Overnight Friday to Saturday my sleep was troubled by sore throat and post-nasal drip. Oh no! I only just got over a bad cold a few weeks ago! Again?? Again.
I admit I hesitated before calling it in. (Am I really sick?) Because once you engage in it, everything else has to stop. Our family’s plans for the weekend were instantly stalled. Just ordinary life stuff, but it has momentum, and you feel it as you pull the cord.
So that’s the first thing I want to highlight. That friction where we delay and sigh about it and try and rationalise to ourselves. We all do it! It’s how our brains work! And as a behaviour guy, masters degree in social psychology, I watched myself doing the same stuff.
Here’s the workaround. Two of them, in fact. First, make a plan, now. The plan isn’t complicated: if I get sick, I’ll call the healthline. Visualise it, even! I’ll look up the phone number, I’ll sit on my bed, I’ll get a pen and paper… The more details the better. That gives your brain a script to follow. Our brains love scripts, especially in the face of stressful situations. And being faced with taking an action that will upend the momentum of ordinary life? That is stressful! (Let alone the possibility you might have COVID!)
Second, make the plan with the people in your life. The people who will be affected when you pull that cord. Unless they are dicks, they will be all for taking action! Say it to each other – if one of us gets sick, we do the thing, even though it will be a nuisance.
So that’s the workaround for the hesitation, and the bad feeling and unease around slamming on the brakes over a wee sniffle (as your brain will rationalise it for you). Plan now, it helps then.
I called Healthline instead of the local Dr because it was weekend. They were great, very helpful and clear. MAD respect for all the people working those phones, I feel like they are nailing it, obviously working off a good combo of clear scripts and freedom to ask questions. They gave me the contact details for the local testing station, so i called them up and made an appointment. Smooth! They asked what kind of car I’d be driving up in, and my mind completely blanked, all i could say was “blue”. I had to go and check to remind myself!
While waiting for the test, i began self-isolating, as advised by healthline. there are some logistics involved, obviously! We can cancelled all the stuff we were lined up to do on the weekend, and my lovely partner began to figure out the details.
(Worth mentioning that i was sick, my brain was fuzzy, and the aforementioned stressful context hurts thinking – so having someone else do this kind of problem-solving is incredibly handy.)
Hopped in the car, went to get the test. it was quick and easy and the staff were so kind and clear. It didn’t hurt at all, but it did hit my gag reflex, definitely a bit unpleasant but over very quickly. Definitely not bad enough to be afraid of having one!
Then back home with some extra info about self-isolation. And so the next two days were spent with me sectioned off from my family! Daughter was horrified that she couldn’t hug me but pleased to have her mum doing a sleepover in her room.
Because we only have one bathroom, complete isolation was impossible. Solution was a pack of antibacterial wipes + masking. I wore a mask most of the time, to stop breathing particles on to surfaces, and when i went to the toilet I’d take a wipe to sanitise handles etc.
This is another piece of advice: get a pack of wipes NOW so you don’t need to think about it if and when you end up in household isolation.
The other tricky thing, oddly enough, is washing dishes. You can be delivered your meals by your loving family/flat mates/whoever, but then those plates and cutlery need attention after. We left the dishwasher open for me to load my dishes in directly, and also just let some dishes pile up in the corner of the bedroom in expectation of me getting the all-clear today.
…and i did! Text came through 46 hours after the test, and now i am free to breathe on whatever i like and hug my daughter again. Lovely.
So to recap my advice: mentally rehearse what you’ll do if you get symptoms. Do it with your family/flat mates/whoever, to create a bit of confidence and shared accountability. Get some disinfectant wipes now and put them aside.
We all need to be diligent about testing! There are still common colds and so on circulating, so there’s a good chance someone in your household will end up needing to do this, especially as level 2 is sticking around. A bit of mental prep now will make it much easier to give in to the process if and when that day comes.
I’m grateful to be part of the big NZ team. Be excellent to each other!