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What to Do With Your Time If You Have to Self-Isolate?

Updated on March 24, 2020
Jerry Cornelius profile image

I like variety—so I love travelling, exploring and writing fiction and non-fiction on a daily basis.

Alone | Source

The Corona Virus: Strange Times

We are going through strange times, aren’t we. A few scant months ago phrases like quarantine, self-isolation, social distancing and ‘toilet roll hoarding’ rarely cropped up in daily conversation.

But these are the strangest of times, with the Corona virus (Covid-19) making its way across the world, many countries are going into ‘Lock down’ mode, and either asking certain groups of their citizens to voluntarily self-isolate as in the UK (but, note this could easily change before I have finished typing this paragraph) or ordered by their governments to self-quarantine (such as Italy). Strange days indeed.

Unfortunately you do not need a crystal ball to know that these measures will affect many people both physically and psychologically. All we can hope is that we come through the other side stronger and with lessons learned along the way.


In this article I’m going to discuss some of the options which, hopefully, might ease the potential stress of one of the current challenges to our lives, that of self-isolating. Please note these are only my personal opinions and are not any form of official advice.

The prospect of isolating oneself from friends, family and work colleagues is a daunting one for many people, myself included. How do we fill our time, how do we stop from becoming lonely, what happens if we run out of toilet paper? These things can weigh heavily.

However, before we get too down, remember this is not the (long-predicted) zombie apocalypse, and one can always re-imagine a use for newspaper in the smallest room.

“In 1665, Isaac Newton was forced to work from home when Cambridge University was closed because of the Bubonic plague. He used the time to develop his ground-breaking theories on calculus, optics and gravity, and this turned out to be one of the most productive periods of his life.”

So, down to practicalities. What can we do to stop ourselves from going ‘stir-crazy’ or getting ‘cabin fever’ whilst we are in self-isolation. Surely, there are better things to do with our time than watch box sets and stare out of the window.

Working from home
Working from home | Source

Working From Home

If you have been sent home from the office and asked to work from home, then, at least you are less likely to suffer from boredom. The constant stream of work emails from your company will hopefully keep that particular ‘beast;’ at bay (unless you already had a boring job).

Working from home can seem like a novelty at first, but that can soon wear off, often to be replaced by a sense of loneliness or lack of motivation. I know, because, I’ve worked from home, on and off, for a couple of decades now, and believe me it takes a little self-discipline and doesn’t suit everyone.

So how can you make it easier? Here are my tips, hope they help.

Good news! Think about this, a scant few decades ago we did not have the communication options have now, we did not have the internet. So when working from home don’t just get your head down and communicate by email, get on the phone with your work colleagues, use Skype or WhatsApp to video conference – you need human social interaction and so do they. Let technology become your virtual ‘coffee station’, where you can go for a chat and, even a moan about the boss (just like normal). Don’t stay in your home ‘bubble’, make the effort to virtually interact.

Declutter, Destroy and Dispose

If you don’t have to work from home, but still have to self-isolate, then this presents a great opportunity for the ‘Great Spring Clean’ - decluttering your home is great for the body (exercise) and mind (gives a sense of satisfaction and clarity). So it’s time to tackle that attic, or basement or spare room that you have been promising to sort out for the last lifetime. Shred all the twenty year old gas bills, box up the seventeen Jamie Oliver cookbooks for charity, and start that pile of (potentially valuable) knickknacks for eBay.

Imagine what it will feel like when ‘that room’ is sorted, empty and clean.

Learning to play guitar
Learning to play guitar | Source

Learn Something New

Having all this spare time thrust upon us without the external distractions of theatres, cinemas, bars, restaurants etc. gives us a great opportunity to learn something new, maybe something we have wanted to do all our lives but never seemed to have the time. Now is that time.

Always wanted to learn the guitar? You even bought one years ago (and you just found it in the spare room you’ve just tidied) – now is the time to indulge your inner Jimi Hendrix. Prepare your fingers for pain.

When we are finally allowed to leave the house, and indeed our own country (on holiday) wouldn’t it be nice to be able to converse with the locals of Rome (or elsewhere) in their own language (it could be a while till then, so we could be almost fluent!). Dig out that CD language course or go online and Google: Online Italian/French/German (whatever) lessons – and off you go.

With the internet, the possibilities for learning something new are endless, and with extra time, doable. There are many (often free) courses that will teach you new skills that you can use in your daily life or indeed propel you up the career ladder from such providers as Udemy and Skillshare to name a couple.

"I know when to go out,

Know when to stay in,

Get things done..."

Modern Love - David Bowie

Relax and Chill

Our world over recent decades has become increasingly frenetic and stressful. We are constantly bombarded with 24 hour information, that is often repetitive, quite often depressing and interspersed with some company or another trying to sell us ‘stuff’ we don’t need. Now is the time, now is the opportunity to take back control – turn off the TV, turn off our phone, turn off the news (we don’t like it and we can’t change it – who needs the stress).

It’s time to relax. So kick off your slippers, put your feet up and pick up a book. Yes that’s correct I said a book. I know you aren’t on holiday, but the time is right – the time to lose yourself in a favourite novel and relax.

Public Health Warning: I suspect that trying to relax will feel a bit weird to some people, but after a little practice and couple of books it will come more naturally.

Don’t like to read? Then play a game (maybe teach your ‘better half’ chess), or start a journal, play with the kids (if you can), do some Yoga or even write that novel you have been thinking about for the last twenty years. Now is the time.

Keep fit and flexible with yoga
Keep fit and flexible with yoga | Source

What If Money Is an Issue?

Of course, self-isolation may cause disruption to the family finances too. If you can’t work from home you may be temporarily ‘laid off’ from work. So on top of boredom and loneliness, money may also be a problem.

This is a difficult issue, is different for everyone, and certainly not one I’m qualified to advise on. However, being stuck indoors without any obvious income from your regular job does not mean you cannot still make a little cash to ease the financial burdens. So here are a few ideas.

Sell Your Stuff

As mentioned earlier, now is the opportunity to sort stuff out, and if you do find items amongst your belongings which you want to dispose of, you may be able to sell them on websites such as eBay – however depending on your local circumstances, and how the quarantine is working, you may not be able to post items to buyers yet. If this is the case, then my suggestion would be to start getting the items together then sort through them one by one taking photos and writing a description on Microsoft Word (or similar) that you can use when you later offer the item on eBay for sale. Don’t put your items directly on eBay yet as, even if they sell, you may not be able to post them, just copy and paste you descriptions onto eBay from Word when you are able to offer them to buyers.

Join the Gig Economy

Apart from selling your unwanted items, you can also sell your skills online and earn a few bucks through websites that will essentially pay you for your skills. Here are a few examples of established sites that pay.

Try out Fiverr, if you have skills such as graphic design, web design, writing skills (or more or less anything else), you may be able to find ‘gigs’ on Fiverr that will pay you for doing small tasks that will pay you $5 and upwards. Upwork is another similar site to consider.

Why not become an online tester with websites that want you to test their clients websites, software or online products. Some sites are. UserTesting, Enroll, MyCrowd to name a few. Typically, on signing up with these companies you might be asks to do a simple task on a website that is in production to test it for usability or bugs, often speaking your thoughts out loud. Test usually take anything from 5 to 30 minutes and you are usually paid via PayPal. Please note I have not used all these sites personally so make sure your check into them carefully before signing up – do your due diligence.

Make and sell on websites like Etsy
Make and sell on websites like Etsy | Source

Start a Business

Always wanted to start you own business? Well now you have that most precious of resources – time. The good news is that starting a business in the internet age is easier and cheaper than it has ever been. So if this is something that interests you, have a look at your skill set and see what you can offer as a business. If you build your own websites, that’s great, why not build them for local businesses in your area who may be in need of your skills. You can build your business website while you are at home, and start promoting it from your desk to get your first few clients. You can be in business for less than the price of a concert ticket (which you can no longer attend) – so why not go for it. Other ideas might be CV writing, copying writing, logo design, graphic design etc. – all of which can be run remotely.

What if you are more hands on or ‘arty’, then why not start your new business through a platform like Etsy where you can sell your hands made products (cards, pillows, jewellery, clothes etc. – the list is endless). Of course, due to the quarantine you may not be able to send anything to customers yet, but you can set up your Etsy profile/shop and start making your products (and photographing them), so that as soon as the isolation measures are lifted you can hit the ground running with your new business.

Have you had to self-isolate?

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Keep Positive

As I said at the beginning of this article, these are strange days, but we are human and we will adapt, and manage to take the positive out of this situation. I hope the ideas above help.

If you have any other ideas to add to these, please share them with other readers in the comments section.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Jerry Cornelius


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    • Jerry Cornelius profile imageAUTHOR

      Jerry Cornelius 

      4 days ago

      Thanks, Liz. After PM's chat last night we are all going to have to try and put a positive spin on things over the coming weeks.

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      4 days ago from UK

      This is a very helpful and timely article. You make some great suggestions.


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