The global spread of coronavirus has meant that many people have had to self-isolate to reduce their risk of both contracting the infection and spreading it to others.
Whether you are living in a mansion or a family sharing a small two bed flat we are all going to feel the walls start to close in on us as time goes on.
Some will be in isolation with family, some with young children and some will be in isolation alone.
Therefore everyone's experience of isolation will be quite different, but there are some tips that will helpful to us all, whatever your circumstances of isolation.
Research has shown that those who isolate alone can be at high risk of both physical and mental impact similar in magnitude to the effects of smoking, obesity and serious illness.
Therefore if you know someone isolating on their own please keep in touch, this is especially important if they are elderly and isolating
My first tip for isolation is
Humans are social creatures and so connection is a necessity, without connection your physical and mental health can suffer.
At this time lots of us will be looking at ways to connect with our family and friends, telephone, social media, face time, texting are all important.
Hearing a human voice is important so although you can keep in touch through text etc at least once a week make sure you talk with someone.
If you cannot connect with a human voice you know, then turn on the TV, the radio or play some music.
Of course for those who are isolating with others, you may also need some time on your own and as much as connection is important you will also, at times, want to find a quiet place for yourself and disconnect for a while.
Being at home, possibly not working and having children at home who would usually be at school means that our daily routine has changed. This change can be unsettling.
When people are faced with uncertainty or worry, having certainties in your life are key to reducing anxiety and so a new daily routine or a bit of structure to your day can really help.
2. DAILY ROUTINE
A daily routine will help you keep a sense of normality and normality is something that makes us feel safe, feeling safe reduces your anxiety.
At first we may want a bit of a change but as times goes on you can loose a sense of time and structure to life and this is when things can start to get difficult for us.
If you start a routine now that will help.
A good daily routine will include the following
·· Getting up and going to bed at set times
· Doing your usual grooming routine
· Eating healthy meals at your usual meal times
· Blocks of work or school work
· Exercising regularly
· Reading, writing or crafting
· Listening to music or podcasts
· Communicating with friends, family and work colleagues
· Fitting in some 'you' time away from others
Keep track of a normal week, when it is a week day and when is it the weekend so you can change your routine as you would normally.
If keeping to your usual routine is difficult, maintaining good habits within a new routine can provide you with a sense of security.
In a time when it may feel things around us are out of control, structure can help you personally have some sort of control.
Part of your daily routine should include
3. PHYSICAL EXERCISE
At least 30 minutes exercise per day Has been shown to have similar effects to antidepressant, it breaks up your day and keeps you both physically and mentally healthy
At the moment the government is recognising how important physical exercise is and also the importance of being outdoors and getting fresh air, they recommend a daily period of outside exercise, try to fit this into your routine.
However some of you may not want to go outside or we may not be able to go outside for the duration of isolation so find ways to exercise at home
· cleaning your home
· dancing to music
· going up and down stairs
· online exercise workouts that you can follow
· sitting less – if you notice you’ve been sitting down for an hour, just getting up or changing position can help, if you have a fit bit this can help you ensure you regularly move.
Not only is it important to keep yourself physically fit but isolation can have an affect on your mental health to.
4, KEEP YOUR MIND ACTIVE
Keeping your brain occupied and challenged will help you keep your mind from wandering to the negative and worrying too much about the situation that you are in, Alongside keeping your mind active you also need to keep your mind calm.
Set aside time in your routine for mind stimulating activities such as work, puzzles, reading and then balance it with activities that calm your brain, such as yoga, relaxation, deep breathing and also factor in time for stimulating your brain in an enjoyable way, ie films, play, fun.
Some of you may be having to home school your children so realise they also need to have this mix of activity, allow them time for their computer games, these help them keep their brain active, but limiting their time is good.
Being able to keep the balance throughout the day of being both mentally active and mentally calm will make it easier to cope with the boredom or the stress of the day.
Alongside physical and mental activity also consider
5. EMOTIONAL CARE
Emotional Self-care is about being good to yourself, being kind to yourself and treating yourself as you would like to be treated by others.
Physical and mental stimulation, in your routine will help maintain a sense of normality, but what about how you feel emotionally, at the moment your emotions can be all over the place.
Self- care can include things like Getting up, getting dressed, putting on your make-up, doing your hair, helping you retain your self-respect and self-esteem which contribute to feeling good about yourself.
But self-care is also about being fully aware of how you are feeling emotionally.
You may be feeling some emotions you don’t want to at the moment, instead of ignoring them or trying to push them away, try to face them full on.
There is no such thing as good or bad emotions, it’s not the emotions that are bad, it is how we react to them and how we behave because of them that can be bad,
Now is a good time to accept how you are feeling emotionally and find ways to cope with that emotion
You can try things like
Keeping a daily journal, or just writing down how you feel at the end of each day
Making time to talk with a friend or family member who truly understands you.
Letting yourself cry when you need to.
Deliberately encourage yourself to laugh with old memories or funny videos.
Sing along to the song that best expresses your current emotions
Be honest with yourself about how you are feeling
Confronting your emotions head on means they will not grow and become more difficult to deal with, find some way to be able to accept and understand what is going on for you emotionally
If you have children at home allow them to also express their emotions and don’t try to stop them, they may need to show their anger or frustration at the current situation.
Have honest conversations about what is happening and how together you can help each other get through this time. Be there for them when they need you, listen to them, allow them to talk, let them be honest with you about where they are emotionally
Through all of this it is important to realise that you are doing the best you can in very strange circumstances, we are all coping with an unprecedented situation and it is good to remember that.
If you are struggling with anything at the moment remember that mental health support can be accessed online or over the phone.
I have currently moved my business to telephone and video sessions and these are working well.
Be aware of the impact of isolation on you physically, mentally and emotionally and take steps to manage these as best you can,
Ask for help from friends, family colleagues, children when you need it.
If you feel you need more support than you can consider counselling which can offer a listening ear either just to offload after a particularity difficult day or week, or you may feel a more regular time to talk about things will be helpful.
I am happy to discuss with anyone what could be useful to them at this time and have set aside some sessions at a reduced rate to help those in real need.
Just call me to discuss.
Laura Knight Dip. Couns. MBACP is an experienced and qualified counsellor and CBT therapist who runs her own private practice SeeClear Counselling in Poole, Dorset.
She is an Anxiety UK approved therapist and specialises in working with anxiety and panic attacks.