Staying Sane During COVID-19 Isolation
Updated: Apr 9, 2020
We live in a world where productivity is the fundamental essence of human worth and survival. Capitalism forces most people to spend more than a third of their lives at work and traveling to and from. You're considered lucky if you're away from home for less than 10 or 11 hours 5 days a week. With the recommended 8 hours of sleep, an average 10 hours for work and travel and say another 2hrs for morning prep - waking up, showering, making breakfast and possibly lunch, taking a minute to enjoy your morning caffeine injection - that leaves about 4 hours per weekday to be divided among house chores, administrative duties, and relaxation time IF you don't have any dependents. Then comes the weekend which is usually taken up by all the house chores and errands you were too tired to run during the week. Then there's your best mate's birthday on the Friday, a work function on the Saturday and lunch with the in-laws, family or your kid's soccer game on the Sunday, maybe a couple of hours on that DIY project you've been working on for a year but haven't been able to put enough solid time into to finish. Always something. Always moving. Always another thing to get done before you have to leave the house again.
And suddenly there isn't...
Suddenly, you've been told to work from home, or that you're out of the job all together. Suddenly, the government announces that you must stay home indefinitely for the good of the community. Suddenly, you're FORCED to stay at home. Suddenly, your routine isn't so set. Suddenly there are a lot more hours in the week that give you time to think and reflect. You feel lost. You feel bored. You feel isolated. You feel... like you don't really know what to do with yourself.
Time to get a little personal. The first couple of days of 2018 I was doubled over in agony in my GP's clinic from a lower back injury I'd gotten at work. Following that, an onslaught of reproductive health, mental health and personal relationship issues had me bed-ridden most of the time for the next year. I was forced to turn my life on it's head to and to move on from 40hr weeks at parlours to independent escorting. I couldn't do more than a couple of bookings a week without re injuring my back and I was far too exhausted to commit to a 9-5, not to mention the fact that I wasn't ready to give up sex work. My story is not unique. Sex work is often the only form of work chronically ill people can turn to which provides enough income to survive without expending time and resources that they just don't have and gives them the flexibility to work when they CAN actually work. Nearly every sex worker I know has one chronic health issue or another. Most of us just don't choose to draw attention to it publicly, but for the purpose of this article, I feel it relevant to share that my personal perspective comes from a place of lived experience.
My life drastically changed from hardly ever being home due to work and an active social life to not having a choice anymore. While I have clawed my way out and finally feel like I have my health and my body back I've come out the other side a much different person who spends a lot more time alone and running 90% of both businesses from home has forced me to adapt.
So how did I adapt? At first, I just slept a lot. I was sick and I had zero energy and it was the only thing I could really do for myself. I had no energy to cook or clean so I lived in filth for a while, dragging myself together every once in a while for a booking so I could pay rent and afford the uber eats and convenience food that kept me alive. When enough fog cleared that the situation REALLY set in, I felt lost, bored, frustrated, ashamed, and my self esteem went completely down the drain. I had tied much of my self-worth to my income and my work ethic, and my entire life I was praised for my achievements. But I wasn't achieving much of anything anymore and I received zero validation from the figures and physical measures of success. It's important to understand that you'll probably feel a variation of "bad" feelings, and it's ok to feel them for a while before you start moving forward. Here a few things that helped me adapt through some soul searching, online resources, my therapist and my support network:
Recognizing that productivity does not define your worth!
Late capitalism and the way it has sociologically integrated into society aims to teach us that we're only as worthy as we are productive and yet a lesson I had to remind myself of was that hard work and productivity is not always rewarded. My parents are the hardest working people I've ever known, and while I always had a roof over my head and familial support always helped keep us fed, there was never enough money for anything other than the bare essentials. So if productivity isn't always rewarded, there is something inherently wrong with the idea that productivity is your only measure for worth.
There is ABSOLUTELY nothing wrong with spending time mindlessly scrolling or rewatching your favourite feel good sit com. There's nothing wrong with giving your brain a break from thinking, calculating, creating, planning etc. Allow yourself some time to unwind. Do it for a whole day. Do it for a few days. And then when you start to get bored, move on.
Try to frame your approach with openness!
It can really take a lot of internal work and a paradigm shift to become comfortable with a such a monumental change. It can take an adjustment to your approach and a tweak on the language you use to help you accept and make the best out of this situation. Just a few examples:
Try to shift "I'm bored" to "This is a great opportunity to try something new". New hobbies, new books, new tv shows, new projects, new rest and relaxation techniques. Youtube has a wealth of tutorials to help you up your game or get started on something YOU WANT to do.
Turn "I'm feeling restless" to "I'm full of energy" and then go walk or work it off. We're still allowed to leave our homes while keeping 1.5m away from others. Dance to your favourite tunes, bench press your kids/pets, do more pushups than you've ever done before, rearrange the furniture.
Switch "I'm feeling trapped" to "here's a chance to challenge myself by pushing my comfort zone". If you had to cancel your trip to Hawaii, make/buy a lei, make a batch of pina coladas, lay in the sun, put your swimsuit on and get in the kiddy pool or bath. If you can't go to Hawaii, bring Hawaii to you! Make your space feel like where you'd rather be and use your imagination a little.
Reimagine "I'm lonely" as "I have time to spend getting to know myself better and adapt my way of connecting with people" and listen to yourself. Listen to your wants and your needs. Do things for yourself. It's kind of freeing to not have to factor in the preferences of others you're spending time with. But also, social media and communications exist for a reason! Skype, facetime, message, start a group chat with a few of your favourite buds, share memes, bitch and moan to each other. We're in this together!
Broaden "I'm going crazy" to "These are crazy times and I'm doing the best I can". Accept that your life has been disrupted. Accept that we are all experiencing TRAUMA. Accept that sometimes uncontrollable variables fuck with your head a bit - or a lot - and allow yourself to be a little kooky, remembering that things will go back to "normal" at some point but for the minute this is your normal and you'll adapt with enough time.
Create some kind of routine!
Even if it's just allocating 2 hours of your day to doing menial tasks and then spending the rest of your time playing videogames or watching TV, that's still a routine!
I've been working from home for more than two years now and things really started to come together once I started setting a routine. I tend to wake up at 7-8 am, post on twitter before I get out of bed, 20-40 mins of cardio every other day, shower, sit down at my computer at 9, take a 30 minute lunch break at around 12 and work until 4:30 or 5, eat dinner at 6-6:30 and then start my wind down process for the day. I take weekends off to get house stuff and admin done or fit in a sex work booking or two and pick at least one full day for rest. If I don't have any work to do, which is usually rare, but sort of where I'm at now, I use the same schedule for blogging, content creation, admin, my other hobbies or to learn a new skill or read up on a topic of interest.
You absolutely do not have to adhere to the 9-5 schedule. Assess what times of day you are most productive and frame your schedule around that. You might be most productive from 6am-12pm or 6pm-12am. There are no wrong routines. Do what works for you. Just make sure you actually consciously make the effort to schedule.
Start setting goals! No matter how small! And celebrate your achievements!
When I was ill, I set a goal of working 4 hours per day. Quite often I could only muster one or two, but I tried to remain positive and congratulate myself on getting that hour done. While we're dealing with so much uncertainty you don't have to aim for eight hours of productivity or finish the pergola you were building in one weekend.
Perhaps today you can lay the foundational beams. Tomorrow or next week you can cut all the framework to size. Then put all the pieces for the roof together another day. Finish the structure on Sunday. Paint it on Tuesday. Lay the metal or PVC on Friday. Maybe on Saturday you cook a big batch of food to put in the freezer. Maybe Monday you clean out the garage. Perhaps Wednesday you wash the car. If those singular tasks are all you get done on each of those days, congrats! You achieved something! Enjoy a wine or whatever tickles your fancy. It's ok to spend the rest of your day doing something that's more enjoyable and restful. Progress does not have to be linear or fast to be progress.
Do things you enjoy doing, share it with the world, and see where it takes you!
You don't have to be making money from something to put your time into it. Investing your time into activities you enjoy for the sake of enjoyment, whether you're good at them or not and whether they can make you money or not, is still time well invested in your emotional, psychological and physical well-being.
The truth is, Goddess Photography has been my savior. In high school I dedicated several years to an online graphic artist community and studied visual art for most of my education. I had extensive knowledge of photoshop and I had played with a DSLR over the years, a hobby that was incredibly fulfilling, but had been long forgotten because LIFE got in the way. I started up again by doing a few of my own photoshoots for escorting and shooting a few friends. I enjoyed the creative process immensely. I shared my work with the world and offered some REALLY CHEAP photo shoots with the aim of eventually covering my equipment costs. It helped by providing a means to occupy myself with work that didn't require a whole lot of physical maintenance and was mostly solitary so I could do it in bed if I couldn't manage getting up that day. With experience and a solid investments into learning new skills and purchasing equipment, my work flourished, my reputation grew by word of mouth, and Goddess Photography took on a life of its own, now occupying 60-70% of my working hours and 50-60% of my income.
I'm not saying create a business over the next few months, but pursue a passion, or pick up a new one. Use it as a way to connect with others, by sharing it on social media, youtube, etc and if you think it's a skill people might benefit from or be interested in, offer it up and see if anyone bites. Who knows what the possibilities might be? If nothing else, you might get to talking with strangers and make a few friends who also enjoy that particular thing, and we could all use an extra friend or two right now. GO! Do it. Have fun.
All in all, the next few months are probably going to suck a bit, but humans have a way of adapting and surviving that makes us incredible. This too shall pass, and we'll all be free again, but for the moment, just do what you can and try to take care of yourself and try to stay connected.
Stay safe, stay sane -- mostly -- and please stay home when you can.
Air kisses, Vx