How does a PhD student remain sane in a 14 day Quarantine?

This blog I discuss how to navigate a 14-day quarantine as a PhD student. The Corona virus outbreak has well and truly spread throughout the globe, part of preventing the spread is to stop returning international travellers from interacting with the public whether they are sick or not, as they could still be contagious. Feeling like a giant walking bacterium, I separated myself from the public and made good friends with Ubereats service. Trapped in my home with no external reprieve, I attempted to hunker down and focus on my PhD thesis, feeling paranoid about a potential infection that could have transferred to me during my travel. Away from the University and my field of work I attempt to not procrastinate too much, nor go completely insane…

Day 2. It’s been 24 hours, I can’t remember what it feels like to talk to another human being, I sent out an SOS signal… I am yet to receive a response. If you find this blog. Send help… Okay yes, I am being dramatic, it’s not all bad. I don’t have to put on pants nor do my hair or makeup, in fact I don’t have to do anything at all and that is the problem. There is nobody around to prompt me to work on my thesis, it’s all up to me and somehow all I want to do is procrastinate and watch Netflix, it’s a funny predicament. After about day 4 I realise I need some routine in this new life I have found myself in. I start focusing on indoor exercise, things like skipping, small weights and my exercise bike, I have also made it my mission to nail hand standing. While this is more productive than Netflix, it unfortunately doesn’t get my thesis written and so I need to find some more of a routine.

Day 7 and I find myself making friends with the pigeon outside the window, his name is Kevin. I speak to him on occasion, I thought he may have been communicating back with me in Morse code via his pecking, but later I realised that wasn’t the case. So yes, I think I have started to lose it a bit, but my new routine where I set aside specific times for writing and specific times for exercise and Netflix watching has helped. I have found starting on work that is easy and a small task and getting that out the way helps me to feel accomplished and helps me progress onto the next task and so on. Feeling like I have accomplished work and achieved something by the end of the day, I find is much better for my mental health and overall any work I can do towards my PhD at this time is a win.

One great thing to come out of my isolation, the first paper of my PhD was published online! While I had written this before the quarantine began, having it come out to the public while I was in isolation actually really motivated me to progress my thesis. This paper is a perspectives piece detailing how environmental DNA can be applied to monitor change in coastal vegetation. As stated in a previous blog, this is the whole point of my PhD as I am developing an environmental DNA approach to analyse soil cores so that I can observe how coastal plants have changed through time, particularly over the post couple thousand years. I am hopeful this work will be used to guide management and conservation policies towards for successful outcomes with the ultimate goal of maintaining and restoring these beautiful habitats At least updating my researcher profile with the new paper is something I can add to my ‘achieved’ list for today. It’s the small achievements that got me through the 14-day quarantine, it was very hard to get work done, it was hard to keep sane. I am very fortunate, however, I made it through with no symptoms, I also definitely didn’t pass it to anyone asymptomatically and I got to see the best in my family and friends bringing food and sending support. Staying sane as a PhD student is not easy, staying sane as a PhD student in a 14 day quarantine isolation is not easy but I did it! 

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