How to get through self isolation in a small apartment
Stick to routine
It’s the biggy and a cliche of working from home guides, but routine really does matter. If you’re able to work from home that will help a lot. You need to be getting up at a similar time each morning, but also going to bed and getting enough sleep. There’s nothing like sleep-deprivation to send you round the bend.
Also, get dressed. That doesn’t mean suit and tie, but it does mean trousers, even if your colleagues can’t see your pyjamas on the video call. Also try and keep a distinction between work and home hours. It will be extra tempting now that your living room is your office to reply to emails at all hours. Don’t. Switch on do not disturb, or better, switch off your work phone. You need to be able to unwind from work, even without the obvious off switch of a commute.
Indeed, try and make a routine out of stopping work – whether it’s the simple act of closing and putting your laptop away, or an intricate Japanese tea ceremony, create an association with the shift from office hours to home time.
If you don’t have to work, that makes things a lot harder, but still try and demarcate your day. Have daytime projects which are separate to your evening relaxation.
But also break your routine
Your day should have a routine, but your free time shouldn’t. Don’t, for example, watch a film every single night at 8pm. Just because you’re stuck at home doesn’t mean you can’t have a bit of variety.
Have a fancy dinner (more on cooking in a moment) and stay at the dining table talking for an evening. You might think that having spent all day at home, you’ll have nothing to talk about, but trust me you will. For one, chances are you’ve spent all day staring at a laptop, taking phone calls and generally ignoring your housemates/partner.
You’ll still have stupid emails, annoying boss stories and funny internet jokes to share. Or you might find yourself with the time and perspective to discuss bigger plans and topics you’ve been putting off for a while.
If there are enough people in your household, play a board game. Phone or video call your friends and relatives. Shake things up. Getting stuck in an entertainment rut is a surefire way to end up like Jack Torrance.
Make use of what space you have
As with the work and home hours, it helps to have some kind of mental separation for what happens where in your home. It’s not easy when you’ve got a tiny flat, but it’s still perfectly doable.
For example, my bedroom is incredibly sunny in the mornings, so at the weekends I stay in there until lunch and try and read. That way, I’m away from the living room, which in my mind is for work and watching TV. The converse is that you shouldn’t ever work in bed. It may seem a small thing, but it creates a distinction between work and play and weekends and work days.
Even if you are in a broom cupboard studio flat you can still do it. Pick a spot to be your home office and stick to it. If you watch TV and read on the sofa, then don’t do your work on it too, keep that at the table.
You should be able to go somewhere in your home and instantly feel that you are no longer at work.
If you can get outside, fantastic. The new lockdown rules include going out once a day for exercise for a reason; it’s essential to your mental and physical health. If you can’t (because you’re self-isolating say), or you don’t want to run around the now pollution-free streets, you can still exercise at home.
It might require some creative furniture moving and things are a bit more interesting if you happen to have weights of some kind at home, but being living room-bound is no barrier to getting a sweat on.
YouTube is full of great (and dodgy) exercise videos. My personal preference is Bodyfit by Amy. It’s a bit cheerful and American, but she’s got tonnes of videos for all abilities (and pregnancy-statuses) and they can be done easily at home.
If, like my girlfriend, you find cooking stressful then maybe try and avoid it. If like me, you find it relaxing and therapeutic then embrace it, you’ll be cooking at home a lot for the next few months.
There are challenges. The state of the supermarkets means that you might not be able to buy everything you need, and the new lockdown rules mean you shouldn’t be popping out for a bit of coriander. But use that as an opportunity to get creative and a little crafty. Try variations of your favourites.
If you haven’t cooked much, research what makes a good recipe. Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering The Art of Good Cooking by Samin Nosrat is a good and highly successful book on the theory of cooking and there’s a Neflix series too.
That being said, a bit of planning helps. You shouldn’t be stockpiling, but if all you can find is fresh vegetables that will go off soon, don’t worry, buy them up. You can freeze herbs and veg (if you blanch and shock them first), or you can bulk cook base sauces such as sofrito and freeze those instead.
If you’re kitchen is big enough cooking can also be a great social event.
Give each other space
Whether your home is huge or tiny, it’s important to give your housemate, whether they are your relatives or partner or just friends, space.
That doesn’t need to be literal. It can be as simple as using headphones to watch TV so that they can do their own thing. Don’t interrupt them all the time when they’re reading. All good housemate stuff really, but if you live alone with your partner it might take a little adjustment.
Working long hours and going to bed early, my instincts are usually to make use of every hour I have with my girlfriend. But it’s not quite the same if you’re stuck at home. If you want to read or browse Reddit on your own in the bedroom, do it. You’ll have plenty more hours together to come.
A lot of the above may seem obvious, but it can be easy to lose sight of it and develop bad habits when all your days are blurring into one. Remember, just because you’re stuck at home doesn’t mean every day has to be the same.