How to stay well during self-isolation

Whether you, or someone you live with, has symptoms of coronavirus, or you are considered vulnerable or at high risk of complications, there are a number of reasons you may be in self-isolation.

While the rest of the country is in lock down, it is even more important that those who need to self-isolate are able to stay at home and avoid all contact with others. This is a challenge both physically and mentally.

Dr Gemima Fitzgerald, a clinical psychologist chartered by the British Psychological Society, shares her top tips for how to stay well during self-isolation.

Dr Gemima Fitzgerald writes…

We are living in extraordinary times. We may be facing many months of social distancing and knowing how to stay well during self-isolation can ofen feel like a challenge.

Our lives and everyday routines have undergone a huge amount of change in recent times and so it’s completely normal to feel shocked, confused and scared.

These thoughts can activate our fight/flight/freeze or flop response which can cause panic and anxiety. We may also feel really sad or angry. This is a natural grief response when we have potentially experienced multiple losses e.g. loss of job, loss of future plans, loss of routine and loss of social life.

Perhaps you feel powerless? It’s important to have a sense of agency and control to combat these feelings. This starts with following all the health and safety advice of the NHS but there are also many ways we can take control of looking after our physical and mental wellbeing.

How to stay well during self-isolation

Notice how you are feeling

Become more aware of your thoughts and feelings and try to talk to others – either over the phone or through Skype and WhatsApp – if you can. If it feels tough to talk to someone, keep a journal and write down how you feel instead. It’ll benefit your mental health.

Ask family members and friends how they are feeling too and listen to what they say. It can be so therapeutic and help to alleviate feelings of loneliness.

Help others if you can

When we’re kind to others, we benefit hugely in terms of our emotional health (it feels good to give and be compassionate). Did you know that research suggests our physical strength and vitality is also boosted when we’re kind to others?

Now, more than ever, we can strengthen our own resilience and look after each other by showing others, strangers as well as people we know, that we care.

If you’re self-isolating, you may feel that you can’t help through volunteering. In fact, if you’re feeling well enough, providing support over the phone to other people self-isolating can be a really useful way to spend your time. Find out more about volunteering for the NHS.

Resilience is built when we have an awareness of our common humanity. Yes, we are socially distanced from others. But we are all in this together. Please remember this and know that however you feel, millions of others are feeling similarly. Covid-19 has forced us apart but also united us to survive as a nation and human race more than ever before.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it too. Don’t suffer in silence. People want to help so reach out if you can.

Practice something calming

Make time each day to do something that calms you. Practice deep breathing, mindfulness, meditation or yoga.

If you have a private garden or a balcony, make sure you get out once a day (in a safe way). Looking at the colour green for 20 mins has been shown to improve mood and reduce cortisol (the stress hormone) in your body so just sitting or walking in a garden or outside and looking at trees and grass is really beneficial for your wellbeing.

Being mindful helps you to focus on the present, rather than having your thoughts running away with you. Now is a fantastic time to start something new. Read books, listen to podcasts or even learn a new language!

Stay in touch

Phone your friends and family. Use technology such as WhatsApp, FaceTime, Skype, Zoom or whatever else you feel comfortable with if you can.

However, this technology can be intimidating for some and not possible. If that’s the case, write a letter or card instead as this can bring real joy and connection.

Maintain routine

Try to have some routine in your life. Your old routine has probably gone, but have a set time when you get up in the morning and get dressed. Also have set meal times. If you’re working from home be clear about your boundaries so that work doesn’t ‘leak’ into your entire life.

Look for ways to self-care each day such as eating healthily, doing some exercise, having a relaxing bath or whatever it is that replenishes your mind, body and spirit.

Plus it’s important to stay busy. If you’re at home with children and partners, have a family meeting to discuss how you’re going to work together to keep things going. Draw up a plan to share household chores and family responsibilities so everyone has a sense of ownership about how things run.

Be aware of what you have achieved each day. I love writing lists and sometimes writing a “to-do” list is great, but other times I find it helpful to write a “done” list. Include even the simplest of things and give yourself credit for any achievements, such as those important acts of self-care.

Look for positives

This may sound strange, but in all times of crisis there are some good things that emerge (even alongside tragedies). We will see the best of human nature. As communities pull together, we start to see more acts of kindness towards our friends, families, neighbours and strangers than ever before. Love and compassion will get you through this time.

It won’t be forever

This will pass. One day, we’ll be able to reconnect with people again. Pubs and restaurants will be full, shops will re-open and families will be able to meet up. It will happen so please don’t lose heart.

Finally, remember that human beings are incredibly resilient! Throughout history, we have survived terrible adversity and have always found new ways to cope and develop a “new normal”. We will all get through this. Take care.

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