The famous racing driver Rosemary Smith was interviewed a couple of weeks ago on RTE Radio 1 by Oliver Callan. Rosemary was a trailblazer for female racing drivers in the 60s and 70s and has led a remarkable life. Now 82 years old, when Oliver asked her how she was coping with the restrictions, her answer was astonishing – ‘’When this cocooning is over, I might emerge as a beautiful butterfly.’’ It was a wonderful sentiment and it really struck me that attitude is everything when we are going through hard, inconvenient, lonely and scary times like these.
The last few weeks remind me of the brilliant short story by E.M. Forster called ‘The Machine Stops’, written in 1909. It describes a world where technology is so advanced that no one leaves their home because they no longer need to or want to. The ‘machine’ does everything for them – feeds them, washes them, connects them to others, broadcasts them – it’s an all-powerful entity and it gives them everything they desire, or so they think. Two quotes stood out for me –
‘The clumsy system of public gatherings had been long since abandoned; neither Vashti nor her audience stirred from their rooms.’
‘People never touched one another. The custom had become obsolete, owing to the Machine.’
Unlike that story, most people still like the freedom of being able to leave their house and walk the dog or do the shopping. They don’t really want to hand it all over to a machine. But as everyone over the age of 70 is being asked to stay home and not leave the house for an indeterminate amount of time, this insular existence is a reality for many of us. We are being asked not to meet each other, not to touch. It’s a very strange experience and at times, it does feel like the whole world is acting out some strange science fiction novel.
One of the first lessons they teach in cognitive behavioural therapy to start to turn things around for the patient is to make out a daily schedule and stick to it. It would be easy to just spend the day in bed, scrolling through the horror of what’s happening on our phones, letting the whole thing weigh us down. But this will not lead to the butterfly outcome we all desire. The importance of establishing a daily routine when you are spending so much time at home is essential if you are finding this whole thing a bit tough.
Here are a few simple ideas for you to follow:
1.Get out of that dressing gown!
Make a rule that you will be changed and in your normal clothes by a certain time each day. For some early risers, that could be 6am – for others, 10am might be more reasonable. Psychologically, you will feel so much better in your normal clothes than schlumping around for the day in your nightclothes.
2.Keep your house clean and tidy
This is important in terms of warding off bugs and viruses, but it’s also important to have a nice, clutter-free space when you are spending so much time there. It would be easy to think, ‘Ah sure, there’s no one calling, why bother?’ but this is not the time to let things get messy and disorganised. Take this opportunity to make your home a place that even the fussiest person you know would admire.
3.Have set activities for different days of the week
What I mean by this is that you should try to mark out each day of the week so that all cocooning days don’t suddenly merge into one. One idea is that Saturday nights could be movie/theatre night. Andrew Lloyd Webber is streaming his musicals for free on youtube and the National Theatre in London are also broadcasting free shows online. Make some popcorn, kick back, and enjoy a fabulous evening of entertainment without setting foot outside the door!
- There are so many resources available online with different types of exercise and programmes you can follow. You should aim to do at least 30 minutes every day. It’s very important to keep the heart pumping and the legs moving. And remember – every problem seems a little bit smaller after a good workout. Fact!
Whether you live alone or with your partner/family, it is so important to stay connected. Different people bring different elements to our lives. You should try to talk to at least one person every day on the phone. If you need a laugh, ring your funny friend. If you are feeling a bit miserable, ring someone who always listens. If you don’t always feel like talking, why not write a letter? Imagine the nice surprise someone will receive when they get it! The important thing is to not let the weeks go by with only your thoughts for company. Share what you are going through with someone.
I hope some of the above will be useful to you. If you have a day or two of just looking out the window and being fed up, that’s okay too! All we can do is try our best to stay positive and keep that beautiful vision of ourselves emerging from our cocoons as butterflies fresh in our minds.