For most of us, this self-isolation period is riddled with anxiety, delirium and endless snacks. Being inside all day has forced the majority of us to become more creative, more frugal, more patient, more grateful and has seemingly spurred a lot of new bakers! While this practice of social distancing is hard, there’s comfort in the idea that we’re all struggling in some way at the moment. At GRAZIA, we thought it would be nice to peek into the lives of other Australian women going through the same thing. Each day, we’ll bring you the honest tale of a woman, just like you, living her best inside-life from her little spot in America, The UK, Singapore, Spain, Australia and New Zealand. We’re all in this together and some shared tips during this shared experience might be the little pick-me-up you need today to shift some of that stale energy.

I live in a one-bedroom, fourth-floor walk-up in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, with my husband and dog. It’s older-style, but I love the exposed brick wall that runs along one side of the apartment, and the skylight in the kitchen that lets in lots of natural light.

The city that never sleeps is comatose. Restaurants and bars have been forced to close, as have the museums, libraries, department stores – almost everything. Streets are empty. The subway is deserted. New York City’s specific, vibrating energy is gone.

And yet, I’ve had some funny, heartening encounters with New Yorkers – like the stranger who cheered me on when I was running – that prove it hasn’t lost its soul.

For the first week of self-isolation I was indistinguishable from Bridget Jones, drinking wine while wrapped in my duvet every afternoon, watching the world as we know it crumble on CNN. I’ve since worked out a routine and I’m feeling much better, thanks.

A typical day goes something like this: I wake up at 7am and meditate on the couch for 20 minutes. Then I’ll make coffee, put on WBGO, the jazz radio station I find uplifting (especially in these dark times) and do morning pages, an anxiety-reducing tool I learned in Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. After that I take my dog for a walk, shower, and sit down at my desk to work. In the afternoon I go for a run in Prospect Park to signal to my brain the work day is over. Then I’ll shower, pour some wine, put on music and talk to my husband, Sam, while he cooks dinner (he’s a chef, so I don’t even bother). At this time Australia is waking up, so I’ll check in with family and friends back home. Sam and I have been watching laugh-out-loud shows like Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Not seeing friends and family IRL – and not knowing when I’ll see them again – has been challenging. In 2020 I was looking forward to three weddings, and holding friends’ babies for the first time. All postponed indefinitely.

Personally, I’m most concerned about the health and wellbeing of family members who are more vulnerable to COVID-19. Overall, I fear the healthcare system – especially in NYC, where the number of 911 calls is breaking records every day – will be overrun.

The weirdest thing I’ve seen during this period of self-isolation is my reflection in the mirror. I’ve found myself in some odd outfits, like baggy tracksuit pants, Doc Martens, a burgundy sweater and a matching beanie (it wasn’t even cold).

My three tips for managing cabin fever are as followed:

Buy (online, of course) a fragrant body wash to make showers pleasurable. I treated myself to Aesop Geranium Leaf Body Cleanser. 

Clean, tidy and organise your space. It makes it feel less oppressive, and helps burn off some extra energy.

Don’t compare yourself to how others are broadcasting their self-isolation online. You don’t have to do sweaty HIIT sessions in your living room if it doesn’t feel right (if I did, my downstairs neighbour’s picture frames would fall off the walls).

I will never complain again about the length of the New York to Sydney flight! I used to comfort myself knowing at any time I could go to JFK, get on a plane and be home in 24 hours. That’s not the case now –  most airlines have stopped flying the route until June, and anyone who arrives in Australia from overseas is quarantined in a hotel for two weeks. I’ve never felt so far from home.

Since the pandemic, I am now actually grateful for the subway! Sure, it has its issues (I’ve seen – and smelled – some things I wish I could memory-erase) but unable to ride it due to self-isolation, I realise how it opens up the city. And that there’s nothing more quintessentially New York than the shared misery of a crowded subway car.

Erin Van Der Meer is an Australian freelance writer based in New York City. Her work has been published in The New York Times, The Daily Beast and Man Repeller. Follow her on Instagram @erinvandermeer or Twitter @erinvandermeer