Staying at Home Survival Guide
Coronavirus and Social Distancing for Students
by Lindsey Turnbull
If you haven’t been asked to ‘self-isolate’ or ‘practice social distancing’ yet, it is likely that you will be asked to soon. All around the US, cities are asking folks to stay in- including closing schools, restaurants, malls, movie theaters, etc. in order to slow the spread of this rapidly moving illness and prevent hospitals from overflowing.
I don’t want to focus too much on the actual illness, so I’ll just cover the basics. In 2019, the novel coronavirus appeared in Wuhan, China. It’s novel because it jumped from animals to humans. That means there is no vaccine, no known treatment, and no one has a natural immunity to it. COVID-19, the official term for it, causes symptoms that are mild to severe and can include a high fever, persistent cough, shortness of breath, and other respiratory issues. It can take up to 14 days from being exposed to the virus to become sick, meaning for 14 days, we could be walking around, putting germs all over the place, without meaning to.
We are seeing that this virus spreads REALLY quickly (like, doubling every few days) AND that many people who become infected require hospital treatment. All over the world, countries simply do not have enough hospital beds, staff, and equipment to care for all of the people who are sick. At the same time, hospital staff are getting the virus, meaning there are even fewer people to care for those with COVID19.
Basically, it all means that we can’t all get sick at once, or hospitals, doctors, nurses, etc. will be literally flooded with people and there will not be enough room nor caretakers for them. Vulnerable people with underlying issues (like me, I have asthma!) and elderly people are at much greater risk of complications, including death. This also means that it will be harder for people with other medical issues to be seen AND will also make them more likely to get infected with COVID-19. So, if I were to fall and break my leg, I may be made to wait a long time to be seen AND then get sick with COVID-19 while I’m waiting, which means my body would have to work doubly hard to get healthy and I’d require double the care. Even in the early stages of this infection in the US, we are seeing hospitals FULL of infected people, not enough supplies like gloves and masks for nurses and doctors, and the truth is, most people aren’t even being tested.
This is why we are being asked to stay home; to slow the spread of a very dangerous, potentially deadly disease. It’s not about us as individuals- it’s about US as human beings. You or I may not get sick, or not get very sick, but people we come into contact with everyday might. Alright, enough about the actual illness. You’re STUCK. AT. HOME. Now what?
Anyway, here are some tips, ideas, and suggestions for making it through the quarantine/self-isolation/social distancing without a major case of cabin fever.
ROUTINE ROUTINE ROUTINE
Routines sound SO boring, but really, they’re comforting. They’re a tool we can put to work in difficult times. Our brains like patterns. Our routines have abruptly changed very drastically, causing our brains to go WHOA HEY I DON’T LIKE THIS. Creating your own routine (whether it includes virtual learning or not) is really helpful. It gives you structure that makes your brain happy.
Now, your routine doesn’t have to look like it would during a normal school day! It could include “morning routine,” “read a book for fun from 10-12,” “cook a new meal for lunch,” “go outside from 1-2.” You can be creative!
If you do have virtual schooling, create a space to go to watch your classes/do work. This tells your brain it’s time to get into school mode. Staying in bed IS tempting, but it will make it super hard to sleep at night, and can damage your mental wellness.
Also, be sure to include hygiene in your routine. It’s really easy when we don’t see people to forget about things like showering and brushing teeth and doing laundry. Please do those things to keep your body and mind healthy. Also, your family doesn’t want to smell you.
Feel Your Feelings! All of them. Even the hard ones.
With so much sudden upheaval and change, it’s totally normal and healthy to feel a LOT of things. Anger, fear, numbness, confusion, even grief for ‘losing’ the end of your school year. Feel them. The more you fight against your feelings, the harder it is to move past them. Accept your feelings. Say “I feel sad/angry/scared right now, and that’s ok.” You’ll be surprised what a little bit of self-compassion can do.
Burying your feelings, or writing them off (for example, “I shouldn’t be mad, so many people have it worse.”) only makes you feel WORSE.
Embrace What You Can Control, Think, and Do
We can’t change the corona outbreak. We can’t shop our way out of it (TP hoarders, I’m looking at you) or think our way out of it. We have to wait it out. That is what we can ALL do. We can control how we choose to spend our days during this time: do we lay in bed/stare at the walls? Or do we read new books, watch new TV shows, code a new app, go outside more?
Instead of focusing on all the things you CAN’T do, look for the things you CAN do. You can’t go to the mall, but you can have a watch party, go outside, or clean your room. This is a good mental tool even when there’s NOT a global pandemic, by the way.
Social Media Distancing Too
Nearly all of the MissHeard Teen Advisors said they were spending more time online since this started AND that it was making them tired or more anxious.
We all want to be informed- but we all do NOT need up-to-the-second stats on outbreaks, deaths, hospitalizations, etc. Give yourself a specific amount of time to watch/read news and news related things each day, then turn it off. Do something else for the same amount of time- even if its on the phone: call a friend, learn a new TikTok dance, whatever you like. Avoid overwhelm!
Find Things To Do
You don’t have to be “productive” every second of every day, even while there’s a global pandemic on. That said, staying busy and active, doing things, can be really helpful for your brain. It WANTS to think. Why not give it something positive to think about?
Here’s a small list of non-school-related things you can do, ranging from neutral to positive, that will keep you occupied:
- Deep clean your room, rearrange your furniture, sort clothes to donate
- Have a Skype/Facetime Chat
- Learn a new hobby from YouTube videos and tutorials
- Teach yourself a new TikTok dance
- Clean up your computer/phone storage
- Write a letter to a friend on nice stationary, the way old fashioned way
- Facetime with your family, especially any who may need some extra comfort
- Do something you’ve always wanted to try, just for fun, without worrying about how it will turn out
- Try a meditation, breathing, or yoga app
- Read a book, watch a movie, play a game
- Go for walks/runs in your area (keeping a good distance from others) and look for something different everyday (Count all the red flowers in bloom, look for only green cars, etc.) At least sit on your porch if you can- the fresh air and sunshine go a long way in maintaining mental health!
- Do that thing you’ve been putting off
- Make a vision board or write out your goals for the future
- Build a fort to read/watch movies in
- Try a new recipe everyday
- Offer to help a neighbor or relative who may need someone to run errands for them
- Set up digital borrowing, if you have a library account and get some ebooks
- Google Virtual museum tours, free opera streaming, aquarium/zoo cams, anything that makes you smile
- Do the things you know are comforting: favorite books, movies, PJs, games, etc.
When You Run Out Of Things To Do, Embrace Boredom
Seriously. We are SO USED to having entertainment constantly at our literal fingertips. We basically have forgotten how to be still, how to be bored, how to let our minds wander. Try it. The saying is that necessity is the mother of invention, but I’d bet boredom is a close second.
PATIENCE. At least try.
Whenever there are people in close quarters in the BEST of situations, they are going to get on each others nerves. Even if they’re family. Especially if they’re family. Remember that everyone is a little bit on edge, a little nervous, a little angry, a little scared, and try to act with compassion. People will yell without meaning to. You will be angry for no reason. Practice patience with yourself and those around you.
Resources and Help
There’s no shame in asking for and taking help if you need it. Many local schools are giving away free meals every day so that students don’t go hungry. If you need one, take it.
There are online chats taking place all over, including @TeensSpeakUp, who are hosting Tues/Thurs 7-8pEST calls for free on social justice topics. Anyone can join. If you can’t find one you like, start one. You have everything you need on the device you’re using to read this. Reach out to someone you trust!
You can text TALK to 741741 at the Crisis Text Line or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1800 273-TALK (8255) if you’re struggling or need someone to talk to. If you are quarantined with someone who is hurting you, please reach out to a hotline like The Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Call 911 in an emergency.
Remember: It’s not forever. And we’re all in the same boat.
This is a truly unique global situation. All over the world, people are having very similar experiences. Although we may feel isolated or distant, it can be helpful to remember that we aren’t alone and that this will pass.
This is temporary and we are all in it together. Make that your mantra.
How are you feeling? I’m here if you want to talk. Schedule a 30-minute video chat with me if you’d like help planning a routine, coming up with things to do, or just want to look at someone who doesn’t live with you.
If you’re feeling expressive, I’d love to share your story, article, art, playlist, etc. on the MissHeard Media blog! Use the contact form to reach out.