Adventures in Isolation
Last July I was a living kidney donor for my husband. We were very fortunate to be part of the NHS Kidney Sharing Scheme which allowed me to donate to a stranger and and my husband to receive one in return from someone else. It's an incredible feat of logistics and we were so grateful to be part of it as most patients who need a kidney have to wait on the National List for a deceased donor and the wait on average is 3 years.
Why I am I telling you this? Well, post op my husband and I were both of work and home for about 3 months. And now nine months on we find ourselves in a similar position due to his high vulnerability as a transplant patient with a lowered immune system. That period of three months last summer taught us a lot about to last a long period stuck at home with someone and now feels like a good time to share those lessons because let's face it - there are limits on how much time you can spend with one person, no matter how much you love them!
So, to help get you through the next weeks and months as we all get used to spending time at home here are my tips on staying safe and sane.
Communication and connection. A big one and an important one. Whoever you are sharing space with, it's so important to keep up communications, especially when things are getting tense. Tell each other how you feel; ask for what you need; be open when your boundaries are challenged; put as much (or more) effort into listening as you do talking.
Communication is so important as we often make assumptions about what other people are thinking as well as assuming that people know what we are thinking. Saying it out loud clears up any doubt. And if you are home alone, then communication with other people via phone, Skype/Zoom, social media etc becomes even more important to make sure you still feel connected to the outside world. Check in with people and ask them to check in with you too.
Schedules and routines. If you are going to be working from home and sharing your space with someone, perhaps even home schooling too then you are going to need a schedule. As my husband is so vulnerable, we have had to go as far as schedule bathroom and meal times for each of us so we can minimise risk and exposure to any germs.
Even if you don't need to go that far, it's still going to be useful to have a schedule around who is making meals; when is work time and when is together time; when you want to have alone time and when you want company. Do you need to plan in meals so you can make sure you are getting proper breaks and good, nutritious food into you? Do you need to plan housekeeping chores so it's not all falling on one person?
Spending a lot of time at home can start to feel surreal so having structure - still getting up at a set time; getting washed & having breakfast; doing your morning practice. exercising etc - will all help you to feel a little more ordered and help keep you sane.
Self care. The Covid-19 virus is highly contagious and symptoms take 10-14 days to show up. That's why it is important to wash your hands often, and also be aware of your clothes, bags etc that if you take them outside the house and come in contact with other people may need a wipe down when you get home too.
This is also a great time to put a bit more focus on yourself and indulge in some restorative pampering. Give yourself a home manicure; take an extra long bath or shower; build up a mediation practice to help you feel more centred and grounded. Getting plenty of fresh air (at a distance!) is also a great way to top up your energy and feel more in touch with yourself and nature. If you are an extrovert then your self care may require you to find ways to be safely social - perhaps schedule a virtual drinks party via Face time with a friend, or join an online live yoga class?
Boundaries at a time like this are important too. Physically they help keep you safe if you ask people to keep their distance, but emotionally they can protect your energy too. Make sure those who are sharing your space are aware of your boundaries - what you will and will not accept, but also have them in place to help separate work/study from home. Avoid checking your emails in the evening; have a set time for when you start work, make time for lunch breaks and let work colleagues know you are going to be unavailable at those times.
Be gentle with yourself too. This is new for most of us and its going to take a while to get use to a new way of normal so being clear on your boundaries early on will help avoid overwhelm as time goes on.
They are probably the key ones - get those right as strong foundation that you can build from and wrap the whole thing up with kindness and patience. This is a time of unprecedented crisis and uncertainty for the whole planet and it feels like it could lead us to a time of collective healing also. And that starts with compassion and understanding for each other and ourselves.
I don't know what comes next or what the world will look like when it comes to pass, I just know for now we only have each other and the most vulnerable of us are dependent on those who are stronger to act in the favour of the greater good.