9 tips for surviving quarantine and staying sane

Two weeks in a hotel room is no one's idea of fun – but there are some ways to make it more bearable, as this recently freed teacher outlines
25th October 2020, 10:00am


9 tips for surviving quarantine and staying sane

Home For Two Weeks - Surviving Quarantine When Moving Abroad

Fourteen days of quarantine will be part of relocation for many international teachers for the foreseeable future. 

At the point of writing, my family and I are coming to the end of our own quarantine in Kuala Lumpur and will shortly join our new school community. 

If it's a reality you are facing, it could be off-putting - no one really likes the idea of being forced into isolation for so long.

However, here are a few suggestions to help you spend this time as smoothly and productively as possible, which have helped us.  

1. Be kind to your body

In ​Why We Sleep, Matthew Walker talks about how it takes one day per hours' time difference to adjust your body to your new time zone. 

As such, going to bed at your usual time (in your new time zone) and getting up when you usually would, will help you gain a sense of normality, even if it takes a few days.

If you take medication, begin to take it at the correct time(s) where you are.  

2. Have a routine

Staying in bed and/or pyjamas all day can be tempting when you can't go out anywhere. However, keeping a basic routine will help your time pass much more quickly. 

Getting up, showered and dressed, making your bed - everyday occurrences - and building in some of the suggestions below will help each day to pass more quickly. 

As teachers, we are used to our structured days. Creating something similar during quarantine will have a similar effect.  

3. Eat well

Your place of quarantine will provide you with three meals a day, along with sundries such as tea, coffee, water/milk etc.

The meals may be based completely on the local cuisine or a mixture of local and western. You will be in an unusual situation where you have set meals with only minimal adjustments. Use this opportunity to sample some of the local foods especially and eat normally at the set times.

Keep yourself hydrated, especially if you are staying in a room where the air conditioning is permanently on - drink plenty of water and decrease the amount of coffee.

A couple of months' initial supply of multivitamin tablets - even if you haven't taken them before - is useful in stabilising your metabolism.  

4. Exercise

One thing that lockdown taught us is that exercise is vital to our mental health. 

If you don't have internet access, then put your headphones into your phone, start your music and keep it simple - press-ups, jogging on the spot, squats, thrusts. 

Anything that gets your heart rate up for at least 30 minutes per day, or longer, will be of benefit.

5. Listen to music or podcasts

This is linked to the previous tip: music has a profound effect on the way that we feel. 

Listening to the music we love causes the brain to release more dopamine, a crucial neurotransmitter for humans' emotional and cognitive functioning, and therefore our mental health. 

Similarly, listening to podcasts about favourite topics gives us a feeling of being connected to the outside world.

These activities can be a lot more engaging than aimless TV watching, too.

6. Have a digital detox

You will be in a different time zone from friends and family, so there will limited hours in the day where you could be online synchronously. 

Once you've let everyone know that you have arrived safely, there's not a lot that can be said until you're released from quarantine and there is news about travel, new apartments etc to be shared. Take the opportunity to have a digital detox.

7. Read for pleasure

When you are confined to quarters in quarantine, the best form of escapism is reading something that takes you far outside the four walls of your room.

If you want to keep the weight down in your luggage, download some favourites onto your Kindle or tablet, or onto an app on your phone. As C.S. Lewis famously pointed out, ​"You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me."

8. Start preparing for post-quarantine life

If you are joining your new school well after the academic year has begun, use this time to do some forward reading.

Documents such as the staff handbook, notes from the pre-term Inset, professional development materials and policy documents will all be required reading.

Furthermore, if you have wi-fi in your room, organise calls with your new colleagues to help get to know one another before you arrive in-person at the school.

This could be a good time to begin to deal with logistical matters, such as apartment viewings, car rental/purchase, medical appointments or setting up bank accounts. 

9. Keep it in perspective

This time will pass.

While it may seem unpleasant at the start, it's two weeks that will be put to the back of your mind once you are in the classroom doing what you do best - teaching, inspiring and developing your students.

Chris Barnes is Head of Year 6 at Crescendo-HELP International School, Johor Bahru, Malaysia. He tweets @MrBarnesTweets 

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