I've never heard the term "unprecedented times" so much before. I think I would happily go the rest of my life without ever hearing it again. Ironically, my experience of severe ME has actually really come in handy. Six years being bedbound has meant I am used to self isolating and being at home for long periods of time. That's not to say it's easy but it does mean I've got a lot of coping strategies. I thought I would share a few of them with you today, I hope they help.
I know there’s a lot of panic around being at home for what feels like a long time, so I wanted to post something to say that it is hard but you do adapt. Amazingly quickly.
Admittedly, I’ve had 20 years of experience, so I’m used to it, but even I find the new restrictions hard. I might only have been going out once a week but losing that is difficult.
My best advice is have a routine. Breaking the day or even the hour up into smaller activities feels less overwhelming.
Start a project, something to focus on. That’s how I wrote a novel. It was a distraction from everything else I couldn’t do. It doesn't have to be big, though. Small steps. Break it down into manageable activities, don’t rush in and overwhelm yourself.
Set time aside for fun things that are purely for joy. Watch Netflix, listen to some music, bake something, read. Take pictures so you can share online and the interaction with others then makes you feel less alone.
Take note of how activities make you feel, if that TV show you normally love is leaving you feeling angsty and stressed, give it a break for now. If the book you’re reading is making you sad and depressed, it’s okay to abandon it for something lighter.
You can have too much of a good thing, hours of bingeing on social media or box sets can make you feel worse. Just doing something completely different will make things feel fresh and fun again.
Make sure to remember to eat and drink. It can seem like time moves differently and you forget the normal routine activities.
Create something. Having something tangible to show for the day makes life feel so much better. It doesn’t feel like a day wasted. It can be something small like a craft activity, an organised drawer, a hundred words of a novel, five minutes on Duolingo. Bonus achievement points if you can touch it in the real world. Somehow that feels like it matters more.
There will be times when you feel like you’re climbing the walls, crawling out of your own skin. Deep breaths. Meditation. All the stuff that’s easy to dismiss but does help. Calm is my go to app. There’s also lots of meditations on YouTube and via podcasts.
It feels like the end of the world, but people with chronic illnesses and disabilities have been living like this for decades. It’s not easy but you don’t have to be miserable the whole time. There‘s opportunities for joy, you just have to adapt and be open to them.
Claire Wade is the winner of the Good Housekeeping Novel Competition and author of The Choice. She was bed bound for six years with severe ME, trapped in a body that wouldn't do what she wanted. She now writes about women who want to break free from the constraints of their lives, a subject she's deeply familiar with.