Staying Upbeat in Isolation

So we're on week 3 of social distancing and isolation, but for me its now past week three, as I've been shielding due to health concerns. I asked on Instagram what kind of posts people would like to see in lockdown, and one was tips for keeping upbeat during isolation -  I think we all have different ways that we cope with difficult situations, but some of the ways I'm coping are below.

I would like to add though as a spoiler, I spend a great deal of my life alone, and in my own version of isolation regardless of lockdown, because of my disability and other factors so for me this is almost the norm - those of us with chronic illnesses and disabilities have almost been training for this for years.

So here's what I'm doing to stay upbeat:

1. I deleted twitter, I found that twitter can be a real hive for negativity and fear-mongering right now and its a place where I don't want to be so I turned my account on private and deleted the app. Since doing this my mental outlook has actually improved and I cant recommend deleting social media apps that are negatively affecting you during lockdown any more. You have to do what is best for your mental health.

2. I'm keeping busy, currently I'm still working from home on my usual day job and my trade union work. Having something to focus on is really positive for me because between the hours of  9-5 I feel I have some sense of normal. If you're feeling a little lost, maybe if you've been furloughed I know that Open University are offering lots of free courses for the time being and there are some fun resources online for different things you can do such as Chatter Pack which has free online boredrom busting resources - to note this was created by an NHS worker in their free time to help share information and resources.  
(Note - I have seen a lot online where people are saying if you don't come out of this with a new skill or having learnt new things then you did it wrong - this isn't true and can be pretty insensitive too - we all cope in whatever ways we can and if learning something new is something you'd like to do thats great, if it isn't that's also great too; you do you!) 

3. Chatting with friends and family, I do a check in with a couple of my closest friends each day, sometimes we video chat on Houseparty or Facebook messenger and we all support each other - having light hearted conversations as well as the real stuff. Try and keep the doom and gloom from consuming the conversation - send memes, play games, come up with a pub quiz for the evening. But also if things are feeling a little dark turn to those who have your back and if they're anything like my friends, they'll have something silly to take your mind off it or pull the most *ahem* beautiful faces until you're laughing again.  I also use Houseparty, calls and other apps to video chat with members of my family - I have a big family and its hard to be seperated from them. I especially miss my parents so talking to them on video chat and through calls about everything and anything is really helpful. I also sent my Mom flowers to cheer her up, little acts of kindness are important, especially right now. 
I've also been reconnecting with old friends, and it feels really nice to chat to people who knew you at a different time in my life and reconnect in different ways.

4. Guilty pleasures - we all have them. I have played a lot of video games in the last few weeks, the Sims spent two days downloading on my PS4 but it was worth it! I may however purchase games from an online source to be delivered in future though because I'm so impatient and my internet is pretty slow if using it for other things. Games I've enjoyed recently include The Sims, Spyro, and I've started Fortnite but I'm still not quite there yet with understanding that one. But yes, gaming really passes the time for me and makes me feel like a child again - my only issue is I don't know when to come offline, when playing the other night when I was on leave it was gone 4am when I finished up. 

5. Everybody's at it - baking. It seems like the whole of the UK has baking fever, with flour becoming increasingly difficult to get I'm lucky that my Mom picked me some up when she could get it. I baked banana bread so far, with bananas I actually bought for this purpose before lock-down because I just really fancied some banana bread. I'm also planning brownies, and other forms of cake.  I find baking really therapeutic and it gives me something to focus on that's not a screen - I think we have all been spending a lot more time with screens in front of our faces recently, and sometimes its just really good to switch off for a while. I found myself feeling a lot more positive after having baked the banana bread - having achieved something and spent time away from the internet.

6. Art - being creative really helps me to stay in a positive mental space, I've got a couple of colouring books and I've got mandala stones to paint.  I've always been a creative kind of person, studying art at school and photography at college - and I find art really soothing, its something you can get lost in and you don't have to be "good" at it, you just do what you enjoy about it. 

7. Start a blog, its another creative outlet that is really beneficial - it can be about anything, and you don't need to shell out loads of money - you can create free blogs on blogger and if you grow to love it you can buy your own domain (the name of your web address) and even transfer it to Wordpress and use a hosting company. But the starting point is 100% free if you just want to try it out and write about how you're feeling, subjects that interest you etc. Honestly, starting my blog was one of the best things I ever did, and its thanks to the encouragement of other bloggers that I started it in the first place. It started out as something a little different to what is now but that's ok - things evolve over time and now this space talks about disability, mental health, fashion, and beauty and whatever else takes my fancy - that's the best part, it can be whatever you want it to be. 

8. Disney - I have been watching a lot of Disney movies, now I'm not advocating for Disney+ but having the service to use right at this time has been pretty good. I love Disney and Marvel, I have Disney ornaments on my fireplace and my house is full of tributes to the nerdy world of Marvel (and DC, cause don't make me choose) so having movies and TV shows from  my childhood to watch is giving me major nostalgia as well as making me smile. The childhood wonder of Disney (and noticing the dirty jokes you'd have no clue about as a child) has a special place in my heart.

9. Reading - I know this list is a big old list of nerdy things to do, but quite frankly would it be my list if it wasnt? Picking up a book and being transported to a whole other world is a really wonderful escape. I've been reading since I was old enough to know how, and its always been a comfort to me. I own more books than one person probably should and sadly they're stacked in boxes, because before all this I was about to buy a book shelf!
I am however going to find out some books I've had since childhood - the Noughts and Crosses triology, these books are still prevalent now and Malorie Blackman's writing has been transfered into a TV series that's on BBC Iplayer (it does change some of the details but i guess that's creative licence), so afrer watching the series over a few evenings I want to read them again. I'm also starting to read Cilka's Journey which was released after The Tattooist of Auschwitz and I find these books really interesting but probably not the most upbeat. For upbeat I recommend anything from Young Adult fiction, there's just more mystery and magic there - speaking of magic, Harry Potter is always a good shout.

10. Stay hydrated and eat things that you enjoy,  try and keep to drinking as much water as you can, as it will keep your skin happy as well as making you feel less lethargic. This is easy to let slip and I'll admit I've not kept to this as much as I should but I'm back on it with drinking water and squash. Eating things you enjoy is important, it makes you feel good - and a good balance is never a bad thing. I used to love cooking, but I lost my spark a little with it for a while - with more time on my hands though I've gone back to cooking a bit more and making more fresh and tasty meals, I made my own home made lasagne the other day and I've got loads left so sometimes batch cooking is the best when you're in the mood for it. Lasange is one of my favourite things but I can't buy it ready made as I can't eat cheese.

I've seen a lot of talk about gaining weight in isolation, but I just want to remind you that being fat isn't the worst thing you can be, and its possible to be happy with yourself as you are - don't let society pressure you. I know its easier said than done, and with all the memes around now about this right now its hard. You deserve to feel good about yourself regardless of what you eat in lockdown, and how you choose to spend your time. Exercise if you feel like you want to not because you feel you have to, enjoy the outdoors in your gardens or go for a walk (if able, sensibly and within guidelines) but only if that makes you feel positive or happy. Your mental health is a big priority through lockdown and forever, taking care of your mental health is vital. 
I'm not a food blogger or a mental health blogger and I only have personal experience with food, mental health and weight - but we all deserve to be happy, regardless of how we look, what we eat and how we spend out time. You do you, that's what is important - what matters to you in life is unique and valued. 

Lots of love, and stay safe. 

Nici x

If you are struggling, please reach out to your friends, family and people you love, if you feel you cannot turn to them at the present moment and are worried, The Samaritans are avaialble 24/7  and you can donate to their charity if you wish also on their website.

Also, don't forget to clap for our carers Thursday's at 8pm. Be that for our wonderful NHS, Pharmacy workers, carers, Social Workers, Family Support, Adult's Workers, Retail such as supermarkets, and lorry drivers just to name a few professions that are keeping us going!

Stay Home, Save the NHS. 

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