A Student Survival Guide To Self-Isolation

Posted 13 Mar 2020
By Dr Dominique Thompson
student on phone and laptop

I’m guessing that if you are one of the many people around the world currently hiding away in self-isolation due to Coronavirus, that this was not on your to-do list for 2020…?! 

And if you haven’t had to self-isolate yet, then, unfortunately, it may be something that becomes necessary very soon due to the spread of COVID-19. This article is not offering medical advice, there’s plenty of excellent expert advice available if you need it. Instead, today’s blog hopes to inspire you to get creative and not go stir-crazy!

Make the best of a bad situation

When you were happily making your New Year’s Resolutions 2 months ago, or excitedly planning your adventures for the year ahead, you probably never considered having to spend day after day entertaining or distracting yourself (within a fairly confined space). But here we are, so, to be honest, you probably have 2 basic options for getting through this challenging time. 

You can either get upset and frustrated and generally exhaust yourself with negativity (which is understandable - but not necessarily helpful) or you can choose to accept the situation and try to make the best of a rubbish scenario.

If you can, try to ‘re-frame’ (change the context of) the difficult situation, and make it something useful, practical and even positive, and get stuff done. It won’t be easy, but here are a few suggestions that might help to make the time pass more quickly, and still allow you to feel like you are achieving something, or having a bit of fun with your (more empty) days.

Break the days into ‘manageable chunks’

Blocks of an hour or two, then decide on activities for each block. Don’t look too far ahead, and focus on each day. It makes the time seem less overwhelming and might even feel like it goes more quickly. If it helps, draw out a timetable and fill it in with activities for each block of time, and each day.

Get into a routine

Don’t spend all day in bed, just because you can - unless you are actually unwell. Get up when it’s daylight and go to bed at a reasonable time. Eat regular meals and snacks. Tune into lectures or webinars online, if they are available to you. Don’t let the days blend into one, as it will feel endless and confusing. 

You’ve got work to finish

Now is the time! Research your essays, revise or plan your projects- look up the ‘extra/ bonus info’ you wouldn’t normally have time to and make your work even better. Really grasp the opportunity to get ‘stuck in’, and do something you’re really proud of. If you’ve always wanted to write a blog, or an article, or even a book, make a start. Use the ‘headspace’ and quiet solitude to let your mind wander and be creative.

Get creative!

If writing is not your thing, then be creative in other ways- plan some holidays and trips for when you are ‘free’ again. Scroll through websites of beautiful, faraway places (avoid checking the news websites too often), check out Instagram travel feeds, dream about where you might visit, and start to plan or create a ‘mood board’ of travel ideas. If that feels all too much, try being creative on a smaller scale- and make birthday cards for people you care about- you might not normally have time, but it will mean a lot to them!

Exercise (gently)

In your space, use the floor for yoga/ Pilates, or do star jumps and squats. Don’t overdo it, but maybe have breaks from your other activities, and do a few stretches, or if you feel up to it, go crazy to a Zumba video on YouTube. Open the windows and make sure you get some fresh air every day. If you can go outside that’s even better, but be guided by up to date medical advice.

Be sociable (online!)

You may not be able to see people in person, but don’t isolate yourself from your loved ones, and try to stay upbeat where you can, to help each other through. Try to avoid feeling like you’re in ‘solitary confinement’ if you possibly can. If you’re really struggling and feeling down, of course, it is important to ensure a person you trust is aware. 

Talk to them regularly to help you through. We (student support professionals) always tell people that they are ‘not alone’ when supporting them, and it is still true now, even if you feel physically alone. Don’t forget all those people out there who love you, even if they can’t hug you today. Give each other virtual hugs via technology. If you need more help, check out the NHS website.

Relax when you can

If you love films or TV then you have a brilliant opportunity to binge-watch the series you have been meaning to see for ages or relax in front of all the 80s’ films of John Cusack or Molly Ringwald (trust me, they’re well worth a look- and the very definition of ‘feel-good movies’, which might be just what you need!). If you’re a big fan of a particular actor or director, treat yourself, and catch up on their back catalogue. Make yourself a cosy nest in your room, and settle in to watch some quality entertainment.

Organise your life

And finally - have a really good sort out of your clothes, decide what you want to keep, what would make for a good swap with friends (in a week or two…), and what might be ready for donation to a charity shop or clothes recycling point. It will feel productive to do, and you’ll be doing something nice for others as a bonus.

The next few weeks and months are going to tough for a lot of people, and self-isolation will never be fun, but I hope that this gives you a few ideas to make it more bearable, and together we will get through whatever 2020 throws at us, as best we can.

For more advice or support check out Dominique’s Student Wellbeing Series of books

Posted 13 Mar 2020
By Dr Dominique Thompson