This article is not intended to offer any medical advice about the Coronavirus, COVD-19.
When I heard about having to self-isolate or self-quarantine due to the Coronavirus I immediately thought: 'Oh, that won't bother me.'
As a woman who lives, works and travels alone, it sounded like it would be just like any other day, week or month in my solitary life.
Not exactly the same, of course, as the “quarantine” label brings with it additional challenges such as fear of contracting the Coronavirus and/or recovering, alongside having our physical movement - and therefore, stress-reducing outlets - restricted.
However, I have now found myself on my own in Italy under self-quarantine, I'm away from my beloved family, and I am anxious and scared like you are. It does bother me.
I'm posting daily videos from Italy on Instagram.
We will be ok
It is hard spending a lot of time on your own, particularly if you're not used to it. However, over the years, I've learned how to stay fit and well without much physical contact with the outside world, and I have valuable tips I can share with you all.
Additionally, I've been investigating women's self-care for the last eight years. Personally (because I live with anxiety and depression), and professionally in my role as a British Wellbeing Journalist travelling the world reporting on women's wellbeing retreats.
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I hope some of these tips will help you to stay mentally fit and well during this difficult time.
First thing's first: it's important to consider our attitude. If we think it's going to be the worst thing in the world, then it probably will be. Instead of viewing our self-isolation or self-quarantine as a problematic situation (even though it is) we need to try to reframe it in our mind as an opportunity.
An opportunity for growth and development. And if we can't think of it like this, we can at least use the time to try and relax as much as possible.
The fourteen-day, or month, or however long period is going to come and go anyway, and, it's up to us how we spend it.
We must strive to stay in a routine. Either the one we had before quarantine or a new one that we create, and we must prioritise our mental health and overall wellbeing.
Blurt Team explain why it's so essential: "Routine can be an anchor. No matter what's going on in our day, knowing that we will be having our evening meal around 6 pm, and going to bed around 10 pm, can be a real comfort.... Coping with unpredictable periods of time can feel more doable when we have a little structure in place to look to."
Tidy Space Tidy Mind
Because we're spending so much time indoors, we'll likely be creating more mess. I'm not a naturally tidy person and when my daughter was at home she enjoyed organising both me and the house. Over time, as I've reaped the enormous rewards of a tidy home, I've gotten used to regularly tidying, decluttering and cleaning, which creates space in our minds for creativity and positivity. If we're sitting in a dirty mess, we feel like a dirty mess.
There's something inherently satisfying about organising our space and our lives. It helps us to feel less anxious about the tasks that need doing. It helps us to feel more in control if we deal with the stack of unopened post collecting dust on the kitchen table.
Even if our living space isn't the loft apartment we'd like, if it's tidy, clean and smells good, then it helps us to feel good. A clean open space in our house creates a clean and free space in our mind - truly.
Here are some great tips for tidying by the decluttering wizard herself, Marie Kondo.
As a writer, I sit down every day at my Macbook and tap away on the keyboard, I rarely move my body while working. I've learned the hard way that if I don't do at least three types of physical exercise every week, my body starts to ache, and it also starts to affect my overall mood.
I prefer to exercise outside and enjoy long walks in the wilderness and woodlands. However, I've lived in The Pennines for most of my life where it rains most days, so I've had to find easy ways to exercise indoors.
My favourite method of indoor exercise is Yoga
If you've never tried it, I urge you to have a go. Nobody ever finishes a yoga session and says: '"I wish I hadn't done that". This ancient Indian practice has the power to change our mood entirely because it works on the body and the mind, and we can achieve this from only a short 20 minutes.
I've never come across anything so pleasurable as stretching my body while getting fit and healthy at the same time, and it doesn't even require much physical space to practice.
Yoga isn't about competing with others or doing headstands on the beach wearing a thong bikini - contrary to what you might have seen on Instagram. Yoga teaches us to accept ourselves for exactly who and where we are.
If you'd like to give it a try
Adriene's free 31-day course YOGA Revolution is a great resource. It's just 20-30 mins each session and it's suitable for complete beginners. Adriene is an amazing young woman, and she will look after you dearly.
Practising Yoga will not only keep you mentally fit and well, but it will also deliver a strong and toned body. A very nice side effect, don't you agree?
Yoga isn't for everyone. My Brazillian friend Luana, another female solo traveller who likes to stay fit on the road, prefers online HIIT sessions. Again, it's something you don't need any equipment for, and you can do it in a small space.
Processed foods contain too much sugar which leads to constant cravings, energy slumps and low mood, so it's best to avoid them altogether. Generally, try to make sure there's always something green on your plate. Always opt for whole grains - brown bread, brown rice, brown pasta etc. Eat plenty of fruit, veg and grains and make sure you get enough healthy protein - so you're not hungry and tired.
If we are mindful about what we put into our precious bodies, we feel better all round. Of course, we want our bodies to be in peak condition so that if we do contract the Coronavirus, we can fight it off as best we can.
Avoid Drinking Alcohol
It may be tempting to while away the hours drinking Sauvignon Blanc, especially if we're feeling low. It may seem like booze could offer a temporary reprieve from our situation, and occasionally it does, but we'll always pay for it later, often tenfold.
It's rarely discussed, but drinking alcohol is directly linked to negative thinking. I can testify from my own personal experience that this is true. Also, we tend to forget that alcohol is a poison and is damaging to our physical body. I'm not teetotal, I do enjoy a nice glass of red, but not when I'm trying to keep my mind and body in tip-top condition. It's just not worth it.
As I mentioned earlier, I live with anxiety and depression, so I know a thing or two about dealing with an unbalanced mind. I know what it's like to continually look back to the past with anger, hurt and resentment and then worry incessantly about the future - which I call the 'What-If Syndrome.'
This is when we think of all the possible bad things that might happen to us, our families, or the world:
The what-if syndrome.
- What if I get Coronavirus
- What if I die from Coronavirus
- What if I can't get any food?
- What if I can't get any medical supplies?
- What if I get lonely?
- What if I get depressed?
- What if my daughter gets Coronavirus?
The list goes on and on if we let it. These negative thoughts then impact our emotions and make us feel terrible.
We have to banish these thoughts. They are not helping us in any way.
Statistically, if we stick to the recommendations from our government it's unlikely we'll get infected - after all, we're in quarantine! Additionally, if we are unlucky and we do contract the Coronavirus, our anxious thoughts cannot save us either. What a waste of time worrying about it.
Years ago, I used to wait until I reached crisis point before paying any attention to my mind. Inevitably I would always end up stressed and anxious (because my life was out of balance in so many ways) before I practised any mental self-care.
While my life is very much in balance now, I still make an effort to look after my mind; firstly for my health, but also because it's enjoyable. I do this through meditation.
If you don't meditate, you might not know that meditation increases positive emotions and decreases depression, anxiety and stress.
Many people get confused about what meditation actually is when it's merely the stilling of the mind from thoughts. Thoughts influence our emotions and have a direct influence on how we're feeling so if we can reduce them, we immediately feel better. Whether our thoughts are positive or negative, we have up to 70 thousand a day, and it's exhausting.
Meditation is a very personal thing, and it might take a while for you to find a version you like. There are many different types - I suggest you try as many as possible and see which resonates. Here are some specific examples that people practice:
A very basic candle gazing meditation for beginners:
- Light a candle and place it on the table in front of you.
- Set a timer for 5 minutes.
- Sit comfortably and allow your eyes to focus on the flame.
- Thoughts will come and go but allow them to - keep bringing your attention back to the flame.
- Don't get involved with the thoughts - just witness them.
- Almost immediately, we start to feel our whole body relax - our shoulders drop, our jaws unclench, our body breathes a sigh of relief.
- If we pay attention, we start to feel a range of very subtle physical sensations in our physical body.
We can increase the time of the meditation every couple of days to 6 minutes, 8 minutes etc., and each time it will get more comfortable to just sit with yourself. Candle Gazing Meditation is very good for strengthening the mind and establishing a foundation for further meditation practice.
Meditation “practice.” is a practice - the more you do it, the easier and beneficial it becomes.
Practising gratitude is such a simple thing to do it continually bowls me over how healing it can be. Gratitude is so good for our heart that one study has found that it helps with cardiovascular disease.
When we practice gratitude regularly, it helps us to focus on the good in our lives, rather than the bad. There is always something that we can be grateful for - a roof over our heads, the fact that we're still alive, or that we have food on the table.
Practising gratitude is very simple. We simply make a note of the things in life that we're grateful for. I find that writing down three things that I'm thankful for each day is effective.
- My ability to accept what is happening right now
- My sister's support
- My daughter's sense of humour
- My comforting and warm slippers
I know most of you are going to find this a bit weird, I did when I first heard about it, but please hear me out.
When I was India, I learned about abhyanga, which is an ancient Indian technique that Indian's use daily.
Constant repetitive touch on the body releases endorphins which have been shown to reduce depression, anxiety and stress. The flow of the lymphatic system increases, which enhances our immune system, and it also increases circulation in the body and improves flexibility.
I wrote this post about abhyanga. It's an Ayurvedic self-massage technique, please take a look and have an open mind, give it a go, and see how you feel afterwards?
It's uplifting, healing, nurturing, therapeutic - and it sends a message to our body and mind that we love and respect ourselves.
If you don't have a hobby, it would be wise to get yourself one. I used to have plenty of hobbies when I was a kid - reading, writing stories, dancing and Woodcraft Folk. I then became a mother and had a busy career, so there wasn't any time for me to pursue them.
After years of being hobbyless, I found I had no idea of what I liked doing anymore? I discovered I still love doing all the things I enjoyed when I was a kid, and you will still love them too.
I could never in my wildest dreams foresee that acquiring hobbies would enrich my life in so many ways. They're satisfying, enriching, inspiring, and they allow us to connect deeply with ourselves.
Now that we're older we can also investigate other ideas. In essence, we might find significant enjoyment in hobbies perhaps our parents might not have been able to afford or new activities that weren't available years ago.
Hobbies that we'd have historically had to leave the house for, we can now do in our lovely warm home under a duvet because of the blessed internet. There are thousands of tutorials online to teach us new skills alongside a multitude of groups and platforms we can join.
Here's a few examples:
- Mindful Colouring
- Tarot reading
- Learning a new language
- Writing a handwritten letter to a loved one
- Having a long hot bath
- Online Courses
- Playing an instrument
I'm a lifelong learner and thrive on learning new things, and I've done multiple online courses both for work and pleasure. Why not use this time to get an extra qualification and go back to work with more feathers in your cap? Or use it to start that project you've always wanted to but never found the time?
Udemy is an excellent site for low-cost, high-quality courses on more or less any subject.
EdX is another excellent site which is free:
"EdX is the trusted platform for education and learning. Founded by Harvard and MIT, edX is home to more than 20 million learners, the majority of top-ranked universities in the world and industry-leading companies."
Contact with friends and family
Even though I live a solitary life physically, I have daily contact with my friends and family through Whatsapp and Messenger etc. We are social beings, and we do need to connect with others. Make sure you reach out if you need support.
If you don't have any family and your social circle is small, there are many Facebook groups we can use to connect with others. These groups generally revolve around specific topics. If you're single like me, you can even find groups specifically for single people who want to communicate in a space that isn't about dating.
Here's an example of my current routine:
06 00 Get up
06 30 Meditate
07 00 Start working
10 00 Break and have breakfast
12 00 Resume working
15 00 Finish and have lunch
16 00 Go for a walk
17.00 Speak to my family and friends
18.00 Cook dinner
19 00 Relax -Netflix -Read -Speak to friends
22 00 Bed
Sometimes things can go wrong. Even when we're looking after ourselves to the best of our ability, we can start to struggle. Before we know it, things can become unmanageable. I've been through it all before, multiple times and I'm happy to share whatever I know in the hope that we can all stay smiling. If this happens, here are some resources below:
Ok that's it for now folks
Remember to stay positive. Stick to a routine, prioritise your own wellbeing, move your body, meditate, practise gratitude, eat well, take up a hobby or do an online course. And of course... there's always Netflix. We can do this!
Thank you so much for reading the guide. I hope you manage to take at least one useful thing from it. Please feel free to reach out to me at Hannah@TheFutureOf40.com if you have any comments or suggestions or any resources you'd like to add to it.
Please come and say 'hi' on Instagram or Facebook.
** Disclaimer - I'm not a doctor or medically trained in any way. I'm just a writer, who's lived with anxiety and depression for most of my life, and I'm sharing what works for me. **
Finally, if you're wondering why I spend so much time alone...
My life started to become quieter when I stopped drinking alcohol regularly. I realised that I had two sets of friends, those who like to go out drinking, and those with small children and families. I didn't fit into either of those categories. Recently divorced, and with a teenage daughter who was gaining independence, I started to find myself alone a lot of the time.
It was hard at first; it felt uncomfortable. But as the months wore on and I got to know myself better, I found that I enjoyed my own company. I loved spending hours reading ancient textbooks and stories from faraway lands and discovering my penchant for dystopian fiction. I loved going walking and exploring new woodlands and rivers and hidden paths. I enjoy meditating and practising Yoga and finding out more about myself. I love investigating strange stories and ideas that I read about online. I love researching new places and then visiting them. I love meeting new people from cultures different and seeing what I can learn from them. I spent months researching Vietnam and then moved there for a while.
As a mother and usually always with a partner, I'd never spent the time finding out what it is I really liked doing, or who I even was?
Secondly, I'm a freelance writer, and I work from home. I have no colleagues, I have nobody to say “hi” to in the morning or find out what others were up to over the weekend. I do struggle with this on an odd day, but I'm vigilant, and I follow all of the steps above, and I'm more than fine. I don't miss the office parties or having to ask my boss if I can attend a medical appointment.
As I walked down this unknown path of personal development, I discovered that I'm a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP). This means that I'm overly sensitive to external environments and people, and I get exhausted when I'm exposed to them for long periods.
All of life is a compromise. In some spiritual circles, we are taught that life is like a buffet, and we can simply choose what we take and how we live. This is true to some extent, but on the other hand, we can't live in London and Paris at the same time? I'm ok with the compromises I have to make and the life that I lead. I acknowledge it will seem strange to many, but my life is abundant and meaningful in a way more than I could have ever imagined.
By Hannah Anstee
To receive stimulating and absorbing stories to help us try and make sense of our world please get on my email list. I talk about Being a Woman, Mental Health, & Female Solo Travel.
Hannah Anstee is a former British Wellness Journalist turned Women’s Coach & Mentor.
You may know her from her work as Beauty Editor at YOGA Magazine or her contributions to The Independent or Psychologies Magazine.
Using her no bullsh*t approach Hannah helps single women (inc. single parents) feel more confident so they can live an exciting and meaningful life with no apologies.