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, France, 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.
My apartment is a beautiful two bedroom on the lower east side. It used to be an old tenement building, so it’s a slice of history (but with modern interiors – jackpot!). I have it all to myself while my housemate is riding this nightmare out back home in Australia – which is a blessing (plenty of space to work and work-out) and a curse (weeks without any human interaction). I was already pretty smug about having a washer/dryer in the unit, but now particularly so. We also have a rooftop which has been a godsend on sunny days. I sit up there with a glass of wine and listen to music and things don’t seem so bad.
New York City is unrecognisable. The city that never sleeps is like… comatose. It’s particularly eerie when I look out at the street from my rooftop and see how truly deserted it is. All the beautiful bars and coffee shops that make the LES such a cool spot to live are closed up, sometimes with plastic or boards over the glass so you can’t even see inside. It’s like a ghost town. But in some ways, New York is just the same. The Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, has been delivering some particularly awesome speeches about how tough New Yorkers are and how the City is always changing, but also never changing – so it is still an inspiring place to be, even without all the social activity and vibrancy that springs to mind when you think of New York.
I have written myself a schedule like I’m a small child – complete with recess breaks. I wake up, meditate (I’ve practiced vedic meditation for a few years; if you are interested in learning during all this madness contact @theBroadPlace!), drink coffee and read the news, 30 min yoga (thank god for Peloton’s free trial), conference call with my team at 8.45 sharp (which is GREAT because it makes me shower and wash my hair before 9am), then I work 9-12, run before lunch (mid-day workouts are the one upside of all this), work until 6 or so, then wind down with a second meditation (twice daily sounds like over-kill but it’s a vedic thing). Then in the evenings I cook myself a nice dinner (with a glass of wine, duh), and video call friends or watch Netflix. Then I rinse repeat… like, down to the minute. It’s ground hog day.
The most challenging thing about self-isolating is perhaps the uncertainty. Though in some ways, the uncertainty makes it easier. Knowing for sure that this is going to go on for many months more might just send me over the edge! At the moment we’re all just putting one foot in front of the other. The isolation is obviously challenging too – particularly in the evenings after a long day at work, I would normally decompress by meeting friends at a bar or going to an event. But I’m a perpetually single only child so I’m pretty accustomed to entertaining myself.
I’m most worried about the social fallout from the economic impact of social distancing in three-four months from now. There will be a lot of unemployed, disaffected people primed to be radicalised – either politically or religiously.
I think the softer social impact will also be quite profound. For months we will have been conditioning ourselves to fear the outdoors, and particularly to be suspicious of strangers and to avoid touch. I don’t know what long term impact that will have, but I don’t think it will be positive.
Weirdest thing I’ve seen? Tiger King.
Today I ran past an old man. He was standing outside a liquor store (deemed to be an essential business – small mercy!) and he was passing money to a stranger to go in and buy booze on his behalf. It was such a familiar scene in some ways, but normally it would be teenagers handing over cash outside the store, rather than old people. The stranger was going in to protect the old man from unnecessary social contact. I’ve also seen people wearing N-95 masks and lifting them up to smoke – the irony!
My three tips for managing cabin fever are: Firstly, a schedule (see above). Secondly, outdoor exercise – the best way to reduce cabin fever is to get OUT OF THE CABIN – and exercise is permitted outdoor activity! Thirdly, regular video chats with friends.
I will never complain about being busy at work again. Sometimes it takes a crisis like this to remind you that you aren’t actually entitled to a job, let alone a career! It’s a privilege to do interesting work. And it could be taken away from you at any moment, so I’m feeling the gratitude in a big way.
I am grateful for the ability to move my body, sit in the sunshine and enjoy nourishing food – the basics, really. And I’m grateful to live in one of the most socially diverse and vibrant cities in the world. This experience has only reinforced why I moved here in the first place. This, too, will pass – and one day soon we will all be out – being social and not distancing – only with a dollop more gratitude and awareness than before.
Honey Debelle is an Associate Director at global communications company Finsbury in New York City. Follow her @honeydebelle