Caring for yourself in quarantine

It’s hard to ignore the fact that we are in the midst of a pandemic, which at times can seem scary, challenging and unpredictable. While I am not a public health physician, I am a critical care doctor and will be directly responsible for looking after some of the sickest COVID-19 patients here in Australia. That is, when I eventually make it out of quarantine.

Alas, I took an ill timed jaunt to New Zealand and missed the quarantine cut off on the way home, and am now stuck in my apartment for the next 2 weeks. Am I happy about this? Not particularly. Is it necessary? Absolutely. While I want to be straight back out their at the coalface with my colleagues, if there’s any chance I could make someone else sick then it’s not worth the risk.

As a young woman I am statistically likely to be okay if I catch the virus. But that’s not the point.

If you’ve seen the chaos that occurs when everyone bombards the supermarket at the same time to buy toilet paper and hand sanistiser, you can understand how this situation is less than ideal. Many people miss out due to a lack of supplies and resources, even those who just went to the shops to buy tonight’s dinner rather than quarantine supplies. Once you understand that, you can understand why all us medics are panicking – because that is exactly what will happen to our health care system if we’re not careful. The only difference is that instead of tissues and pasta, we’re talking about ventilators and ICU beds (which we don’t actually have enough of by the way). This time you’re not just risking going hungry, you’re risking death from cardiac or respiratory failure. And those people who just popped in because they had something not covid related, like a heart attack or a major car accident or appendicitis? They’ll miss out too, with potentially disastrous consequences. And that’s without including the immunocompromised and elderly patients who are most likely to become seriously ill from this disease.

So when you see all us doctors and nurses jumping up and down on social media, to the cry of “this is not just a common cold!” at least now I hope you’ll understand why.

But back to quarantine, and note I don’t just mean social distancing. I mean the whole “looks like I’m not leaving the house for 2 weeks” situation. If I leave the house I’m risking the health of those around me, and a hefty $13,000 fine from the government. So I’m staying put for now – and hopefully I’m also staying sane.

Here’s my list so far on the tips and tricks I am learning while I am stuck here!

  • Have a routine – While you’re stuck at home for 2 weeks, it may be easy enough to take a conference call in your underpants or exist exclusively in gym gear. But at least get into some sort of a normal routine (breakfast, exercise, put on normal clothes, answer emails etc), which has been shown to decrease anxiety in times like this. I enjoy the late night Netflix binge as much as the next person, but just don’t do it all day and night.
  • Stay social – This one is the worst for me. As much as I enjoy my own company, I’ve also missed having my friends and family around (for a while now given my recent exams). So instead of texting, try FaceTime or having a wine and cheese night over Skype with your girlfriends. Keep your group Whatsapp chat going, or just bombard your siblings with virus memes via text (sorry not sorry boys!). Remember that we’re all in this together!
  • Keep exercising – I am a gym junkie so the thought of giving it away as well as missing my taekwondo classes was one of the worst quarantine impacts for me. However, a yoga mat, some heavy resistance bands and a few youtube HIIT and pilates videos later and I am back in business. I signed up to Barre Body’s online platform and while it’s not the same as my usual reformer pilates, I will happily make do with the absolute burn that comes with Barre! In addition, instead of running, my new cardio routine is to vigorously dance around my room in my pijammas, which I feel is good for your health both on a physical and spiritual level (although I’m not sure the neighbours the floor below agree!).
  • Don’t destroy your diet – I was very fortunate that in the lead up to my recent exams, I started doing Hello Fresh because I didn’t have the time to shop for groceries or menu plan. I am SO thankful I have continued this now, as I am one less person fighting over ingredients that someone else may need. I am well aware that this is not a luxury that every family can afford, it just happened to be what was right for me. I also find that you can make the meals into 3 or 4 servings by adding extra rice or vegetables, which means most of my boxes last the week. At least I know I’m eating vegetables and protein every day. I’m also progressing slowly through a packet of Tim Tams in the fridge which are being dutifully rationed each day, because balance is important.
  • Get a breath of fresh air – If you have a balcony (which thankfully we do), then chuck on a mask and get outside for some sun. If you can’t do that, then at least open the windows and let the breeze flow through. There’s nothing worse than feeling stale and stuffy when you’re stuck indoors.

On a final note I say the following with my medical hat on here – use social distancing, avoid the crowds, WASH YOUR HANDS (regularly, and for 20 seconds minimum) and please stop touching your face. 

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