If you are struggling while self-isolating, be assured you’re not alone. The WHO (World Health Organization) have acknowledged the stress that an unprecedented situation can put on the human mind. Whether you are staying at home with your family, or self-isolating to protect others, here are 9 ways to safeguard your mental health.
Eat. Sleep. Repeat.
Begin by focusing on the basics of self-care. Food fuels our brains and therefore has a large impact on mood. We tend to focus on how food makes us feel while we eat it, but also take note of how you feel the next day. By all means indulge in comfort food, but make sure your regular diet is nutritious and leaves you feeling satisfied instead of bloated. Sleep, too, has a significant influence on stress resilience and can even improve immune function. Stick to a somewhat regular sleep schedule. To make sure your brain continues to associate your sleep space with rest, don’t work or eat in bed. Stay in tune with your inner clock by making the most of daylight hours.
Making exercise part of your self-isolation routine will help safeguard your mental health and even improve your mood. If you are not accustomed to exercising at home, see the constraint as a new challenge. Start with short intervals of a few minutes, but get active every single day. Try out different YouTube channels to see which trainer motivates you the most. Experiment with bodyweight workouts designed for small spaces. If you enjoy the social side of sports, connect to friends via video chat and work out together.
Allow Yourself to Feel Your Emotions
With basic self-care habits in place, get ready to confront the emotional impact of self-isolation. You may experience a wide range of emotions, including happiness, worry, boredom, and anger. Acceptance is an important step in management. Take note of your emotions. Reassure yourself that what you’re feeling is OK. Connect with a trusted friend, or put pen to paper and start a journal. Give yourself space to experience and process the emotions.
Take One Day at a Time
Even if your tolerance for uncertainty is high, most likely this pandemic is testing the limits. It can be frustrating to cancel plans without knowing when you will be able to make up for what feels like lost time. Instead of worrying about what is not in your control, focus on your outlook. Accept that the situation is liable to change. Stay in the moment. Remind yourself that right now you are safe and have everything you need. Actively look for reasons to be grateful.
Don’t Expect Too Much of Yourself
Time at home is a great opportunity to start a new project or catch up on all the tasks that you don’t usually get around to. However, be careful not to burden yourself with too many expectations. Be as kind and patient with yourself as you would be with a good friend. Be realistic as to how much you can accomplish, and give yourself some leeway as you go through your day. If you get overwhelmed, take a break and reassess. Keeping yourself sane and happy is a productive and worthy goal.
Schedule Your Day
Going from a structured routine to whole days spent at home can quickly leave you feeling unproductive and dissatisfied at the end of the day. Build some structure for yourself. Your plan could range from a simple to-do-list to a detailed schedule. Start with listing tasks that have to be completed, and then add what else you would like to achieve. Writing down a list instead of just taking a mental note will help give your sense of accomplishment a boost.
Connecting with people you love every day will help combat feelings of isolation and loneliness. Turn your video calls into coffee dates. Have meals together or play online games. Reach out to people you suspect are having a harder time with using technology, and help them get acquainted with the tools available. Try out different apps for yourself to see which ones you enjoy the most. At the same time, if company is starting to drain you, take some space for yourself. Talk to your partner or other family members about taking turns caring for younger children so each of you has an opportunity to relax. Connecting with others – online or within your household – will stay meaningful and refreshing. Many apps and websites are making their online resources available free of charge to contribute to public mental health during the coronavirus crisis. Actively search for one that suits your needs.
Limit Your Screen Time
With work, social interaction, and entertainment all happening online, you could easily find yourself spending all day in front of a screen. Consciously take time away from your devices. If your local recommendations allow for it, spend some time in nature by going on walks or heading outside for exercise. Your backyard, balcony, or a sunny spot by a window work just as well. Be aware there is a big difference between passive recreation and active recreation. Passive recreation might temporarily drown out stress, but it will not recharge you. Take time offline to spend with pets, musical instruments, paper books, or other hobbies. When you return to your screens, be extra careful with how much and what kind of media you are consuming.
Face Your Finances
Not being able to leave the house has very real economic consequences. If your household is losing income, you might feel anxious and helpless, but remember that the situation is temporary. Remind yourself of the resources you have access to: savings, remote work, and your community. Instead of ruminating constantly, assign time to address the issue. Stick to a budget and start keeping track of expenses. Consciously take note of the emotions you experience while doing so. Dealing with your financial situation productively will help you regain your sense of control and protect your mental health.
Most likely you are also concerned about the mental health of your family and friends who are either in the same household as you or self-isolating themselves. The principle of putting on your own oxygen mask first holds true here too. You will be able to help others the most by keeping yourself stable and safeguarding your own mental health. Therefore, don’t overextend yourself and stay in touch with your own needs. Then, giving and sharing will be an enriching, not draining experience in these unusual times.