I’ve seen a few of these self-isolation posts pop up since I said I was going to post and while I’m not surprised by this, COVID-19 is after all the only topic of conversation at the moment. During my COVID-19 illness, I have to say audiobooks kept me sane as I didn’t have to focus on anything. I sincerely hope that non of my readers share my experience but being read to is a great way to pass the time, especially if you’re feeling under the weather or just fancy a lazy day. I hope you enjoy reading how I’m spending my isolation and I’d love to hear how you are filling your days during this crisis.
I love colouring books and even before we officially isolated I used it as a way of gaining some me time. I’m unfortunately not arty and cannot draw to save my life. The beauty of colouring books is that the hard work is done for you.
I’ve recently discovered an app called Pigment which I now use on my iPad. It’s available for IOS and Android. You can finger tap, use a stylus to fill in an area or just set it so you can’t colour over the lines. Great if you have limited hand function. I find as much as I like pencils and paper, after 20 minutes my hands are really sore.
The app is free with in-app purchases which I recommend you leave alone. The app gives extra brushes or colours but is £7.99 per week! There are plenty of free pages without having to spend anything though. Pigment also lets you import pictures to colour in. There are other free colouring apps, Colorfy is a good example, (also available on Android) but this is my favourite. Check out a couple of my pictures below.
If you’re already a superbly organised individual then feel free to scroll down.
If you are looking for a way to be productive whilst in self-isolation then this is a good place to start. Having completed this task I can tell you it’s very satisfying.
It feels even less like work if you have music, the radio or your favourite audiobook on in the background.
The organisation process
My process for organising my account followed this pattern:
1) Open your email client or sign in using your web browser and click on your inbox
2) Have a piece of paper/your phone next to you before scrolling right to the bottom of your inbox.
3) Go through and read each message. Before moving to the next message decide if the email you are currently reading needs to be kept, filed away or left in your inbox. You have to take action before it can be moved.
If it’s an email from Amazon or similar, trying to persuade you to buy something you don’t want/need. Press the delete key! It can feel like a big accomplishment. If you’re like me, these kinds of emails have built up over the years! If however, it’s something you want to keep, think about a category folder that you could create for that email and write it down on your piece of paper. A few categories I use are Receipts, Social Services and Volunteering. Move onto the next email in your inbox when you have written a category down and leave the email in your inbox for the moment.
4) Go through all your emails. You should now have deleted all useless ads etc. Your inbox will now contain emails that you need to take action with and emails that need to be filed. You will now also have a few categories jotted down.
5) If you use an email client, I use Mail on a Mac, visit your email account via your web browser and create folders for all the categories that you noted down. I use Gmail. Folders are called labels in Gmail. To create a new folder you need to click on an email, find the label icon and type in a new label/folder name. After that click ‘create new.’ Do this for each of the categories you have written down.
NB: Remember to untick the boxes unless you want to move the current email into your new folder.
6) Now you can go back to your inbox and go through it again. This time you can move each email into one of the categories you created. I had emails going back as far as 2016. It took me about two hours to do all of that. It did get boring but made life so much easier.
Organising my photos into folders in a similar way. I put all the photos from all my devices and memory cards onto my computer hard drive. I put my favourite music on in the background and went through them one by one.
Video calls are a great way to stay in touch and can help keep feelings of isolation at bay. I haven’t done a lot of video calls as I find them exhausting at the moment. I really feel for people who haven’t got access to the internet at this present time. I’m mostly using Zoom, as I can have it running on my Mac and everyone can access it. Unlike Facetime, where an Apple device is needed. I’ve just started taking part in two regular quizzes via zoom which is entertaining. Fingers crossed I’ll feel well enough this Friday to take part in my Freewheelin’ dance class again. After over a month’s absence, I’m missing it.
I use two audiobook services, Audible and RBDigital.
Audible is relatively well known and is owned by Amazon. I love the choice and control you have with this service. For £7.99 a month you get one credit on a recurring monthly subscription unless paused or cancelled. Find a book you like and listen to a sample. This is particularly useful if like me you find some narrators more enjoyable than others. Purchase the book with either a credit or by paying by credit card. Within twelve months you can exchange a book for another if you don’t like your choice.
When you first join you have access to a months trial which means you get your first book free. At the moment, I’m listening to Wicked by Gregory Maguire. The book is very different from the theatre production. 😉
When signing up for the free trial, choose the two book a month option. You will get two free books. If you love the service but £14.99 is too expensive, you can always downgrade to the one book a month subscription before the trial ends. If you cancel before the trial is up, won’t be charged and you’ll get to keep your books. Pausing membership is where you take a break for three months. You are still a member. Membership and billing restart after three months but for the paused period you are not charged and no more credits are added to your account. This is Great for when you have too many books to listen to.
RBDigital is the service Birmingham Libraries uses for it’s members to access audiobooks/magazines and now apparently also newspapers. In my experience it’s a lot more limited than Audible but it is a free service. A valid library card is required and set up is done through your main library webpage. Your city may not use this service, some use Overdrive. Below is a screenshot of Birmingham Libraries page explaining set up and the RBDigital app on my phone.
Reading is a solitary activity that takes me to different places and is the only way we can travel at the moment. Ever since I’ve owned E-Readers I’ve loved ebooks. They are so much easier to hold and I can read whilst I sit outside, great when the weather is nice and sunny.
I use a Kindle Oasis and an app called Libby. Libby is the ebook app for my library and can be downloaded onto all android, and IOS tablets. Like the RBDigital app, listed above, a valid library card is required but set up can be done through the app itself. The app will ask you to select your local library and input your library card number. If you have an E-Reader that uses the Epub format rather than the Kindle/Mobi one, loans from Libby can be sent to your e-reader. The only drawback to my kindle is library books can’t be added to it.
I use Amazon to get most of my books, which is why I prefer the Kindle above other e-readers. Kindle Unlimited is currently offering a free trial to new customers. Project Gutenberg offers free out of copyright books to the public. I’ve also just discovered a website called Manybooks.net, which I’ll be exploring for new books soon.
Last but definitely not least is writing. It helps me relax and get any and all ideas out of my head before I go to sleep at night. At least that’s the theory, it doesn’t quite work that well in practice. While I was ill I couldn’t write at all which is why this post has taken so long. I still find looking at my laptop screen tiring. I couldn’t wait to start writing again! I’m pleased to be getting back to some semblance of normality in these strange times.
Top tips for coping with isolation
Not being able to see friends and family is hard and it is very easy to let the situation affect your mental health. Many disabled people already know what isolation feels like as illness or circumstances have meant that they can’t go out.
Whether you are isolating because you are ill, shielding or just following lockdown rules here are my top tips for staying sane.
Pick activities that isolation rules don’t change
With the exception of reading, all of the activities I have listed are activities that are done by me when I’m alone. Ok if I wasn’t isolating I may colour in the same room as others or listen to music and books with headphones on but I don’t actually need and wouldn’t normally have anyone else engaging with me. This reduces the sense of weirdness that self-isolation can bring. I’m doing something by myself and I’m enjoying it. Focusing on this instead of the fact that I can’t visit friends is a positive frame of mind that will assist your mental well-being.
Reading can take you from isolation to anywhere in the world
Whatever form it takes for you, ebooks, physical books, audiobooks, can transport your mind away from your isolation to different countries, fantasy lanes or just make you think of something else. Using your imagination in this way is one of the best ways I have found to combat loneliness.
Keep in touch with friends and family
It doesn’t matter how you do it keep in touch. Phone calls, video calls, emails, letters postcards. Have contact with people. If you’re looking to meet people there are now various groups online to suit all sorts of interests. Dance, writing, knitting, crafting, photography are just a few ideas.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about how I’m spending my isolation. Get in touch and let me know what you’ve been doing to keep busy. If anyone has any podcast recommendations please let me know as I’m interested to know what all the hype is about but unsure where to start as there is so much choice!
Till next time stay safe and well.