Stuck Inside: Practical Advice for Staying Safe and Sane

Welcome to the new normal: risk and limitation

It won’t last forever, but this is our new daily reality…no one can tell us for how long. So buckle up, get serious and figure out how to make your life safe and sane.

Wear a reusable, washable cotton or cloth face mask

Why wear a mask

Cloth masks, when worn properly, prevent droplets from your mouth and nose from a) being expelled out into the air you share with others and b) from then landing all over objects that others will touch, potentially contaminating their hands with virus.

I’m not sick, should I still wear a mask?

Since the virus can be spread by people who show no symptoms, or have not yet started showing symptoms, it’s important for all of us to wear a mask when in public spaces. Cloth masks are washable and reusable. It’s important that we leave the medical type masks for health workers, because there is a critical shortage of N95 and even surgical masks.

Does a cloth mask protect me from getting the virus?

A cloth mask protects others from your droplets. Please re-read this! It protects OTHERS from your droplets. It is so natural to put on a cloth mask and then feel like you are protecting yourself from others. That is not the case. It does provide some protection (definitely better than nothing), and it will definitely (when worn properly) remind you not to touch your nose and mouth. But wearing a cloth mask does not offer significant protection from the droplets of other people.

If I wear a mask, do I still need to stay 2 meters from others?

That is why everyone needs to wear a mask in public and you shouldn’t wear a mask in lieu of maintaining physical distance and practicing impeccable hand hygiene. A mask is worn in addition to staying home whenever possible, maintaining physical distance from others and practicing diligent hand hygiene. Don’t allow yourself to fall into the trap of feeling a false sense of security when wearing a cloth mask. Remember, you are wearing it to protect others, and if everyone does that, we will all be more protected. It’s something we need to do collectively.

I don’t have a mask, how can I get one?

You can make your own mask. It’s fairly simple if you know how to sew and there are free patterns and video tutorials online. You can also buy masks online. Please do not buy medical masks, as we need to reserve these for health care workers.

How do I wash and care for my mask?

Be sure to use your mask properly. When you are out, only touch it by the ear loops or ties. Do not touch the front of the mask. Wash your mask before using it the first time, and wash it after every use subsequently. I suggest you use an unscented detergent to wash your mask. Even if you normally like some fragrance in your laundry, you’ll find it becomes quite intense when it’s against your face for long periods. Also, if you wash your mask by hand, make sure to rinse it really well, as any residual detergent will mix with your sweat and sebum on your face and can become irritating.

Assess your risk factors: where are you most vulnerable?

How are you most likely to get the virus?

Everyone’s life looks different. One person’s risk factor will look different from another’s. Take a look at your daily life to see where you are at the most risk of contact with the virus. Once you identify these points, create systems to mitigate the risk. Creating a system, or process, that you adhere to every single time means you just follow your procedure to the letter and then get on with your life. Creating and sticking with these procedures gives you some peace of mind, knowing you are taking consistent action to keep yourself and your home virus free. Following your procedure every single time means you are less likely to forget things.

An example of a safety system

One of the things I am doing is keeping a plastic bin just inside my front door. When I enter, I immediately remove my face mask by the loops and put it in the bin. I also put anything else from my bag that I’ve touched, like my phone, keys and sunglasses + reading glasses into the bin. Then I go straight to the sink and give my hands a thorough wash.

When it’s time to disinfect or wash whatever is in the bin, I do that very carefully, then wash and dry the bin, and replace it by the door. Every time!

This way I know whatever is in the bin needs to be disinfected or washed before using again. If I see a pair of reading glasses sitting on my desk or kitchen table, I don’t have to wonder if those were cleaned or not. I stick to my process every time I come home and that frees me from having to wonder or worry. This is an example of creating a process or  system, and sticking to it. Create one for your specific risk points.

Keep yourself healthy

Disrupted routines aren’t good for you

Sleep, nutrition, mental and emotional relaxation, and exercise are more important than ever. And they are harder than ever in these conditions.

For instance, if you are sheltering in place or under quarantine, your daily schedule is probably different than you are used to. This can cause you to do things like stay up really late or sleep in late, get less exercise or eat at unusual hours. You might find yourself eating too much, snacking a lot (since you are stuck indoors) or reaching for comfort foods more often than usual. Small changes aren’t a big deal, but be aware of them and don’t let them get out of hand.

Set a good routine for yourself

Try to keep a regular sleep and waking schedule, and practice good sleep hygiene. That means limit screen time at night, dim the lights before bed, go to bed around the same time every night and make the time leading up to sleep a time to do relaxing activities. Some people enjoy bineural beats created specifically for sleep.

Exercise is going to be a challenge for some of you, depending on what kind of local restrictions you are under. You might consider getting a yoga mat and some props to do yoga or Pilates at home. Kettlebell weights or resistance bands can offer a good workout with minimal space.

Stay home, wash your hands (without letting your skin disintegrate), don’t touch your face or eyes

Washing your hands will destroy your skin

Hand hygiene is critical. Wash your hands the minute you get home, before touching anything in your house. Wash your hands regularly, much more than  you normally would, throughout the day. Between washing your hands so often and using alcohol based sanitizers often, your skin and nails are going to be really, incredibly dry and damaged.

How to take care of your hands

Get a good, gentle, unscented lotion (several) in a hand pump, and place them at every sink where you will be washing your hands. This will make it easy (and remind you) to use lotion every time. Also consider aloe vera gel, or other protective or healing treatments, like comfrey salve. Just make sure they are unscented and don’t contain dyes. At night before bed, apply a really thick, ultra nourishing balm. This will help soothe, nourish and renew your skin while you sleep. There are really good balms that are made for gardeners or farmers. They are really thick, so probably not suitable for day use, but perfect at night.

Short nails are cleaner

Consider keeping your nails trimmed short for now. It’s easier to wash thoroughly. The area under longer nails is pretty gross when looked at under a microscope! Use a nail brush to clean under your nails after you’ve been outside.

Dirty stuff: glasses, pens, Keys etc

Be careful if you wear glasses: sunglasses, reading glasses, prescription glasses. If you wear these while you are out of your home, you should be very diligent about washing or disinfecting them when you come home.

Keep hand sanitizer with you when you go out and use it before and after doing each errand or task. Consider putting a pump of hand sanitizer outside your front door, if that is practical. Keep hand sanitizer in your car.

Physical distance, not social distance

What we need is to maintain physical distance so the virus can’t spread, but that can leave us feeling socially isolated. There are a lot of creative ways to stay connected with friends and family…or even with the world at large. It might be a great time to start a daily video stream of what you’re cooking. It doesn’t need to be perfect! Making chocolate truffles for the first time? Share it. Making your favorite pasta sauce from your grandma’s family recipe in lieu of your usual weekend family dinners? Share it!

We need more than ever to see that we’re not alone. So invite others into your kitchen, whether by video or some other form of sharing. We’re all stuck inside, together.

Spring Home Makeover