Isolation Diaries: Part 2

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Over the past few weeks of isolation, one of the biggest lessons to be learnt is: you can’t control situations, people or the outcome. What you can control is what you do, how you react and how you take care of yourself. So, for this long-overdue second instalment of the isolation diaries, we’re talking about self-care.

Music

Music has always been important to me, and I miss it when there’s no background noise. 

Last year when I had my breakdown, I couldn’t engage with music. The lyrics reminded me too much of the things I was trying to forget and made my already confused brain, busier than it needed to be. 

One of my concerns for isolating on my own has been taking steps back in my recovery. Thirteen months on in my recovery and music is one of the things getting me through the lockdown. 

Bad mood? Turn the music up louder. Have I lost focus? Ambient lo-fi comes to the rescue. Am I feeling anxious? Bring out the 80s classics that feel safe and familiar. 

The world is a brighter place with the existence of music, and not just the listening part either.

For years I’ve been trying to master the craft of guitar and piano. Now I have the time to dedicate to both instruments – though I’m still infrequently learning. Skills have progressed ever so slightly, and the calluses on my fingers from the guitar make me feel I could climb any wall like Spiderman.

Drawing

If you follow any of my social media channels, you’ll know that I recently invested in a new Wacom tablet. Since then, I’ve been drawing almost every day. 

When establishing myself as a designer, it’s hard to find the types of design you like, and there’s a period of identity crisis that we all go through.

Last year when I redid the website, the brand presence became slick with the red, blue and yellow colour palette. I wanted to follow those colours through in all studio projects going forward (you may even notice their use on the book launched last October – shameful plug). 

As I’d abandoned drawing for too long, it’s taking time to find my rhythm and style again. In some ways, I feel a minor designer identity crisis, but in other ways, I feel creative and excited to explore the types of drawings that made me fall in love with graphic design in the first place. 

My feed used to be black and white doodles; now it’s full of primary colours that stand out for being fun and creative. 

For the first time in a long time, I’m not concerned about likes and engagement. Drawing for me now is an extension of self-care and self-expression – all the things that it should be. Zoning out to live in the now, has been part of my recovery through therapy. It’s still a work in progress, but the shift in mindset during isolation has been tremendous.

DIY

The summer of 2020 had been when I intended on putting my two bedroomed mid-terrace up for sale. A pandemic, however, puts a spanner in the works, and the chances of selling this year are looking slim.

One of the most significant shifts in therapy has been the importance of slowing my life down. A part of that is leaving city life behind (which I no longer enjoy) and moving back to small-town living with country walks on my doorstep. To be isolated in a city when you already have anxiety about crowds has at times been overwhelming and frustrating. 

To combat the frustration, finishing small DIY jobs to get the house ready to selling (whenever that might be) has been one of my self-care priorities. I can’t control when I sell the home, but I can manage its look, feel and condition that potential buyers will see.

The labour of love that is stripping 100-years worth of paint of woodwork has almost come to an end. Restoring original Victorian features covered in gloss is as satisfying as it is exhausting. Whether it’s touching up paintwork, updating doorknobs and hinges or stripping woodwork, it all takes me one step closer to selling.

As much as I long for my new slower pace of life, I’ve already started building it. The new house will be the icing on the cake. I know that I’m incredibly fortunate to have a home and a garden to isolate during these times, but it doesn’t always stop the frustration when plans for a new life get put on hold.

Exercise

As fortunate as I am to have my own home and garden, I’m even luckier to have a home gym. Exercising in lockdown, therefore, has been a breeze for me (sorry if that makes you roll your eyes). 

In February I cycled 200 miles with Race at Your Pace which got me back into my routine of training regularly again. I took March off to recover and focus on strength training before setting myself a new challenge for lockdown – cycling the distance of the Grand Canyon.

280 miles overall, or 450km, and I completed it in 33 days. That’s a big win to take out of isolated life – being able to push yourself both mentally and physically to smash a challenge at the end of it.

I’m currently on a rest week from training, and my legs have yet to recover properly. Lots of foam rolling and sessions with the TENS machine are easing the tension in my quads, but I’m in no rush to push my body to another challenge…just yet. 

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