It has been 14 months since the world first shut down, and now life before Covid feels more like an irrecoverable dream than a fond memory. By now, many of us are accustomed to the loneliness that has come with virtual education and countless periods of household isolations. However, for many international students returning to college in Trinity term, the 10-day government-managed hotel quarantine presents a unique challenge: it means being stuck in an unfamiliar and confined environment where you can’t sleep in your own bed, make your own food or entertain yourself as you normally would at home. This environment can foster a distinct sense of lacking control, and a vulnerability which may result in one’s physical and mental health falling rapidly into decline.

After having completed two stints of self-contained isolation in college during Michaelmas, I thought that my hotel quarantine would be a breeze. However, the 15 day hotel quarantine which I completed upon my return to Australia during the Christmas vac made up the most two emotionally turbulent weeks for me throughout the whole pandemic. Though at the beginning of the period I felt immense loneliness, I was, by the end of the two weeks, feeling rested and quite positive. So, I thought I’d share some of my tips for looking after your physical and mental wellbeing during quarantine, to help make your experience of isolation as bearable, and dare I say, somewhat enjoyable, as mine:

1. Change your mindset.

The hyperconnectivity of our modern lives means that we are never really disconnected from our education, friends and family. Because of this, there are very few moments in each day we can take for ourselves. However, the 10-day hotel quarantine is an excellent opportunity to devote more of your day to your own self care and self reflection. Whilst you may be catching up on vac work and occupied with other personal commitments, you will inevitably have spare time, and will not have to worry about catering for yourself, or the pressures of cohabiting. If you look at the quarantine as a time which you can spend to prioritise you, it’s no longer a scary isolation, but rather something of a personal retreat! 

2. Structure your days through sleep and meals.

Being stuck in a room 24 hours a day for 10 days with no fresh air, limited natural light and no UV rays, as well as jetlag, means losing your sense of time and routine is almost inevitable. However, this slump is easily preventable by creating some structure and purpose each day. 

The first way to do this is by setting times for going to bed and waking up. Whilst it can be tempting to stay up all night and sleep in all day, all this does is keep you out of sync with the outside world, increasing a feeling of isolation. Try to stick to something regular to your normal routine (mine was 12 am – 8am).

Another way to create structure is set meal times. This is pretty easy since your food is delivered to you at the same time every day.

Then, it is really easy to slot in work, FaceTimes, and Netflix throughout the day. By keeping this structure, not only can you make the most of your quarantine but, (I promise) you will find your days go faster, as they have purpose!  

3. Get ready each day as if you are going out.

Another way to fight the isolation blues is to actually get fully ready each day as if you are going to go out. By this, I mean the full routine: showering, doing your hair, and picking out a nice outfit. You would be surprised by how much your mood is boosted by doing this, as not only does it make you feel more productive, but getting ready distracts from the fact that you are stuck inside. 

4. Create your own space.

For many, the unfamiliar and clinical environment of the hotel is the worst feeling of hotel quarantine. And since you are not comfortable in your environment, it may feel really hard to keep your mood from dropping, and stay positive and motivated. It makes such a difference to put up some photos, move around the furniture and create a study space. Doing this on your first day really helps to ease you in. 

5. Binge-watch! Binge-watch! Binge-watch!

During term time, and even in the vacation, it can feel a bit indulgent and time-consuming to get hooked on a TV show. But the time and emotional investment of a binge is exactly what you need to get through the quarantine! In my quarantine, I did everything from rewatching The Big Bang Theory and The Office to watching the trashiest Netflix movies (Yes, I am talking about The Princess Switch).

6. Find fun ways to stay active.

The prospect of not being able to move more than from the bed to the bathroom for nearly two weeks may feel terrifying. Such a lack of physical activity makes it difficult to concentrate, digest, sleep, and more.  That’s why staying active is super important during your quarantine. Other than the obvious workouts like HIIT circuits and skipping, you could try some new things like dance workouts or yoga. Even small things like making a conscious effort to stand up more when you talk to friends and family on the phone is an excellent way to make sure that you are getting in at least a little bit more incidental movement!

Ultimately, although there will be times in quarantine where you just feel frustrated and lonely, all you can do is persist and make the best of it. Continue thinking of the bigger picture, and make a conscious effort to keep yourself busy enough to feel productive, but also take it slow enough to be mindful of your well-being. Hopefully the period will go by quicker than you’d think!

Photo: Falaq Lazuardi via Unsplash

Stella Ktenas

Stella is an Opinion Editor at The Oxford Blue. Originating from Sydney, Australia, she has a keen interest in writing about student life, issues facing international students, as well as politics, and legal issues. Stella is currently in her second year reading Law at Lady Margaret Hall.