What can you do when your isolation must become ‘us-olation’ because you live with others? Living with your family or housemates or a partner can be frustrating at the best of times but when we are thrust so close together it can be hard not to tread on each others toes and get under each others skin.
In my house, there’s a variety of different responses to COVID-19 restrictions. I’m studying uni online from home and working part time at my normal place of work a half hour drive away. One person is working on-site as a nurse as normal. Others have been doing primary school and high school from home – they’re now on holidays for a few weeks. One more is self-employed and can’t work from home.
Outside of my own family I know people who are studying online and have lost their jobs because they can’t work from home and are not considered essential to go in person. Others are working from home and still others face the empty void of nothing because they were working non-essential jobs and can’t translate that work to their home.
How can all of these different situations mesh together? How can we live with each other in our homes without disturbing each other or getting irritated?
Where possible, I suggest everyone coordinates their work/study time to be simultaneous so that you minimise appealing distractions. For those who are not working or studying, while others are doing their work, what can you do? You may be feeling uncomfortable and left out but also like you are useless or a burden. You can enjoy quiet leisure activities or use that time to get out the house and go for a walk – maybe take a pet with you. When everyone has their free time, this is when you can be noisy or more distracting. You will all still need ‘alone time’ but there is value in enjoying activities altogether like cooking a meal, watching a movie or playing boardgames.
A few other tips for staying sane in isolation – get dressed and out of bed! Get your brain into gear by doing what you would normally do. Have breakfast, put on clothes you would wear for work or study. We have episodic memory as well as semantic memory – this means that for example remembering and picturing where you sat in a lecture could help you remember the content of that lecture. So putting on a work outfit could help your brain get into ‘work mode’ or ‘study mode’. This is the theory behind changing seats for different meetings in the same room – it helps separate information in your memory from the two occasions.
Getting dressed and going into the kitchen for breakfast also gets you up and about – if you sit in bed with your laptop instead of getting dressed and moving to another room it will take longer to wake up. Plus, your bed is not a place to associate with productivity. Bed is for sleep. Desk or table is for productivity. This will help you be more productive at your work space as well as help you switch your brain out of work mode when you want to sleep.
I hope these ideas can bring some understanding of each other as well as suggest ways to improve your us-olation as much as possible.
Stay safe and sane,