Let me start by saying there is nothing I hope more than that this list of tips for managing hotel quarantine is redundant in the very near future. I find it incredibly frustrating that 18 months into the pandemic and Australia is still using the same blunt instrument that was devised at the beginning, while everyone was still figuring out the realities of how the virus transmitted and could be managed.
Yes on the whole we’ve successfully managed to keep the virus from running riot here, but at the same time as a country we haven’t taken on enough of the lessons learned about what is and isn’t necessary from the extensive data sets available now across the globe. It’s particularly frustrating that no acknowledgement has been given here as yet as to how vaccination moves the needle on risk, with no differentiation applied to the vaxxed vs the unvaxxed. There’s some home quarantine trials finally starting, but home quarantine with appropriate controls has already been shown on multiple occasions that it isn’t the recipe for triggering mass outbreaks that it’s purported to be by those controlling the agenda. We saw a mass illustration of this recently when Brisbane had over 4000 people in home quarantine for two weeks after a schools outbreak, without a single case reaching the wider community. How many more trials/pilots do we need?
Anyway, off that soapbox and onto some tips for those who unfortunately find yourself locked into the HQ system until such time as it is retired.
1. Be intentional about moving.
Given you’ll be confined in a pretty small space for the 14 days, you need to be really intentional about being active as the incidental exercise that most of us take for granted in our daily routines is non-existent.
Scheduling in movement breaks not only is good for your physical and mental health, it also helps pass the time. There are numerous businesses that have developed to meet the HQ movement need, I hired a spin bike from VeloRoo, which was a quick and efficient process and delivered straight to my room.
I used the Peloton app to not only access spin classes (I have a subscription, but there is a 3 month free trial available if you don’t) but also gave me access to all of their other content which includes stretching, yoga, barre, resistance bands, body weight strength etc etc. Every day I did 30 minutes or so on the bike and another 30 minutes of barre/resistance band/stretching activity.
In addition to that I paced up and down the room like a caged tiger. Whenever I was on a voice call I was pacing, and additionally I scheduled in picking a podcast to listen to every day, and walked for the entire duration of the podcast.
This killed a good couple of hours of time each day, and meant I was able to maintain the same basic level of fitness that I had going in, instead of coming out looking and feeling like a slug after 14 days of lying on the bed watching Netflix.
2. Be intentional about what you eat
It’s the easiest thing in the world to get into that treat yourself mentality, and well meaning friends and family will be keen to send you all sorts of yummy things to cheer you up.
I decided that it was bad enough having to lock up in a small room for two weeks of my life without also coming out it carrying additional kilos. Which would have only added to the Covid kg that had already crept on as a consequence of my 2020 treat yourself attitude….
I communicated that to everyone who kindly offered to send me treats, and decided to use the two weeks restricted access to food as a kickstart to a healthier eating program. When you’ve got no cupboard to go to for snacks, and Uber Eats takes ages to get here and is generally a luke warm let down when it does (or was on the one time I weakened and tried anyway), it pretty much cuts out the opportunity to eat for the sake of eating that I fall victim too all so often at home.
Even with the intentional movement outlined earlier, I still ended each day with a pretty low level calorie burn showing on my Apple Watch, so if I’d been loading up on comfort food I definitely would have risked stacking on the weight while I was here.
3. Alcohol is not your friend when you’re solo in quarantine
I’d decided that I wasn’t going to have alcohol while I was in HQ, mainly because I saw it as unnecessary calories consumed which wouldn’t help with my diet/fitness goals for being in here. I broke that a couple of times though, with differing consequences.
The hotel sent me a bottle of champagne after I had to move rooms a couple of days in when my aircon was broken and stuck on freezing – ironically it was me who would have sent them champagne with the joy and relief of finding the new room had a sliding door to a small balcony and that I could have fresh air again! I decided I’d drink that while watching the livestream of the Brisbane Lions Club Champion night on Day 4 of my quarantine, which was happening literally next door to the hotel I was in. That ended up with me a bit of a sore head the next morning, and being turned into a TikTok meme by Sascha after I had posted on my Instagram story about dancing by myself to pass the time in the meal breaks of the livestream…..but no real harm done.
The other time was when beautiful friends sent me a lovely healthy lunch and a bottle of champagne on day 9, when I’d already woken up hitting a bit of a wall about the fact that I was totally over it but there was still another 5 days to go. I drank the champagne – and thoroughly enjoyed it! – but I do think the alcohol contributed to the lack of positivity I felt about going into another weekend confined to a single room.
With hindsight, I’d recommend saving the champagne until you get out when you can share it with others to celebrate your release, or at a minimum be prepared for the fact that it’s going to weaken your mental resistance and allow the feelings of anger and frustration to be much more prevalent.
(Another strategy of course is don’t convince yourself you need drink to the whole bottle yourself because its a waste if you don’t, or add a champagne stopper to the list below of things to pack if you can’t bear the waste factor…)
4. Stay Connected
This might sound pretty basic, but contact with the outside world is everything. My family was brilliant about this, and I spent hours on FaceTime with them each day, with the phone propped up chatting while we each went about our normal day (albeit theirs was a lot more normal than mine!). Friends were also incredibly kind, reaching out via all sorts of different platforms to touch base and check in on me.
If you know someone serving a hotel quarantine sentence let them know you’re thinking of them, it really does make a world of difference when you’re there.
5. Save up some jobs
I knew filling in the days would be an important part of helping pass the time, so I’d saved up a whole lot of tasks that I needed to get done while I was here, some work related and some just basic home and life admin.
I found it very satisfying to be able to tick off my list of jobs as I completed them, particularly the ones that I’d had sitting on the ‘non-urgent but need to be done’ list for ages.
6. What to Pack
There are a few things that make life in HQ so much easier. You get a kettle, but no coffee or tea, and no mug to drink from, so having Stuart drop in a mug and some teabags was top of the list.
There’s also no crockery or cutlery, only the disposable items delivered with each meal, so a plate and a knife, fork and spoon were also additions.
Forget the idea that you’ll be bothered to wear nice things, other than maintaining an illusion for video work calls! I quickly shifted to wearing active wear all day (which also helped maintain the intentional movement strategy) with a jacket thrown on over the top if I had to get on a work video call.
I packed resistance bands, which were easier to carry than weights and still allowed a harder workout than pure body weight exercises.
Anything that puts some moisture back into your skin and lips, particularly important if you’re in a room with no fresh air. Even in the couple of days before I got moved I could feel my skin shrivelling up like a lizard and my eczema starting to flare up.
Ear phones are a must. The last thing you want is to cause additional stress to a fellow HQer by subjecting them to every decibel of your music choices/work calls/family chats. Let’s just say I was hi-5ing myself when I realised my neighbour’s stint had ended a couple of days in. They’d obviously found themselves without headphones on their packing list and just decided that those around them would love to hear their music blasting every evening. Don’t be that person.
Things I didn’t pack but wished I did. A little bottle of laundry detergent would have been helpful, you can send out a bit of washing – 5 pieces per person per day – but I hate putting active wear through industrial laundries so I washed it in the shower each day using shampoo. Dishwashing detergent similarly, washing dishes with a small cake of soap in the hand basis isn’t optimal.
7. Know that you’re going to hit the wall and have some coping strategies in place
And refer to tip 3, don’t make alcohol the primary one! I don’t know anyone who’s sailed through the entire 14 days without hitting the wall at some point. It might be due to acute FOMO when people you know are doing something that you’d dearly love to be a part of, or it might just be that you’re sick of being in the one small room with nothing to break up the monotony of your environment.
I found that knowing pretty much everyone I know who’s done this had hit that wall was oddly comforting, it wasn’t that I wasn’t mentally tough enough, or wasn’t doing it ‘right’.
The way I managed was allowing myself a bit of wallowing time – cue a full Saturday morning in bed in my pj’s binging on Making the Cut instead of getting up and executing on my movement program – but putting a deadline on it. My time limit was the knock on the door to let me know lunch had been delivered, and after that I had to get up, get dressed and get back on the program.
I also chose Hamish and Andy for my podcast pacing that afternoon, I needed the endorphin release that laughing delivers, and I can’t listen to them without cracking up at some point.
The important thing is to figure out what you can deploy in advance, rather than trying to conjure something up when you’re already feeling crappy.
7. Keep it in perspective
Two weeks in HQ is no ones idea of paradise, but its also only 14 days of your life. It’s also, in my view, significantly easier to do solo than with a whole family. I have no idea how people with small children keep them entertained for this length of time and am in absolute awe of their achievements in managing through it.
I’m also really mindful of the friends and family who have been in extended lockdowns in Victoria and NSW for several months now, and while for the large part they aren’t confined to a single room and can get outdoors for at least a small window of each day, it’s still incredibly tough being confined to your home for so long – my heart goes out to them.
Like I said at the start, its my hope that these tips become redundant in the very near future. In the meantime if there’s anything I can do here to make it a little easier for someone else I wanted to pay it forward in the same way that other experienced HQer’s did for me.
Stay well, stay safe, and get vaccinated!