Covid-19: Exercise, fresh air and laughter vital for surviving self-isolation

7:18 pm on 19 March 2020

By Kate Montgomery*

Whether you're quarantined or just social distancing because of Covid-19, staying at home for extended periods can be a huge drag. But you can survive with your sanity and dignity intact.

Woman runner showing feet and running shoes on track or road.

If you're social distancing, you can still go for walks outside, swims in the ocean, etc, so take advantage of that. Photo: 123rf

How would I know? I suffer from a chronic auto-immune disease which, at its worst, left me bedridden for four years - so I'm almost overqualified to help you get through times like these. Here are some of my best tips to stop you losing your mind, patience, politeness, fitness, whatever:

Keep a schedule

Keeping regular hours is key. Late night Netflix binges won't help you to stay a productive, functioning human, so stick to a regular wake up and bedtime (and comfort yourself with the knowledge there's more Netflix time tomorrow.) On a related note: Get out of your pyjamas every morning, and shower daily. (If you're chronically ill, or suffering from Covid-19, you have my permission to move showers to every two or three days. And skip hair washing - God invented dry shampoo for a reason.)

Get some fresh air

And some light that doesn't come from a bulb or a computer screen. I'm sure this doesn't need explaining further.

Move as much as you can

When I was bedridden, 'moving' consisted of stretching done on the floor, or in my hospital bed. Now that I'm more healthy - but staying away from the gym just-in-case - it's bodyweight workouts and yoga. If you're social distancing, you can still go for walks outside, swims in the ocean, etc, so take advantage of that. Even dancing round your room will do. Moving is KEY to dealing with cabin fever.

...and after you've moved, breathe.

Nothing has helped me deal with hard times like meditation. Apps like Waking Up and Headspace offer a really accessible way to get started. If you truly can't get into it, try a breathing exercise like box breathing.


Listen to My Dad Wrote a Porno or watch something that makes you cackle. You cannot survive on depressing dramatic Swedish murder mysteries alone.

Start that hobby or project you've been putting off.

When I was bedridden, I taught myself to code websites. Maybe you want to learn to do a handstand or make friendship bracelets for when you can see your friends again - I don't know your life. Or maybe there's a project you've been putting off until you have time. Now, you have time. (And if you still don't want to do it, cross that albatross off your to-do list).

Sugar and carbs are not a balanced diet

I'm sad to report that cabin fever is NOT solved by junk food. So just because you have 24/7 access to ALL THE SNACKS doesn't mean you can eat like an a....... Eat your vegetables. Preferably not fried.

If you can, help someone

If you're a normally healthy person having to self-isolate or social distance because of Covid-19, you're getting a little slice of what it's like to live with chronic illness. Except you're probably not sick, on top of being scared and bored. But in this uncertain time, I'll spare telling you to be grateful, and say: see how you can help. Check on your friends and family who are high risk and help them where you can. Neighbours too. And if you're high-risk and people offer...take the help.

I hope these tips are helpful if you find yourself in these times of Covid-19 in a state of forced seclusion. Enjoy catching up on sleep and rest assured, you can get through this. One day, and bedroom dance party at a time.

Read more about the Covid-19 coronavirus:

* Kate Montgomery is a freelance writer, yoga teacher and a 15-year veteran of chronic illness.

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