Tips on looking after your mental health whilst self-isolating
23rd March 2020
As the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic continues, millions of people all over the world are being told to self-isolate to reduce the risk of the virus spreading. In the UK, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has asked members of the public to work from home “where they possibly can” and practice social distancing by avoiding going to restaurants, pubs, bars and other social venues. Schools are even set to be closed until further notice from Friday 20th March, meaning even more people will have to stay home to care for their children.
Although it is inconvenient for many who have to work from home, or can’t go out to the cinema, or a bar or restaurant, for many it is much more. Self-isolation can have a profound effect on a person’s mental and physical health. Dhruv Khullar, a physician and researcher at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York, said short period of isolation can cause increased anxiety or depression “within days.”
Self-isolation and social distancing can be incredibly difficult to deal with. It is important to remember that it’s normal to feel frustrated, anxious, bored or depressed, and that you are not alone in feeling this way. As the coronavirus pandemic does not seem to be going anywhere any time soon, and more and more of us will likely have to self-isolate we have put together some tips for looking after your mental health and wellbeing whilst in quarantine.
Set a routine
Disruptions to a daily routine can be stressful. Even just having the odd day where things don’t go to plan or you need to stay home sick can really make you feel off balance, so the prospect of having your routine disrupted for weeks can seriously impact your mental health. Setting a day-to-day routine whilst you’re in self-isolation is, therefore, crucial.
Plan your days whilst you’re quarantining. If you are working from home, try to stick as close to your daily routine as possible. Get up at the same time, have a shower, make breakfast, get dressed and then sit down to do work. Do all your work in your set working hours as you always would, so if you work 9-5 in an office, work from 9-5 at home. If you know you’re at home all day it can tempting to sleep in and stay in your pyjamas, but this can make you feel less motivated, lacking energy and make you feel down.
If you can’t work from home, take this as an opportunity to create a new daily routine which prioritises looking after yourself and making you happy. You could read more, start a new hobby or even just catch up on all those jobs you’ve never found the time to do. Whether you are working from home or not, it is important to have a daily routine you can stick to. This will help you feel less stressed and anxious, as you will know what you are doing each day and when.
Maintain in contact with other people
For most people the need for human contact is a basic instinct. Therefore, when we are forced to be alone, it can have an adverse effect on our mental health. If you have to self-isolate during the coronavirus pandemic, it is important you still maintain contact with other people.
There are a number of ways you can speak to people without actually being face to face with them. Use social media, send text messages, or phone them so you can hear their voice. If you are really missing human interaction and being able to see other people use video chat so you can actually see and speak to your loved ones in real time. There are plenty of platforms where you can video chat with people such as Facetime, WhatsApp or Skype. Most of us nowadays have a phone, laptop or computer which we can use to contact other people. This will go a long way in helping you to feel less lonely, and more connected with the outside world.
It is important to look after your physical health as well as your mental health whilst self-isolating. It is proven that exercise makes you feel happier and reduces stress, so it is a great way to help improve your mental health and give you something to do whilst at home.
Make exercising part of your daily routine. You don’t have to have a whole home gym to be able to exercise at home, you could just go for a walk round your garden, skip, run up and down the stairs or put on some music and dance. There are also loads of online videos, programmes, and apps which have home workouts you can follow. Find something you enjoy and get up and get moving, you’ll be surprised how much it will help.
Maintaining a healthy balanced diet year-round is important, whether self-isolating or not. Whilst stuck at home or feeling down, it is easy to start comfort eating or trying to make yourself feel better with junk food, but this will only make you feel worse in the long-run. If you are sick, it is important you stay hydrated and eat well to keep up your strength to fight off the virus. Make sure you are eating three balanced meals a day, with healthy snacks in between if you are hungry and drinking plenty of water.
If you can’t get to the shops because you are quarantined due to illness, there are plenty of places which are doing none-contact home deliveries of food, just look online. Many local independent restaurants are even offering home deliveries as a way to continue making money whilst social distancing takes place. Alternatively you could ask one of your loved ones to drop food off for you, if you’re worried about spreading the virus they don’t have to come into contact with you they could just leave it at your front door for you to collect when they are a safe distance away.
Distract yourself and find ways to pass the time
If you are stuck at home and bored or feeling anxious, find ways to spend your time. Focusing your mind on something can help to distract you from feelings of stress or anxiety. There are plenty of things you can do at home which will pass the time. Take this as an opportunity to try new things and take up a new hobby, try doing something creative like painting, drawing, writing or sewing. Watch films, read a book or listen to music. Meditate, do yoga, or even just catch up on all the jobs around the house you’ve been putting off. De-cluttering your home is a great way to distract yourself and help you feel less stressed, as organising the space around you can help to organise your mind. The possibilities are endless, just pick something that you’ll enjoy and will keep your mind focused and the time will soon pass.
Avoid the media
Rumour and speculation can fuel anxiety. Trawling through social media and the news every day and constantly reading reports about the coronavirus, quarantining and such can negatively affect your mental health and make you feel anxious, depressed, and stressed. If this is the case, try to avoid the media as much as possible. If you can’t avoid it all together limit yourself to looking just once a day. If you keep seeing things or people talking about the coronavirus on social media, block or hide the accounts which are constantly reporting about it and making you feel anxious.
If you feel you can’t avoid social media or the news, then make sure you are reading good quality information about the coronavirus from trusted sources. You can get up-to-date information and advice from the Gov.uk website. Don’t believe everything you read, as a lot of the information out there is unconfirmed speculation or just made up to try to create a sense of panic or fear.
Look after your mental health
Follow these simple tips to help look after your mental health and wellbeing whilst self-isolating or social distancing. We understand it can be very difficult and the coronavirus pandemic, which has plunged the world into uncertainty, is already starting to have an adverse effect on many people’s mental health, as there is a lot of stress and anxiety surrounding the subject. However, it is important to remember you are not alone. Now, more than ever, it is important you look after your mental health and wellbeing.
If you are feeling alone and really starting to struggle, don’t suffer in silence. Reach out to someone, whether it’s a family member, friend, medical professional or a helpline, talking to someone can make a huge difference.
Some helplines which may help:
Call Samaritans on 116 123 – they offer confidential, emotional support 24 hours a day.
Text Shout on 85258 for support in a crisis, if you are unable to cope or need support.
Call Mind on 0300 123 3393 – Monday to Friday 9am-6pm.
Call SANEline on 0300 304 7000 – Daily from 4:30pm – 10:30pm for emotional support, information and guidance. To receive comfort and care via text message, sent when you need it most visit: www.sane.org.uk/textcare