Coronavirus: I play computer games for hours each day
“One of the things I do to lift my spirits is eat, because I can’t go out to restaurants. So I reach for the nearest sugary drink and sugary foods like pastries. I’ll have a cookie at midnight, or soft drinks for breakfast.”
Trushar Patel, 33, a photographer from London says he’s doing his best to stay healthy during the lockdown but it is really hard.
He and his fiancée Deepa Ragwani, 28, usually travel a lot for work. But confined to the house, he says his sense of time has disappeared and he’s fallen back on his vices to stay sane.
“We don’t drink alcohol, but I’ll watch Netflix until midnight and binge watch YouTube and social media. I play computer games for several hours each day – it used to be once a week.”
As much as we’re encouraged to use this enforced isolation to stay fit, learn a second language or work on creative projects, many of us will also turn to less virtuous pastimes to get through the stressful weeks ahead.
Even the government has acknowledged we need that pressure-valve, adding off-licences to the list of “essential” shops allowed to stay open, after supermarkets found their booze shelves swept bare.
“There is something about not being able to control a situation, we don’t know how this is going to play out. So people might turn to things like alcohol as a coping mechanism,” says Lesley Ludlow, a counsellor who chairs the private practice arm of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy.
“Then there is the boredom. People have had their social lives taken away from them, so they look for a quick fix to make life feel a bit more normal for a while.”
Perhaps not surprisingly, firms that cater to our private passions seem to be doing quite well, at a time when many others businesses are struggling.
Pornhub, a popular adult entertainment website, reported a spike of more than 10% in traffic after it offered free premium access – or what it called “an extra incentive to stay at home and flatten the curve”.
And online betting firm 888 Holdings said this month that its outlook for 2020 wasn’t too bad, even though gambling on traditional sports has collapsed along with live fixtures. That is partly because customers are turning to alternative – and some say riskier – games online such as casino and poker.
Such things may help while away the time, but the dangers are obvious too, says Ms Ludlow. With no boss or timetable telling you not to drink, smoke or gamble, we’re largely reliant on self-moderation. “But not everyone has that internal strength,” she says.
MPs have urged gambling websites to set a £50 limit per day to try to stop people becoming addicted and making financial problems worse. And the World Health Organization has warned that alcohol is an “unhelpful coping strategy” for the possible stress caused by a coronavirus lockdown.
Smoking is another crutch to be wary of, says Deborah Arnott, head of the charity Action on Smoking and Health (Ash). She is working on a “Quit for Covid” campaign urging smokers to protect their own health and that of those living with them.
“There’s pressure, because you’re feeling isolated, to smoke. At the same time, if you get Covid-19 it will take you longer to recover and is likely to lead to more serious impacts,” she says.
But while some vices will do you more harm than others, others are arguably entirely harmless.
Online retailer Sextoys.co.uk and rival Ann Summers both say that demand for toys is up by about 25% since the lockdown began, as people look for ways to spice up the time at home.
Brighton-based adult boutique Lust and Taboo also saw a last minute rush from customers stocking up before the shutdown, before it switched to online orders only.
“We’re doing a non-contact drop within the hour,” says owner Tim Richardson.
He’s optimistic the business can get through the lockdown but thinks his High Street shop should have been on the essential retailers list – although not for the reasons you might expect.
“You can get a high level of admissions into hospital [of people] using things as sex toys that are not designed as a sex toy. We don’t want that.”