Surviving self-isolation: an experiment

For five days I’m isolating myself at home as a precautionary measure. I’m well, thank you, but I’ve just been at WOMAD, that glorious festival. On day 2, the New Zealand Government slapped a ban on all gatherings of 500 people or more. WOMAD had escaped the ban by hours, just by chance.

drawing of woman singing "all is healed all is health" on sofa.

Ursula is puzzled by a one-woman choir warbling on her territory

If anyone contracted Covid-19 at WOMAD, symptoms may not show for a few days. I decided to take a cautious approach and wait. My self-isolation is probably over-cautious, but it makes sense, given the coronavirus’s pattern of exponential spread.

Making that decision was easy. Yet almost immediately a sense of weirdness swept over me.

Surviving self-isolation when loneliness is a killer

Hard to believe that there’s good reason to minimise social interaction, knowing what we know about its role in well-being. Social engagement is key to a happy, healthy old age. Loneliness is literally a killer, especially for older people.

How can we practise social distancing without getting lonely?

  • Phone calls: vital! It’s so good to hear a friendly voice.
  • Texts and emails saying anything at all are suddenly more interesting: bring ’em on!
  • If you’re a social media person, you’ll be working it harder when confined to quarters.
  • Writing, reading, and following blogs. Many people have reported that the social side of blogging—comments and likes and follows and virtual friendship—is intensely important. If your own blog has lapsed, now’s the time to crank it up and tell your story.
  • Help someone else on your own blog or theirs, or through social media.
  • In community-wide lockdowns, Italians are singing and playing instruments on their balconies—what a great way to communicate.

Maintaining a healthy routine in self-isolation

Cartoon of woman holding a plank position

Keeping up exercise routine in self-isolation: Pilates

Surviving self-isolation or social distancing means coping with the loss of your carefully constructed weekly routine. That means in my case no choir, no gym classes, no dance rehearsals, no coffees with friends. Losing your routine is just as difficult as missing the activities, so I decided to replicate both at home.

  1. On Tuesday and Thursday mornings I go to the gym for Pilates class. So at 10 am today I found a Pilates video and went through the routine. Whew! Feels good, but I kept slipping on the carpet. (Ah. So that’s why we use mats…)
  2. On Tuesday nights I go to choir, so at 7.15 tonight I will practise at home. Probably not for 2 hours though. Ursula would object.
  3. Wednesdays would normally mean Hawaiian dance at 6:15 followed by a Crows Feet rehearsal  at 7.30. I will certainly be dancing here tomorrow night—all alone.
  4. Saturday, Pump class at 8:45 am. I can do a short version at home. I’ve set the alarm.

Good habits! They can be adapted in a pandemic. They can still do their work even when your environment changes. If I had “decided” to do these activities at home without nailing down the exact time, they wouldn’t happen, that I know. Now I’m committed and it feels good. Like I’ve still got control over my days.

drawing of woman dancing hula while watching a hula video

Surviving self-isolation through Hawaiian dance

Self-isolation for a writer is no hardship

It’s what we do when we’re working. And I have heaps to do right here. But first, I need coffee … oops, almost out of coffee.

Please, don’t waste any pity on me, not for one second: this is my choice and I’m finding it interesting … and kind of fun. It’s just a few days, like a rehearsal for the real thing. I’m perfectly healthy. And of course I can order coffee online.

And please do share one good habit that is proving useful in this year of Covid-19.




32 thoughts on “Surviving self-isolation: an experiment

  1. Sadje says:

    Stay healthy and safe Rachel.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Thanks Sadie. I shall.

      1. Sadje says:


  2. myrak says:

    Great practice Rachel….our most trusted media Doctor here Norman Swan has a great daily podcast from our ABC radio…also the most publicly trusted media. Available on Apple podcasts…its called ” Coronacast”…worth a listen. His advice today matches your practice…stay away from as many humans as possible and that those infected and carriers are so for up to 4 weeks….pretty dire advice….but one day at a time…… I love your disciplined approach to staying sane…Im off to walk my dog maintaining a two meter social distancing practice. Much Love across the seas from Australia. Myra (: (: (:

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Great, I’ve just subscribed to Coronacast thanks Myra. Walking the dog ticks all the boxes, even a kind of social life. Stay well kind soul.

  3. Mindfulness is proving to be an excellent practice – sitting with the anxious thoughts that are swirling unbidden and then simply acknowledging them before letting them go has been more necessary than I would have predicted.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Now’s the time to reap the benefits of practice 🙂

  4. Oh my goodness,Rachel! I sure hope this works for you! From what I’ve heard there just isn’t much else to do but lots of soap and hot water

  5. allenrizzi says:

    #CoronaVirus #Quarantine
    Time on you hands? Read a book. #MAGA

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      I’m hoping lots of people rediscover the glory of books

      1. allenrizzi says:

        So do I… 😉

  6. I’m going through similar process of discovery in a self-imposed version of social distancing that means avoiding the proximity of strangers. Realising that there’d be undetected cases in the community before they were confirmed ones, I’ve been dricing instead of getting the bus to work, and this week, since I can, I’m working from home and ordering in groceries. I will see a small group of friends for an at home dinner this weekend, otherwise that’s it.

    My work day gives me structure since there a quick standup meeting at nine every morning and I switch off workwise by tv news time at 6pm. For the first time, the colleagues who down tools for a while each day to do the Dom Post quiz over a cup of tea met online. And I can see an evening drink with friends, all of us tuned in to a Google Hangouts meeting, could become a thing.

    I’ve instituted a solitary walk as the sun goes down along the seafront, but not interacting is not as easy as I expected. Last night, I encountered a a woman I know from down the road and we chatted at double arms length and more, then a random woman out walking her dog seemed keen to initiate a conversation! I think it might have been the fetching beige beret I was wearing against the autumn southerly. We may need to start carrying a white flag like the ones they put outside their houses during the 1918 influenza epidemic when a family member became ill so the Red Cross could visit!

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      This is a brilliant account of your own replication and adaptation of an existing routine. It does need ingenuity, but is so much easier than waking up with a blank day ahead.

      1. And as you can see, there’ll be more writing too!

  7. Online free courses. My favourite thing I have found is virtual museum/art galleries guides. They are great.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Yes. There’s no end to the entertainment and education available online for times like these. I’m going to create another one soon…

  8. cedar51 says:

    I find this is so interesting and amusing…

    the reason I got on-line in first place ) late 1990s was because I couldn’t go out and about all that much…and so I’m well used to being semi-trapped at home, then early 1990s. Walking down to the letterbox was a huge effort, maybe a 100′ and putting the washing out on the outdoor clothesline took a fair few hours, as I would have to sit down, lean on the pole and rest. As for my then business it grew to be such a long drawn out process I had to give it up (I was a fabric weaver & yarn dyer).

    At some point my diagnosis was slightly changed and I managed a whole more but occasionally I would regress backwards and I would be on the back foot. Anything, I did had to be tailored to p/time activity … and still is today.

    Then later I couldn’t just jump in the car and be somewhere, as my car grew elderly and expensive and I chose early 2000s to be carless. And I’m still car-less. Apparently one of the best ways to get around now, is by car…oops no car.

    I now “make things” not complex things but I enjoy dabbling with whatever. I don’t have to self-isolate right now…and I’m mindful of the current situation. I did do a short gym program in January, now I have various exercises at home.

    But also I’ve had some mental chatter issues of late, some of you are aware why…finally starting have less chatter and more confidence – and for well over a month, hardly went anywhere. Now I’ve started daily walk about – but of course clearly with “mindfulness and what they now state as “travel smarts” being that I’m carless”

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Every life is different. Your self-training for this moment in history has lasted over twenty years and is hard won. Take care.

  9. wendi says:

    i love this post Rachel. I have decided to write out a schedule for myself at home as I don’t want to have a do nothing isolation time! 🙂 Stay well………

  10. State-imposed restrictions are just now coming to North Carolina. Some churches were closed yesterday, but not ours. I’m washing my hands more often and am trying not to touch my face.

    I hope you will not come down with the virus and will enjoy your temporary routines.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Thanks, Anne. With the blog, I cannot feel alone, that’s for sure. We’re all catching up with the new normal. Stay safe.

  11. Cathy Cade says:

    The UK government has deemed that everyone over 70 should self-isolate (indefinitely as far as I can see. How about if you’ve had it already?)
    To be honest, my husband is glad of the excuse, and all the U3A meetings I go to are cancelled anyway. So, short of walking the dogs and picking up his prescription, I have no excuse not to get on with writing.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Jeepers Cathy that’s extreme measures. I gather many people are seeing this as an opportunity, even while others will have loneliness looming.

  12. alison41 says:

    Great post, great tips. Already doing some of them – others are new ideas. Stay well!

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Thanks Alison–we’re all in this together.

  13. Elizabeth says:

    I started the very long, very complex third book in the trilogy by Hilary Mantel about Thomas Cromwell during the reign of Henry III. Usually I would find it a challenging slog. Instead I am grateful for each slow page since the book may last as long as my isolation!

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      What a bonus! At present I’ve got so much on my plate (all good) that I’m reading old Lee Child novels. My guilty secret is out.

      1. Elizabeth says:

        No guilt here! I love all sorts of “B” novels.

  14. Elizabeth says:

    Henry VIII

  15. What a lovely article. I loved it and you have given me a few ideas while I live in isolation in the United Kingdom

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      We’re all in this together, aren’t we?

      1. We sure are

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