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The Transition to Social Isolation

Social isolation sounds scary. It sounds like being cut off from everyone we love, unable to speak to them to find out what’s going on in their lives. Thankfully, with the modern-day inventions, we have multiple tools to help us stay in touch. We aren’t relying on the Pony Express to get news from our loved ones or the world.

But being stuck at home is a shift for a lot of people. This goes beyond a long weekend or a planned vacation. This is vastly different. There will be a transition time. Let me repeat that.

There will be transition time.

Expect it. Plan for it.

And don’t beat yourself up if you struggle through this transition.

You’re going to feel antsy, out of your element, and stir-crazy at first. This may initially feel like an extended weekend, but as time goes on, it won’t. But if you approach this with mindfulness, it might turn out to be something amazing.

I work at home, so social isolation is sort of my thing. It didn’t use to be, but after an illness that left me bedbound for months, I discovered a few tricks to help me get through. Now I thrive working at home and couldn’t ever imagine going back to a traditional job.

Maybe being a Gen-Xer helped my transition, since growing up I was expected to entertain myself. If I was bored, it was my fault. And there were only so many times I could watch Prince, Madonna, and Wham! music videos before I turned off the boob-tube.

Here are a few things you can do to help transition a bit smoother. Some of this is routine, some distraction, and other bits are self-care.

Get up at your normal time or close to it. Do your normal morning routine, whatever that might be. Coffee, toast, a shower, and so on. And do your best to go to sleep at the same time. Easier said than done for some, but try. Life will run smoother while in social isolation and as you transition back to your regular life.

Put your shoes on. This might sound crazy, but it puts you in a different mindset and you get more done rather than flailing about. My husband started this on weekends years ago, and it made a big difference for him. For me, putting on pants in more important. Haha. I hate pants but they make me more productive.

Get outside a few times a day if safe. Do you have a deck, a porch, a front step? Go sit in the sunlight and get some fresh air. It’s amazing what it can do for the body and soul.

Do that thing you never had the time for. Have you wanted to learn to knit? Is your to-be-read pile so high that you’re afraid of a slight breeze? Do you have seeds left over from years of wishful thinking? Plant them in an egg carton or a spare pot and see if they still germinate. Watching them grow is fascinating and will entertain everyone in your house.

Do that deep cleaning you always put off. This will be my thing. I’m doing a deep-dive into my kitchen cupboards. I’ll unearth food we can likely use if push comes to shove, and I’ll organize. Win-win.

Get your kids involved in projects of their own. Maybe this is the time to teach them how to cook or build a shelf or, imagine, clean their rooms! Include them in your own projects, giving them age-appropriate tasks.

Expect to get done about half of what you thought you’d get done. I say this so you don’t lose your mind. When I first started working at home as a full-time writer, I was like, “Yes, finally! I easily churned out 10,000 words on a weekend, so now I should be able to write at least 30,000 each week. Two novels a month. I’m gonna be prolific!” That ended up being a fallacy.

Be kind to yourself. Don’t immerse yourself in the news. Step away from social media and check it a few times a day rather than living on it. Make sure you eat and drink enough water. Listen to great music. Watch fun movies. Take care of your mind and body and soul.

Have a goal each day, no matter how tiny. Write it down. Check it off when you accomplish it. When I was first stuck at home, I felt useless, like I accomplished nothing, but when I wrote down a goal, no matter how tiny, my days felt more fulfilled.

If you live with other people, expect to fight. Transitions bring about volatility until you find your new balance. You might argue over the division of labor or the noise level. It might be over bigger things that have been left dormant until now.

Expect fights and take breaks.

Find a spot where you can be alone. If you live in a one-room or open-plan space, tell the people around you that you need alone time.

Put in some earbuds and listen to your favorite music or discover something new. Read a book. If you’ve been hedging on whether to try Kindle Unlimited, now might be a good time. I’ve had it for about a year and I love it. You can try out Kindle Unlimited for a month free before you decide if it’s for you, and since you have time on your hands . . .

Knowing what to expect during a transition is half the battle, so expect life to be shitty for a bit. Distract yourself. Take care of yourself. Communicate with the people around you if you need space. And be kind to yourself and those you love.

We’ll get through this.

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