Life in your Fortress of Solitude

AKA: staying sane in lockdown

Live less out of habit and more out of intent.

Amy Rubin

Remember all those memes about “would you stay a month in this isolated cabin without internet for 1 million dollars?” and most of us thought doi yes I would! Imagine all the <insert hobby> I would get done without distraction! Well now that’s being put to the test, except we still have the ‘net and we’re finding out that it’s arguably one of the biggest obstacles to overcome when trying to get things done. For the coming metaphor, just think of it as a hurdle to pass every now and then.

Welcome to 2020’s replacement Olympics: The Isolation Games.

First on the agenda for this new event a third of the global population is currently participating in, we have thanking our key workers for everything they’re doing to keep the rest of us safe.

Without them this situation would be a hell of a lot worse, so if you see a nurse or postman or anyone else similar out and about, give them a smile. Thank them. It might seem small, but letting someone know you are grateful for them, even if you think it’s obvious already, can go a long way.

Now for the rest, I thought rather than going into a long list of resources available* for keeping your mental and physical health safe during this time, it could be more fun and entertaining to share with you my experiences and have a less clinical approach.

This is going to be a multipart series, as part of the Saturday personal/creative posts, plus this will give me time to build up a few stories and poems in the background.

So after this Life in your Fortress of Solitude series is over, expect a good few weeks of back to back creative writing posts to keep you entertained!

Wow. Things really do sound more fun and less clinical when you explain the reasoning behind them first, right?

Running out of fucks might count as cardio – sometimes – but it’s much better to go for a run and give one about taking care of your health during this time!

Not sure about anyone else, but keeping a schedule feels trickier without the commute to and from work to break up your day between work and leisure.

Sometimes, it’s important to make additional adjustments to your schedule, even after you’ve changed it to include not leaving the house unless for food, medicine or key work. We’ll get into that in the next post, but let’s focus on making a schedule first…

For the last few weeks, I’ve been using an app called Habitica** which is essentially a habit and to do list tracker, where as you complete tasks, you gain experience and level up.

Cute art. Griffins. Levelling up. How could you not?

It essentially uses pixelated sprite art and a nerdy concept to lure you in and I’m not ashamed to say it absolutely works! The organisation of the app is well done too, so it’s not all style over substance: you can get your “daily quests” to trigger on set days, so I’ve broken down all my normal weekly tasks to different days, making me feel like I’ve achieved something each day, while keeping on top of mundane things like exercise and cleaning.

You can break down tasks into categories, so I’ve used only three to keep things simple: creativity, chore and exercise. Anything social is kept separate in my diary, rather than a “to do”, so I work my tasks around keeping in contact and hanging out with friends over videocall and Skype. Pro-tip: if you have a webcam, pop something over the camera when you’re not using it to stay safe from hackers – they’re on the rise with everyone staying at home.

It’s easy when starting out your new schedule to over-organise, but less is really more. Write down the tasks you really need to do, then cross off any that are actually “to do” tasks rather than daily, weekly, or monthly habits. Those are for a different list. Also if you live with other people, can they share the load? Perhaps if you have less to do now, you can help them? Open communication is key at all times, but it’s particularly so when you’re stuck in close confines for a long period of time: set up a system to do/share the boring but necessary things now, so you’re not overwhelmed a few weeks in and suddenly find that a lot of tasks need doing at once… or that it’s time to exit isolation and you’ve realised you’ve achieved none of the things you wanted to when the time was made available to you.

Once you’ve got down a way of scheduling your time that works for you (Habitica, bullet journaling, diary, calendars, or straightforward rotas and to do lists…), now it’s time to actually Do The Thing.

(Capitalising that, because reasons. Prescriptivism has no place here; it’s all in the connotations, baby. Stresses the importance of Doing rather than just planning. See? Did it again. You’re a smart cookie, you get it. Grammar ramble over.)

There’s little point in planning, if you’re not going to follow through. It’s as simple and as real as that. But sometimes things don’t go according to plan and you’re faced with the choice of adjust and continue or quit.

These are strange times, so I’ll share my experience of adjusting rather than quitting in next week’s post, dealing with taking care of physical and mental health, and hopefully there’ll be some handy tips between the lines…

Until then, if you’ve been advised not to or don’t feel like running outside (or just want to add something extra to your day), skipping is a fun way of waking yourself up in the morning, gives you some sunlight and gets your heart rate up.

If you don’t have a skipping rope, any rope will do or make one by twisting together strips of old sheets.

Stay safe all, and let me know if you’re enjoying the on/off personal blog posts between the writing advice and creative work!

Hopefully they’re helping to keep the blog varied and interesting, and as different ideas come to mind and I get feedback from you guys, then the focus will keep shifting between different topics each week after this miniseries Life in your Fortress of Solitude is complete.

Comment too with anything you want covered or hearing about more in these posts about living in lockdown, and I’ll be happy to oblige – if appropriate of course!

The next post is the Monday’s writing advice.

The next Saturday post is part 2 of Life in your Fortress of Solitude.

* There’s plenty of much better, professional guidance out there: check out your region’s government webpage, the NHS, the Samaritans or MIND.

** This post isn’t sponsored, I just really like the app.

This week’s featured image is Fortress of Solitude by Dylan Cole.

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