With everything that is going on these days and with things changing rapidly by the day, what we choose to do and how we choose to do it is more important than ever. Our greatest defense against COVID-19, as the experts say, is social distancing and isolating ourselves at home.
And while social distancing is a necessity right now, for many people it can prove to be very difficult for and have serious mental health ramifications that can include anxiety, stress, depression, and loneliness and can be even worse for those within the disability community, who may be even more affected by disruptions in their daily schedules or routine.
We wanted to do our part to try and help, so we’ve put together some ideas of what you can do while you’re stuck at home to help combat the ill effects of isolating.
Network with Friends and Family
This goes at the top of our list because it is easily the most effective way to help you from feeling alone and isolated. Not only can you use all this extra time to connect with your inner circle of family and friends, but it can be a great time to reach out and reconnect with friends or family that you haven’t talked to in awhile! Reach out to that old college roommate that you haven’t talked to in years or your Cousin Eddie that hasn’t been seen since Thanksgiving of 1998! You can use this time to maintain your current circles of friends and family while rekindling old ones.
And now is an especially great time to be doing this since technology that allows voice and video meetings is better than ever. Facebook Messenger has built in text and video capabilities. The Zoom Meeting Platform is both accessible and easy to use (see our blog post all about it here), not to mention Google Duo and Facetime apps for Android and iOS respectively as well as Skype for Windows.
There are so many different options to choose from that make it very easy to connect through a mobile device or a computer for extended conversations that can be the next best thing to being in the same room together. Whatever your chosen method of reaching out, even if it's just the old fashioned method of a phone call, connecting with people and not letting yourself feel too isolated will be one of the best ways to avoid depression or loneliness.
Keep a Schedule
When you’re stuck at home and your normal, day to day week is disrupted, maintaining your own schedule to replace it can be very important to not fall into a state of inactivity and subsequent depression. Activity can be the greatest defense against not only boredom and depression, but also help to build a framework to your day that you otherwise may find wasted away feeling directionless and inactive.
Routine also helps us feel like we are put back in control of our lives which, at a time like this where it feels like the news of the day is spinning out of control and that we are at the whims and mercy of the virus, can be very empowering.
Set an alarm and get up at the same time every morning. Schedule breakfast at the same time and plan what you’re going to have. Schedule in some exercise time and some reading time, as well as some free time to do whatever you like. You can make this schedule right down to the hour or minute, but you can also just as easily just make a general list of things you want to do during the day. Either way, it’ll give your days more direction and make you feel like you have more control of your life.
All this extra time on your hands is a great opportunity to catch up on all those books you’ve always been meaning to get to but never got a chance to read. Not only is reading a great escape but it’s also great mental exercise and can really make a difference in preventing depression or mental fatigue from the news cycle.
And yes, with the libraries and bookstores closed, it can be a challenge to procure new books if you’ve read all the ones lying around your house. If that’s the case, of course you can always order some from Amazon, or if audiobooks are more your style, Audible has books available for download, and your first one is free.
For those with visual impairments that are using talking book players, the CELA library offers direct to player versions of most books. Take note that CELA have suspended sending out physical DAISY CD versions as well as Braille versions of any books for the duration of the COVID-19 crisis.
Get some Exercise!
Of course, the mind isn’t the only thing that is important to keep active. Regular exercise is also crucial during these times. Not only does it keep your body fit and strong, but regular exercise is also a great way to improve your mental state as well, building a sense of control, well being and confidence.
Mel Scott has a great series on her website, Blind Alive, of audio described home workouts that are perfect for the blind and visually imparied that are easy to do at home and that cover everything from meditation to Pilates. She also has a youTube channel called Eyes-Free Fitness if that is easier than downloading MP3s for you.
There are countless other YouTube channels and websites that feature at home workouts that you can try, making it easy to build your own simple exercise routine into your schedule as well. No matter what you decide on doing, even if it’s just a short 10 or 20 minute daily workout, the important part is that you remain active on a regular basis.
Work on Hobbies
Hobbies are also a very important part of keeping your mind occupied and your hands busy during all this time at home. Many people realized this early on in the days when we first started to prepare ourselves for being at home for extended periods of time. It wasn’t just toilet paper that was flying off the shelves -- many craft and hobby stores reported large crowds and item shortages as people stocked up on arts and crafts supplies.
Now is a great time to try and finish all those half-started projects that you have stashed in your closet. Or you could try something new that you’ve always thought about but never had the time. Try and revisit what you liked to do as a kid and apply that to something you could start up again today. Many of us loved to do activities as kids but often lost touch with them as we entered adulthood because we needed to grow up and dedicate our time to more “grown-up” pursuits such as school or work. Now might be the time to revisit those ideas and reignite your passion for a long lost love.
And if you can’t think of a single thing to do as a hobby, there’s a great website that is full of ideas here that you can check out.
Learn something new
If your daily schedule still isn’t full at this point and you still need something to help fill your day at home, you could also try learning something new. Use this time to build a new skill that will benefit you when things return to normal. Why not learn a new language or program or skill set? Pick something you have always been curious about and give it a try!
If you are looking for free ideas for courses or programs, take some time and dig around and you may find that there are a lot of companies offering courses or programs for free. For example, right now Freedom Scientific is offering their screen reader, JAWS for Windows, for free right now. Accessibyte makes a range of accessible educational games and software for free as well. The Assistive Technology Industry Association also is providing a range of free online courses about various aspects of Assistive Technology. If you have a public library card, you will be able to sign up for a Lynda.com account and have free access to their host of online professional development courses. Check on your local public library’s website for more information.
Join a Supportive Facebook Group
Facebook isn’t just an opportunity to connect with close friends and family. It also offers an opportunity to connect with other people with similar interests to talk together, ask questions, or just socialize. Anybody can create and manage a group, and as a user you are able to join up to 6,000 groups.
It’s no exaggeration to say there is literally a group for any conceivable interest or community group out there. These groups let people gather around and support each other with a common cause and interest and it can range from the silly or recreational to localized community support groups or advocacy organizations.
Take some time and explore all the different types of groups that are out there, you may find a whole new community to interact with and that you can both offer your own support to or turn to.
Whether you are one of those people who still don’t fully understand what a podcast is (for those people, check out our blog post, Intro to Podcasts) or have been listening to them for years, now is also a great time to dig deep into the Podcasting world and discover some new ones.
Much like the aforementioned Facebook groups, there is most likely a podcast out there for every imaginable topic. Just open your chosen podcast app and enter a topic into its search feature and prepare to be blown away by the variety and number of podcasts that may result.
Podcasts can be great because they can inform or entertain, and many of the best ones do both at the same time. They are a great way to distract yourself from the news cycle as well as pass the time and feel connected to the outside world.
And, not to toot our own horn, but if you want to start somewhere and you aren’t already a listener, check out our podcast, AT Banter!
Get some fresh air
Yes I know, this seems counter intuitive when we are all working on self isolating, but this doesn’t mean that you particularly need to even go into public. Open and window, sit on your balcony or your stoop and breath in some of that fresh air for a while. Even 5 or 10 minutes of fresh air can help recharge your batteries and provide a much needed change of pace from the rest of your day.
Lastly, and most importantly, recognize that we are all going through a difficult and stressful time right now and that more than ever we need to be kind and patient with ourselves. Practicing self care is key. Do the things that make you feel good, no matter how self indulgent or guilty it would normally make you feel. We have to look after ourselves just as much as we need to look after each other right now.
Make sure you are eating right, drinking lots of water, and surrounding yourself with the music you love, the entertainment you enjoy and spend as much time reaching out to friends, families, and online communities as much as you can.
And most of all, stay safe and be positive. We will all get through this together!