COVID-19 has had a seismic impact on all of our everyday lives. Currently, many of us are living and working in isolation, whether as a result of showing symptoms of the virus or in response to government instructions to stay at home. If you’re used to spending your days in a lively office, seeing friends and family, being active and outside or travelling a lot then the current circumstances may have come as a shock. There are some steps that all of us can take to safeguard our mental health during this time.
Be aware of the impact of isolation
Studies have shown that the psychological impact of isolation can be broad and include everything, from sleep disruption to anxiety and depression. Between 10% and 29% of those who were quarantined during the SARS outbreak in 2003 were found to have PTSD afterwards. Isolation is not a holiday and, naturally, many of us will be feeling stressed, uncertain and disconnected right now.
Establish a new routine
Whether you are at home with a house full of people or isolating alone with your cat it’s important to create a new routine. Get up and out of bed as you normally would, shower, get dressed, eat breakfast and then plan your day so that you have goals, tasks and some structure. These might not be the tasks you’re used to but anything, from baking to cleaning and gardening can help you to stay engaged.
Avoid the extremes
You might find that you are completely overwhelmed with work – or very bored. It’s important to set boundaries so that you don’t end up in either of these extreme places. If you’re working hard ensure that you stop at the end of normal working hours and find time to relax. If boredom is an issue, stay busy with new projects, TV box sets, DIY or planning.
Look after yourself
Good food, plenty of sleep and ensuring that you get regular exercise will all be crucial at this time. If you haven’t tried meditation it can be a great way to deal with stress and stay in the present moment instead of worrying about the future. Looking after yourself may also mean limiting the amount of news you consume in a day so that you don’t feel overwhelmed, and forgiving yourself if some days are less productive or healthy than others.
Be there for other people – let them be there for you
Staying connected with your friends and family via messaging, emails, phone calls and video chat is essential. These connections can help with feelings of loneliness and help you to maintain relationships. Helping those you don’t know can also provide a sense of purpose, whether that is volunteering to collect supplies or walking a neighbour’s dog if they can’t get out.
You may not feel positive all the time but focusing on the goodwill help to make the situation feel more bearable. There may even be opportunities to create something new for the future in this unprecedented situation.
Coping with life in isolation is new for all of us and presents many challenges. Above all, it’s essential to take things one day at a time.