Stay calm in times of crisis.

March 17, 2020

As the coronavirus pandemic spreads, self-isolation or quarantine is one of the key strategies in “flattening the curve” of infection rates. These 14-day isolation periods involve individuals or families staying within their homes, and not having physical contact with those outside. With school closures, as well as workplaces, shutting down, what can we expect and how can we survive not only the virus, but each other? Read more, ‘How Corona Virus Will Change Our Homes In The Next Decade.’

The University of Melbourne psychology professor and parenting expert Prof Lea Waters AM says self-isolation can hit three critical components of mental health: our sense of autonomy, relatedness (a sense of being connected to others) and competency (feeling effective).  Now for the good news. We’ve got tips on how to get through it.

Learn how to sit down and stay down when everyone around you is losing their head.

People today are conditioned to make their lives dramatic. Give yourself space to do nothing. Stay back from the fray and become more reflective. If we practice doing that, we’ll be better about judging when something needs our urgent attention. Read more, ’10 Interior Tips To Happy Up Your Home.’

As dismal as the world may feel right now, think of the mandated work-from-home policy as an opportunity to refocus your attention from the external to the internal. Doing one productive thing per day can lead to a more positive attitude. Set your sights on long-avoided tasks, reorganize, or create something you’ve always wanted to. Approaching this time with a mindset of feeling trapped or stuck will only stress you out more. This is your chance to slow down and focus on yourself and your home.

Often taking no action is itself a decision, and often a more rational one than frenetic activity. This is not a call to be lazy. But you don’t have to be in top gear all the time. Don’t make yourself busier than you have to be. Your time in lockdown is likely to be used more fruitfully relaxing, observing, or when to make a more reasoned decision to do something.

Begin on the Same Page

Have a discussion: what do you think will be the biggest challenges? What are the strengths that we each have as an individual family member that can help out? Experts say discussing concerns and expectations about the quarantine, and what role each person can play to make it better, can be helpful.

Forewarned is forearmed.

This can be a time for reconnecting with family rituals which might be as simple as proper sit-down family meals each night,. An East London flat designed by NYC-based designer Charlie Ferrer. Via Arch Digest.

Be Truthful

Keeping a sense of perspective and sourcing information and advice from credible sources will help stave off anxiety. It’s important for people to be open about what they are experiencing, to reduce any possible stigma or embarrassment attached to self-isolation.

Set up Structure

Maintaining a routine will be important but it need not be strict. Routines are always helpful for people to see an end point.

Routine is critical to not going “bonkers”. Try to stay as close to your normal routine as possible and enjoy having more spare time than usual.

Get Things Done

There are certain things that can be accomplished during an isolation period that will be important for everyone. It could include working from home, school assignments or setting sights on long-avoided chores, repairs or tasks. Whether it’s taking up a hem, painting a window frame, reupholstering a stool, fixing a broken gate, decluttering the kitchen drawers, or assessing your knick-knacks, embrace it. Just do it. Even rearranging furniture – use what you’ve got but shift it around—and see how uplifting it can be to enter what feels like a new room. You might alter a jacket you have been meaning to work on for months, and your wardrobe might never be so organised.

Respecting time alone is important. Create different spaces in the house, if possible, like separate zones. Respecting time alone is important. Photo via Arch Digest.


The other thing you can do is indulge. Take a serious interest in yourself, your life, and family. This is a time you are able to cut back on some of the frenetic activity and find time every day to dedicate to improving your life. You might spend it culling your wardrobe, rearranging the linen closet, but you need to do it with an eye to beauty and artistry – not as a chore, but as a selfish pleasure. Think of it as your half-hour and do it every day – a bit like exercise. A little each day keeps your tastebuds and morale in shape. You’ll be amazed how inspired you feel. The aim is for you to step back and think about what looks good in your house, and rearrange what you have. You’ll achieve a freshness, better than a makeover, and keep your house looking up-to-date.

Give yourself time to experiment with what you have in the cupboards. People often just use the same old things. Dig deeper, keeping an eye open for where new acquisitions are required when the lockdown lifts. Fixing that torn flyscreen or the sticky drawer that’s been driving you mad. You’ll become alive to the pleasure of fixing something right after all these years. Look at things from a distance, so that you can see the interplay of colours, the discordant notes in your rooms. Set a standard for the things in your life, and be ruthless about maintaining it. Have a mandatory tea on your balcony every day.

Take time for activities that just make you feel good.

Families should consider things they can do together such as planning a movie night, taking on a large project such as building something together or even rearranging the furniture.

Permission also granted to spend the afternoon just hanging out. Let the mind search for its own stimulation. That’s when you get the daydreaming and mind wandering, and that’s when you’re more likely to get the real creativity.

An Ode to Refined Simplicity in East London designed by NYC-based designer Charlie Ferrer. Via Arch Digest

Give each other Space

Try to think of things you can do by yourself and as a family. It can be hard for families who are used to all going off to their own activities being forced into this intense time. Create different spaces in the house, if possible, like separate zones. For instance, this is our game zone. This chair with a headset is our relaxing corner. While respecting time alone is important, it could also be a time for creating or reconnecting with family rituals. This might be as simple as proper sit-down family meals each night, perhaps with new recipes.

A Chaotic Home can Lead to a Chaotic Mind

With all the uncertainly happening outside your home, keep the inside organised, predictable and clean. Read more, ‘Clean and Clutter-Free in 15 Minutes a Day.’

Setting up areas for daily activities can be helpful to organize your day.

For example, try not to eat in bed or work on the sofa- just as before, eat at the kitchen table and work at your desk. Loosening these boundaries just muddles your routine and can make the day feel very long. Additionally, a cluttered home can cause you to become uneasy and claustrophobic of your environment- so maintain it.

Sometimes self-care can be about making your house a home. It can be hard to stay calm when your house is cluttered. Take this time to go through your house, room by room. Your drawers, your wardrobe and make piles of what to keep, donate, or sell. You can also organise your kitchen cabinets, medicine cabinet, or anything else that’s been causing you stress lately.

This is an ideal time to remember, sometimes a little is enough. Image of East London apartment designed by NYC-based designer Charlie Ferrer. Via Architectural Digest.

Read a Book you’ve been Putting Off

Chances are, there are piles of unread books cluttering your house or apartment. The Japanese call this “tsundoku,” or the art of collecting books without reading them. Whether there’s a massive biography you haven’t brought yourself to start or a fun thriller you’ve been saving for your next beach holiday, this is the perfect time to distract yourself with a great read.

There’s a general belief that if you want to seem like an interesting, cultured person, the best thing you can do is to showcase that you’re open to new experiences. That may be true, but I think we take for granted the other value of really digging deep into one domain.

Don’t Forget to have Fun 

It will help you put real problems in perspective and eliminate imaginary ones.

Don’t let the small stuff grow big in your mind.

Develop Kindness, Enthusiasm and a Sense of Humour

Three essential ingredients for life. They’ll get you anywhere. They’re a high-octane combination, and a full tank will power you through life.

Be Satisfied with Less

Don’t be eaten up by materialism or envy. This is an ideal time to remember, sometimes a little is enough.

related stories


Don’t miss the style set’s fave newsletter

Get Melissa's weekly rundown of where top interior designers source their things and find inspiration - that will instantly transform your pad.

Close and please don't show again