So far, to cope with the COVID-19 outbreak, Dork has mostly been procrastinating and flapping around like a panicked pigeon. There must be a better way to spend time, right? Our pal Ed The Dog has put together a list of his top tips for coping with self-isolation, born from months holed away in a studio.
Hello. My name’s Ed and I do music and art in a band called ‘Ed The Dog’. I’ve been locked away in my home studio, essentially self-isolating since Autumn last year, writing and recording my second album ‘Welcome To Being A Loner’ (out this summer by the way). It’s rather odd how apt that album title has become due to recent events. Makes me feel like a bit of a ‘self-isolating pro’ in an odd way. With that in mind, here’s some tips on how to not go insane while by yourself for days, weeks, or months on end.
I’m a big believer in making the most of what you’ve got to hand. It’s how my first album came into being a thing at all really. Set yourself a task and see if you can make it happen with what's available to you. That acrylic paint starter kit Mum got you as a joke for Christmas? Why not take a leap and see what you can achieve with it? You never know what might happen from simply having a go, and at the very least you’ll have killed a few hours and made something you can call your own.
Not the creative type you say? Not to worry! Why not finally sign up for that online psychology class you’ve been banging on about doing forever? Or figure out which coding language is worth your time and effort? I think learning a new skill while in lockdown is something everyone can benefit from having a go at too. For example, I’m learning how to use an industrial sewing machine at the moment. One day I’ll be able to sew up my kids' shirt after they tear it during their first game as a professional footballer for England, and who’ll be laughing then eh?!
I vividly remember one day where I was in the middle of doing a mix, and I suddenly felt like my brain didn’t work anymore. It was an odd sensation to say the least. One minute I understood what EQ is and does - the next moment I couldn’t tell the difference between a compressor and a banana. I also had this weird faint headache a-brewing. I soon realised my mistake. I’d been sitting at my desk working for approximately 9 hours in a confined space with all doors and windows shut. I don’t have one of those fancy oxygen level meters, but I can almost guarantee you the air in my studio that day would have been primarily made up of nitrogen and farts. I cracked the skylight and behold! I suddenly felt a thousand times better and could remember what ’taxonomy’ is.
Crack a window fellow loners out there and (if you’re in a position to) take a walk in the fresh air.
It’s a horrible feeling when you’re by yourself, looking into your electronic palm glass and seeing everyone else having an infinitely better time than you’re having trying to make a fake clap sound like a real clap because the real clap doesn’t sound like a real clap. Add to that all the overwhelmingly scary news and you can almost feel the existential dread of your own pathetic reality grab and pull you far down into its gloomy depths. Another precious day of your life claimed by the online despair hole...
We all know that the way we present ourselves online is often infinitely more idealised than cold hard reality, same goes for the news but in reverse almost. The real trick of it is to not get sucked in by it. The solution is simple really: Put your phone down. Do something else.
This leads me nicely onto...
Like many of us out there, I do a hell of a lot of my work in front of a screen. Hell, if I’m being completely honest, I spend a lot of my downtime in front of screens too. Whiling away the hours in my little corner of the world, aimlessly scrolling through Reddit.
Don’t get me wrong; watching films, playing video games or just generally fannying about online is all fine and dandy, but too much of anything isn't good for a person, and I think what with screens being essentially intertwined with almost all aspects of our daily lives, you have to just make the conscious effort to leave your devices behind for a couple hours and do something IRL.
Some of my favourite alternatives to screens are; reading a book (perhaps something topical like Misery or Life of Pi?), playing an instrument, painting or drawing a picture, baking a cake and/or bread, throwing the tennis ball for the dog, doing my taxes, hoovering my room, cleaning the bathroom, writing a handwritten letter to my pen-pal Eric in Basingstoke… etc etc.
Last summer, I came back home for a bit after a string of festival dates and gigs around the UK. Without thinking about it, I threw all my filthy clothes in the washing machine and then immediately set about getting back to recording the next record. My lovely Dad told me later that same evening “You don’t know how to relax.” I was perplexed. Music and art had always been a form of escapism for me. Something that had never been ‘work’ before. It was only when I considered his perspective that I realised what he meant. I was writing and recording a new album and touring the country and working a full time job all at once, seven days a week. No rest days. I was totally and utterly burnt out.
Reconnecting with the forgotten art of ‘unwinding’ is I think one of the primary reasons I didn’t completely lose my mind in the later half of last year, though it did take a fair few gos to convince myself this was a course worth pursuing. For me that meant designating a day (two days is better though) where I wasn’t allowed to go into my studio, or work on anything in any way whatsoever. Leisure activities only! I also started doing some light meditation every other day, which is something I started doing in 2016 but hadn’t kept up with.
I’m not trying to say you need to go and learn how to meditate, but taking the time for yourself, to truly relax, in whatever way works for you, is worth its weight in gold. You’ll feel better, and you’ll make and do better stuff when you log back into the office.
I’m not a dietary expert, but you’ll know what ‘eating right’ is for you, and I can almost guarantee it’s not ordering takeaway pizza five nights running. I’ve been there. It’s simply not a sustainable lifestyle.
Go grab some fresh produce (or grow it if you want to be amazing), prepare it to your liking, and wash it down with some delicious quenching water. I don’t think I really need to go into the benefits of water here do I? It’s the best liquid for you and we’re 600% water apparently or something like that? Bottom line: get more water down you on a daily basis. If you’re really fussy, make a nature latte and stick some lemon and twigs in it.
I hate the gym. But I also appreciate what the gym is trying to do for me. Thanks gym.
Exercise not only keeps your body in check, but also keeps your brain functioning at its very best, which is doubly helpful when you’re kicking your heels for potentially weeks on end. Whether you’ve got a state-of-the-art treadmill at home or just enough room to do some jumping jacks - stay active and your mind will be satiated for a good while.
Goes without saying really, but staying connected to your friends and family, despite being by yourself is paramount to one's sanity while isolated. Not to go all ‘deep’ on you all, but our connection and love for each other is, in a way, all we have in this life.
Isn’t it the best thing in the world when you’ve had a rubbish day and someone calls you up to see how you are just because? Why not reach out to someone you haven’t spoken to in a while and check-in? I’m not saying they’re necessarily having a crap time of it, but I know I massively appreciate it when friends and family check in with me, especially when it’s to do just that - check-in. A no pressure catch up via the phone or even over WhatsApp can turn an otherwise crappy day into a win for everyone.
Don’t let isolation get you down people. Turn what could be a very negative situation into an opportunity for self-growth and you might just find a new you on the other side of it. In the meantime: welcome to being a loner everyone.
Ed The Dog's new album 'Welcome To Being A Loner' is due out this summer.