Beating the Covid-19 isolation blues

By Evangeline Bryce

As the COVID-19 crisis in Australia unfolds, life as we know it seems to be growing narrower each day. It began with the simple plea to put off international travel and for those who had recent travel history to monitor themselves closely. Then came the travel bans. Since then, a steady trickle of increasingly draconian social measures have taken hold. With the announcement of the latest social-distancing measures and the resulting mass closure of ‘non-essential’ businesses, many in Australia have been left jobless, isolated, and wondering what they can do to pass the time.

Dr Theerman’s personal favourite collection is the NYAM colouring book, which he says has “hearts and comets, fashion and anatomy, from the 16th to the 19th centuries”. Image Credit: NYAM

Mental health has become a key focus, with the World Health Organisation releasing a guide for those who are self-isolating. But the resounding social message of “binge watch, binge watch, binge watch” may not be the ticket to surviving this time at home. Several studies have found a link between binge-watching media content and increased levels of insomnia and fatigue, as well as depression. In what is already proving to be a stressful time, it’s important that those in self-isolation branch out to other forms of entertainment to stay healthy.

Here are the best picks of how to stay busy without resorting to endless binge watching:

  1. Cultivate your creativity with digital art resources

The #ColorOurCollections initiative, launched by the New York Academy of Medicine (NYAM) in 2016, provides free downloadable colouring books of the collections from 117 participating libraries and museums around the world.

The list includes Australian institutions such as the University of Melbourne Library, and the University of Adelaide Library.

NYAM Director Paul Theerman said the aim of #ColorOurCollections was to provide “out-of-the-ordinary, deeply engaging” images that can take people “to another place when we really need to go”.

Colouring pages vary in size and subject matter, so there’s a little bit of something for everyone. Dr Theerman recommends the colouring book from the Library of Virginia, which celebrates the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage in the US. “That milestone … has been a focus of our library this year as well, and it’s been overshadowed by the current crisis,” he said. “We need to mark it.”

Collections remain available year-round and books from previous years are also accessible.

With studies suggesting colouring can lower anxiety levels, now is the perfect time to sharpen those pencils and put them to good use.

Another accessible artistic resource is Bob Ross’s Joy of Painting series, now available on YouTube, Netflix, and Internet Archive.

Each episode takes the viewer step by step to create a painting in a relaxed, easy-to-follow fashion. Often dubbed the “father of ASMR”, Bob’s voice is sure to ease any virus-related stress with the help of a few “happy little trees”.

  1. Bring the outdoors indoors with virtual nature tours and live streams

The Hidden Worlds of the National Parks exhibit is brought right to your doorstep with Google Arts and Culture’s interactive online experience. The virtual tour takes you through five different US national parks in Alaska, Hawaii, New Mexico, Utah and Florida.

Viewers can explore lava tunnels, fly through caverns with bats, kayak around icebergs in glacial waters, and explore a shipwreck deep below the sea. Each tour is guided by a park ranger in startlingly high definition, with more park service collections available to peruse.

Explore is another extensive nature resource, mainly featuring “livecams”. Through their website, viewers can see a live view of the northern lights, nesting eagles, gambolling panda bears and many more. The streams are also accessible via YouTube as well as several other videos of captured highlights.

  1. Let loose with Sydney’s first online nightclub

After the success of their first stream on March 20, Room 2 Radio (R2R) is launching round two of their virtual nightclub experience.

Involvement includes connecting to a livestream on Facebook or Twitch from “8pm to LATEpm”, complete with interactive chat, a virtual bartender, and live sets from local DJs. R2R co-founder Nicole Beck describes the event as a “welcome distraction” during these difficult times.

Nicole Beck says the recent surge of digital culture in response to COVID-19 has made everyone at R2R conscious of the lack of accessibility in club culture for those with disabilities. Image Credit: R2R

“Our whole brand goal is to spread joy,” Nicole said. “We want to support artists too, but everything we do is underscored by wanting to just make people happy for a few hours on a Friday night.” R2R also aims to provide a platform for Sydney musicians who’ve lost gigs or income and hope to lock in a sponsor to pay their artists.

The first night was a success with over 11,000 unique devices tuning in to the stream. In the Twitch chatroom 6500 messages were sent over the course of the night. Nicole hopes the group can improve their operation in the coming events. “Cannot stress enough, we’re not professionals by any means,” she said.

The second iteration will occur tonight, with girl duo Diva Cups already confirmed as the opening act. With the increase in social distancing measures, Nicole said they were looking into “the most ethical and responsible way” to conduct their sets.

Despite some minor difficulties on their first night, R2R hopes to help give people a good excuse to have a few drinks and dance in their living rooms. Nicole believes fun is often overlooked in times of crisis. “It’s important to laugh and be happy for a bit, otherwise what’s the point?”

  1. Foster a social-distancing sidekick

What better way to spend all of this newfound time at home than fostering, or adopting, a new fuzzy family friend. RSPCA is appealing for those in isolation to consider bringing a cat or dog into their home.

Socially distant doesn’t have to mean lonely, adding a pet to the household can be a key fix. Image Credit: Tran Mau Tri Tam via Unsplash

After initial concerns following a dog testing positive for the virus in Hong Kong, the World Organisation for Animal Health has confirmed there is “no evidence that companion animals spread the disease”.

In a time of high stress and increased home presence, now may be the best time to foster. Pets are known to reduce stress levels, more so than being near a spouse. By fostering, too, once the worst of this pandemic has cleared and work resumes for much of the public, these pets can find their forever homes with those who have the time.

That is, if foster carers don’t fall in love with their isolation buddy in the meantime.


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