I’m not going to lie, a few months ago when we initially entered 2020, I didn’t expect my first blog entry of the new decade to be dealing with the apocalypse, but here we are. In fact, it seems positively ironic that in my previous entry I’d spoken about how uncomfortable I felt accepting help off strangers, and now it’s illegal to be within 2 metres of any of them…I guess the moral of the story is be careful what you wish for!
Only a few months since the first case was reported in Wuhan, China, Covid-19 aka Coronavirus has spread across the globe, forcing not only entire countries, but entire continents into lockdown as governments battle to stop the spread. All but the most essential of businesses are closed, and the vast majority of people are told to work from home if they are able to.
As the virus is a respiratory illness that affects the lungs and airways, anyone with a pre-existing medical condition relating to these areas is urged to remain at home as much as possible; with the most high-risk cases being told in no uncertain terms to stay indoors for at least 12 weeks. For many people like myself, with disabilities affecting the lungs, this can sound and feel an awful lot like a prison sentence, and it certainly affected me psychologically in a way I had not seen coming. But after the initial shock, quickly followed by the likes of denial, anger and depression, I seem to have reached some kind of tenuous acceptance of the situation.
That’s not to say I’m okay with the position I find myself in; I’ve just made temporary adaptations in order to safely get on with my life. However, there will be many people out there who remain in a state of panic at what is going on, and I can’t really blame them. This feels like the first act of a horror movie, with the zombie onslaught mere minutes away! So with all this in mind, I’ve decided to focus this blog entry on the survival aspect of things currently. That means looking at not only how best to stay safe and survive the virus itself, but how to deal with the self-isolation; along with the physical, emotional and psychological effects this can all have when you live with a disability.
1. Don’t Be A Corona Loner
Self-isolation has the potential to be a mental health nightmare, and we have to work together in order to stop it.
It’s safe to say that, never in my life have I regretted more, a) being single, and b) living alone. I’ve always been fine with my own company and in the past have enjoyed spending the odd lazy day by myself. But something about being told I have to spend weeks in almost complete isolation, with no sporting or social interactions, sent me into a bit of an emotional panic. Okay, it sent me into a lot of an emotional panic, and for the first few days I was equal parts upset and bitter, as I felt entirely alone for the first time maybe ever.
What helped me get past this stage, was firstly realising that I wasn’t alone in feeling alone. Spend 10 minutes on social media and you’ll see that millions of people, both able and disabled, are going through the same thing currently; and even in your own social groups, it is highly unlikely that you are the only ‘single person’ out of all of them. But even if you are, take solace in the knowledge that most couples will be driving each other crazy by day 3 of lockdown!
So, bearing in mind that most people you know are going to be in a similar boat to you right now, the logical next step is to make contact. We are unbelievably fortunate to be living in an age where we can keep in touch with virtually every member of our friends and family at the push of a button. Whether it’s via text, voice or video chat, there has never been a more perfect time to resurrect friendships or call that family member you haven’t spoken to since Christmas. Hearing a friendly voice, having a chat, making each other laugh or just ranting about how sh*t everything seems – it’s all therapeutic and it all helps. On top of this, there are endless games you can play with friends online, from fast-paced PC and console games to simple mobile puzzles and quizzes – after all, it’d be a crying shame if you had to go months without reminding your friends and family just who is the king of Game of Thrones trivia!
2. Exercise Those Demons
It’s easy to look at the current situation and think to yourself, “well that’s it, everything’s closed and I can’t go outside for the next 3 months, commence Operation: Vegetate”. But in reality, this couldn’t be further from the truth. We’re housebound, with a finite number of options to keep us entertained, there has never been a better time to get fit!
Armed with a few pieces of exercise equipment and the right set of exercise aids, anyone can turn their home into a home gym. From simple items like dumb-bells, resistance bands and pull-up bars to bulkier items like handbikes, rowers and cable machines; all are available to buy new or second hand online. Just committing to exercising a few times a week with one or two of these items can make a big difference both physcially and mentally. Sitting around doing nothing, on top of being extremely unhealthy for the body, can also be a major cause of depression, and exercise is proven to combat this. I bought an ex-gym handbike from eBay a few years ago and I’ve never used it so much – pop on some music, open the French doors for a bit of breeze and I’m away!
For a more substantial list of exercises you can do from home, check out my article Exercising At Home – A Self-Isolation Guide on the Active Hands website. It really can help take your mind off things and make a difference. And how awesome would it be if, once all this is over, you come out of your house fitter and stronger than before you went in?! Take that Corona!
3. Get A Change of Scenery
Remember up top when I said this whole thing could end up feeling like a prison sentence? Well if anything is going to drive that feeling home then it’s sitting and staring at the same walls day in day out. That’s why it’s so important right now to grasp any and every opportunity we get for a change of scenery, even if it’s only a slight one!
Obviously we’re not able to pop down to the local beer garden for a pint in the sun, but if you’ve got a garden, a driveway, or hell, even a window you can open, then use it! Sit outside for a little bit every day, breathe in the fresh air, crack open a beer, look at the sky, the plants, the birds; unlike the walls inside, the outdoors is constantly changing and no two glimpses are ever the same. If there’s one thing I’m grateful to this virus for, it’s that it had the decency to wait until Spring before fully unleashing itself. Granted it’s resulted in most summer events being cancelled, but at least if we sit outside now there’s only a 50/50 chance of it raining on us!
Most of us are also allowed to brave it in public and get our one walk/push in each day. If this is the case then find new routes or paths to explore. As long as we keep a safe distance from each other then the air itself isn’t going to kill us, and it may even do us some good! I’ve even taken to driving 20 minutes to the coast once or twice a week so I can park up by the sea and read. However, although I stay in my car the entire time, I’m not sure how strictly ‘legal’ this is currently, so please don’t quote me on this in court!
4. Explore Your Options & Set Some Goals
Ever fancied yourself as a tormented artist or green-fingered guru? Ever dreamed of expanding your baking abilities and creating a signature dish? Ever wanted to finally read that book series, binge that boxset or complete that video game that’s been silently taunting you for months? Well guess what…
It’s highly unlikely (fingers firmly crossed) that we’ll ever find ourselves again in a position where we’re being told that the most productive thing for us to do is nothing. Now that we’ve got so much time on our hands with nowhere to be, instead of falling into a routine of boredom, why not consider rekindling a passion you once had or trying your hand at something you’ve always fancied but never had the time for? Of course, your options are limited to things you can do from home, but that can encompass a fair number of possibilities if you sit and think about it.
During the afternoons, I’ve taken to testing my cooking skills and experimenting with a few new recipes, and on an evening I’m currently working my way through a backlog of TV shows and video games. Sure, I could be learning a new language or clearing the clutter off my work surfaces, and if that’s something you discover a passion for then fantastic! The point is that we can use this time to do something we want to do, not something we feel we have to do; and realistically, how many chances are we going to get after this? Plus, with all the kitchen aids, gardening aids and small item aids available; we’re really running out of excuses not to!
5. Enjoy The Little Things
One of my all-time favourite films is the 2009 zomcom Zombieland. In it, the main character survives the undead uprising thanks to a set of rules he holds to, one of which is “enjoy the little things”. There are plenty more rules I could have chosen, however I’m banking on this virus not going full zombie-mode, as I would hate to have to “double tap” my next door neighbours!
When I say enjoy the little things, I mean try not to focus on the negatives of the current situation we find ourselves in but instead seek out positives and give yourself things to look forward to. This could be anything from ordering a new book, movie or video game online to sitting out in the garden with a cold drink and taking in some sun. Like it or not, self-isolation is affording the vast majority of us a lot more free time right now, so treat yourself while you can. I’m not by any means saying this virus is a good thing, and I think I speak for us all when I say the sooner we create a vaccine the better, but in the meantime it’s okay to be doing things that make you happy, this doesn’t mean you’re a bad person.
As I alluded to previously, now that my evenings are free from wheelchair rugby, table tennis and any social events usually involving the cinema or pub, I’ve had time to finally get back to playing Red Dead Redemption 2 (my last save was dated July 2019)! And if by some small miracle I finally complete the damn game, then do you know what I’ll do? I’ll treat myself to a new one!
Saturday night is now takeaway night in the Gimpy Kid house and is something I look forward to every week; perusing menus days beforehand to check out my options! Sure I guess I could get a takeaway every night if I really wanted to, but instead I’d prefer to give myself something to aim for each week, a treat to stop the days blurring into one. Plus, I’d rather maintain a somewhat healthy diet throughout all this (healthy diet = healthy immune system), not completely negate the hard work done in Section 2 of this entry and definitely not have to explain to wheelchair services why, after only 3 months of having this chair, I now need one four inches wider!
Survive, Thrive and Stay Alive
So there we have it – 5 basic hints and tips to get us through self-isolastion with only a minimal loss of sanity! Obviously there is plenty more that could be included to keep us safe and well prepared; things such as ordering prescriptions well in advance, ensuring any personal assistants take the necessary precautions before beginning work, ordering shopping online as much as possible etc. My list is more about maintaining positive mental health than anything.
With any luck, by the time I get round to writing the next entry, all this will be firmly in the rearview mirror and the main concern involving Corona will be whether it comes with a slice of lime or not! Random final thought though: I wonder if they’ll end up changing the name to avoid the stigma now attached to the C-word? I mean if people are willing to believe that 5G causes Corona then they’re willing to believe anything!
“We should take comfort that while we may have more still to endure, better days will return: we will be with our friends again; we will be with our families again; we will meet again.”