Curing cabin fever: how to make self-isolation fun


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Anna Wood

From treasure hunts to deep cleans, Anna Wood has plenty of isolation-friendly activity ideas to keep you entertained.

As you should all be very much aware by now, coronavirus has recently been declared a pandemic. Countries such as Italy have gone into lockdown, with schools, colleges and workplaces closed and all but the most essential public services suspended. At the time of writing, the Scottish Government has recently cancelled all large gatherings of people, and the possibility of either some or most of our readers having to self-isolate to contain the spread of the virus seems more and more likely. While this is a responsible and effective way of containing pandemics, it can also induce cabin fever: my personal plan is to re-read Love in the Time of Cholera for the cultural relevance and to annoy the neighbours with music practice, but this won’t be for everybody. So, in the event that you do find yourself locked in your flat for a 14-day quarantine, what should you do to pass the time? Here are a few suggestions: 

Finish all your uni assignments

Even though some exams have been cancelled, many courses still have essays, projects, or dissertations to hand in, and a period of self-isolation might well be something of a blessing in disguise for those of us who have been putting off assignments in the hope of making them go away. Concentration can be more difficult outside of the library, but moving to a different room rather than just staying in your bedroom can help with this – as can studying with the flatmates you will almost definitely be quarantined with. The lack of actual hard copies of books may be a problem for some courses and essays. If you think this might affect you, make sure to either check that the relevant texts are available as e-books or downloads, or let your lecturers/whoever is marking your work know: they may well be able to scan in a few chapters, or be a bit more flexible with the essay question.

Sort out the flat

Remember when you were little and your mum used to make you try on all your clothes once a year to see if they still fitted? This is an opportunity to do the adult version of that. Iron all your smart clothes. Work out your new look. Do some light DIY. Unblock the kitchen sink after the previous flat occupants shoved a load of food in it. Finally, find out what’s in the hall cupboard. Clean, even, if you get really fed up.

Flat games

As the official inventor of Sudden Death Monopoly and a contributor to the creation of Guess The Song That Is In My Head (it was a very long traffic jam), I am arguably no stranger to making up new and interesting ways of passing the time. One of the biggest challenges of a two week isolation period is the lack of opportunities for exercise; whether you’re a gym rat or not, physical activity is something we all need. Yoga and other exercise regimes that don’t need a lot of equipment can be good for this, but why not use the time and furniture to do something a bit more exciting? Remember the famous game from childhood, The Floor Is Lava? Students with time on their hands could easily work out an extended whole flat version with an intricate scoring system and a three-day tournament. Wheelie-chair hockey with tennis balls and mops. Interactive Take Me Out (watching Take Me Out with a torch and playing along with the “lights on, lights off”) is surprisingly entertaining. Drinking games that progress around different rooms in the flat, advanced hide and seek, treasure hunts; yes, I have done all of these things.

Get creative

If your world has shrunk to four walls and your flatmates, why not widen reality a little using the power of the imagination? Get working on the song/book/play you always said you were going to write. Do some drawing. Or, better yet, team up with your flatmates/whoever you’re quarantining with and work out something you can do together. Present the news from your flat. Make a podcast or a video diary of what you’ve been doing while you’re all self-isolating (bonus points for pretending it’s a zombie apocalypse/abandoned spaceship/alien invasion situation). Produce the first-ever edition of Vogue Glasgow. Film your flat’s edition of Masterchef. String up a sheet and do some shadow puppetry. 

And most importantly…stay in touch with people

However much we all like to joke that we’re already self-isolating, human beings are sociable creatures. One of the biggest challenges of a period of coronavirus isolation will be the lack of contact with other people. We all feel better when we’re in contact with others and if you think it’s likely you will need to self-isolate and you’re living on your own, try and see if there’s someone in the same situation you can move in with while it’s going on. Be kind to your flatmates: people will probably be stressed, and it’s important to remember that tense situations are tough for everybody. Be kind to yourself: don’t beat yourself up if the isolation’s getting to you. Remember it’s the quality of the communication with others that’s important: posting memes to the group chat is all well and good, but a phone call or skype/video chat will leave you feeling a lot better. Email people updating them on what’s going on. Set up a regular phone chat/group call with your friends so you’re guaranteed to hear from them and not just relying on someone suggesting it. Keep in contact with any elderly relatives or family friends you might have, and watch out for them as much as you can – this might mean organising with other family members for deliveries of food to be taken for them, or similar practical measures. If you have a health condition that needs medication, order prescriptions in. Lastly, keep an eye on what information you’re consuming, and where it’s coming from. It’s a serious situation, but there are precautions we can all take to minimise it, and if you feel yourself becoming anxious, panicked or overwhelmed, take a step back from news sources for a while. The news isn’t a party – they’re not going to wonder where you’ve gone.


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