The Millennial’s Guide To Surviving Self-Isolation

When it comes down to the coronavirus and its effects on our daily lives, many of us might be asking ourselves what exactly what we should be doing with our time and how not to go crazy or fall victim to cabin fever. The Essential Millennial has put together a couple of guidelines on how to survive isolation.

Isolating people from the rest of society is literally the way every society’s social contract punishes crime. We call that prison. If you commit theft or murder, the justice system isolates you from the rest of society and puts you behind bars. And when you don’t behave in prison, what do we do? You get put in solitary confinement. Human beings are social animals and being isolated from other people will be a torturous affair for anybody that’s being affected by the current outbreak of COVID-19.

In a journal article, published in Sage and cited in the American Psychological Association, professor of psychology and neuroscience at Brigham Young University, Dr Julianne Holt-Lunstad, finds in a meta-analysis that “lack of social connection heightens health risks as much as smoking 15 cigarettes a day or having alcohol use disorder” and that “loneliness and social isolation are twice as harmful to physical and mental health as obesity.”

Depending on where you live in the world, to some extent or another, you are being confined to your own home and being forced to avoid any social gathering of as little as 10 people or more. Children around the world are being forced to stay home from school, service workers like bartenders aren’t allowed to go to work and entire societies and economies are grinding to a complete halt. Perhaps the worst example of self-isolation can be found in Italy, where COVID-19 infections exceed 31,506 and the death toll has risen beyond 2,500. And it is Italian citizens that have warned the rest of the world how seriously we need to take this global pandemic and how negatively it can affect your daily life in this viral video:

So just how do you avoid going crazy? Some of the answers that we provide are fairly obvious, while others may be a little more creative, but without any further ado, here are the Essential Millennial’s tips to surviving self-isolation:

1. Read

How many of us have said that we should read more but that we “just don’t have the time” because life is just too busy to sit down for hours on end? Well, here’s your chance to put the busy modern life aside and return to the roots of human entertainment with a good old novel or a non-fiction treatise. Reading may seem like an anti-social activity, but, really, it’s more like a very long conversation with the author or a great way to explore your imagination and take yourself out of the confines of your home by living in an imaginary world.

According to the US National Library of Medicine, researchers found through an analysis of various MRI scans that reading involves using a complex, systematic network of circuits and signals within the brain that grow in strength and sophistication as reading ability matures. It also increases your vocabulary and comprehension skills, among a host of other benefits. More pertinently, though, is the study finding that reading reduces stress, while another found that it increases empathy and, most importantly, it reduces symptoms of depression.
“Reading fiction can allow you to temporarily escape your own world and become swept up in the imagined experiences of the characters. And nonfiction self-help books can teach you strategies that may help you manage symptoms,” writes Rebecca Joy Stanborough, in her article, Benefits of Reading Books: How It Can Positively Affect Your Life.

To combat the very real chance of falling into a state of depression in your period of self-isolation, reading can go a long way.

2. Television/Series

Photo by freestocks on Unsplash

Perhaps you’re not a reader, and it’s okay to admit that. Many of us have grown so accustomed to our plethora of forms of entertainment in the modern world that reading has fallen by the wayside. In fact, a 2019 American Time Survey found that 24% of American adults have not read a single book in the last year while the number of people who read for pleasure has dropped by 30% since 2004, spending only five hours and 42 minutes per week reading books, as revealed in Global English Editing‘s 2018 survey on global reading habits. Even in more “intellectually inclined” countries like Sweden, for example, only read for seven hours and six minutes per week. The country with the world’s best reading habits, India, reads for 10 hours and 42 minutes every week, on average. So, don’t worry, if you don’t enjoy reading, you’re not alone. Fortunately, we have television and other forms of film media as a substitute.

Netflix is consistently releasing new series and a basic subscription will cost you less than $10. If you’d like advice on what to watch and what not to watch, check out the various reviews that can be found in our lifestyle section. Everything from movies to documentaries to your standard 20 minute TV shows, it’s all there. And, of course, there are several other streaming services like HBO, Hulu, Disney Plus, Amazon Prime and countless others. And, of course, there is regular cable/satellite television for those of you still living in the stone age… Sadly, for us sports fans, most competitions around the world have been suspended, so you’ll have to take that blow on the chin. Either way, start making your popcorn, get snug under your favourite blanket and put on your favourite movie. And, contrary to popular belief, there are numerous benefits for your psychological health that come from watching TV.

“Watching TV shows that are calming, inspiring, humorous, or comforting can help (temporarily) ease symptoms of anxiety and depression,” Emmy Crouter, a psychotherapist who specializes in working with young adults, told Bustle in 2019.

3. Video games

Photo by Alex Carmichael on Unsplash

A shout-out to all of the gamers out there, the time has come for you to live out your dream of playing to your heart’s content. Even the most casual of players can get lost in time behind your computer screen or console, depending on your preference. A great option is using Xbox Game Pass, which charges you a small subscription fee of just $9,99 per month in exchange for access to more than 100 games on demand. Sony’s alternative, PlayStation Now, offers the same benefits, while the original destination for games on demand is found for the PC gamers’ platform, Steam. And, although it’s best to find a happy balance when it comes to gaming and not to get completely addicted (I’m guilty), there are well documented benefits to gaming, such as improved co-ordination, enhanced memory and problem-solving skills, improved attention, brain speed and multi-tasking skills and it also provides the added benefit of a digital social environment when it comes to playing online.

4. Board/card games

Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

This is one that you can’t do entirely on your own, but is a perfect way to bring the family together… board games. Some board games like Cards Against Humanity and 30 Seconds are already fairly popular among millennials and a lot of us won’t need any convincing to enter into the highly-competitive sphere of showing off your general knowledge and sense of humour. Then there are the old classics like Monopoly (although, fuck that shit), Pictionary, Scrabble and Cluedo. And perhaps you only have a set of cards on hand. Solitaire/Patience is a card game exclusively for individual play and then you get Rummy, Hearts, Free cell and Go fish. You can look up the rules to any number of card games online and play to your heart’s content. Then, for the gamblers out there, perhaps you have a poker set and can get stuck into a game of poker or blackjack. With board games and card games, the lists are endless, and you can take on that digital detox that you’ve been planning on for so damn long, but never got the chance to commit to.

5. Exercise

Photo by Evieanna Santiago on Unsplash

Has there ever been a better time to put in a solid workout than right now? Yes, you can’t go for a run or hit the gym, but there is an endless list of home exercise regimes that you can follow, even if you don’t have equipment. My personal favourite, which I recommend to anyone on any level of fitness, is the Nike Training Club app, which features short training routines with instructional videos tailored according to the workouts of your favourite sports stars like Cristiano Ronaldo and Serena Williams, as well as other celebrities like Chris Hemsworth. Among other things, exercise reduces stress and anxiety, builds confidence and improves your overall health (which is probably the best thing you can do in the midst of a global health epidemic). It also gives you more energy and improves your interpersonal relationships, for the day when the coronavirus pandemic actually comes to an end.

Honourable mentions:

Recently, we published a story on the benefits of meditation, and, in your state of isolation, now’s also a great time to take up the practice. Something else you can do is just simply to spend time with your family, because, why not? We all moan about how our work lives prevent us from spending time with the people we truly care about. Considering that you’re all under the same roof, when will you get a better chance to have that long overdue catch-up with the kids, to work on your relationship with your significant other or just to tell your mom that you love her. Cooking is another passion that you can exploit while in isolation – there’s nothing that feels quite as comforting as good, hearty food. Fortunately, one of the few things that we’re allowed to do in this quarantine is buy groceries. Go buy ingredients and truly spend time on your meals, follow that high-maintenance diet, lose a little bit of weight and truly enjoy your food again. While this one might be limited to those of us with the privilege of lush gardens or big terraces/balconies, go get some fresh air. Take your books and board games outside, enjoy the pleasantries of mother nature – breathe that fresh air that you just don’t get in the city. And finally, sleep – but don’t overdo it. Finally, you have an excuse to sleep in and get your eight hours of sleep every day. Train yourself back into a functional sleep schedule and avoid the nasty habits of going to bed at 1am and waking up at 6am which has been tearing your soul apart for years and taken a real toll on your body. The benefits of a good night’s sleep are endless and this is your chance to turn that seemingly impossible dream into a reality.


So there you have it, this pandemic doesn’t need to be looked at as the end of the world and it doesn’t have to be seen as a period of isolation. You can rather look on the bright side of things and see it as an opportunity for personal growth and relaxation. Fortunately, you aren’t being confined to a prison cell and you are able to enjoy the comfort of your home for the first time in what feels like forever. In fact, you should actually be smiling about this. To conclude, I’d like to leave you with a quote that tells us exactly how being alone for a while can make life a little bit better:


“And the people stayed home. And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still. And listened more deeply. Some meditated, some prayed, some danced. Some met their shadows. And the people began to think differently…And the people healed. And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways, the earth began to heal… And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed.”

Kitty O’Meara

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Published by Kyle Smith

Kyle is a journalist by qualification that has operated professionally in a number of roles in a wide variety of fields. His interests lie in sports, politics, technology and entertainment. Writing from Cape Town, South Africa, Kyle also engages with locals and visits prominent locations in The Mother City, whilst also taking an interest in current affairs abroad.

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