Here’s our expert guide to social distancing and 7 tips on how to live it up while in self-quarantine

From starting a new hobby, and picking up a skill, to kicking off your fitness regimen, we tell you how to use this period of social distancing to slow down and stay motivated

author_img Ayesha Tabassum & Rebecca Vargese Published :  20th March 2020 12:00 AM   |   Published :   |  20th March 2020 12:00 AM

Pick a hobby or learn a new skill during this period of social distancing

Social distancing is no longer a choice. With the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak, citizens across the globe have been asked to stay home as a precautionary measure. Even as social butterflies who aren’t used to staying at home are struggling with the concept, others who like their routine at work, neighbourhood cafes or gyms, are also finding it really hard to cope with this sudden change, that might last for sometime. Just when we thought that self-quarantine is the dullest, most-boring but necessary state of affairs - a lone voice from one of the worst affected countries, changed the mood dramatically.  Last week, when Florence resident Maurizio Marchini serenaded the town, his video went viral on social media. It was loud and clear. The human spirit and the power of art and culture is indomitable.

While Maurizio was captured on video performing a rendition of Nessum Dorma, the aria that’s most synonymous with Luciano Pavarotti, the Italian operatic tenor, another rendition from Italy was posted by Rome-based sports journalist Alasdair Mackenzie. It shows an unseen person singing Scottish singer-songwriter Lewis Capaldi’s award-winning song, Someone You Loved. Alasdair had tweeted saying, “At 6pm people across Italy were urged to come out on their balconies and make music. This was just after the Italian national anthem was sung on our street. Someone is bashing a tambourine, at the other end someone has plugged their electric guitar into an amp! Now piano somewhere,” he added another tweet to the thread, saying, “My favourite part - and this is all heartwarming stuff - are the shouts of "Forza Italia!" coming every few minutes from a different place.” Forza Italia translates to Let’s Go Italy.

Talking about how creative pursuits have a positive impact, Dr Divya Kannan, clinical psychologist at says, “There is a significant positive impact on our mental health when we engage in creative activities like painting or baking. Creative expression helps us stay focused and gives our mind a break from worrisome thoughts. Some scientists describe these activities as being in a state of ‘flow’ and we may experience a sense of reward when we deeply connect to what we are doing. This helps us stay mindful. The positive impact of exercise and fitness on moods is known to all, and physical activity is used as part of treatment of mild depression and anxiety.”

Italy has been under lockdown since March 10. We are still at the nascent level of a total lockdown in India with just a few states announcing it. Karnataka declared lockdown on March 14, Kerala announced a complete lockdown on March 11, and Tamil Nadu too will be under a complete lockdown until March 31. We suggest that you take a page from the Italians’ coping strategy and not stay idle or dismal during this time. Even as individuals and families are coping with this sudden confinement, we take a look at different activities that can help in keeping you engaged, and offer a respite to those who are working from home.

Get crafty
If you are a fan of the 5-Minute Crafts videos and have always wished to replicate some of the creations, then this is the best time to do it. Follow the videos to a tee or create something new on your own. “One can start with newspaper craft. All you need is a stack of old newspapers, a knitting needle or a bamboo skewer and glue to make wall hangings, fruit bowls, jewellery boxes or stationery organisers,” says Neelam Panchauli, an arts and crafts YouTuber. Neelam’s page on Facebook titled Neelam’s Gallery — A Gallery To Inspire is filled with easy DIY ideas. For those who like painting, try your hand at coffee painting instead of the usual water colours. Sketching and mandala art are also quite therapeutic. Looking for something beyond, like DIY carpentry? Then just check out Pinterest for more ideas.

Urban gardening
Experts say this is the best season to begin with balcony or terrace gardening. “Summer is a good time to start this hobby by planting leafy greens such as spinach, coriander, dil and amaranth,” says Dr Rajendra Hegde, urban gardening expert and managing partner, BRICS LLP. He says a basic container that’s about six inches tall and a growing medium (enriched soil with compost), is all you need to grow these greens. Discarded water mugs, tin containers or plastic boxes can be used to plant. “Balconies or window sills that get at least two hours of direct sunlight are ideal spots. These greens grow fast during summer and can be harvested in three weeks,” says the expert. If you prefer something colourful that also makes for fun Instagram posts, then you could opt for marigold, syngonium or peace lily. “These indoor flowering plants don’t require direct sunlight and can grow in shade,” says Dr Rajendra, adding, “You can also try vertical gardening and tie the pots to balcony railings using wires or strings. These are all DIY techniques and easy to implement. You just need to plan, give time and love plants.”

Get on board
Your mission, if you choose to accept, is simple: reach the finish line by stopping an infectious disease from spreading across continents and killing millions. The stakes couldn’t be starker. Sure, this situation appears grim and, perhaps, a little too topical, but the board game Pandemic is still just a game! And, a very popular one, all of a sudden. For those growing up in the ’90s, board games meant the good-old, classics like Ludo, Snakes & Ladders and Scrabble. Today these games are better crafted — offering players myriad realms rooted in reality and fantasy — with fleshed out storylines that require more strategic gameplay, than just a lucky roll of the dice. “Solely crediting the growth of this segment to popular TV shows like The Big Bang Theory or Stranger Things would be a disservice to efforts from the gaming community that is organising meet-ups and game nights,” offers Moiz Bookwala, co-founder of Bored Game Company, a Pune-based online marketplace that boasts a selection of 700-800 board games. However, the 27-year-old does admit that nerdy is the new cool. He says, “The Settlers of Catan is another popular game. It was how I was initiated into gaming.” Imhotep, Dune, and Dungeons & Dragons come highly recommended for intermediate players, while games like Targi, Jungle Steel and Azul work best if your socially-isolated group is limited to two-four players.

Closet clearance
What do celebrities do when they have to practise social distancing? Superstar Deepika Padukone has been spending time ‘productively’. She’s been cleaning her wardrobe and the actress shared an image of her denims and trousers neatly stacked, on Instagram. She captioned it, “Productivity in the time of COVID-19! #cleaning #wardrobe.” Whether Deepika has inspired you or not, cleaning and organising your wardrobe, your desk, home office and kitchen closet is certainly a great idea to spend your downtime. Not only does it help in getting rid of unwanted stuff, you can also get creative with decluttering and organising tips from renowned tidying expert Marie Kondo. Do watch her series Tidying Up with Marie Kondo on Netflix for some motivation.

Binge mode
Whether you are quarantined, working from home or are just being extra cautious and opting to stay indoors, chances are you are going to be watching a lot of TV being cooped up. As the hashtag #QuarantineAndChill — the now-viral (pardon the pun), revised version of the popular internet phrase ‘Netflix and Chill’ — is doing its rounds, here’s our list of shows and podcasts that are lighthearted, fun and might be the emotional comfort food for the soul that you’ve been looking for.

Marvelous Mrs Maisel
This series follows the titular Miriam Maisel, who expects her life will fall apart when her marriage does. Season 1 traces what happens when your chosen path crumbles and you’re forced to figure out who you really are.
The coming-of-age show, focuses on the life of Sam Gardner, who is on the autism spectrum. The show delves into how Sam’s family deals with his disorder, and the plot is driven by the 18-year-old’s decision to start dating, find love and live a more independent life.
The Inbetweeners
Centred around four teenage friends who appear to be together more out of a lack of acceptance than because they have a lot in common, this British cult comedy show, chronicles their escapades and quests as they try to navigate adolescence.

The Joe Rogan Experience
Hosted by Joe Rogan (left) — American comedian, actor, sports commentator, martial artist, and television host, The Joe Rogan Experience has been the second most-downloaded podcast on iTunes for two years running. With over 1,400 episodes, the guests on his show include comedians, fighters, and thinkers.
Rebel Force Radio
One of the longest-running Star Wars podcasts, Rebel Force Radio covers the latest information
from the classic trilogy to The Force Awakens. Hosted by Jason Swank and Jimmy Mclnerney, the
weekly show positions itself as one of the most entertaining podcasts in the galaxy.

Stay fit, stay calm!
Gym addicts have freaked out because fitness clubs have been advised to stay shut as a precautionary measure. However, if you are a seasoned fitness enthusiast, then this temporary closure of gyms shouldn’t dampen your spirits. And for others, who have always been procrastinating, this is the best time to kick-off your fitness routine. “It doesn’t have to be intense or advanced. Start with something as simple as chair squats, push-ups, planks, crunches and lunges. You can also use one-litre water bottles in place of dumbbells for simple exercises like shoulder press and bend-over rows,” explains Devarth Vijay, a fitness expert and co-founder of Bengaluru-based Academy of Strength. In case, you are someone who needs constant motivation then download the app and choose the group fitness sessions. Trainers will lead the strength, cardio and yoga sessions. These free workouts don’t require any equipment. If you are still looking for a mash-up of exercises do check out Kayla Itsines or Shilpa Shetty Kundra’s channels on YouTube.

Bake it off
Did you know that stressed spelt backwards is desserts? Little wonder that a quick search on social media of the hashtag #procrastibaking or #anxietybaking, throws up thousands of images. Paraphrasing the finding of psychology professor Tim Pychyl, Insta-famous baker Shivesh Bhatia (in above pic) says, “Baking has inherently been a salve for anxiety. It perhaps has to do with the level of precision and the concentration that goes into the process.” The 23-year-old offers a three-pronged approach for every beginner baker — be precise with measurements, follow the recipe and trust the process. “The sense of creating a product you know will not disappoint and can provide you with the much-needed distraction that you need.” The New Delhi-based author shares his recipe for a seven-ingredient eggless mug cake (recipe on right) that requires a bare-minimum of everyday staples — in case you haven’t stocked up!