As someone with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, I spend a lot of time stuck indoors: sometimes months at a time, aside from an occasional canal walk.
It’s unavoidable when your flesh suit decides it’s going to make your toes click out of their sockets; your ankles turn, or swell to three times their size because you did some housework*; the backs of your knees do similar; your hips click into a nerve-trapping position that brings daggers with every step; your brain explode in a pain-bomb so intense that the smell of your own shampoo sickens you, light and noise stab you, eating is impossible without vomiting and the only solution is taking meds and hoping the pain numbs enough for sleep to come; or you’re just faint and/or exhausted from living inside a body that is too stretchy to function as it should.
On the plus side, it means I’m good at staying in the house. Really good. Should you find yourself stuck at home, bored and skint, here are some tips.
- Engage with nature. Just because you’re stuck inside, it doesn’t mean you need to look at the same four walls. Clean your windows and look out of them. From dawn ’til dusk, you can watch the wildlife and weather: birdlife returning to the UK; clouds telling stories; raindrop races on window panes. Look outside – and maybe take photos to share on social media. Nature Twitter is friendly, welcoming and will help you learn to ID what you see.
- Try crafting. The end result doesn’t matter. The object is to entertain yourself. You don’t need expensive crafting kits, though a glue gun, PVA glue and ecoglitter are a few things I do buy. But if you have scrap paper, try origami tutorials on YouTube. If you have fabric and needle/thread, make something to wear – or turn a tired old jumper destined for the bin into a cosy cushion. Just chop the arms off, turn it inside out, stitch almost all the way up, turn the right way round and stuff with clean old pillow stuffing. Turn old tights into draught excluders. Make papier mache sculptures (use white glue and kitchen towel rather than newspaper and paste, for a faster setting and easier method – thanks to StrangeCurious on Twitter for this magical secret) Look at your recycling box and let your imagination play.
- Make a mini garden if you have ready-meal packs and a garden to collect soil, moss, tiny plants and pebbles from. You can also use a chipped plate or plant pot saucer as a base. Decorate with discarded small toys, broken jewellery or shells/pebbles collected on holidays. Plant seeds. Don’t forget to water it.
- Try aromatherapy. There are many great kits you can order online. It’s not cheap for good oil – £5-15+ per oil for decent quality depending on how rare or hard to extract it is (I like Neal’s Yard oils). However, you don’t need hundreds and they last ages properly stored in a cool, dark place. I’d choose neroli and lavender for relaxation, rosemary, orange and peppermint to perk me up/wake a flagging brain, vanilla, patchouli and cinnamon for comfort, wintergreen, ginger, pine and eucalyptus for medicinal Deep Heat style rubs and cedarwood and ylang ylang because I love the smells. Pick one from each category (except the latter) for a basic starter kit. Add a few drops to sunflower or almond oil (standard storecupboard sunflower oil is fine). Make sure you get aromatherapy oils not just aroma oils. The latter are generally synthetic (and give me a a near-instant headache or migraine).
- Make toiletries. You can also make toiletries from standard storecupboard ingredients. Just add oats to cold water for a soothing face mask. Add hot water to oats in a jar (25% oats/75% water) and leave for an hour, shaking well to mix, then strain to make a basic cleanser that leaves skin soft. Add used coffee grounds to rough salt and honey for a morning body scrub, use old teabags or cucumber to soothe tired eyes (ace if you’ve been using a smartphone or computer lots), and use old banana or greying avocado as a soothing and moisturising mask. Now have a home spa.
- Listen to podcasts. My favourites include RHLSTP (funny, unique, often moving interviews, mainly with comedians), anything by Jon Ronson (excellent journalism on quirky subjects with heart and depth), Scroobius Pip (wit, warmth and eloquence) and Su Perkins (both her podcast and new natural history comedy panel show on Radio 4 as she is one of the funniest women alive). Sarah Millican’s podcast, Guilty Feminist, Victorian Scribblings, Bookshambles, Cosmic Shambles and the Festival of the Spoken Nerd podcasts are all on my list too.
- Call friends. Social contact doesn’t have to be face to face. Relive your teenage years with long phone calls to good friends – particularly if you think they’ll be lonely.
- Write that book. If you’ve long had plans to write a book, use your time at home to write it (assuming you don’t feel rotten). Even 200 words a day will become a book eventually.
- Make art. Draw, paint, do collage or decoupage (covering frames or furniture with magazine cut outs and PVA glue/Mod Podge until there’s a lacquered finish). Try zentangle doodling if all you have is pen and paper. Forget about the result. Just enjoy the flow.
- Cook. If you feel well, and are able, batch cook for times you feel less well. Chopping vegetables finely for soup can be mindful relaxation, and the smell of fresh soup bubbling makes a house feel like a home.
- Read a good book. You know those books you’ve been meaning to read for years? Take them off the shelf, blow off the dust and read them. And if you run out, download ebooks – you can read them on a smartphone with the free Kindle app.
- Netflix and chill. And yes, of course you can still do that if you’re on your own.
* It’s really hard to walk on round ankles