The coronavirus outbreak is leading the country and, in fact, the world toward an unavoidable discomfort in the form of lockdown.
Call it “shelter in place,” “self-isolation” or “mandatory quarantine,” it doesn’t really matter. Americans of all classes, ages and races are set for extended periods of time in their homes, and with that comes an inordinate amount of stress and anxiety attached to a lack of stimulus.
The expression stir crazy stems from slang terms people used to describe the prison experience in 19th century England and it’s one you’ll be hearing a lot more as people struggle with the feeling of being isolated from friends and loved ones in the coming months. Many elder care facilities are already closing their doors to visitors to reduce the risk of exposure to the virus and senior living communities are ramping up testing to the point of offering drive thru testing sites.
Reports have surfaced suggesting that the U.S. could follow in the footsteps of other countries grappling with this crisis and implement lockdown, complete with curfews and a ban on all restaurants and non-essential stores. If this is to happen, older adults will need to prepare both physically and psychologically for the shut-in period. Mismanaging this situation has potentially dire consequences as many people of all ages emerge from periods of isolation with symptoms of PTSD, according to a study published in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases.
With that in mind, here are some tips to help you prepare for extended periods locked indoors.
Plan, Don’t Panic Buy
Whether it’s meals, projects or activities, you’ll want to start your preparation by thinking of a detailed list of ingredients you’ll commonly need to cook healthy dishes with in addition to non-perishable materials you can pull from in case lockdown lasts longer than a few weeks.
Anything you need to do projects around the house and to sustain yourself for a matter of weeks should be sought out during this period. Things like flour to bake with, rice, pasta and canned vegetables can go a long way. Think of a variety of meals and always keep plenty of seasoning, oils and proteins that can be frozen in stock. The difference between a pandemic and a natural disaster is that you’ll have power, running water and all the amenities of modern life available, so there is no need to go overboard on things like bottled water and paper products.
Create Ways to Exercise
Whether it’s investing in some free weights, a badminton set for the backyard or taking up some interactive gaming, it’s important that you keep fit during a time that could easily see an increase in sedentary behaviors. Exercise can provide purpose to your day and significantly improve your mood.
If you’re the outdoorsy type, this is a good time to take up projects in the yard or a DIY project. If you enjoy a bike ride, consider getting the materials to convert your street bike to a stationary bike, be it through a fancy stand you buy or a DIY version using nothing more than some lumber from the hardware store and the tools in your garage.
Cope by Catching Up on Reading
Haven’t had time to read that next novel? When was the last time you read a magazine cover to cover? Reading provides a great way to lose track of time and keep the brain stimulated through storytelling. If you’re looking for something to pick up from the bookstore before it closes or order off of Amazon, there are a variety of quarantine reading lists being published each day by practically any publication you can think of.
Challenging the mind is essential during times like these. TV, radio and the computer can entertain for a bit, but after a while, each can become a bit mind numbing. When you need a break and don’t feel like picking up that book, try working on a puzzle. The bigger the better as a good challenge gives you something to work towards and provides a sense of achievement when it’s done.
Familiarize Yourself with Communications Technology
Isolation can fuel feelings of depression and loneliness, which can cause a great deal of stress and have negative effects of cognition if prolonged. Keeping in touch with friends and family through platforms like FaceTime and Skype can help you feel like you’ve been hanging out with friends or spending time with the family. Humans are creatures stimulated by visuals, so it’s important to have some face-to-face interaction.
At the end of all this, it’s how you manage your isolation period that will determine your health when you come out the other side of it. Plan your days to be full of mental, physical and social stimulation as best you can, and you’ll find that surviving COVID-19’s isolation periods isn’t nearly as bad as being shut in due to a hurricane or a blizzard.