Caroline O'Donoghue: Eight ways to self-contain and stay sane

Caroline O'Donoghue: Eight ways to self-contain and stay sane

It’s all getting a bit scary in London at the moment. The Coronavirus, which at first felt like a fun alternative to talking about Trump and Brexit, has become an eery, creeping concern for everyone living in an even vaguely urban area. This morning, my pharmacist told me that she’s so busy selling masks and hand sanitiser that she has no time to refill prescriptions.

There are rumours that by this time next week, the entire city will be on lockdown, and I have been instructed to buy as much beans and toilet paper as I can hold.

The measures recently taken in Italy have been jarring. “Can you imagine,” my boyfriend says. “They’ve had instructions to not stand within a metre of another person.” “Sounds like my 9 to 5,” I say.

And then I realise rather pathetically, that it’s true. I have been self-contained since 2017, when I went freelance and became a full-time writer. So, if you’re about to padlock the front door for the next two weeks, here’s some tips to get you through it.

Snacking

The hardest thing about being self-contained is that you want to eat all the time. When you’re in an office, you break up the monotony of work by sidling up to someone else’s desk for a chat, or taking a long poo on company time.

Talking to yourself and pooing at home just don’t hold the same thrill. So you eat. My advice for this is to only stockpile mediocre or outrightly terrible snacks. Almonds and cranberries, or those Scandinavian crackers that taste like insulation. Someone on Twitter recommended having three “tiers” of biscuits on hand: a sustenance tier (digestives), a reward tier (Jaffa Cake) and a “everything’s gone to hell” tier (one of those delicious eurotrash biscuits with the chocolate layer on them).

Work

If you have to work from home you might find that your thirst for approval from a client or line manager slows your work down.

For this, I recommend putting a tie on your dog. Your dog will hate it, but it will liven up the place and you can trick yourself into thinking there’s boundaries and discipline in your temporary home office by presenting her with a time sheet at the end of every day.

Hair

I have a friend who wore a hijab for most of her adult life, and recently decided to take it off. I saw her hair for the first time, and I was spellbound by how beautiful, thick and shiny it was.

“What’s your secret?” I breathed. “My secret was washing my hair once a week for a decade,” she responded. Follow my friend’s lesson and don’t wash your hair while you’re self-contained. Go back to the office in two weeks with Disney princess hair.

Leisure

The people you live with are going to get boring pretty quickly, and social media will only heighten your sense of panic. You are going to have to get into video games in a big way. I recommend easy, relaxing games like Stardew Valley or Animal Crossing, where nothing ever happens, and no one ever gets hurt.

Sex

Consider having some!

Children

I don’t have any, but I do have a dog, and when she gets bored from being inside I smear peanut butter on the floor and let her lick it off. I assume this also works for children.

Tension

Being stuck inside means you will inevitably become frustrated with the people around you. Diffuse tension by finding a common enemy, like the dog, who has already got peanut butter on her tie. Other common enemies include: the spout on the balsamic vinegar bottle (it always dispenses too much), the fact that the year 2000 was 20 years ago (surely we’re not that old?) and singers who go on Ireland’s Got Talent (they have the X Factor for that).

Help out

Finally, if you’re not at risk yourself, check in on your neighbours. Ireland does a great line in fiercely independent older people living alone, and in all likelihood, they will be too proud to ask anyone for help.

Do the rounds, and see if anyone needs anything. This might be a pain in the arse for most of us, but for others it could be much more serious than that. Make jokes, don’t panic, but remember that if you’re not the person who is most affected by this, you have a responsibility towards the people who are.

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