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Tips from an 'isolation expert'

Kate Montgomery is an expert in self isolation. It’s certainly not a title she’s taken on by choice. The fact she has now been labelled as an expert on the topic also makes her chuckle.

Kate is a 37 year-old yoga teacher from Auckland and has Crohn’s disease, an autoimmune disease that affects the digestive tract.

“I came to be an expert in self isolation because of my Crohn’s disease. At its worst I was bedridden for four years. I could barely make it to the couch, let alone out of my house. So I was housebound – just like now.”

It was during this time, that fatigue stripped Kate of any energy. She lost a huge amount of weight and was in so much pain, she needed opiates “to live”. While unable to eat, she survived off Total parenteral nutrition (TPN) – a type of nutrition that goes into the bloodstream.

“Now I’m housebound because of COVID19 but I’m far more able to do things for myself and I’m not in pain anymore.”

As New Zealand grapples with COVID19 lockdown, Kate shares her tips on how to live well when housebound.

“I discovered the importance of those things over a long period of time,” says Kate.

So take it from Kate – these things really do work!

1. Shower daily!

2. Stick to a schedule or routine

Kate notes that when it comes to having a routine, you have to force yourself to make one and sometimes play the role of Mum to yourself.

While it might seem patronising, the alternative is worse – getting nothing done and then upset at yourself or anxious at the things piling up.

“I learned to not mess up life for future Kate.”

“If you need external impetus, make dates with your friends to workout, or to check in with them,” says Kate.

3. Give yourself mini goals to accomplish each day

4. If you’re not commuting and have extra free time, get stuck into a project that you’ve been meaning to do for some time.

But if it’s been on your list for some time and you’re still not getting round to it, despite having more time, it might be a sign you’re just not keen on doing it… so just cross it off your list!

5. Eat well

6. Move your body daily

Dance round your room to the soundtrack of a 90s movie – or practise yoga. Whatever makes you happy!

“Movement is so important for your brain – especially when you’re stuck inside. Nobody really feels great when they vegetate on the couch all day and day after day. I had the opportunity to do that. It got boring really quickly.”

7. Breath work really helps you to slow everything down

Google four-part breathing, box breathing or alternative nostril breathing and any parasympathetic breathing.

Try breath work anytime, says Kate. Even at 3pm for example, when the day might have got away on you!

8. Communication is key, while we navigate life in our bubbles

“So often when I was bedridden and I was in pain it was really hard to make people understand why I couldn’t do certain things or how I felt – and that things changed for me almost on an hourly basis, in terms of my energy and pain levels - so I got really good at communicating.”

9. Offer a helping hand

“There are certain people who won’t be in a position to physically help other people but you might be able to mentally help them. Check in with friends, have conversations with people. Maybe you can’t pick up shopping for your grandparents if you’re immunocompromised but you can absolutely call them, chat to them or help them order stuff on the internet.”

Not all right?

We all need a bit of support from time to time. If you or someone you know is struggling, there are free help and support services available.