4 essential things to do in isolation to stay mentally healthy
Since the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak a global pandemic, many of us, even those who have not been infected by the virus, will quarantine in our homes for the upcoming weeks. Capsized travel plans, indefinite isolation, panic over scarce re-sources and information overload could be a recipe for unchecked anxiety and feelings of isolation. Here are a few pointers that could help you survive spiralling negative thoughts about this uncertain time.
This is an uncertain time for our world. Experts say the toll on our mental health is already showing. As many of us move into lockdown we must come up with new ways of doing and being and in such a way that we are always putting our mental health at the forefront.
For most, the extended period of “social distancing” away from loved ones and friends can be hard on mental health. Coping with the 4-week lock down (New Zealand) for me means putting good plans in place. As we work from home and keep our families and selves well, it is important that we plan daily, have goals, keep work/life balanced. Do you have a plan?
These essential simple steps will guide you on this new way of living.
- Move your body. Get out your yoga mat or exercycle. Get creative! I have seen many free online workouts on offer. Dani Johnson, a physical therapist at the Mayo Clinic Healthy Living Program, encourages people who are staying home to get creative. “Every little bit of movement counts,” she said. “So when we’re confined to our home, move, move, move.” Next time you watch a TV show, get up and do some squats during the commercials, Ms. Johnson said. Do heel raises when you’re washing dishes. Do side lunges when you’re throwing clothes in the dryer. Knock out some push-ups when you’re waiting for a pot of water to boil. Dancing is also a great way to move your body. Turn on some music and boogie with your husband or children.
- Use your brain, start a project. Do those thing you never “get round to”. De clutter & Kondo your home. We must use up our energy so we can sleep well at night. Our homes have suddenly become a place where we spend all of our time. Home improvements, tidying and cleaning have suddenly come to our attention. Commencing a decluttering project is one way of putting your time in lockdown to good use, making your home a better environment to live and work in – while boosting your mental health in the process.
- Good sleep. Go to bed at the same time and get up at the same time. Keeping similar routines to what we previously had will help. Try and maintain some semblance of structure from the pre-lockdown days. For those individuals with children, sticking to a routine might be easier; however as you work from home, it could be tempting to fall into a more lethargic lifestyle, which could lead to negative thinking. Wake up and go to bed around the same time, eat meals, shower, adapt your exercise regimen, and get out of your PJ’s. Not only will sticking to your normal routine keep you active and less likely to spiral, it will be easier to readjust to the outside world when it’s time to get back to work.
- Stay connected. We know positive social support can improve our capacity to cope with stress. But right now we’re being asked to keep our distance from others to minimise the spread of the virus. While we know social isolation has a negative impact on health, we don’t really know much about what the effects of compulsory (and possibly prolonged) social isolation could be. But we expect it could increase the risk of loneliness in the community. Loneliness is the feeling of being socially isolated. In times like this, it’s essential we support one another and show compassion to those who need it. This is a shared experience that’s stressful for everyone – and we don’t know how long it’s going to go on for. Fortunately, positive social support can improve our resilience for coping with stress. So use the phone and if you can, and gather a group of people to stay in touch with. We must have contact with someone everyday somehow. FaceTime your family and friends, but most importantly spend the time connecting with the people you are living with. If you are in a lockdown situation, use this time to improve your existing relationships.
“Be kind, take care and stay home” -Jacinda Ardern
I am not a licensed therapist or mental health professional. If you are suffering from a major disorder and need treatment please seek the help of a professional. Get help finding a mental health care provider here. This post contains affiliate links, you can read my full disclosure policy here.