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7 Tips for Passing the Time While Self-Quarantined Due to Coronavirus

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The coronavirus (COVID-19) we’ve been hearing about in the news is a new viral strain in the coronavirus family. COVID-19 symptoms (like fever, cough or shortness of breath) can take anywhere from two days to two weeks to appear.

Because of the coronavirus, we’ve seen schools close, companies allow their employees to work from home and seen an increase in conversations about social distancing for both the healthy and sick.

As someone with a chronic illness, I spend the majority of my time inside any time of year. You could call me an “insider.” Soon, you might be spending the majority of time inside, too.

Since being diagnosed with systemic lupus erythemetosus (SLE) 10 years ago, I’ve learned some things along the way about being self-quarantined. Whether you are currently sick with COVID-19, or a healthy person who’s been instructed to stay indoors, these seven tips will help you deal.

1. Don’t isolate.

How can we not isolate when placed on isolation? Socialize. This is where “social” media truly lives up to its name. Human beings are not meant to be alone. So when I discovered Facebook groups where thousands of people had lupus just like me, it was a revelation. Suddenly I did not feel so cut off from the rest of the world. We commiserated, encouraged each other and shared information. Often we found that those of us living with the disease knew even more than some medical professionals about how it affected us.

I imagine the same will be true of those living with COVID-19. Share valuable information with one another and the rest of us. Others can learn from you. If you just want to get your mind off it, check out The Mighty’s #DistractMe Dogs page.

Some other Facebook groups I enjoy are National Park Visitors Group, Owners of Vintage Campers, Sewing Tiny Doll Clothes, Pittie Nation and School Alumni groups. In times of isolation, social media can be your best bet on hanging out with your friends.

2. Learn a new skill.

Though I extolled its virtues in the first tip, social media can suck you into its vortex for hours. Since you’ve now found yourself in the unusual position of having time at home, take a break from e-learning and virtual office emails and learn a new skill.

After two years of being homebound from lupus, I started to feel depressed and unproductive. A counselor began visiting me at home. When I complained, “I feel like I have not accomplished one thing. I get so tired,” she responded, “How about if you go easy on yourself and ‘accomplish’ just one thing per week?”

Taking her advice to heart, I thought to myself, “Well I’m not good in the kitchen. In fact, I don’t even like to cook. But I would like to be a contribution to others.” So I looked up a recipe for roasted butternut squash soup.

Let me tell you, it wasn’t easy! But when is learning something new ever easy? Suffice it to say, I managed to get a carving knife through two behemoth squash bottoms without losing a finger. Even more rewarding were the substantial portions yielded by this surprisingly delicious soup, allowing me to share and be a “contribution” to my family.

Are you lousy in the kitchen, too? I found that following a recipe exactly as it’s written can cure that deficiency. It seems we’re in the mode of stockpiling non-perishable items, but homemade soup tastes much better than canned and lives up to its reputation for boosting the immune system. You will find your skills improving exponentially with each batch you learn to make. Whether it’s taking up knitting from online classes or getting downward with beginner’s yoga, use your newfound hours of the day to do something new.

3. Catch up on Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime shows!

Personally, I love “The Circle” and “Catastrophe” on Netflix, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” and “Fleabag” on Prime, and “High Fidelity” and “House Hunters International” on Hulu. The latter, I discovered, is a way for me to “travel” internationally without ever having to leave my couch.

4. Call your loved ones.

When was the last time you picked up the phone, instead of texting? Viruses can’t travel through phones. But love and connection can. Call your mother! Incidentally, my 80-year-old mother relates much better to young people than to people her own age. She much prefers texting to talking on the phone. Replete with emojis and signed off always with TUGS (text hugs), a shorthand she formulated all on her own.

5. Perfect the art of loungewear.

If you’re sick like me, you’ve faced the reality that the portion of pajamas in your laundry basket has superseded that of civilian clothing. Whether you are sick or healthy, not having to go to work can result in this reality for you, too. A few years ago, it dawned on me that my wardrobe no longer reflected the well-dressed rockstar hairstylist I once was. Where had that woman gone?

I’d grown weary of mismatched pajamas and feeling like a schlub. So for Christmas that year, I announced to my partner, “I want to up my game in the loungewear department!” She delivered. All presents came in apparel boxes and boy, were they stylish. Who doesn’t look great in cozy fleece leggings and Eddie Bauer cable sleep cardigans? Some of my lupie friends (the friends I’ve only seen online and have come to love as sisters) like to wear makeup. They look fabulous! Think of all the time you now have to watch those YouTube tutorials on contouring. Though I excelled at highlights and layered haircuts, I never mastered the makeup thing. But I like to look good when answering the door to the Amazon delivery person.

6. Read books.

When was the last time you read a good book? More importantly, when was the last time you actually had time to read a good book? Like most people in society, you likely scanned the morning newspaper while wolfing down a bowl of cereal before dashing out the door to work. Or you clicked on an article that popped up on your Facebook newsfeed to read in between classes. Or you settled down right before bed with your iPad to read that good book, got through a few paragraphs, then succumbed to sleep after an exhausting day at work or school.

I’ve got good news for you. Now you have time to read that good book. Here’s what I discovered just this year. Paperbacks. That’s right. Real books with real pages you can turn. Read ’em and weep. One can find a surprisingly wide variety of barely used, read-worthy used books online. The Goodwill Store has them as well. So if you are still out stockpiling granola bars, bouillon cubes and five-gallon drums of peanut butter-filled pretzels, stop by your local thrift store and fill your cart with all those books you’ve been meaning to read.

7. Try puzzling!

On the same Goodwill trip where I scored in the paperback section, I also found some donated jigsaw puzzles. Mind you, up until that discovery, I’d been spending upwards of twenty-four dollars ordering brand new puzzles online, so this was a windfall. Puzzles are an excellent way to pass the time, shut out the troubles of the world, and don’t require too much physical energy. After a lung resection surgery required my hospitalization every other month, I began doing puzzles in earnest.

My partner fashioned a puzzle board from a piece of wood procured at Home Depot and balanced it on a chair next to my hospital bed. It helped distract from my ails and made long hospital hours fly by without notice.

If you are very sick right now with COVID-19, my heart goes out to you. I have been there. Very, very sick in the intensive care unit (ICU). What I want to say to you is that the rest of the world sees you, we care about you and are praying/wishing for your recovery.

Concerned about coronavirus? Stay safe using the tips from these articles:

GettyImages photo via fizkes

Originally published: March 8, 2020
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