10 things self-isolation makes you really appreciate

10 things self-isolation makes you really appreciate

Obviously, top of the gratitude list right now are NHS staff and key workers, swiftly followed by having family and friends who are well enough and safe enough to bombard you with incessant WhatsApp messages.

I haven’t been tested, but after presenting coronavirus-like symptoms – extreme tiredness, body aches, sensitive skin, continuous cough and almost-vanished sense of taste and smell – self-isolation was required. Official guidance states that if you have symptoms, you need to self-isolate for seven days, and if you live with someone who has symptoms, it’s 14 days from the first day they presented symptoms – symptoms can take two weeks to show up.

Both scenarios can seem interminable, especially when you feel unwell (my symptoms were mild, and I was still completely wiped out), but the weird stretchiness of time, the muting of reality outside and the new normal of going absolutely nowhere, really makes you really appreciate the small things…

When you’re on the inside…

1. That extra time in bed

The commute – for those of us well enough and in a position to work from home – has been completely obliterated. Moving from the bedroom to the lounge doesn’t exactly count. It’s a small luxury, but a few minutes more in bed, the time to actually sit down, eat breakfast and make a coffee, or even do 15 minutes of yoga, makes everything feel slightly more manageable.

2. A really good lunch

No more rushed, slightly mangled packed lunches eaten at your desk. Now lunch is an event, something you start planning at breakfast, or in my case, the night before. It’s amazing the sense of achievement you get from inventing a brand new meal with whatever’s left in the fridge. My best so far has been quesadillas: wraps filled with my sister’s chilli jam, grated cheddar and sliced gherkins, folded over and heated in a frying pan until they go all oozy.

3. Smartphones

Can you imagine if coronavirus had hit during the Nineties? In the days when you’d just shout to your mum, ‘I’ll be home for tea!’ with no way of knowing what time it was? Granted, the Houseparty app invites from people you vaguely knew at school can make you feel utterly hounded, and having 24 hour access to the news can grind down any happy thoughts you might have built up, but I keep looking at my phone thinking, a landline just wouldn’t cut it right now. I can access my mum and my sisters through this weird bit of melded plastic and metal – it’s the closest we may ever come to teleportation.

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4. The birds

They get to fly, sing all day, and flutter about being inquisitive and lively, yammering at each other and fighting with squirrels. All you need is a window. Hours of entertainment and vicarious freedom guaranteed.

5. A single packet of seeds

Suddenly there’s nothing more riveting than finding a pot (or empty tomato tin or washed out mayo jar), filling it with soil and nudging some seeds into it. Seven to 14 days is the perfect window in which to overwater them, fret about whether they’ll germinate, and catch the first shoots emerging. It’s like parenting, except the stakes are much lower, even though the scope for feeling connected and fulfilled is wonderfully high.

Seedlings growing (iStock/PA)
Seedlings growing (iStock/PA)

6. Television

We live in the absolute golden age of TV and streaming services. How would we have coped with only five channels? I would particularly like to thank the creators of Mad Men at this time.

7. A routine

It’s like when you’re eight years old and you yell at your parents: ‘I’m going to have McDonalds every day when I grow up’. And then you do grow up, get the chance and just don’t.

It’s the same if you’ve ever had a nightmare day at work and thought, ‘I’d love a week at home doing nothing’. Nothing quickly loses its charm. Routine it turns out, is the real dream (I’ve implemented one that mainly revolves around food).

8. Having any kind of outdoor space

It’s a privilege. There’s not much I wouldn’t do for a garden at the moment, and two storeys up, I’m already fortunate enough to have a tiny balcony with space for a table and two chairs. Coat on, I eat lunch out there every day now (part of that new routine), whatever the weather (never have I appreciated a sliver of sunshine more) to suck up a solid hour of daylight.

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9. Delivery services

Any delivery feels like Christmas – exponentially and emotionally amplified by the knowledge that the person who delivered it is genuinely risking their health and that, as they knock, run, and shout, ‘OK?’ from a 2m distance, they’re the only other human you’ve had contact with in some time. Also, friends who send care packages deserve knighthoods.

10. Kettles

Imagine not having a kettle. Just imagine.

When you get to go back outside…

The world is a very different place to what it was when I went into self-isolation – you could still go the gym and restaurants back then. When my seven days were up I did my first food shop in almost two weeks and almost burst into tears – at a safe distance from the corner shop cashier, of course.

Feeling adrift from everyone is hard and weird and then oddly calming at the same time, providing you recover. It frees up space in your head and imperceptibly reorganises your priorities.


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