Looking after your mental health while self-isolating.May 19, 2020 12:39 am
To help control the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) across the country, all Australians have been asked to practise social distancing. Older people are required to, or may choose to, self-isolate. Understandably, the challenges associated with social distancing and isolation, including separation from loved ones and loss of freedom are leading some people to experience feelings of anxiety, boredom, frustration and fear
Positive social connections are essential for our mental health and can help us cope in times of stress. In the current crisis, we are being asked to distance ourselves from others so it is important that we maintain our social networks using available methods of communication.
- Keep busy – Have a household project you’ve been putting off or been too busy to get around to? Now’s your chance! Organise your pantry or put together that bookshelf that’s been sitting in the corner. You might even consider learning a new language or trying a new hobby, like cooking or knitting.
- Go on a digital detox – While it’s important to stay up to date on the latest public health announcements, too much news consumption can increase feelings of stress and anxiety. If endless scrolling leaves you feeling overwhelmed, try setting aside regular time in the morning or afternoon to check your newsfeed and give yourself a time limit.
- Pick up a book – Although watching TV can be an easy way to pass the time, reading or listening to audiobooks can stimulate your imagination and give your anxious brain a nice reprieve from reality. Research shows that reading for just six minutes can lower your blood pressure and ease tension in the muscles.
- Communicate with others as much as possible – While physical contact may be limited right now, there are several ways to stay in touch with friends and family. Try to still connect with your friends and family through video chat or phone calls. Host a virtual “happy hour” or “coffee break”.
We recommend even setting up recurring calendar invites for FaceTime checkins with friends and family, as it can be hard to connect around everyone’s busy schedules. You don’t need to talk about the quarantine or COVID-19, and in fact it might be a good idea to keep that part of the conversation to 5-10 minutes and the rest of the time talk about other things.
- Make a schedule – Studies show that following a routine can increase productivity, boost happiness levels, and help ward off depression. Even though you may not be heading into your regular activities right now, it’s important to still follow a regular schedule. Having set wake up and shower times, as well a normal meal schedule, can keep you feeling accomplished and energised while in isolation
- Practice good hygiene – If you are feeling well enough, continue your regular self-care. By that, we mean, keep showering and getting dressed in real clothes. While lounging in pyjamas with messy hair is fine at first, it is going to start feeling depressing. You don’t need to wear a suit inside, but get out of your tracksuit for a while.
- Stay Active – Just because you’ve been told to stay home doesn’t mean you need to stop exercising. Exercise can help reduce elevated cortisol or stress levels, as well as trigger the release of endorphins, boosting your overall happiness. Go up and down your stairs or dance to some music. Move your body!
- Practice mindfulness – It’s important to remember that quarantine is not a punishment but actually a form of altruism. Focus on the fact that you are doing the right thing by staying home and preventing further spread of the virus and that those around you are grateful for what you are doing, even if they don’t say so in so many words
- Get some Vitamin D – If you’re able to, get outside and soak up some sun. Vitamin D plays a vital part in regulating your mood, as well as strengthening the immune system. Consider sitting out on your porch, balcony, or backyard. If you don’t have a private outdoor space, even sitting by a sunny window can help.
- Eat well – It’s easy to neglect your nutrition when you’re stuck indoors or not feeling well. When it comes to managing your anxiety, however, a balanced diet is vital for your health. Focus on eating fresh, unprocessed, whole foods in order to maintain a strong immune system.