As we are well into the second week of the COVID-19 pandemic, social distancing, and self-isolation, most people I know are starting to go a little stir crazy. It’s difficult. It’s scary. The world has never been like this in our lifetimes. And most of us that take it seriously are just waiting for the other shoe to drop.
This is something cancer patients and others who are immuno-compromised individuals deal with on a regular basis. I’ve had several month long periods of self-isolation, and would like to offer some tips on how to handle the mental toll of being isolated.
1. Travel Virtually
Google Maps and Earth is your friend. Pick a spot, and go on a stroll with Street View. Depending on where you pick, you can not only stroll down actual streets, but there’s also beaches, parks, museums, etc. you can explore. There are also many Easter Eggs to be found like a TARDIS in London.
2. Plan an adventure for when this is over
Pick a city. Any city. Pull up their visitors center website and see what are the local attractions. Find a centrally located hotel. Pull up review sites and pick out restaurants and build your itinerary. Use Pinterest to save your ideas. I’ve planned trips to Savannah, Knoxville, Daytona, and HIlton Head this way. I also have a few other cities in the back of my mind to plan for the days ahead. One pro tip: if you eat at a chain restaurant while you’re on vacation (except maybe while you’re on the road), you’re really missing the point. There are many, many places that are local gems to enjoy. If you’re planning on visiting any of the places I mentioned earlier, let me know and I’ll send you some recommendations.
3. Study your family history
Be careful with this one. It can become a life-long obsession. Genealogy will eventually require some in-person trips to the archives or courthouses, but it’s easy to get started online. If you want to subscribe to a paid service like Ancestry, that’s great. But there are also plenty of free resources out there, my favorite being FamilySearch.org. Enter your information, your parents, and if you know it, your grandparents. From there, it’s off to the races. They also have a Wiki with a vast repository of helpful information for those who are just starting out and for ones who have been at it for a while.
4. Get out of the house
Just because you can’t be around others doesn’t mean you have to stay at home (unless you’re in an area with strict travel restrictions). One of my favorite things to do when I was in the midst of my periods of isolation was to get a picnic lunch, drive to a local park, and eat in my vehicle while listening to the radio. Near me, there’s a Greenway with the river with walking trails. That was a popular one. There is also a fishing dock a few miles north where you can park overlooking the lake. That one was always fun, and there was generally wildlife there to keep you entertained as well.
5. Improve yourself
I’m not saying you have to emerge from all of this looking like a professional bodybuilder (I mean, have you SEEN ME?). But it is a good time to start building some habits. Have a period of meditation. Try yoga (trust me, it’s a lot tougher than it looks). Take an online class from somewhere like Khan Academy. Read a book you’ve been putting off. Try cooking a new dish. Basically, do those things you keep putting off because you never had time.
Most of the people reading this have never had to deal with this. That’s okay. We will get through it. Stay positive. Wash your hands. Stay away from other people. And when we all come through this, we will have an incredible story to tell our grandchildren.