I recently ran a poll on this blog to get some feedback in relation to what readers would like me to blog about during the coronavirus pandemic. Someone suggested I should write about what I am doing to cope with isolation and living alone during this period of “lockdown”, so I’ll begin my new schedule today by sharing 10 strategies I am employing to help me stay positive and healthy while living alone and isolating. I have included many suggestions, which you can take or leave as feels appropriate!
1) Check the news only once a day
Checking for updates from our go-to news sources in relation to unfolding global events is important, as there may be information that affects us directly. However, the majority of news stories tend to create fear. As Morrissey sings in the brilliant song Spent the Day in Bed — “Stop watching the News, because the News contrives to frighten you, to make you feel small and alone, to make you feel your mind isn’t your own”. You can check out the song here.
Due to the negative effects of checking the News, I recommend doing so only once a day, in the morning. Just get the headlines and then crack on with doing something inspiring and productive with your day. Resist the urge to check, and check again. Perhaps remove the News website link from your browser’s bookmarks, or the News app from your phone. Make sure you stay strong, inquisitive, and independent in your views; don’t just parrot what you read every day, because each news story is only one perspective out of a potentially infinite number. Also, check different sources!
2. Daily exercise
The current instruction here in the UK from Prime Minister Boris Johnson is that we are allowed out to exercise once a day. I would definitely recommend doing this if you are able to, for the fresh air as much as anything. Personally, I tend to do a workout in my flat, just some press-ups, sit-ups, squat thrusts and some weights. I only spend about 10-15 minutes exercising each day, otherwise it would feel too much like a chore and I would avoid doing it. But everyone is different, so if you feel the urge to exercise for 30 minutes a day or whatever, go you!
3. Schedule productive activity
As I mentioned in the introduction, I have decided to introduce a new blogging schedule to keep me focused during this uncertain time. This accords with my main ambition in life which is to share my philosophical views via this blog and also via my books.
It’s a tough time we’re going through and many people have either lost their jobs or are in danger of becoming unemployed. But don’t let circumstances get you down, pick up a pen and paper and do a brainstorm: What is your life’s purpose? What are your passions? What are you good at? What opportunities are available to you right now?
If you can form a plan, and perhaps also some contingency plans, you will feel more on top of things and more confident that the coronavirus doesn’t mean your life is over.
4. Pray about all your decisions
Every day I pray throughout the day whenever I am troubled or confused about anything. I just close my eyes, put my hands together, and offer up a short prayer to God. I’m not suggesting it’s necessary to pray continually, although Christians are instructed to do so (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). The instruction to ‘pray without ceasing’ in that scripture doesn’t mean praying non-stop, it means praying in a recurring way, just to be clear!
I have a longer time of prayer every Sunday in order prepare psychologically for the week ahead. Some of the things I personally pray about include protection, inspiration, spiritual direction, and mercy.
5) Keep your accommodation clean and tidy
Whether you live in a large house, a small flat or apartment, or are in hospital or temporary accommodation, you should do what you can to keep your living space clean and tidy and your belongings organised. A messy environment will make you feel stressed and depressed, and especially so at a time when many people are concerned about hygiene and not wanting to catch disease.
Don’t be obsessive though — I recommend setting a timer for 20 minutes and just having a high speed cleaning blitz during that time. You can get loads done in 20 minutes. When the alarm goes off, just be satisfied that you have done your best (or carry on for a little bit longer after the alarm if you’re feeling inspired to do so!) Don’t give yourself a hard time if your living space isn’t perfect, though, there will always be more you could do.
6) Keep in touch with friends and family
See this period of lockdown as an opportunity to reconnect with some people you may have lost touch with, and let them know that you care about them, and are thinking of them. Many people are also using this opportunity to build relationships with their neighbours — simply asking a neighbour if they need anything, or giving them a gift, can lift their spirits and your own. You could always drop a card through a letterbox, write a short note or letter, or give someone a quick ring or a text message.
7) Write your thoughts in a journal
I absolutely love journalling. One of the treats I afford myself (I’m on a tight budget!) is to purchase a Moleskine journal and a nice pen every so often, and then I write my thoughts in the journal on a daily basis. I have no set time or commitment to do this, I just do it as and when I feel like it.
Writing in a journal feels more private than writing on a computer, because as we all know our online activities are monitored and recorded and this can often make us feel reluctant to share how we’re really feeling. A journal is relatively private so we can write down how we’re really feeling, including all our quirks and insecurities, fearlessly.
8) Treat yourself sometimes
The UK government have added off-licenses (shops that sell alcohol) to the list of shops that can remain open during the lockdown. I found this quite amusing, it’s a very British thing to turn to alcohol in times of crisis! Personally, I don’t drink, because I like to keep my wits about me, but I do have a couple of addictions — I like a bottle of Coke Zero occasionally and also a chocolate bar with my cup of spicy chai.
Definitely make sure that while treating yourself occasionally, you also stay disciplined and don’t fall into bad habits. You want your body and mind to be as strong as possible when there is so much uncertainty. I know many people have only limited access to food and drink, so you might have to find more creative ways to treat yourself!
9) Keep an open mind
Now I’m not especially drawn to conspiracy theories, but I do know that governments keep secrets. I mean, there are authorities which call themselves Secret Services for crying out loud, so the assertion is hardly a shocking one! This means that there is likely to be loads going on behind the scenes that we don’t know about. For this reason, I don’t believe everything I read, and I keep an open mind. I suggest praying that God will guide you in all situations is the best course of action when it comes to knowing what to believe. And as I mentioned before, read a variety of News sources, if you can.
10) Be kind to everyone, always
Show no partiality. Keep a clear conscience by always showing kindness. Even when others are apparently selfish or unkind, give them the benefit of the doubt and know that everyone always does their best with the knowledge that they have.
BONUS STRATEGY — MUSIC!
Music has often been one of the main reasons I have survived during some of the most challenging times in my life. I have a YouTube Premium subscription, which allows me to watch both ad-free videos on YouTube and also have unlimited ad-free streaming of music through the YouTube Music app. It’s actually very affordable, and as a musician myself, I simply have to have some kind of music subscription!
There are many things that I hate, and fear, about the prevalence of technology and artificial intelligence in the 21st century, but having unlimited access to a wide variety of great music is one of the incredible, even miraculous things that technological advances have given us. Let’s make the most of it!
That’s a wrap! Which of these strategies do you like, and do you have your own? Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below. And do subscribe to this blog for new posts Monday to Friday, and share this post if you found it useful!