Maintaining Good Mental Health Whilst Self Isolating
29 April 2020
While the UK works to control the coronavirus outbreak, many of us are self isolating to protect ourselves, our loved ones and the vulnerable members of our communities. We understand the reasons why self isolation is important in the battle against COVID-19, but that doesn’t stop it from being an emotionally testing time. Human beings are sociable by nature and spending long periods of time alone can affect our mental health and wellbeing.
There are ways we can help to protect our mental health and stay well during the coronavirus crisis until normal daily life resumes.
We may be physically cut off from our loved ones but we’re lucky to live in a time when technology means that they are only a touch, click or tap away. Video conferencing allows us to ‘see’ friends and family and is accessible through almost any phone or device. These apps, such as FaceTime, Zoom or Skype are surprisingly straight forward to use and are the next best thing to seeing your loved ones in person.
If you don’t have access to a suitable device or are not quite ready for the world of virtual meetings, a straight-forward phone call can keep you feeling connected to the outside world. It might be worth asking whoever you’re chatting with whether they can give you some guidance on how to set up video calls too.
You’re bound to have a bit more time on your hands during self isolation, so it’s the perfect time to dig out that old writing set and get back to basics. Sending and receiving letters can help lift the spirits and a letter sent with love can be re-read time and time again. Remember that you won’t be able to get out to the post box if you’re self isolating so, if you have someone delivering food supplies to your door, check whether they’d be happy to do it for you before you get writing.
Stick to a Routine
The days can feel really long when you can’t leave the house, and it can be easy to lose track of your daily routine. You might find that you’re less productive right now – and that’s ok. But remembering to keep up with the basics will make a huge difference in retaining a sense of normality and staying well. Try to keep to your usual sleep patterns and avoid too many lie-ins. Get up and out of bed and get washed and dressed. Stick to regular mealtimes and eat a balanced diet as you normally would. It can be easy for alcohol intake to creep up, so be aware of your drinking habits.
If your daily or weekly routine usually involves exercise, try to keep it going. If you don’t exercise much generally – now’s a good time to start! Even gentle exercise around your home, like cleaning and gardening, can get the heart pumping and maintain a basic level of fitness. If you can get out into the fresh air, even better, as spending time outside has been shown to help improve mental health.
Keep Boredom at Bay
Whilst we’re all spending time apart, with nowhere to go and no one to see, things can get a little boring. Boredom might just seem like an unwanted inconvenience, but it has been shown to contribute to anxiety, depression, changes in eating habits and increased alcohol consumption. Finding ways to stay occupied and stimulated while you’re isolating will help protect your mental health. Creative hobbies like painting, crafting or colouring have been shown to support mental wellbeing, so that might be a good place to start if you’re looking for inspiration. Jigsaw puzzles, sudoku or crosswords can be good for challenging yourself. Maybe now is the perfect time to work on that big sewing project you’ve been meaning to get to or to start writing that book you’ve been planning.
While you want to avoid getting bored, it’s also worth pointing out that you shouldn’t put any pressure on yourself to be productive or to learn a new skill during this time. If that feels a bit much and you need downtime to process what’s going on around us, that’s fine too.
Despite taking measures to stay well, some of us will inevitably experience feelings of loneliness, anxiety and worry during this difficult time. It’s important to remember that many of us are in the same boat and we can help and support each other. Local and national charities around the UK have increased mental health support services and can offer telephone support and advice for those who are self isolating. The NHS offers some fantastic advice on maintaining good mental health during this crisis, and support is available from Age UK and MIND as well as other charities across the UK.