Disease & Genomics

Surviving Self-Quarantine: 6 Strategies to Keep Your Family Healthy and Sane During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Jessica Larson
Coronavirus outbreak

Spring break trips canceled? Boss informs you it’s time to start working remotely? Older kids suddenly home from college? Younger kids home with no way of knowing when school will start again? Sports at all levels canceled for the season? State governments restricting where you can go and shutting down nonessential businesses?

There’s plenty of uncertainty surrounding this global pandemic. Sick people are sent home to recover because medical facilities can’t handle the volume of people coming in. Most of us don’t know when or where we’ll be able to buy our next roll of toilet paper. Distilleries are even combating the shortages by using their alcohol to produce homemade hand sanitizers to give to the public.

Amid all the unknowns, though, one thing is clear: Families are likely to be spending a lot more time together in close quarters. Here are six aspects of “the new normal” that you might want to prepare for:

1. Establishing a way to work from home

If you don’t already have a home office, it’s time to set one up. As each day passes, it’s become clearer that many people won’t be commuting to the office any time soon. Clear some functional space to use as a home office (and possibly double as a school zone, if necessary).

Depending on how much space you have in your house or apartment, you might need to do some serious uncluttering (maybe enough to even rent a dumpster) or put some of your possessions in storage. If you and/or your spouse and the kids are all fighting for the same space to work, it’s going to be difficult. During this potentially prolonged time of quarantine and social distancing, you’ll need to claim all of the space you can get so everyone can be productive.

Additionally, while it’s tempting to start doing housework or other projects, save these for the hours when you’re off work. If you get too distracted by household duties, you’re likely to become unproductive on the job. Instead, use the time you’d be commuting to focus on house projects or cleaning. Success is more likely with your new telework status if you treat every day (as much as possible) as if you were physically in your office.

2. Managing school closings

With each passing week, more states are deciding to close schools indefinitely, with some even suspending in-person classes for the rest of the academic year. Many school districts are scrambling to put together e-learning curriculums, while others are sending home packets for students — or adopting a combination of learning strategies.

In the immediate future, it’s going to be a huge transition for kids and parents alike. If kids are supposed to attend online classes, set each of them up with a device they can use to connect, and designate a space for them to work.

If your kids don’t have school requirements, provide some structure with a mix of entertainment, chores, and unplugged activities. Consider giving them cooking lessons and preparing meals together. Then maybe plan to play a game after dinner. Activities like these can break up the monotony and give them something to look forward to each day.

3. Dealing with supply shortages

If you’re stuck at home but healthy, you just need to stock up on your usual food and household products — about a month’s supply to be on the safe side. Don’t forget medications — if anyone in your household gets sick, you’ll want over-the-counter medicine, tissues, sports drinks, soup, and lots of laundry detergent to wash sheets, towels, and soiled clothes.

Remember to also stock up on other essentials like allergy medications, hand soap, hygiene products, nonperishable foods, and bottled water. You don’t need to hoard, since the supply chain is in good shape, but you should have enough to get you through the next few weeks until the demand tapers off and the ability to find essentials becomes more stabilized.

4. Coping with loss of income 

Many people have been temporarily laid off from their regular jobs until further notice and need extra income. If that sounds familiar, consider this a perfect time to start a side hustle or online business. You could walk dogs or become the go-to person for your elderly neighbors. If you’re more inclined toward online work, then set up a tutoring service. With so many students from kindergarten to college working from home, a percentage of them will likely need help with their studies.

An encouraging word about an out-of-the-house side hustle: If you become the friendly neighborhood grocery delivery person for any app-averse seniors in your part of town, they might remain your clients even after the pandemic’s passed. Transporting their groceries in tote bags emblazoned with your name and number will help make sure they’ll always know how to get in touch with you.

5. Establishing time to exercise

It’s not easy being cooped up inside and having limited contact with others. Although many states are instituting shelter-in-place orders or closing down nonessential businesses, such as gyms, you still want to get some daily exercise.

Don’t be discouraged by the dearth of dumbbells for sale online! You can use soup cans instead — or pull out those old exercise DVDs, find some yoga videos on YouTube, or simply go outside for a jog or a walk.

And while you’re at it, give a shout-out to spring! It’s a great time to do some gardening and work up a sweat while getting some fresh air in your lungs.

6. Segregating sick and healthy household members

One of the biggest fears right now, of course, is the spread of illness. If a family member comes down with any illness, be sure to segregate them in one room away from the rest of the household, and designate a single caregiver to interact with them. Be sure the designated caregiver uses gloves when handling soiled linens, wears a mask if any are available, and changes clothes before entering other rooms or interacting with healthy family members. Most importantly, be sure to routinely clean and disinfect materials and surfaces — including electronic devices, doorknobs, and other high-touch areas.

During a crisis like this one is a perfect time to learn CPR and first aid if you don’t know it or need a refresher. With local medical resources likely strained by an influx of people needing care, or facilities limiting people due to restrictions, it’s more important than ever to have life-saving skills. You can take advantage of online CPR training while you’re self-isolated.

Being self-isolated, quarantined, and having to practice social distancing is challenging, at best. But to avoid infection of COVID-19 or potentially passing the virus to someone else, we all have to do our part. In the meantime, hang in there. This, too, shall pass!

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