SOCIETY TALK

Surviving the indoors during corona shutdown

By staying home, we are reducing the contact we have with people physically but it does not mean that every day is a parte after parte. It is business as usual

In Summary

• Once the excitement of not having to go to work or school wears off, you'll have to cope with the new world order

Isolated person looks out the window
Isolated person looks out the window
Image: PEXELS

As the world descended into chaos in the wake of the pandemic that is Covid-19, also known as coronavirus, we Kenyans were thrown into the bowels of dread on Sunday, when President Kenyatta announced that social distancing has been made compulsory. This means people are required to work from home (those who can) all learning institutions to close and social gatherings are forthwith forbidden.

Let us be honest, Kenyans are a social people. We prefer to be outdoors socialising. We are not used to being indoors for an indefinite period with our spouses and children. In fact, this might be the first time in history for Kenyans to experience such a thing. Once the excitement of not having to go to work or school wears off, we might find that this new world order is to live with longer than we had anticipated.

It is guaranteed that if you force a number of people to stay in the same space for a long time it will be catastrophic. Tempers will flare, patience limits will be tested and personal spaces invaded. It is almost like the excitement and chaos of having family stay over for Christmas… but indefinitely.

In light of the current situation, we have come up with a few simple guides that will help Kenyans ‘survive’ the madness of being cooped up indoors for a long time.  

1. Create a routine

Let us be clear, just because people have been requested to stay home, does not mean we are on holiday. It is business as usual, but in a different environment. People must, therefore, adhere to the same routines for sanity’s sake. Wake up. Take a shower. Get dressed. Go to work. Have lunch. Work out. Have family time, etc. Planning and allocating certain hours to different chores allows maximum productivity.

On the flip side, waking up at a random time and winging the rest of the day in pyjamas puts one in a slump that will set the tone for the rest of the day. Winging it is the demise of productivity. Create a routine for kids as well. They need to wake up at the usual school times, take a shower, make their beds, have breakfast, have school time where they can do homework, exercises or tests from their textbooks. They also need to have daily house chores, limited TV and Internet time and plenty of exercise. (See next point)

2. Work out

We all know that exercise is good for you. A little physical activity goes a long way in promoting not just physical but mental health. Even in maximum prisons, prisoners are allowed some time during the day, where they can walk in the yard and get some physical exercise. In this lockdown, we will need to exercise more than ever. As we will be doing less physical activity than we usually do on regular days, we will need to set aside a specific time during the day to exercise.

Even if one is not used to working out, this is a good time to start. People do not need a gym, a running track or the outdoors to work out. There are thousands of workouts that can easily be done at home. All one needs is some floor space with little to no equipment. There are many fitness experts who have shaped their careers around home-based fitness, they can be found on Instagram and YouTube.

Exercising regularly at home will help with weight loss, maintaining strong muscles and bones and reducing the risk of cardiovascular problems. Exercising also increases the production of endorphins, which are known to help produce positive feelings. This is essential, as we will need to improve the moods of individuals at home and remove the feeling of depression, anxiety and stress.

Working out during the day helps improve sleep quality at night. You will tend to realise that the longer you stay home, the less sleep you have. This is because the body is not utilising all the energy it has, leading to energetic sleep, that is, tossing and turning. When we work out, the exhaustion of energy that occurs during exercise is able to stimulate the recuperative processes during sleep.

3. Expand your skills

Mayday… this is not a holiday. I repeat, this is not a holiday. By staying home, we are reducing the contact we have with people physically but it does not mean that every day is a parte after parte. It is business as usual. Those who can work from home are lucky. Those who have ‘free time’ should use this time wisely. Since most Kenyans are connected to the Internet, they can use it as an educational tool. Many free courses are offered online. These will help you expand your knowledge and skill-set before resuming work.

You can also take this time to learn new things, such as a language, different software, cooking recipes or art. Children should also be encouraged to take this step. There are many educational and creative programmes for kids that are based online.

Remember that this is time that will be accounted for in future, so make the best of it.

4. Encourage Me-time

The current situation seems to be marked as indefinite. Only when the virus threat has been eradicated will life go back to normal. So hang in there because we might be indoors for a very long time. One important thing to consider is personal space. If a group of people is stuck together for a long time and people start invading each other’s personal space, then it will be cataclysmic.

To avoid this, families must encourage alone time, even among children. People have different interests and hobbies; encourage them to do these things separate from the group. Even quiet time should be implemented. Quiet time can be used for individual reflection, prayer, contemplation and being alone with one’s thoughts.

This will avoid unnecessary squabbles. It will make coming together again like a refreshing reunion; almost like coming home after a long day. For kids, it is especially important they learn independence. They don’t have to play together all the time, they should learn to do things for themselves and by themselves.

5. Spring-cleaning has come early

There are seven days to the week. These translate to too many hours to allocate for chores and tasks. At some point, one would have completed all chores and have extra time to spare. Since we are cooped up indoors for an indefinite period, why not allocate this time for the inevitable spring-cleaning? The annual deep cleaning that is done pretty much later in the year can be done during this time, especially over the weekends.

As we are expected to stay indoors for the most part of the day, having a zen home is the most important thing. A house that is decluttered and clean gives a warm welcome to those who live in it. By cleaning and organising the house, we not only declutter our living space but our minds as well. Try calming home improvement methods such as the KonMari method by Marie Kondo. Marie Kondo recommends having items that spark joy in the home. The Feng shui method also encourages people to live in a harmonious environment.

6. Spend time in Nature

Although the government has requested people to stay indoors and observe social distancing, it does not mean that we should completely lock ourselves from the outside world. We can still go outside as long as we keep from engaging with others. One of the places we can freely enjoy in the outside world is forested areas. Not only are forests free from overcrowding but they have a lot of benefits associated with walking through forests.

For instance, forest walks are known to have incredible healing properties. A serene setting helps calm down people and helps them regain their balance. After days of being cooped up in the house, such healing properties would rejuvenate the body immensely.

Forests are not the only nature activity we can enjoy. Other outside activities that we can participate in that have minimal human contact include cycling, hikes, swimming in the ocean or even taking an evening stroll around the neighbourhood. What we must remember is to maintain the recommended distance from other people. Families should use their own private means to get to places that are far out. Avoid taking extended members of the family who do not live with you to such outings.

7. What to Avoid

While it is simple to talk about things we can do, we must also include things that are important to avoid during these troubled times. Avoid fighting among yourselves. No one is happy about the situation. Should you see a fight brewing in the horizon, quickly change topics or let people be by themselves to cool off.

Avoid things like sugar or unhealthy foods. Sugars cause a surge of energy in the body. If is cooped up in the house, these sugar highs are difficult to control, especially in children.

Avoid snacking. This unnecessarily encourages unwanted weight gain. Stick to three solid meals a day. Avoid losing your cool often. When children, especially, are at home full-time, they will test every ounce of patience you have. Try to deal with their issues without losing your cool. Should you find yourself easily triggered, take some time out to do some calming activity like yoga or meditation.

Avoid wanting your partner’s attention all the time. It is important for spouses to give each other space so they do not get tired of each other fast.

Edited by T Jalio