opinion

'The 6 slightly bonkers rules I'm following to stay sane in isolation.'

This is not normal. 

I keep thinking this over and over again, while I pop on my mask and collect the plate of food my COVID-negative fiancé has left for me outside the bedroom door; a ritual I perform three times a day.

I have, thankfully, only had mild COVID-19 symptoms. So for me, the hardest part of this whole experience has been the mental challenge of isolation. 

I ugly cried down the hallway at my masked partner at the end of Day 1 because it all felt so huge. I'd finally caught the virus the world has been fearing for two years, and my tears were a big fearful anticipatory grief of what I assumed I was about to experience. It felt even more overwhelming knowing I was about to experience it alone, behind the locked door of my bedroom. 

We, like so many couples I know, found ourselves in the scenario of one person being COVID-negative, while the other was testing positive. We only live in an apartment, but had the means to attempt to isolate separately. 

Watch me attempt to cope with testing positive to COVID with comedy. Post continues after video.


Video via Gemma Bath.

But none of this is normal. I think we keep forgetting that two-plus years in. 

I am voluntarily locking myself out of the rest of my house because of a virus. Tell that to 2019 me, she would not compute.

It's important to remember that pandemics don't last forever. It just so happens that while they're here, they're harrowing and upending and throw normalcy completely out the window.

Five days into isolation, I've realised routine is my best tactic for getting through the strange reality I find myself in. 

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And no, I don't mean sensible, everyday structure. I mean weird habits that only make sense in this current reality where my life is confined to a few square metres. 

So, from my isolation bedroom to yours, here's what I am doing to stay sane.

1. I bookend my day with showers.

I know two showers a day is a bit boujee, but they're quick showers. They are showers more for the sake of helping me to wash away the anxiety and monotony of my day, rather than for hygiene. 

When your days are spent in the exact same space, I've been finding that 'bookending' them with a trip to the shower is giving me some much craved structure. 

I don't meditate... and I am not about to start while in such a heightened state of suspended reality. So this is the closest I get to it, and it's helping. I look forward to it. 

2. I only allow myself under the bedcovers at night.

I have been making my bed every morning after getting out of it, and then only lying on top of the covers during the day. At night, after my shower, is when I 'allow' myself to get back into bed. 

I am not super sick - I might feel differently if I were. 

But having this rule is helping me to differentiate my days from my nights. Once again, it's helping to create some kind of routine with the few things I have control over. 

3. I moisturise before bed. 

I am not a moisturiser person. I know I should be... but I just don't. Not with any regularity anyway. 

But I've picked up the habit in isolation as a little routine before bed. 

I am using The Body Shop's Almond Milk Body Yoghurt, which smells like summer. And I think it's a mixture of that and carving out a dedicated little moment of self care that's helping sooth my brain. I am not wearing makeup or nice clothes or any of that jazz, obviously. So moisturising is helping me feel somewhat 'done'.

I have never been one to daily moisturise. Except... now I do. Image: Supplied. 

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4. At least one meal or snack must be consumed outside.

I am lucky enough to have a small balcony off my bedroom. I open up and prop open the doors first thing in the morning to get as much air flow as possible. (A luxury I know the hotel quarantine alum would've dreamed for).

But I am finding that I have to force myself to go and actually sit out there. You get a bit stuck in a rut in insolation... even moving to the balcony feels like effort. But I was quick to realise the change of scenery and the literal air on my face did feel different to when I was sitting inside on the bed getting the air flow from afar. 

Actually getting amongst it was exponentially better for my brain. 

So now I team it with food - to ensure that I do it every day. Whether that's a morning coffee, or my lunch, I must eat at least one thing while sitting on my newly knighted 'fresh air chair.' 

The fresh air chair... I have spent more time on this balcony during isolation than I have fullstop.  

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5. I do some kind of movement every afternoon.

Once again, if you're sick with COVID. Do not do this. 

If you're otherwise well, and just... bored, make sure you continue moving your body. 

I started off with literally just some stretches to keep my limbs from cramping during the first few days. But as my symptoms all but subsided towards the end of the week, I went searching for those sweet sweet endorphins. 

Here's two workouts I have been loving in isolation: 

Gentle Morning Pilates flow with Isa Welly.

20 minute full body HITT with Natacha Oceane.

But again, I must stress, if I had any symptoms at all - I wouldn't be exercising. I just seem to have got the very, very mild end of the COVID-stick. 

6. TV after 12.

I am back at work now, which is helping my isolation days go by a lot quicker. But I am about to head into a weekend of nothing. So I will be bringing in a rule my fellow former COVID-isolater Lily Allsep shared with me; no TV before midday. 

This is purely for my brain. Because everyone loves an all-day TV binge, we all do them. But in my current reality, I know doing that will just make me feel sluggish.

So, my mornings will be spent reading or listening to a podcast, calling people on FaceTime, and hanging out on my fresh air chair. 

My afternoons are when I'll flick on Netflix and get back to The Sex Lives of College Girls.

Now, over to you. What are the habits, bits of structure, or little routines you have incorporated into your 'isolation' life to help you get through it? Let us know in the comments below. 

Read more on this topic: 

You can keep up to date with Gemma Bath's articles here, or follow her on Instagram, @gembath.

Feature Image: Supplied/Gemma Bath.

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