What do an astronaut, a submariner and a person with a rare disease have in common? The answer is – isolation. Regardless of your reasons for, or depth of experience with, isolation, it can still be extremely challenging. And although everything is uncertain at the moment and may feel a bit overwhelming, as with any challenge, the best thing to do is to find a way to get through it in good spirits.
So what do you do when you find yourself all of a sudden stuck at home with not even the prospect of hospital visits or your usual daily activities to distract you? Here are some practical tips to help you create a healthy routine, manage your health and wellbeing, and above all find some contentment in these testing times.
Create a routine
Get up, get dressed, and start your day like any other. You may not be leaving the house, but by creating a structure and set routines, you create a sense of normality. Eat meals at the usual times, sleep when you would normally sleep and, if you aren’t sure how to spend the rest of your time, draw up a time table and put in ‘appointments’ for yourself, e.g. 10am ‘Cup of tea’, 11am ‘Call with friend’ 4pm ‘Water the plants’ 7pm ‘TV/Netflix’ etc. This will help you break up your day and maybe even make it feel like it goes a bit quicker.
All around the world, people are using isolation as a great opportunity to do and learn new things, from 1000-piece puzzles to new languages and extreme gardening. You absolutely do not have to learn a new language during isolation or indeed perfect your French cooking skills, grow a sourdough starter and take up origami… but you might want to think of something you’ve been longing to do for a while and simply not had the time or focus. Anything that interests you will do, as long as it is a way for you to enjoy yourself safely at home, with no pressure – just fun.
Separate work and life
If you are still working and do not have the dubious gift of free time, take this opportunity to enjoy your work and use working hours as a way to break up your day. Have a set area for your working time and try and ‘go to the office’ – even if that is just a particular corner of your kitchen table. By creating a framework like this, you will also be able to keep a better work/life balance.
As a person living with or caring for someone with CML, you know more than most of the importance of a healthy lifestyle – this is never more important than in times of isolation. Make it a priority to eat well, sleep properly and keep exercising – as with everything, this may feel more challenging now – try adding your exercise times to your daily routine or ‘appointment’ diary, or keep notes of what you are eating to make sure you don’t go off track. It may be that cooking could be a new skill that you practice while in isolation. If you’re looking to learn some new healthy recipes – you can find ideas in our ‘Eating healthy for CML’ article here.
Stay connected with family and friends
Everyone is in the same boat – now more than ever, it is important to keep in touch with colleagues, friends or family as much as possible, especially if you are isolating alone. For this, the internet is your friend! Even if you aren’t the most technologically minded, use this opportunity to learn about new technology and chat to people from the safety of your home. Free applications such as Skype, WhatsApp video calls, or Zoom are very popular for group conversations including video. But if you aren’t able to find a technology that suits you, the old-fashioned telephone is still an option. Just hearing someone’s voice can be very soothing, and remind you that this situation is temporary and there is always a friendly person just a click away.
Know when to get help
You are only human. Living with CML and isolating for an unknown period of time is challenging for anyone. It is ok to not feel happy, it can be extremely difficult being at home juggling remote working or children who aren’t at school or extended loneliness – the experience of isolation is different for everyone and it is important that you ask for help if you are feeling overwhelmed. CML Life has a host of mindfulness podcasts to help you cope with any anxiety or other difficult emotions. Alternatively, there are many organisations that can help you with additional support that will have resources specifically for people with CML.
It’s not forever
Before you know it, things will be back to a new version of ‘normal’. If you have been living with, or caring for someone with CML for some time, you will have more resilience already than most. Draw on these hard-earned skills – you can do this!