The coronavirus lockdown came seemingly out of nowhere. One week we were getting to grips with properly washing our hands, and the next we are barely allowed out. We now have to work, educate children and relax all from home.
The sudden change to life can feel overwhelming. But it is possible to use this period to your advantage: without a commute there will be more time in your day for other things. You can still keep going with many of the things you did before, with tweaks to make them work online.
Read on for a thorough guide of how to get through the lockdown period, and dare we say it, maybe even enjoy it.
Things to do when you’re bored at home
You can’t get a drink at the pub, go to the cinema or workout at the gym, so how on Earth will you spend these long hours? It could be the time to finally get into one of those hobbies you’ve been meaning to do: learn to play an instrument (be mindful of your neighbours who will be stuck in their homes) or get baking (if you can find the ingredients in the shops).
Even if you can’t be in the same room as your friends, you can still make time to speak to each other. Virtual dinner parties are now A Thing: pick one dish to cook in each house, and eat it together in front of a webcam. Our writer tried it out, and had a jolly good time, as you can read in this piece.
If you want to see your friends and do something cultural together, you could do a virtual book club. With all this time at home, there’s no excuse for not finishing this month’s book.
If you are using self-isolation as a chance to, well, isolate yourself, this could be a brilliant time to catch up on all the television and books you’ve missed. Our Culture team have pulled together a comprehensive guide of what’s worth your time here.
Best virtual activities
Even though almost all bricks and mortar activities are now shut, a range of activities are now opening up online. Museums are offering online viewings and orchestras are doing live screenings online.
Our writer has summed up the best daily activities on offer for free online here. If you’re craving some routine, you could make them into a daily timetable: virtual workout at 8am, virtual museum tour at lunchtime, and so on.
How to keep the kids entertained
It’s hard enough keeping yourself entertained without leaving the house, but it’s a whole other ball game when you have children. With schools and playgrounds shut and days out cancelled, it will take some creativity to while away the hours.
Luckily, there are many things you can do at home or in the garden, if you have one. You don’t need to spend a lot of money or special kit to fill the time, there are plenty of fun ideas to keep the kids entertained.
If your children are bouncing off the walls, it might help to tire them out a bit. Joe Wicks, aka The Body Coach, is leading a “PE lesson” every weekday at 9am which is streamed live on his YouTube channel. Our writer tried out the first one on Monday.
How to home school without going mad
Home schooling is tough, but even tougher when you only have three days’ notice and are trying to work from home yourself at the same time. Many parents are finding maths has changed since they were at school, and are struggling to get the technology to work.
The best thing to do is to have a clear plan before you get going. Think about where in the house you will do the teaching, what time are lessons, and which parent will be responsible. Some countries in Europe closed schools before the UK, so they can offer us some advice. Our writer in the Netherlands explains everything she wishes she knew before she started in this piece.
How to exercise at home
Spending so much time indoors may well make you a bit restless. The good news is that you don’t need a gym to exercise: in fact, you don’t even need any equipment. You can still do cardio exercise outside with a walk, run or cycle and you can add in resistance training at home with a few basic moves.
You could either construct your own workout by choosing from some straightforward exercises like squats, lunges and crunches.
If you want someone else to do the mental work for your workout, there are many companies offering online workouts that you can follow in your front room.
Tips for running and walking on lockdown
The good news is that you can still go outside for a walk, run or cycle. The bad news is that you will have to go alone, or with someone from your household, so your running and cycling groups will be off for the time being. You must stay two metres from anyone you encounter when you do go out.
Using your allocated one daily trip outdoors to exercise will lift your mood no end. If you aren’t a runner, a walk will still provide mental and physical benefits. If you’re a beginner, try aiming for a 30 minute walk five times a week, says Joanna Hall, creator of the exercise programme Walkactive. Even if you manage just 10 minutes, that will still make you feel better. A full guide to walking and running in the time of coronavirus can be found here.
Many races have been affected: the marathons in London, Paris, Barcelona and Rome have been cancelled or postponed, and even the humble 5K Parkrun is off for the time being. If you have been training for an event which has been postponed, you may have to rejig your plan a bit to make sure that you will be at your best for the new date.
There is a silver lining: with all this extra time to prepare you have an even greater chance of a personal best. The most important thing is to not give up: don’t let your training go to waste. For a full guide to keeping up your distance training, click here.
The best video calling tech for socialising and work
Past experiences with video calls may make you wary of trying it now for virtual drinks with friends. It never seems to work, does it? The line is crackly or the picture keeps cutting out, or for some reason it doesn’t load on your phone.
Luckily, there are many new apps out there making video calling easier and better than before. It’s now so easy to do that even the 93-year-old Queen is using the tech.
If you want something simple to use, you might want to use Zoom. If you want something a little extra, then try Houseparty, which allows callers to play games against each other.
Advice for doing the food shop
Under the new rules, buying essentials like food and medicine is one of the few remaining reasons you will be allowed out of the house. If you follow the guidelines fully, it will also be one of the few times that you come into contact with others who are potentially a source of infection.
That is why the government is asking people to shop as infrequently as they can: try to buy food to last a few days rather than popping in and out constantly.
Each supermarket has its own way of keeping people safe: Morrisons has put up perspex shields on the checkouts separating till operators and shoppers, and Waitrose has employed staff to enforce distances of two metres between people in the shop. Read our full guide to each supermarket’s measures.
People are also being urged to shop responsibly and not buy more than they need. Some supermarkets have imposed upper limits on the amount of items people can buy, while others have set aside hours for elderly and disabled people and NHS workers. All the special supermarket shopping hours and supermarket rationing can be found here.
If you need to self-isolate and can’t get out to the shops, Xanthe Clay has some advice on how to make tasty meals from things in your cupboard here.
And of course, the usual things apply when you’ve been food shopping: be two metres away from anyone who is not in your household, don’t touch your face when you’re out, and wash your hands as soon as you get home.
Advice for pet owners
It is still unclear whether pets can be affected by Covid-19. A Pomeranian reportedly died after testing positive for the infection in Hong Kong, although there are serious questions surrounding the case. The dog was 17 years old, and had no symptoms, so it is likely that it simply died of old age.
But even if pets can’t catch coronavirus, they can still spread it. The virus could be passed from human to human on their coats, just like on any other surface. That is why people are now advised to keep their cats indoors and to walk their dogs on a leash.
If you can’t walk your dog for any reason, you might want to stimulate them in other ways with games, suggests our vet Pete Wedderburn.
How to stay mentally healthy
Staying inside, disruption of routine and time away from loved ones can all trigger mental health problems. Things can be even tougher when all these things come at once, like at the moment.
The best advice is to continue life as normally as you can. Don’t break off contact with friends because you can’t see them — ring or video call them instead. If you can’t go to the gym, don’t stop exercising: adapt your work out to make it suitable for home instead. Getting into a regular routine will help.
The situation can feel completely overwhelming. Our resident psychologist Dr Linda Blair is here to help with her Daily Dose of Calm, which can be found here.
A full guide to looking after your mental health in lockdown can be found here.
Can I go in my garden?
If you are lucky enough to have some private green space used only by members of your household, then absolutely, go ahead and go outside. Remember to use the same cautiousness that you would normally: do not invite anyone outside of your household into the garden and wash your hands when you get back inside.
You can also still use public parks, as long as you steer clear of outdoor gyms and playgrounds, and remain two metres away from people outside your household. If you are out in large groups, you may be dispersed by police.
Bunny Guinness thinks that more time at home could be a great opportunity to do a little bit of work to your green space, as she details here.