26 March 2020 by Jade Deeley
It is day 11 of our self isolation as a family. Myself, my husband Dave and our two boys; Bob who is four and Buddy who is two. 11 days ago, the Coronavirus outbreak had started to impact people here in the UK and when Bob and Buddy both developed a ‘fairly’ persistent cough, we understandably began to worry and followed the guidelines to self isolate. Two hours into a decision that we needed to quarantine ourselves and it felt like we were falling into a never-ending black hole of tantrums, tears and despair. (And this was just from the adults)
What wasn’t obvious at first was that our lovely compact open plan living space isn’t suitable for a fortnight of quarantine. We don’t have nearly enough house plants, and the square footage of our whole flat does not support the energetic needs of two small children and two keen walkers.
On day one, I lost count of how many times I had to say no to requests to go to the park, on a hiking adventure, on a treasure hunt, to feed the ducks, on a bike ride and even just to ‘pop to the shops please mummy’. And although we have some outdoors space, it was the same space they had seen all day long. And it wasn’t just fresh air and activity they needed but adventure, change in scenery, mental stimulation and opportunities to learn.
For the next few days we struggled along, digging out old forgotten toys and games to try and avoid the inevitable questions about going out anywhere but somewhere else. We tried to watch movies and relaxed how much screen time the boys had, we were more generous with treats to buy them off with guilt and we ran out of toys and games to bring a smile to their faces. By day three, we were all in a pretty bad place. I felt like we were torturing our children and yet we felt powerless in how to fix things. The boys became more misbehaved, tantrums became more frequent and sadly, we shouted A LOT at them which made them (and us) even more miserable.
I have never suffered depression before, but read others describe it as a dark cloud hanging over you. I could feel that same dark cloud reaching closer to me and my family. It terrified me into thinking we needed to do something drastic; I just didn’t know what. We stumbled along for a few more days trying not to shout so much and breathe every time we got clouted with a plastic hammer or cleaned up spaghetti thrown across the floor. But that dark cloud seemed to get closer and darker as the days went on, and I started to feel like staying in bed all day long. I’ve never felt anything so utterly frightening and so invisible that I couldn’t understand what was happening to me. All I knew was that things will get worse if I do nothing.
And then a friend sent me a link for the Joe Wicks 5-minute kids work out and urged me to give it a go.
So, seven days into ‘happy family time’ I put on the Joe Wicks kids workout and got the whole family to join in. My aim was to burn off some of the kid’s energy so I could go back to scrolling through social media reading the next depressing things about the situation of Coronavirus around the world. However, something amazing and very simple happened. We exercised for five minutes and released endorphins! Suddenly my happy little boys were back asking for mummy and daddy to do more dancing.
And that’s when I realised what was so wrong about our situation. We were not being active enough. And when we are not active enough, our mental health truly suffers. Our sweet little boys who had been so difficult to keep under control were crying out for help because they too needed their bodies to keep moving. And so we devised a plan to remain as active at home as we would out in the real world.
To match our activeness before isolation, we realised we need to do 20-30 minutes high energy exercise in the morning, a 20-minute stroll after lunch and then an early evening dance of around 20-30 minutes. (This was to match with our morning and end of day commutes to work/school/nursery as well as being active throughout the day. Not only should this keep us physically fit but probably more importantly, it is already helping us to get through this mentally and not be tempted to crack and potentially spread the virus (if we have it).You might wonder how got a ‘stroll’ into the middle of the day, well we devised some plans to maximise coverage of our tiny square footage to ensure we feel like we have been for a much needed walk by taking as many steps within the 20 minutes as possible.
So it is safe to say, things have got a lot better over the last few days, we are a happier household, appreciating each other more and sticking together through this. It’s not ideal and we are desperate to get outside but at least we are getting there. When we do venture out, our first trip will be a lovely walk outside, to be with the trees, to here the birds and soak up the lovely scents, sounds, smells and scenes that our local green spaces have to offer.
Never before have I realised the impact of being close to nature has on us all and the monumental loss I have felt of being so removed from it. As a UK resident, thanks to the Ramblers work campaigning and lobbying for all of us, I have always had access to green spaces, nature trails, footpaths, local and national parks. And to suddenly have that right stripped away from me is an awful feeling and one I personally will do everything I can to ensure it never happens again. One thing that keeps my family going through this time, is that we know that those greens spaces are out there, waiting for us to roam them again very soon. And I will always be grateful for those first Ramblers that stood for rights of access to ensure those places we all love to walk are waiting for us.
Creating a routine
Here is an example of our daily routine, which might help you and your loved ones stay sane through this very trying time.
20-30 minute high energy work out - Living room
Healthy snack - Balcony/garden
Home school activity (phonics/maths or chemistry) - Sofa
Lunch - Dining table
Treasure hunt (minimum 20 minutes of walking/running around) - Every room in the flat
Home school activity (phonics/maths or chemistry) - Bedroom
Healthy snack - Picnic blanket in living room
TV break. (Make yourself a cuppa) - Sofa
Dinner - Dining table
Dancing (Musical statues, the hokey cokey or the conga) - Every room in the flat
Bedtime - Bedroom
- Don’t read the news all day – Set yourself one time per day to quickly access news and don’t return until the next day.
- Do the most strenuous exercise early in the day. Seizing the day early with a workout gives you a great sense of achievement and sets the tone for a great day ahead of you.
- For little ones, I found that they are more responsive to a sitting down activity such as reading or maths exercise after they have burnt of some energy.
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