Ideas to help support people during quarantine?

I thought it might be worth a thread about the difficulties of living, to sit in parallel with threads about treatments and avoidance.

Thinking about the difficulties people might have, and how to help, off the top of my hear:

  • wiping things down if you’re short of wipes
  • getting deliveries if you’re not good on the internet
  • online shopping if you don’t have a credit card
  • how to talk to friends and family without running up a phone bill
  • who to talk to, and how, if you don’t have friends and family
  • simple recipes for cheap eating for people without cooking experience
  • keeping children occupied in good ways
  • finding appropriate local information on the internet
  • sharing wifi to avoid data charges
  • sharing out old smartphones for people without

There must be other kinds of difficulties, and perhaps ways to address them.

I read a great piece on self-care, from someone who has been housebound for a while and has experience. Please forgive the pastebomb, but the link to the thread isn’t conveniently readable:

alex aka @alex@godforsaken.website on mastodon

Housebound advice from a long-term housebound person , boosts ok

I’m going to post a long thread on how to cope better if you’re stuck indoors at the moment. I’ve been housebound by disability for a long while now, and sporadically housebound due to depression and agoraphobia before that. These are things that have improved how I deal with that. This is not gonna make houseboundness painless for you but it might help you cope. Disabled comrades are welcome to share their own advice to this thread.

Firstly, most importantly : you are being asked to simulate the lifestyle of a severely depressed person and because of that you are going to start experiencing symptoms of depression. It’s helpful to recognise when you’re having episodes of this – i.e. consciously think “ah shit why am I feeling so terrible right now? –> it’s because I’m having depression -> time to look after myself”.

If you have or have had depression, you might have coping mechanisms in place to deal with this. If this is new to you, there’s a lot of good advice floating around online for dealing with depression. It’s important to notice when this is happening to you, because being conscious of it is a first step in dispelling it.

Next: time is going to get weird . Days are going to blend into each other. Your body-clock is going to be deprived of a lot of the physiological cues you get from going outside and having a routine. You’re going to need to artificially supplement or recreate the cues you would normally get, and also increase your exposure to any outside cues available.

So there’s three important ways to deal with this that I’m going to elaborate on in the next few posts:

  • Reinforce your day-night cycle
  • Set yourself a permissive routine and stick to it
  • Keep your places separate.

These all ultimately aim to do variations on the same thing: compartmentalise your behaviours into different contexts to prevent everything from blurring into one interminable slog.

Reinforce your day-night cycle.
Your body responds to sunlight, and uses it to calibrate when it thinks day / night is. If you’re stuck indoors you’re going to get less of this effect, even if you have sunlight coming in. You’re going to have to set yourself an artificial day-night cycle. One of the worst things for depression is to feel like one day bleeds into the next with restless sleep in between – so the goal is to make daytime feel as different from nighttime as possible.

  • In the morning, as soon as you’re up, open all the curtains and leave them open all day. Get as much sunlight in as possible.
  • In the evening, put the lights on low. No ceiling lights, just lamps or whatever you have around. This is your lead-in to night time.
  • At night, close all the curtains, have the lights as low as possible. If it’s dark outside, make it dark inside.

If it’s safe to do so where you live, have your windows open a little 24/7. This will expose you to more cues like air temperature and outdoor noise, and will keep your air circulating.

Take vitamin D. It’ll disappear quickly from your system as soon as you stop getting direct outdoor sunlight, and you’ll feel like shit. You can safely double the dose you get in the normal tablets from the supermarket.

Separate your activities by time of day. Do stuff that wakes you up in the morning, and stuff that calms you down in the evening. This sounds basic, but you have to do the basic stuff as deliberately as you can. Your body and mind respond to these basic cues and the goal is to consciously reinforce these cues. You want your mornings and evenings to feel as different as possible, so that you can feel like you’re opening up for the day every morning and closing things up at night.

Set yourself a permissive routine :
Instead of setting a strict routine like “do X at 12pm”, set yourself times that you do things after. This is to stop yourself deciding to just eat dinner whenever because you’re bored, or to crawl into bed because you’re bored. Food and bed are Powerful Forces when you’re stuck indoors – be strict with yourself about them.

So for example don’t eat lunch until (eg) after 12, even if you’re hungry before then, don’t go to bed before (eg) 10pm, even if you’re tired. You’ll sleep better.

The exception to this is getting up in the morning. Set yourself a time before which you’re going to wake up, and an additional time before which you’re going to get out of bed.

Even if you feel like you’ve had an unsatisfying sleep, get up. You’ll make the feeling worse by staying in bed. Let it go, start the day in spite of it. You’ll have some bad sleeps while you’re living this way.

Mealtimes and bedtime are the main time landmarks in your housebound day. Stick to them even if you don’t feel like it. Think about when you’re on a long-haul flight and time is getting fucky and the attendants bring you meals at set times because they know better than you. You eat the meals when you’re given them.

If you have other daily practices such as praying or exercising, you likely already have a set time for these that you don’t need to adjust. These are other good landmarks to keep track of your day.

Keep your places separate .
Keep things in their room. Don’t move stuff from room to room. This helps:

  • To make your space feel as big as possible.
  • To simulate having to go to places to do things.
  • To stop you from just bringing everything back to bed and stewing there.

For example I keep my laptop charger plugged in in the living room, and it doesn’t move from there, so I can only use my computer from the sofa (or if i take it to bed i can only use it until the battery runs out). I have a chair I read in, I have a table I eat at, I have a desk I do creative stuff at. None of this stuff moves anywhere else, I have to go to it. If you work from home, have a dedicated spot where you work. If you exercise, have a place for that.

This is mentally similar to your day-night cycle thing – you don’t want everything to blend into each other.

Finally: expect this to hurt . Being shut-in like this is not a good lifestyle for a human being, and the coping strategies are there to soften the worse parts of it. There is no sustainable long-term way to do this.

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Another tool is meditation. It’s something I try to do regularly to keep my mind on an even keel.

The Calm meditation app has some free resources - any breath focus meditation, grounding exercise or body scan can help get you into the present moment and reduce anxiety that might be increasing with the lockdown and the general unease around the pandemic.

This is by no means an authoritative article (and I’m not endorsing the Calm App specifically), but it could just help someone out:

More general info:


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Two other related apps I’ve heard good things about, which also mention improving sleep quality:

Insight Timer (“the largest free library of guided meditations on earth and the world’s most loved meditation Timer, for free”)

Here is a fun and artistic blend of science and art. To help pass the time for children of all ages!

I have called it “Harmonic Art”. My creations from about 10 years ago:

You need a pendulum that swings orthogonally at two different frequencies. And attach a felt tip pen or pencil to it. Or to allow the line width to vary I used a paint brush with a hollow handle filled with paint.

The pendulum comprises a weight with two strings forming a V shape. You could suspend it from a doorway. Also a clothes peg which clamps the two strings together part way up. The length between weight and peg determines one frequency in one axis and the length from weight to suspension point determines the frequency in the orthogonal axis. Adjusting the position of the peg changes the ratio of the frequencies.

Once you have it swinging, bring a piece of paper slowly up, until it contacts the brush. Also, by holding the paper at different angles, or curving the paper you get different effects.

In my case, I photographed the resulting monochrome image. Then edited in Gimp to produce the “Harmonic Art” colour images that you see.
Have fun!

Hey guys,
I’ve had a request from Health Connections Mendip… any takers? See below

Would the tech shed like to help with people donating computers, clearing/wiping them and then finding a way to distribute them to families who only have one computer or to people who want to use for communicating with friends/family? I am just about to apply for a small bit of funding to get it up and going but I need a group to take it on.

Still got a cough at the moment, so I’m probably best avoiding handling anything physically.

This might be interesting to those with young ones at home right now - Maker Camp:

Sorry to hear that @Will! hope you feel better soon

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Ok i’ve declined the offer

I don’t suggest Frome needs a forum for community help, but it’s interesting to see that Chiswick have just started one:

(I avoid FaceBook but I imagine it’s proving useful for community purposes at present.)

It’s all a bit scattered tbh - this seems to be a hub (of sorts) for Frome info (with some stuff on the NextDoor social network too):

Then there’s the council stuff on:


With shop listings (for deliveries etc.) on:


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Howdy Will, how are you these days?

(Great to see you back in circulation, @Laurentius!)

Hey @Laurentius - yeah good in general.

Still got something in my throat/back of three nose but pretty convinced it can’t be COVID given how long it’s lasting.

Also weirdly busy given I’ve barely left the house .

We’ve just been contacted by Frome Town Council (Hannah, who’s coordinating a lot of the volunteer effort) to see if we can help: They are getting a few enquiries from people who need computer help – typically they have a computer but don’t know how to get skype/zoom/whatever working.

Would be great if we could put together a few How-Tos (or links to existing good how-tos) in one place so that FTC can send people there. @p.j I recall you were putting something together for Shed Happens – do you have anything we can use as a basis for a web page?

All please add into this thread (links to) anything you think we can use, and I’ll have a bash at pulling it into shape.

There may also be people who need talking through some of this in person, either by phone or possibly from the doorstep. Is anyone up for that?
I’ve asked Hannah if she can send us some of the specific queries so we have a better idea of how to help. She also wondered if we’d be OK with people contacting us directly. I’m a bit wary of over-committing and feel it would be better channelled through FTC, but what do you all think?

The radio piece mainly concentrated on the differences between face to face and online meetings for groups. Not much use for teaching individuals how to use particular apps. You can revel in the glamour of local radio here: https://drive.google.com/open?id=13pjV74OzyB-TERu0Ml1Dn3gZ2zzhSDwK

There are shed-loads of sites that show people how to install and use these apps, so I don’t see there’s much mileage in adding another one. If people are reluctant (or phobic) about using the Zoom or Skype help pages and tutorials, why would they use one made by us?

I think the answer may be to look into remote access so that ‘we’ can install software for people. Then stick to a Zoom and Skype so that whoever signs up to do it only has to be familiar with these two apps. There are obviously trust issues and maybe we could come up with some sort of certification with FTC… it would be more of a personal reference than anything else, but might reassure people that it is OK to allow named individuals to access their computers…

I would be happy to join such a scheme, but I am busier now than for a very long time and agree that we do not want to get over-committed. I think that

  1. it should be run by FTC
  2. they ‘triage’ requests to separate those who are really in need of help from those who are just happy to let someone else do it (if this sort of triage is possible :-).
  3. we should limit available times e.g. we set hours when we will be available - or they call / email / WhatsApp the group and some one takes the job…

I’m sure there is a way to avoid getting caught up in some ghastly tech-support avalanche …

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Very nice radio piece there @p.j! I agree, there’s already lots of info out there, so it would be redundant to write more, but collecting info might still be useful. FTC could publish links to guides and links to products. Those who are less technical and likely to need help might also struggle to search.

I do see the concern that it’s too easy to be drawn into being personal tech support. But it’s difficult to see how to limit the scope of my help, and my reachability, while still being helpful at all. I’m already on the help-with-zoom list…

Maybe FTC should recommend TeamViewer or similar (I use TeamViewer all the time) and suggest people ask a trusted friend or family member to use that to help, or failing that, ask FTC, who can keep a list of helpful people. And there should be a note that helpful people’s time is limited, so please don’t ask for more than you need.

What’s the deal with Team Viewer? I notice you can ‘Download’ or ‘Buy Now?’ Is there a workable free version or does it have to be paid for to be any use?

Have you had any Zoom calls as a result of the radio piece?

Indeed, I’ve only ever used the free version!
(no zoom assistance rendered as yet…)