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April 08, 2020

how to soften the edges of self-isolation: a beginner’s guide

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we're all in this together.

By Ella Bowman, guest blogger

It can feel very strange to be holed up at home, drowning in domesticity -- so routine! -- whilst the news reports on something unseen that is affecting us, our loved ones, our neighbourhoods, our country, Europe, the world.

If you’ve been lucky enough that the news has, to now, reported tragedies beyond your sphere then you’ve been able to commiserate, even support, and gently get on with your life. Now, though, we’re daily caught between being level-headed -- keeping calm and carrying on -- and processing something dire, which targets the vulnerable and deconstructs the very fabric of what is normal, the world over.

So, how, then, to accept the seriousness of this all, all the while looking after your own mental health? This is so important to us and the Paws in Work team, who are all managing to stay upbeat. Here we share some recommendations about how to weather this storm...

some facts are good

Feeling unsettled, always, is exhausting, and so we look to the media to either appease or justify our fear, grasping for something that will move us out of this state into another. Well, yes, get your facts from the WHO, connect with the news once a day, but try to avoid piecing together a scrapbook of all of the day’s news as-it-happens because it won’t improve your mood and it’ll distract you from doing the things that can help you stay afloat (unless of course you’re checking in with the Paws in Work Instagram feed for the essential news).

the ups and downs

At Paws in Work we’ve witnessed fear-induced rudeness and terse exchanges that have frankly sucked. But we’ve also witnessed incredible kindness, alongside the beauty of services gallantly feeding us, delivering to us and, most importantly, treating us. People we once would pass, no words shared, we’re now posting notes to, offering help in their isolation, or comically strolling as far around each other as possible without walking into traffic. Ha ha! Not this again! Crazy ol’ world!

It’s inevitable to feel unsettled at the moment, where we’re in a limbo of not knowing our enemy, nor what tomorrow will bring, so be prepared for your fluctuating mood, take it one day at a time, and remember that we’re all sharing a collective mood of disbelief and worry: we can be there for each other and never has there been such global empathy before. We’re at war, but not with each other: we’re all on the same side.

finding that human connection

People are responding differently: some even relishing the break from their social calendars, whilst others are clamouring to stay in touch. Forgive your increased inbox traffic or forgive delayed responses, whichever fits, but remember that for all this self-isolation, human connection is something we do need, no matter our personality type.

So, have a plan to check in with at least one person on a call per day: WhatsApp doesn’t count. Have a real conversation with someone that you love and think of it as a steadying sanctuary for the mind. If it turns out it’s not all it’s cracked up to be, then at least you made the effort, there is always a hang up button, and you can be confident they won’t soon be knocking at your door to talk some more.

practically speaking

If you’re working remotely then it can be especially hard to focus at the ‘office’, in your slippers, trying not to be distracted by #covid19 on social media. Keep your day structured. Ditch the slippers and wear ‘out-of-the-house clothes’. Start your day with structure, and then reward yourself for completing a day’s work later. Now: jeans, tonight: joggers.

The thing is that when you live and work in the same space, it’s easy to have both bleed into one another. ‘I’ll just do the washing up now, I can always work a bit later tonight.’ When you take this attitude then you’re not really present in either your work or your life. Define boundaries to your working day, and make your, er, hometime more fulfilling as you do so.

what about all the fun?

Look, jigsaw puzzles are meditative alright guys? Focusing on a methodical project with the ambition of only maybe finishing it, depending on how you feel, is sweet salve to the anxious soul. Unless you’re allergic, try some crafts. It’s no subject for 90s rap, but craft can soothe and lighten up a day otherwise dedicated to work, laundry, TV, life admin, more TV, all the while feeling trapped in uncertainty. The number of our friends that have taken up artistic projects, we’re wondering if it’s the act in itself that is soothing or if it’s the safe nostalgia of primary school art classes. Either way, we’re game. Now pass us the pipecleaners.

dont forget, dogs understand

Puppies are susceptible to parvovirus and other nasties before they’ve completed their vaccinations, so this lot really gets it when it comes to self-isolation. We’re the puppies now, with the government being our owners, preventing us from going outside in case we catch or spread something that puts our health and our lives at risk.

More than this, though, dogs understand the simple joys of life: they love nothing more than sniffing, fetching, playing tug-of-war, and they are so simply satisfied and so blithely unaware of the global contagion that they can help their owners forget the bigger picture. Even if only for a moment. If you have a dog, then use this time to give it additional attention and think about games you can play with it (scrunch a treat up into some paper and stuff it into an old cereal box -- or, even more timely, into a loo roll tube -- for ultimate doggy delights, for example). Enthusiasm is more infectious than this virus, so make the most of your four-legged source of joy to help you through.

If you don’t have a dog, then don’t worry! We’ve got plenty of content across our Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram channels so you can catch the happiness cure there, too. It won’t save the world, but it’s a joy to create, share and watch with you all. And then there’s the fact that photos of cute animals can not only improve your mood and enhance marital satisfaction(!), but also increase your productivity, as we’ve mentioned earlier blogs.

avengers assemble (2m apart)

If you feel well and are up to helping others who may be especially vulnerable in your local community, then another great way to keep your own mental wolves from the door is to get involved in your local Mutual Aid group, help fundraise or be mindful of others’ anxieties. That you feel immortal doesn’t mean they do, so stay in as much as possible, and if you’re outdoors, please give people a wide berth and a wide smile. It’ll make all the difference.

Stay tuned for our next blogs when we’re providing tips, tricks and insights on staying in with your four-legged friend. In the meantime: look after yourselves, from all of us at Paws in Work.

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