when I’m one of those moods where I am not in the mood to process anything (which isolation really amplifies). I don’t want to consume any media that I feel like makes me ‘think’. However, that just ends in me just cycling through the day and just not feeling very good.

So try to watch some things you’ve been avoiding but know you enjoy. For me it’s films, often complicated, usually indie (I’m a walking film stereotype) and often designed to be ‘thought provoking’.

Recommendations (I’m not going to recommend Tiger King, as let’s face it you’ve already seen it!)

  • To The Bone (first of all major trigger warning to anyone who struggles with content regarding eating disorders – I was hesitant about this film due to the controversies surrounding it, and I think some criticisms are definitely justified, but the film has some authentic moments in it as well. If you’ve seen it let me know your thoughts as I’d love to discuss it, I’ve got some very complicated, mixed feelings about it!
  • I, Tonya
  • Studio Ghibli films in general (so happy these are on Netflix) – I’d especially try Ponyo and Howl’s Moving Castle
  • Spotlight
  • Unorthodox (TV series)
  • Life on Mars

Weekends/ routine

This is by far the most difficult one. Especially, depending how your work schedule is. Maybe, you have a different work week to begin with and that’s totally fine. But if you are used to the 9-5 life with weekends then trying to bring back weekends as a concept rather than just another day might be useful to give you something to look forward to.

For me that means planning special meals on that day. I’m sure a lot of you have heard or indulged in the Friday Night Takeaway or ‘Fakeaway’ and that can be a great way to tap your mind into the idea that it is the weekend.

Another thing to do is try to plan special weekend activities, i.e. that’s the day you build a blanket fort in your living room (if you haven’t already done so) or have a Skype party with your friends (I’m way too nervous to succeed at this personally).

If you’re someone who likes checking of a list, give yourself a list with achievable tasks on for the day so you can look back and focus on what you’ve achieved.

Final thoughts

Overall, this is nothing new or revolutionary but sometimes we all need a general reminder. At my heart I am a cynic so I can instantly react negatively to people who are able to envision a goal and positively work towards it/ positivity in general. But that won’t help me get through this.

All I can say is stay safe, stay home and appreciate the little positives or wins in the day (you can write them down if that helps) and try to consume the media that you know that will help send you in a positive thought spiral instead of a negative one (such as the below example from GMF Designs).

Also, if something does not work for you, don’t do it. If you love the look of plants but never look after them and it just makes you feel worse, don’t try to force it! Not all common self care hacks will work for everyone and do not make yourself feel bad if they don’t.

Published by April is the Cruellest Month

I've been passionate about clothes and dressing up for as long as I can remember, from running around the house as a teletubby as a toddler to wearing my favourite gold dress for as long as I possibly could; I've always loved the power of a good outfit. My friends have called me a borrower because I'm always able to find a particular item in a shop/ online so here's my way of sharing that knowledge and hopefully make your wardrobe far less manic than mine!

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