Staying Safe and Healthy Under COVID-19 Quarantine
May 14, 2020
By Ann Lloyd, Student Savings Guide
During the early days of the coronavirus quarantine, when we were just beginning to learn about the virus and its impact, often it seemed the criteria governing best practices for health and safety were changing by the hour. Now, after almost 60 days of social distancing and precautions, we’re getting a handle on our COVID-19 routine.
Despite this growing comfort with working inside “the new normal," it's still completely normal to also feel stress, anxiety, and fear about the worldwide pandemic, especially as the days tick past and projections for change or mitigation remain uncertain. Fortunately, there are several resources and agreed-upon techniques that can help keep you safe and healthy at work and at home while struggling through these difficult times.
It can be tricky responding to a virus whose molecules are so microscopic that you can't even see them. It's easy to imagine disease is lurking literally everywhere. So keep in mind the baseline precautions and guidelines laid out by the Centers for Disease Control as the first line of defense against limiting coronavirus spread.
- Remain inside your home or on your own property except for trips to the grocery, pharmacy, doctor, or to take advantage of other essential services. Otherwise, avoid mixing with other people in enclosed spaces as much as possible. (If you must leave your home to work, consult the section below with links to workplace safety recommendations.)
- Wash your hands before and after eating, coughing, sneezing, blowing your nose, touching your face, touching someone else, and anytime after you've been in contact with surfaces outside the home.
- Clean and disinfect all surfaces and fixtures you regularly handle inside your home, including tables, countertops, desktops, doorknobs, light switches, faucet handles, keyboards, mice (the computer kind), and yes, your phone.
- Disinfect the packaging of groceries before you store or consume them, as well as other parcels that come into your household before using their contents.
- Wear a cloth face mask when going out in public. (Please save the medical-grade masks for healthcare professionals!)
- Maintain at least six feet of distance when interacting with people. This guideline has recently expanded to include pets, too.
For those who cannot work from home, the CDC also provides general workplace safety recommendations as well as those based on specific needs and conditions for each occupation and industry. These include:
- first responders and law enforcement officials,
- healthcare workers,
- nursing home personnel and retirement community staff,
- critical infrastructure personnel,
- transit operators,
- airport and airline workers,
- delivery drivers,
- workers in correctional facilities,
- and many others.
Other general guidelines and recommendations are searchable on the CDC website and can be found under the tab for Communities, Schools, Workplace, and Events.
Have Supplies On Hand
Of course, even with the best precautions, there is always the chance that you or a family member can become sick. Get prepared before any illness sets in, by making sure you have all the necessary cleaning and medical supplies on hand.
Also make sure you have the basic equipment for home health care, like a thermometer for monitoring temperatures and hand sanitizer with the proper alcohol content. Stock up on any cold or flu medication that can help mitigate symptoms. Designate one family member to care for the sick person in your household, monitor the illness, and alert emergency professionals and doctors if the situation worsens.
Clear Out a Work Space
Among those who are not sick, many are working from home for the first time. The adjustment can be jarring and difficult to get used to, but it can be surmounted. The first step to successfully working from home is creating a quiet and dedicated workspace. This may mean converting a spare bedroom or even a large closet into a makeshift office.
Clear out any unnecessary junk or clutter that may be getting in your way. If you have a lot of cleaning to do, renting a dumpster is surprisingly affordable and a great way to remove junk quickly and effectively. Plus, dumpsters can be dropped off outside your home and picked up once filled with zero contact between people. It's like dumpster rental was made for quarantine conditions!
Watch Your Finances
With unemployment numbers at an all-time high, it's completely normal to worry about your personal finances. Unemployment benefits are delayed, and it’s terrifying to watch your savings drain away. To help better manage your finances, set up a very limited household budget with only room for essentials like utility bills, mortgage, and food.
Also, keep an eye on your credit. In these uncertain times, it can be easy to let your credit score go by the wayside, but it's more important than ever right now to make sure you can borrow some money if you need to. If your score is lower than you would like, there are plenty of credit score-boosting practices and ideas to get the numbers back to where you want them to be.
Manage Your Mental Health
Living in a quarantined world can be difficult. Self-isolation is tough even for the most mentally strong people in society, even those who are normally tasked with maintaining the safety and security of others. We are, after all, social beings that crave certainty and interaction with one another — neither of which we are getting right now.
Remember that during these times it’s just as important to take care of yourself mentally as it is physically. Give yourself extra time to accomplish tasks, and don’t beat yourself up if they don’t happen on your original timeline. Also, make sure to vary your tasks during the day, mixing up housekeeping and daily chores, addressing quarantine logistics (which require extra mental energy and time), and contacting loved ones — not to mention keeping your mood elevated and your brain engaged by having some fun.
Learning a new skill is not only a great way to improve yourself but also to help keep your mind busy. Take an online certification class, learn a new craft, or even tackle driving a stick shift for the first time. (Plenty of empty parking lots now provide the perfect opportunity to learn to drive a stick shift with safe and socially distant practice!)
Get Proactive to Combat Helplessness
Under these circumstances, it can be easy to give in to feelings of uselessness and helplessness. Many people are not working and nearly all have limited activity while quarantined in their homes. To fight off feeling helpless, try engaging in socially distant yet productive activities.
If you can sew, try making face masks for loved ones or for donation to local first responders. If your work wasn’t affected and you’re still drawing a steady paycheck, consider the fact that making a monetary donation can give you a feeling of engagement and accomplishment without putting you in harm’s way. Alternately, you can make a game out of checking on a new set of far-flung loved ones daily.
You could also plant a garden, make up a fun new game with family, engage in those home projects you’ve been putting off, or start a new workout routine. The possibilities are endless, and once you become active and productive again, the feelings of helplessness should start to subside. Plus, finding an activity you can do with your entire family may just help someone else combating feelings of helplessness, too.
While self-isolation and quarantine certainly spark worry and anxiety, it doesn't have to endanger your well-being if you take appropriate steps now to combat future challenges. Remember that overall health combines both physical and mental health, and maintaining both is especially important during these times. By following precautions to avoid contamination; staying active, productive, and connected; and fighting through the challenges of working from home as best you can, you can stay safe and healthy through the COVID-19 pandemic.