This blog by Trailblazer Emma Vogelmann is the first in a series on life during the coronavirus pandemic as a young disabled person. We will be featuring stories from several people and encourage you to get in touch if you’d like to share yours.
I like many people, have been self-isolating for a couple of weeks because of coronavirus. I decided to do this before things turned apocalyptic on advice from my mom who is a GP, I caught the Swine Flu in 2009 so we didn’t want to take any chances. My workplace is MDUK so they were particularly understanding of my concerns and I’m now working from home full-time. Everyone now is being encouraged to work from home and self-isolate as much as possible to curb the spread of Covid-19 but we need to address how that is impacting our overall wellbeing.
In terms of practical steps, I’m asking all my carers to wash their hands when they come on shift and to let me know immediately if they develop any symptoms. Other than that I’m staying home as much as possible and limiting in-person contact with anyone outside of my care team and family. I don’t know about you, but this sounds pretty boring and lonely to me.
I’m going to share what I’m doing and what others are doing to stay happy, occupied and sane when you are self-isolating!
- Take breaks from social media! My social media feeds are full of scary headlines and photos of empty shelves. These can be extremely overwhelming and anxiety-inducing. Even if it’s just for 1 hour a day, don’t go on social media. Spend that hour doing something to occupy your mind so you can truly disconnect. As of today, I’m spending 2 hours off social media as the anxiety is impacting my sleep.
- Watch a TV show, film or YouTube video that makes you laugh. With Netflix, Amazon Prime, BritBox (which I’ve just discovered) there is no shortage of content to focus on instead of Covid-19. My personal recommendations are: The Try Guys channel on YouTube, Queer Eye on Netflix, The Marvellous Mrs Maisel on Amazon Prime and The Vicar of Dibley on BritBox. They are all great light entertainment that I promise will make you smile.
- Practice meditation. If you haven’t tried meditation before I would strongly recommend giving it a try now. Switching your mind off from the scary thoughts going round and round is crucial. There are lots of great apps like Calm or Headspace that do guided meditations. On YouTube I like this guided meditation and this video when I’m feeling really anxious.
- Read or listen to a book/music. I’m definitely one of those people with so many books in my Audible library that I rarely get a chance to listen to. Reading or listening to a good book is so immersive making it the perfect way to switch off. I have 3 books on the go right now so depending on my mood I’ve always got something to listen to. They are: Becoming by Michelle Obama, American Gods by Neil Gaiman and The Guilty Feminist by Deborah Frances-White (for the second time!)
- Connect with others. This is one of the most important tips I can give you. When you’re scared, anxious and know that you can’t see people it can feel like you are on your own – but you are not on your own. One of the great things about social media is its ability to connect people. One of my friends has suggested having a “virtual meetup” – turning your webcam on and chatting over a coffee which I think is a great idea. I noticed a lot of people saying they weren’t coping well with all the news and uncertainty so I decided to do a call-out on my social media to see if people wanted to join a WhatsApp group where we can support each other. The group started Friday and already has 13 people who send pet photos, funny videos and words of support when one of us feels anxious. If you want to join then please get in touch! My Twitter is @emma_vogelmann.
- Surround yourself with your favourite things. Whether it’s a pet or that one pillow, blanket, hoodie, we all have something that makes us feel good when it’s close. Make sure that you keep it in your bedroom or home office or wherever you are going to be spending a lot of time. For me, I love having my dogs nearby as they always make me happy – luckily for me, my Bella loves cuddles!
- Do that project you’ve been putting off. Being stuck at home can be tough, but one way to make you feel better is being productive. I always feel a great sense of achievement when I’ve ticked something off my to-do list that’s been there for months. While I’ve been self-isolating I decluttered my office by throwing away things I don’t need and reorganising all my knickknacks. (I keep every gift and card I’ve ever been given and I’m too sentimental to throw things away.) I also went through all my clothes and ended up with a big pile of items to donate which really made me feel good and productive. These tasks made me feel like I’d used my time well and definitely made me less anxious. By having a tidy environment surrounded by things that you love, your mental health will definitely thank you for it.
- Play a game on your computer or your phone. Like many millennials, I am definitely guilty of double screening. When I watch TV I sometimes end up scrolling through Instagram or the news so I don’t end up concentrating on either thing. Playing a game requires more concentration and really helps me disconnect for a while. I’m playing The Sims 4 on PC which is so nostalgic! On my phone I love puzzle games likes Sudoku or Brain Trainer.
- Phone your elderly relatives or neighbours who you know are on their own. As I said, you are not alone in self-isolation. Many of us are able to use our smartphones to interact with others but this isn’t an option for many elderly people who are also at high risk. If you know of an elderly person who is probably on their own, spend 30 minutes giving them a ring and having a chat. It will make them feel less alone and will probably make you feel really good that you made the effort. We all need to look out for each other.
- Learn something new. Another way to feel productive during self-isolation is to learn something new. There are so many free online resources available so you can learn pretty much anything from home. One website I love is Futurelearn.com, there are lots of free courses or if you pay around £30-40 you can get a certificate in certain courses which can then go on your CV. I’ve just signed up to an Open University course called ‘Make Change Happen’ and I am really looking forward to starting it.
This is not an exhaustive list. Everyone will have their own techniques to distracting themselves and staying happy in these scary times. Please reach out to us at Trailblazers if you’re feeling lonely or scared. Remember to look out for yourselves and take care of each other.
This was originally published on Muscular Dystrophy UK’s website on 18/03/2020.