Self-isolating : 7 Steps to Staying Cooped-Up in Your Room

Posted in: First year, Undergraduate

Prelude
I wrote this post in October 2020 whilst self-isolating in my student accommodation on campus here at the University of Bath. We’re now almost into February 2021 as I write this prelude and, once again, we are all having to stay indoors. With luck, the dubious advice I give below is still relevant, wherever in the world you might be.

Stay Safe,
Sam

 

Well, this is all very weird, isn’t it?

Pandemic - stuck at home - no A-level exams - swoosh - off to Uni - clunk - you shut the door of your new home behind you. Welcome to Bath! Your room is nice but it’s especially empty and there’s a whisper of the last occupant still lingering on the corkboards. Nobody's lived here for a long time. You’re the very first of the ’new normal’ students.

My room with my unpacked bags scattered around its emptiness on the day I moved in.

It’s all changing with you.

We’ve got the Bath Blend, Zoom, people not switching off their microphones, getting to know your household very well, waiting for the cleaners to be finished in the kitchen so you can make another coffee, Teams, Moodle, wandering around an empty campus, having to follow arrows, face masks - sorry I can’t hear you, what did you say? track and trace scanning, online bingo, coughing anxiety and wondering why there are quite so many huge, white, empty buses driving into campus. But even with all this, I reckon we’re the lucky ones. All of that, I think, is much easier to cope with because we don’t know any different. We’ve got no lived nostalgia for the stories we’ve heard of Freshers' Weeks gone by - joining a dozen societies just for the socials and desperately trying to remember so, so many names.

"Your constant disruption is now disrupted by a new, even more disruptive disruption..."

My thoughts are with those who began university in previous years only now to have their experience curtailed by the pandemic. In some weird way, I think that our constant disruption is easier to cope with. But then, out of the blue but completely expected, your household goes into self-isolation. Your constant disruption is now disrupted by a new, even more, disruptive disruption and everything is now even harder to cope with. My thoughts are now with us.

We’ve got Zoom, people still not switching off their microphones, getting to know your household very, very well, cleaning the kitchen yourself, making another coffee at half two in the morning, Teams, Moodle, having to exercise on the floor beside your bed, wearing pyjamas all day, trying to get your washing done, more online bingo, coughing anxiety, food deliveries with so much milk, and a sore bum from sitting in the same spot for seven hours. I think I preferred having to follow the arrows.

I’m writing this in the middle of my second self-isolation here on campus.

From inside, it can often start to feel like the definition of unprecedented, from long before the word was dragged through our minds for months and morphed into a meme. I am fortunate that my household has become a tight-knit group in response to our shared situation. Our isolation woes are often interrupted by laughing in the kitchen, talking in the kitchen, venting in the kitchen, and checking up on each other in the kitchen. So, thank you, dear kitchen, oh place of sustenance and sanity. And thank you to all my friends in W4D1. I’m very lucky to have you all.

All of us living in W4D1 smiling together in the kitchen, posing for a photograph.

My Accommodation Gang.

But often it's been difficult for me.

I’ve been anxious about how far I feel I’m behind with my studies. I’ve felt upset thinking about how far away my family are. I’ve cried over the phone to my girlfriend who I can’t visit. And it’s probably been difficult for you too. You’re already having to cope with the growing pains of entering university and now, on top of all of that, there’s all this. I hope at least I can give you some comfort by letting you know you aren’t alone in your shared human experiences of loneliness, hopelessness, depression, tiredness, anger, anxiety, and feelings of being so thoroughly and completely overwhelmed. If you are struggling, please do not hesitate to contact the Counselling & Mental Health team for support, advice, and guidance. I have myself and have found their help to be incredibly valuable, and for that, I am very grateful.

"...feelings of being so thoroughly and completely overwhelmed..."

But I digress.

There was something in the title about “7 steps to coping with self-isolation”, no? This title is a bit of a lie. It should read: “7 things that I, personally, am trying to do which seem to make me feel better when I’m in isolation”. Always read the fine print. And I must note that all this advice, which I may be dubiously qualified to give, comes from my own individual lived experience. Results may vary. Terms and conditions apply.

1. Sleep properly

Get enough sleep and get it consistently. Recently this has been difficult for me as I’ve let my sleep schedule slip, getting absorbed in work and staring at screens all day. Don’t be like me and stay up until 3AM on a Tuesday doing coursework that’s not due in for a week. I find I feel my best when I’m in bed by around 12 to 1AM and up at 8AM. This is highly personal so find what times work best for you. Waking up at the same time every day, I find, is more important than going to bed at the same time.

Here are some bits to help you sort your sleep schedule:

~ SleepCalculator.com for helping you wake up at the end of a sleep cycle

~ Pzizz for helping you build a consistent micro-routine for falling asleep

2. Eat properly

Our eating routines are often regulated by outside sources like our location or company, so this step is especially hard for us in isolation; sometimes I  just forget to eat. If you're isolating on campus, your household should receive food every few days but if you want to supplement this you can order groceries online from Fresh, the campus supermarket, for no delivery fee. Additionally, it doesn’t hurt to supplement your diet with omega fatty acids, vitamin D3, vitamin B12 and a multivitamin.  MyProtein.com is where I get mine as they offer discounts through StudentBeans.

Diet is highly personalised but a few tips include:

~ Eat at roughly the same times every day

~ Eat a high protein meal in the mornings

~ Don’t eat where or while you study

A plate with a vegan pulled pork patty with a side of oven-fried, spiced, wedges and a spinach, black olive and bell-pepper salad with a green pesto dressing.

 Meals like this were the exception to the far more standard, microwaved rice with frozen stew thing.

3. Tidy your home

It might only be one room, but it is your home. Treat it with the importance it deserves and cultivate a space that you want to be in. To pretentiously quote William Morris, “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful”. If this minimalism piques your interest, the Japanese concept of MA is an interesting rabbit hole to go down.  Matt D’Avella is also a great YouTuber on the topic. Most importantly, remember to contact the ahs team sooner rather than later to avoid washing your underpants in the sink like me.

A few tips are:

~ Follow a cleaning schedule

~ Spend 15 minutes organising your room before you go to bed every night

~ Stop leaving dirty dishes in your room (this one's for me)

My room looking like a bomb site. There are empty cardboard boxes and plastic bags of rubbish scattered everywhere. The bed is not made and a large pack of toilet rolls sits on top of my bed's crumpled duvet.

My room on the miraculous day where it's neat and tidy

My room in a state of chaos vs. peace.

4. Exercise

I know it feels good to do some push-ups throughout the day, some squats with a heavy backpack, or even just boogie around my room with headphones on. Alas, I am very lazy. It’s hard enough trying to exercise when you aren’t locked indoors so when you are it becomes a real challenge. Yet, it is within our reach. Encourage yourself by starting small to cement the habit, then ramp up from there. One push-up every day? Excellent. Five jumping jacks every day? Superb. Five minutes of daily yoga? You’re on the way. Start slow and start easy; there’s no rush.

Here are some bits to help:

~ Down Dog for guided yoga

~ Bodyweight Fitness for guided workouts and learning calisthenics

~ Healthline for info on all things health and exercise

5. Meditate

I’ve meditated sporadically for about five years now. However, during my isolation at Bath, it’s the first time I’ve found myself consistently meditating at least once per day. The results have been delightful. Beyond eating and sleeping, this habit is the one which is most essential to my wellbeing. If you’ve never tried it before and you’re feeling a bit hesitant, perhaps place those thoughts to the side for a little while and try 3 minutes of meditation once a day for one week. Like exercise, start slow and easy. Really try to enjoy the opportunity to sit and do absolutely nothing at all.

A few resources are:

~ Headspace premium with Spotify student premium (at the bargain price of £4.99 a month) is my go-to meditation resource

~ Mooji is a great YouTube channel for guided meditations

6. Schedule in fun

Perhaps this step is more for me than all of you. You really need to chill out, man. You’ve got loads to do but if you don’t take a break every once in a while, you’re going to burn out again. The science is in and working constantly is actually decreasing your overall work output. If you’re captain fun like me, using your timetable to allocate when you should or shouldn’t work is a good way to remind yourself to take a break. Exercising, reading for pleasure, hobbies, face-timing with family and friends, meditation, cooking, eating, sleeping, learning new skills, engaging with clubs and societies; all these are excellent things to do outside of your work hours which boost your energy levels, mood, and work output. So, Sam, please take a break.

7. Treat yourself like someone you’re caring for.

This means being grounded with your goals but believing in the miraculous things you could achieve.
This means pulling off the bedcovers when you’re feeling lazy but tucking yourself in when you need a rest.
This means pushing forward until you inevitably fall but learning how to get back up again.
This means standing up for yourself but being humble enough to take advice.
This means naming those parts of yourself that ought to be changed
But acknowledging the power you have to change and grow towards your best and truest self.

Two friendly ducks, one male and one female, walking towards me as I sat at the wooden benches by th

But that’s enough from me today; here are some friendly ducks.

-Sam

Posted in: First year, Undergraduate

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