Following the advice from the Welsh Government, we’ve seen the country start to open up as the Coronavirus alert level lowers. It means I’ve been able to meet friends safely outside again, start to visit attractions with my son, and even eat out in a restaurant with the family. It feels great to feel like we’re making progress as a country, and there are ways for us to both socialise and stay safe.
However, we have to be aware that COVID-19 is still out there, even though we might not be seeing or hearing about it as much as we used to. It’s so important to continue to be aware of the Welsh Government rules that need to be followed to keep everyone safe, and one of those is if you have any symptoms of COVID-19 you should self-isolate immediately, and get a test and if you’ve been told to self-isolate, you need to follow the rules and advice you’re given.
Because of my awful immune system, as well as William being in nursery when coughs and colds are doing the rounds, we’ve had to have quite a few tests over the last year when we’ve shown symptoms. It’s really easy to book a test online or you can book over the phone, with walk in centres, drive through centres or postal kits available. The tests themselves are really very simple to do. We’ve always had the results back very quickly via text and email, so if your result is negative, you won’t have to self-isolate very long. If it’s positive, you need to self-isolate and follow the guidance you’ll be given.
The Welsh Government advises that you need a test if you have any of the following symptoms a new and continuous cough, a high temperature, and a loss or change to your sense of taste and and smell, but you should always double check and keep abreast of any changes.
What support is available if you have to self-isolate
There is now support available from the Welsh Government if you need to self isolate. You can read about the self-isolation support scheme on the Welsh Government website. You could get a payment of up to £500 to help cover any loss of pay if you’ve been told to self-isolate and can’t work from home. It’s always worth double checking the eligibility, even if you were declined previously, as things have changed and more support may be available to you.
On an unofficial level, you’ll also find loads of support from the online community. I’ve been constantly amazed by how the community has rallied around people who have needed it over this really tough period. If you need help, for example with getting food in or picking up prescriptions, don’t hesitate to reach out in any of the many COVID-19 support groups or local groups, whether it’s on Facebook, Nextdoor, Reddit or from chatting to local support organizations, such as churches, food banks and charities.
My tips for making self-isolation easier when you’re managing the household
If you’re in charge of the usual household chores, you’re probably used to having at least a bit of time in the day alone to get on with what you need to, as well as being able to head out and buy groceries or anything you need. Having to self-isolate can really throw a spanner in the works and for me, being organized helps to keep it stress free. So these are my tips:
Make a family rota / plan for the housework if you’re feeling up to it – If you’re feeling up to it, and your partner and children are home as well, then everyone can pitch in. This will help get tasks done quicker and stop the mess from building up and becoming overwhelming. When you’ve got kids at home in the day it can quickly look as if a whirlwind has torn through the house. Having a good routine for tidying up and cleaning will keep the stress to a minimum. But if you’re not feeling well or you’re not coping with the situation, don’t panic about the housework. At the end of the day your happiness and health are more important than having a spotless house right now, so do what you can, but don’t let it get to you if you end up wading through laundry or eating off paper plates. You can do an epic cleanup when you’re feeling better.
Try to make a work / schooltime schedule – You may still be working from home, your kids may have to do schoolwork on their own, or online, depending on their ages. If you can make a schedule for work, school and free time, this will help keep structure to the day. Hopefully whilst the kids are studying, you can get some work done, or housework if you’re not working, but they may need help if they’re younger. You could schedule your work time for when they’re watching TV or doing something else that doesn’t require strict supervision. It’s going to be tough and going to require some thought and determination, but having a schedule in advance will help you feel in control and not overwhelmed.
Meal prep / plan and order online – Luckily the online “shortage” of delivery slots has passed and now all the major supermarkets can get food to you within a day or two. If you know you’re going to be stuck home for a week or ten days, planning the meals in advance and doing one big grocery shop will be the most efficient, and reduce stress once you know you’ve got everything you need.
Plan valuable me-time – You define valuable. For some, it could simply be running a bath and turning your bathroom into a mini-spa salon for an evening. For others, it could be making time in the schedule for career progression, such as joining a cybersecurity programme online via St. Bonaventure University. Regardless of your preferences, you need to make time for something that benefits your well-being. It doesn’t matter what you dedicate the time to, as long as it enhances your day-to-day experience.
If you’re struggling, reach out – Whether you just need to talk to someone, or if you need a little help financially with food or toiletries, etc. don’t be ashamed or embarrassed to reach out to the local community, groups and charities who can help and support you.
How you can continue to keep the family happy and entertained whilst self isolating
If you know you have to self-isolate you might already be feeling overwhelmed at the idea of keeping the kids entertained, especially if you don’t have a large garden for them to burn energy off in. First of all, as long as your children are old enough to comprehend, I think it’s really important to talk to them about what’s happening and why as well. William is only four, but he understands that the “coronavirus” is something that makes people ill, and it means he has to wash his hands more and sometimes he has to stay home. Try to frame self isolation to the kids positively – they aren’t stuck at home because they’ve done anything wrong, but because they’re helping to protect all the vulnerable people and make sure that COVID-19 doesn’t spread. This might help cut down on some of the whinging or questions about why they can’t go out and play with their friends.
Here are some tips for keeping them entertained during self-isolation:
Set up play dates with friends – Older children may be able to manage their friendships already, playing video games or Zooming with their friends half the night. Younger children may need a bit more management, so you could help them set up scheduled meetings with their friends by co-ordinating with their friends parents. This will help them feel less lonely, and make them feel a bit more normal.
Get the children involved in cooking – This is one that’s worked really well for me! Getting your kids involved in cooking can be a fun bonding time whilst also helping you create and prepare food. One of William’s favourite things is baking and at four he can already weigh and mix the ingredients for his three favourite recipes – banana bred, chocolate chip muffins and doughnuts with sprinkles! I definitely have lockdowns to thank for that.
Have a rainy day set of toys ready – Your rainy day toys will also be used as your self-isolation toys! Jigsaw puzzles, roleplay toys, building toys, books, crafts and colouring.
Be a bit more lenient about screentime – I try to monitor William’s screentime as much as possible, but sometimes happiness and mental health (and you getting a break) are more important than worrying about screen time in the short term. If you need to let your kids watch more TV, play on their games consoles or get out the iPad then don’t let any mum guilt about it get you down.
Keep up the physical exercise – If you’ve got a garden then you can still go out and exercise outdoors in your own garden whilst self-isolating. If you don’t have a garden, I’d recommend doing some YouTube workouts, dance sessions and just encouraging them to keep moving by jumping around and having fun at the same time.
Ultimately I think the important thing that helps me focus is just remembering that self-isolation is for a set time period. Unlike the lockdowns, where we don’t know an end-date, you do have a target that you can focus on and that will help keep you mentally positive. Make plans for fun things you can do safely after your self-isolation period is over to give you something you can look forward to and remember that you’re following the rules to keep you, your family, and everyone in Wales safe!