Self-isolation is tough, it has been a huge change in routine for the vast majority of us and has given us all new challenges to face. For those with mental health the lack of support can and has been deadly. I am here to give some tips on coping with self-isolation that aren’t just “learn a language”, “start a new super creative hobby”, “grow your own unicorn!” or “101 tips for homeschooling”. There are other blogs that do this better and the reality is most of us fit into the following 3 categories:
- Essential workers whose social life may be different, and have the added stress of increased likelihood of exposure to covid-19.
- Working from home full-time and trying to stay sane and healthy.
- Unemployed or furloughed, may or may not have increasing financial pressures but are also likely to find they have a lot of free time they didn’t have before.
There are also many in each category that are now trying to juggle homeschooling too. Each has its own unique set of challenges, but I will try and highlight a few and how you can take steps to look after yourself. I will also do my best to suggest ideas that don’t require you to buy anything special or pay for access, I fully understand that many are facing mounting financial pressure on top of trying to survive a global pandemic.
If you’re already bored of me and don’t want to read any further at least know this:
Don’t let anyone pressure you into being productive during a freaking global crisis, if all you can handle is work and a daily skype call, or binge watching netflix then you do you. There are enough artists, performers, writers and TikTok stars out there keeping us entertained, the world just needs you to look after your mental health and eat fruit and veggies. No-one has any idea how this will pan out and what the long term impact will be, focus on being in one piece by the end and go from there. I have played Candy Crush and watched every single episode of Brooklyn Nine Nine on repeat for 3 days straight and when I felt ready I got back up to try again. We all have our struggles.
Managing stress levels:
It is vital that you manage stress levels and reduce them as far as you are able to, there are proven health implications associated with long term stress such as higher risk of strokes or heart attacks. While the management is so personal for everyone, I will say a few things that work for me, if you are following these guidelines and are still struggling it may be worth reaching out to friends and family or seeking online counselling. This doesn’t make you a failure or steal the space from someone else. If you need it you need it. Don’t be a martyr.
- Exercise. I talk about the importance of exercise all the time because it can help regulate mood, sleep and stress levels, boost confidence, and reduce the likelihood of becoming seriously ill. There are tons of videos on YouTube and a load of personal trainers are making their content free to help during this pandemic. Joe Wicks runs a daily PE session live on his channel which is designed to get the whole family involved. If you’re allowed outside make the most of it, take the dog for a decent walk, go for a jog or walk. For those with limited mobility KymNonStop has a whole playlist dedicated to chair based workouts on
- YouTube too. Doing crunches while lying in bed counts, just get moving.
- Eat well. You know the drill, loads of fruits, veggies and whole grains while reducing processed foods like burgers, sweets and crisps. Treat yourself once a week or so though, life is miserable without a treat now and then.
- Mediate. There are apps like Headspace and Calm (which includes a kids section). This post has a fantastic round up of all the highest rated on android and iPhone.
- Reduce caffeine. Do I really need to explain this one? Put down the anxiety go-go juice and drink some water.
Finding time for yourself:
This advice is mostly aimed at those who now find themselves working full time and trying to homeschool too, but it’s important that everyone makes time to do something for themselves at least once a day. You can’t pour from an empty bucket. Also don’t be afraid to park younger children in front of educational videos, iPads or other games either. A pandemic is not the place to be concerned about screen time, or a fully structured and complete learning program.
- Follow the above advice on managing stress levels, this is all basic self-care.
- Take 10 minutes, mediate even if is just for 20 minutes, dance to your favourite song, savour that cup of tea or sandwich. Start looking for gaps and use them to do things that make you happy, think twice before just starting the next episode on Netflix or starting another level in a game. Little and often is better than none at all, you don’t need to have a full 2-hour pamper session to practice self care, although if you can, do! Men included, embrace the moisturizer.
- Prioritize sleep. Set a going to bed alarm if you have to but don’t be tempted to stay up and finish all the cleaning, laundry, dusting etc if it is stopping you getting the 8 hours sleep recommended by experts. This is a marathon not a sprint.
- Utilise the internet. There are hundreds of resources for anything from pre-school to A-levels online, YouTube seems to be the place most people start, but sites like Revision World and BBC, are both free and packed full of content for GSCE’s and A-levels. (I am from the UK, I have no idea what is good for other countries I am sorry, I don’t want to recommend poor sites). Those that are old enough can study independently.
Coping with quiet:
For those now finding themselves in quiet houses, the sudden silence can have a huge impact, especially in this day and age where most of us are surrounded by hustle and bustle constantly. The noise and crowding on commutes to work, constant traffic, even a busy home or social life and background noise of TV or radio means we are all used to a certain level of auditory stimulation (posh for noise, feeling fancy today). This is not really the post or time to talk about coping with this for those that are sensitive, but more how to cope with the absence of normal everyday noises most of us are experiencing.
This is a fantastic post by someone much more qualified, and probably a damn sight cooler than me too. It talks about the benefits of learning how to settle into silence and ways to find peace and listen to your inner voice more. It is well worth a shot and will have benefits in the long term, even if it means you can just sit and enjoy a scenic view for longer without all the “oh my god so many things to do” thoughts crowding in.
For those of you that are finding the sudden silence intolerable and cannot seem to get comfortable with it, I have the following suggestions. As per usual these are based on things I find helpful as someone who lives with depression, low-level anxiety and a few eating disorders sprinkled on top.
- Turn off the TV and radio, or turn it down. Sudden changes between songs, adverts, people talking, fight scenes etc can be jarring and only heighten anxiety. Turning it down is not a helpful strategy for me as it mostly makes me frustrated, but a few of my friends say they find it calming. Experiment.
- Play softer music, calm classical pieces, ambient song collections etc. Try this selection on Spotify as a starting point.
- White noise/ocean sounds/rain noises, Relax Rain app for android is an app is customization to exactly what you want to hear. All these options help to make sudden noises less noticeable and therefore less stressful, similar to the effect daily traffic etc would have been having up until now
- Run appliances. As a baby my mum used to park me in front of the washing machine to make me sleep. I still find the repetitive noise soothing and will sometimes sit in the laundry room when my head space is loud and music or other above suggestions aren’t helping.
- If you need to blast music, sing and generally make a racket then do so. Sometimes it’s helpful to loudly proclaim to the world that you are still here and will not go quietly. (I am not responsible for your neighbors response to this, be sensible. No drums at 3am)
Above all, keep calm, be kind to yourself and don’t forget, this too shall pass.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lou runs her own blog where she reviews whatever books she happens to be reading, and talks a lot about mental health including her own struggles with eating disorders. She is passionate about mental health and eating disorder awareness and also obsessed with dogs of all shapes and sizes but loves greyhounds and lurchers the most.