From running a company from her home office to working as a freelance writer, Kate thought she knew all the tricks when it came to spending full days at home. Until that was, self-isolation became an enforced measure. Here, Kate shares some ideas on how to get the most out of the days that lie ahead and keep your shit together.
Life has changed. There, I said it. And the strange sensation you felt last week – or perhaps are still feeling? That’s grief. You are mourning the loss of the life you enjoyed before, and the only choice now is to adapt. The good news? You can.
Coping is all about re-establishing a sense of control in an otherwise uncontrollable situation. By honing healthy habits to prevent the less healthy ones (too much sleep, binge-watching television and eating too much or not eating anything), taking hold. Carving out time to recognise the positives that remain (there are plenty) does a lot to improve overall mood and outlook, as well as encouraging each of us to look – however hard – for the silver lining.
List 5-10 things you are grateful for every day. Whether you write it down at or say it to yourself before even opening your eyes, this is a proven tool to bring positive focus and stop you turning immediately to your phone first thing. This morning’s list read something like this:
- It is a beautiful spring day
- Hydrangeas are coming up nicely in their pots
- The small city garden for which I am deeply grateful
- Now I have time to read all those books I want to
- Thank f*ck I got our kitchen lights fixed before we went into lockdown
Always make your bed. After peeling back the duvet, open a window to air the room thoroughly whilst you have a shower or let the dog out. After twenty minutes or so, make the bed in full. This serves as a small ‘win’ first thing and whatever happens between now and then, it’s nice to know smoothed sheets and plumped pillows await at bedtime.
Get dressed. Yes, your finest loungewear has come into its own of late, but at some point getting up and properly dressed, brushing your mane and applying a slick of mascara is just the ticket to help you face an off day.
Find routine….but don’t be afraid to let it slip Humans are creatures of habit who like to plan ahead. Couple an inability to do this with the current information overload, and it’s no wonder so many of us are feeling overwhelmed and frightened. This is completely normal response amidst what is an entirely new experience, so learn to recognise your own stress responses and accept that they natural, which should help them pass quicker.
Lower your expectations on yourself. This is uncharted territory for us all, so accept there will be duvet days. If you don’t need to be up by 6am right now, there is no shame in allowing yourself to wake naturally. At a time when nurturing our bodies and immune system seems an especially good idea, making the most of a solid eight hours feels like a sound investment.
A dear friend and I used to meet for breakfasts in London each month, so we have now taken to morning coffees over FaceTime instead. She showed me the view from her smart Greenwich apartment as I showed off the daffodils blooming in my garden. This small act of attempting to regain control and ‘get back’ the breakfasts we have lost is enjoyable for us both.
Keep up to date just with key news. Keeping up with news is important, but select one or two reliable sources and set aside only as much time as you feel is necessary to check in. What we look at and do very first thing establishes our thought patterns for the rest of the day, so try to avoid the constant scroll and refresh which is likely to trigger an anxious state.
Protect your headspace. The spike in subscriptions to Zoom and Houseparty has shown the importance of ‘face-to-face’ time in our lives, which is lovely. But WhatsApp groups have gone from places of warmth and comfort to rapid-fire sharing of worst-case scenarios. Keep contact on your own terms by muting notifications and scheduling one-to-one time with your cheerleaders, rather than those who want to rehash the day’s headlines or offload their own panic onto you.
Setup a designated work station. A designated work space, away from your sleeping area, that can be packed down and tidied away at the end of the day is hugely important. That said, physical desks aren’t always needed. When asked whereabouts she wrote the award-winning series Fleabag, Phoebe Waller-Bridge admitted to penning much of it from her bed – enough said.
Switch on the radio. Whether it’s Greg James, Farming Daily or the shipping forecast, hearing a familiar voice at a similar time each day can be hugely uplifting and provide reassurance of some sense of normality and continuity right now.
Subscribe to podcasts or audiobooks. Regular weekly podcasts can also provide a balm for the soul and something to look forward to each week. Whether it’s dramatised tales from history or retelling of disturbing true crime courtesy of RedHanded, use this time to find what distracts and relaxes you. Struggling to drift off? Apps such as Calm and Headspace offer sleep casts, designed to settle busy minds and ease listeners into a restful slumber. Enjoy soothing tales narrated by the likes of Matthew McConaughey and Sir Stephen Fry.
Keep moving. With gyms, studios and some parks now closed, the web has come alive with talented teachers streaming their usual classes and workouts from hurriedly cleared-out living rooms. The reinstatement of regular pilates sessions in my spare room with my regular teacher have definitely played a significant part in boosting my own mood. Pilates is ideal for me, as it requires engagement of mind as well as body, encouraging focus on something besides global circumstances, thus leaving me soothed – as well as moved – after the hour.
Click here to check out pilates classes with our My Life contributor, Katherine Pentecost – payment is on a donation basis or free for anyone working in the NHS.
Get outside each day. Now we have been told we can exercise each day, be sure to make the most of this, regardless of the weather. As moods sink and headlines grow ever-gloomier it will become increasingly tempting to stay indoors, but staying-put can have a damaging effect in the long run, so be sure to soak up the vitamin D hits wherever possible – just wash your hands before and after.
Lastly, remember: Someday, we will look back and tell stories about this time. So, use yours wisely, to do things and learn lessons that will make the future you proud. Let this be remembered as the time we were brave and generous and by choosing to do the right thing, helped so many around us – however long that took.