Picture this: You’re stuck at home. Its been three weeks. Only one person per household allowed out every second day to make a trip to the supermarket through empty streets. The number of infected people near you keeps going up.
It’s an experience that I already became drearily familiar with. One that we’re all experiencing since the virus inevitably spread to our shores. Even if you’re not sealed into a residential compound as I was, public spaces have become no-go zones with offices, factories, and schools shutdown.
So how can you best prepare for weeks of being cut off from the world? Here are some tips from one who has already been through it in China. On how to physiologically survive the 21Days of Lockdown, this isn’t a preparation for an apocalypse – it’s dealing through a stressful and highly inconvenient but temporary experience. Concentrating on both the psychological aspect and the health side.
1. Assume you are infected.
COVID-19 is sneaky. A virus that anyone can get. This is a fundamental fact. Even as we all self-isolate, we realise how interconnected we all are. Anyone who catches the virus can spark a chain of transmission that reaches unfathomable proportion by touching the wrong surface or just by breathing in the wrong direction.
In lab experiments, it remained infectious for three hours in the air and three days on plastic and stainless steel. If you catch it, you probably won’t know for five days, maybe as long as 19 days. Some people get such a mild case that they never realise it — but they can still spread it.
We are all responsible for each other. Assume you have the virus and treat others accordingly. The main piece of advice to adhere to are the social distancing guidelines. Apart from those who you live with, the need to keep at least a 1.5-metre distance is vitally important along with minimizing nonessential travel, especially across borders.
2. Build a routine and a life online
Building a ‘new normal’, along with preparing to move as much of your work and life online as possible, is key to minding your mental health. It might be tempting to have endless pyjama days, however implementing a routine schedule for getting up, washing, having breakfast, etc. is crucial – more so now when days seem warped.
For me, quarantine came at a time when I desperately needed the break. Unfortunately, it came in the form of a virus. My leisure time passed into frustration about the restrictions on movement and gatherings. That faded into boredom and then into a sort of comfort with the new routine. This emotional rollercoaster, brought on by cabin-fever, has been shared by a lot of people- some more severely stricken than others.
Everybody I was in contact with spoke of the importance of building new routines – both for hygiene purposes against the virus and for psychological survival. With their addictive and time-killing properties, playing video games, reading, and Netflix has proved to be lifesavers. One suggestion was to start looking after plants and pets. I pet-sat a sphinx for a really nice Ukrainian girl whom I’d never met and bought a super realistic looking succulent only to discover a slight discrepancy in the form of styrofoam oh, the horror.
In other cases, you will have to be innovative and entrepreneurial. There’s a plethora of free online courses.
Also participating in social media challenges is a bonafide way of ensuring you remain entertained.
3. Avoid an information overload you need facts, not rumours.
There is a host of official and unofficial information telling people what to do — and not do.
With schools shut across the country and families working from home amid a shroud of uncertainty, having a level of “detachment” from updates can be helpful.
The first thing is to remain informed on the progress of the coronavirus outbreak from authoritative sources and reputable media organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO) or the Department of Health. Reassure yourself with facts from legitimate sites rather than rumours or speculations and unregulated information from social media feeds.
Recurring advice, endorsed by all medical authorities, is to wash your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds and avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth to reduce your chance of catching the virus. Not to mention wear a face mask, if you can get a hold of one!
Mobile sampling and testing units have been implemented and in the scenario in which you have mild respiratory symptoms that do not require hospital treatment contact the COVID-19 hotline or testing stations and prepare for self-isolation during recovery.
4. What should be in your shopping trolly: Prepare the essentials – ALL the essentials.
It makes sense for every household to store enough essentials to last during the lockdown — but to spend time in supermarkets trying to build up stockpiles is completely irrational.
Temporary shortages of particular items, such as sanitisers, have already occurred and – for some reason – toilet paper is often the item that sells out first when people fear an impending crisis. But we have been absolutely reassured that the supplies are there and are enough for everybody.
When you look at the foods that are repeated with regards to Iron, Minerals and Zinc, there are a few that keep coming up. That is your green leafy vegetables, whole grain foods such as rolled oats for breakfast and choosing whole grain bread, nuts and seeds and a whole range of fresh fruit and vegetables, particularly for Vitamin C.
Fresh fruit and vegetables are often the hardest things to get. Plan for what to buy, from staple non-perishables to fridge necessities. Some people are stocking up on things they already have. Don’t overdo it and cross off what you don’t need. Add on any extra items that you do need and just buy enough for the three weeks.
Stock up on masks, hand sanitizer, bleach, gloves — which government agencies prioritise supplying — as well as any vital household medications such as painkillers and vitamin tablets. If you have animals at home, pet food and treats are essential.
My main worry while quarantined in China was running out of water — since the tap water in China is not drinkable. Water is unlikely to be critical, but if you live somewhere without a drinkable tap supply, stock up on a month of bottled water too.
5. Boosting your immune system: What should you do when you feel fatigued?
Natural homebodies have an easier time with the lockdown than exercise enthusiasts—especially with gyms closed and jogging and cycling impossible. My major recommendation: find sunlight. If you can only sit on your balcony do that. Alternatively, clear an exercise area at home and find ways to incorporate exercise around the house.
With time distorted, your immune system can start feeling a bit sluggish. Doing some exercise can give you more energy and improve your immune system. Even a tiny bit of exercise suffices along with a good night’s sleep. Forget about that elliptical or exercise bike you’ve been thinking of getting. You’re out of luck. The shops will only sell you the necessities.
Keeping a healthy diet is key. The tendency to binge and an increased degree of ‘comfort eating’ should be avoided. Yes, stock up on chocolate and chips but stripping shelves bare of snacks? Don’t go that far. It seems like an opportunity to get back to basics – an apple a day.
Avoid activities that suppress the immune system. In times of high stress, the use of alcohol and other substances as a means to manage mental health and wellbeing has potentially harmful consequences and makes you more vulnerable to infection. Try to reduce consumption as much as you can.
6. Network of Love
Distance makes the heart grow fonder and, luckily, technology has made borders invisible with anything being possible via the internet. Keeping in contact with your social network, particularly those closest to you and indeed anyone who you’re concerned about is hugely important whether it be through the use of WhatsApp, Skype or FaceTime.
In this climate, a simple heartfelt phone call or endearing message can do wonders for one’s self-esteem. On that note, China’s firewalls and encryptions are legendary. On occasions when my VPN would be censored. Not having that support when we all so desperately need connection can really get to you. Fear makes us crave spiritual comfort more than ever, my comfort was in the form of countless medication and Sunday services online. Being at home doesn’t mean you need to be disconnected from your soul. It’s so essential to dig deep within yourself to find spiritual solace, in whichever way that resonates.
Measured in time, 21Days is very fast. Measured in comparison to those who can’t work, a month of no or reduced income would mean economic devastation. Educate yourself to figure out how to protect your own life and of others because guidelines can’t envision every scenario.
We will get through COVID-19, though not unscathed.
It’s hard. But we are all in this together. #Stayhome