If you have concerns about the physical health of you or someone you love, please look at the NHS information about COVID-19 virus here: NHS 111 Online – About coronavirus (COVID-19)
If you are overwhelmed and struggling with your mental health, please consider calling one of these helplines to talk to someone.
Isolation can be the greatest friend or the greatest enemy of our mental wellbeing. Sometimes, all we need is time alone to read a book and re-charge in the quietness of our own space. Sometimes, however, being alone can be the worst thing for us. It can give us unhelpful opportunities to dwell on our insecurities, lapse into bad habits and enter into mental health spirals. For many of us, this can be a worrying prospect and isolating is something we avoid. So how can we take care of ourselves when we are forced into isolation, either by our own health or by our employers or government mandates? Here are some tips
Try and Keep to a schedule
One of the key ingredients in a low-mood spiral is slipping out of a schedule. When we first start isolating ourselves, working from home or keeping ourselves away from others, it can be tempting to just say “Well I won’t get dressed this morning,” or “Maybe I’ll start work an hour later than usual.” As a freelance writer, I am very familiar with this struggle but I definitely notice a difference in my motivation levels and mood when I approach my time at home like a normal workday and get dressed and ready and down to it by 9:30 am and work a normal day.
If you are not working but are self-isolating by yourself or with others (for instance, children) still try to keep a routine. Make a helpful list of activities for the day, ideally a mix of chores and relaxation activities. This is particularly helpful with children, who might chafe against the routine at first, expecting quarantine to be just like the holiday, but will soon appreciate the structure of chores, school work/skill learning, and relaxation. If you need ideas for how to maintain good habits and mental health with children at home, please read our piece here. If you’re unsure of what to do with your time inside the house, try answering the following questions:
- What is one household chore I have been putting off because it’s boring? (e.g. cleaning the windows)
- What is one activity in the house that I’ve not done because it takes too long? (e.g. reorganizing your kitchen cupboards!)
- What is an activity I’ve been “saving” for a holiday or a perfect moment? (reading that book, doing some gardening, transferring all my photos from my phone
Soon you’ll find your schedule is pretty full up!
Bring nature to you
One of the worst things about living in a city flat for me is that I don’t have immediate access to nature. I normally alleviate that feeling of disconnect from the natural world by taking walks and getting out of the house daily. Now that’s not really an option. So I’ve decided to bring nature to me! I’ve been buying fresh flowers and taking good care of my house plants, and I’ve also been taking care to make the most of the natural light in my home. Wherever the light is, I’ll be working, to get that vitamin D! If you are lucky enough to have a garden, make sure you are spending time in it every day. If it’s too chilly to work or read in, then perhaps do a little exercise in it, such as outside yoga. Also, if you have nature close by and it is accessible to you without having to engage physically with anyone else (e.g. don’t need to take public transportation) then make the most of that. However, if you are exhibiting symptoms of the virus, please don’t do this but wait until you are symptom-free to leave the house.
Even if we don’t consider ourselves to be “exercise people” it is likely that movement is built into our routines. Walking to the bus stop, to the car, to work, picking up the kids from school, these are all moments of movement that we are suddenly going to feel the loss of. So it’s important to ensure we find that movement in other ways. Luckily, there’s never been such a good time to exercise at home! There are so many great exercise teachers out there, and youtube has great resources. There’s also nothing to stop you coming up with your own routines, stretches, or activities to work into your own routine. Perhaps consider sharing them online or with your friends to help build motivation and community? If all else fails you, pump some tunes loud and have a dance party! For me, “Green Light” by Lorde always helps to elevate my mood. Exercise gets our serotonin flowing and helps us feel happier and more productive. What’s your dance party song?
Keep in touch with your community.
We are so lucky to live in an age where we can see people’s faces without having to leave our homes. Make good use of skype and other video calling software so you can connect with the people you love. It’s easy to assume text and instant messages are a good enough substitute but we often underestimate the power of hearing someone else’s voice. So pick up the phone every day and speak to another person; maybe it’s your colleagues, maybe it’s your friends or family, but touch base and hear another human’s voice. Don’t be afraid to build community in your area, too. There are amazing examples of people rallying around to protect the more vulnerable in their community, and if you are fit and healthy and can brave the apocalyptic nightmare that is a big supermarket on behalf of someone who can’t, then step up! Caring for others helps us stay connected to what’s important in this world – each other.
*** Please follow government guidelines and do not leave your home if you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19***
Keep track of your mental wellbeing.
What we are all going to go through is not easy. It turns out 2020 had some really hard stuff in store for humanity, but that doesn’t mean it is impossible. Yet, there may be times when you feel overwhelmed and like it actually is impossible. It’s important to notice these times. Keep track of your mental wellbeing and those around you. Every day, ask yourself: How am I doing today? How is my anxiety on a scale of 1-10? Why do I feel this way? What might help me feel safer? If you’re not used to this technique which is called self-inquiry, maybe start recording your self check in’s in a diary every day. If you start to notice a decline, then it’s time to reach out. Send a text to someone you trust, or consider calling one of the helpline numbers at the top of this article. Remember: Mental health is just as important as physical health. Just as we are doing everything we can to protect the physical health of those we love, we need to do the same with their mental health, and our own.
Remember: if you or someone you love is struggling, you are NOT alone.
About the Author: Emma Hinds
Emma is a writer living and working in Manchester. She is a mental health advocate and has been blogging about mental health for the last ten years. Emma has a history of eating disorders and is currently living with a diagnosis of OCD and chronic depression. She has been working specifically with young people struggling with their mental health for the last four years and is now supporting the Lily Jo Project’s On Track follow up schools programs. You can see Emma’s work and follow her mental health blog here. You can also follow her on socials here: twitter@EmmaLouisePH and instagram@elphreads.