There’s no ignoring it any longer: this situation is unprecedented in our lifetime, and we have to face the reality of potential lockdown. Even if that doesn’t take place, and I think it has to at some point, then there will still be many cases of self-isolation. And that has huge repercussions on our wellbeing – social isolation and mental health problems go hand in hand.
The Relationship Between Social Isolation and Mental Health
Of course, with the stakes are so high, it may not be an option; so how can we best take care of ourselves during the inevitable challenges we’ll face should it come to that?
Self-Care Tips to Survive Social Isolation
I’ve put together a list of self-care tips to help keep you well should isolation become unavoidable. These are simple ideas which may be easily overlooked during times of stress or worry, but which will help to maintain mental health.
I listened to a very interesting podcast recently about finding purpose in your life, and why it’s so fundamental to wellbeing. That’s the basis of this whole post. When we feel confined it obliterates our sense of freedom, which is a basic human need. Reframing our situation to overcome that feeling is a powerful tool, and these tips are designed to help with that process.
How to Cope With Social Isolation During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Some of these tips will be applicable only to certain groups of people. Depending on individual circumstances, priorities will vary along with responsibilities and obligations.
Wellbeing Tips for Everybody
Finding ourselves suddenly thrown into a new situation which we’ve never been in before can feel bewildering, and one of the first things to go out of the window can often be routine. It’s more than understandable – but it’s not helpful.
When we’re used to getting up for school or work every day, having the opportunity to slob about is beyond tempting. Embrace it for a day or two, but be mindful of allowing it to continue for too long.
Routine is powerful, it makes us feel in control and brings order, which in turn can help to calm a worried mind – especially important at this time of uncertainty.
Following on from the above point, one of the most difficult challenges for mental health is uncertainty. We prefer to know for sure that something bad is going to happen that to have the possibility hanging over us, which simply leads to stress.
Staying informed is therefore a positive thing – just avoid sensationalist headlines and instead follow reputable news and health sites.
…Unless It Causes Anxiety
On the other hand, if you find that the news is actually causing you undue anxiety, turn it off. Staying informed is only beneficial until it’s not – at which point it’s perfectly acceptable to take a break from the outside world and embrace the sanctuary of your home for a while.
Mindset is Everything
Speaking of which, perspective is huge.
You can view your four walls as restrictive, or you can choose instead to consider them as protective.
If you can reframe your situation from enforced isolation to safe haven or even positive retreat, you’ll feel inordinately better for it.
I won’t pretend it’s easy, but neither is it impossible. Again, it comes down to mindset:
Either focus on the fact that you’re unable to go outside for the run you really want to take – or blast the radio and dance to your favourite tunes.
Stay in Touch
Being unable to socialise is going to be hard on everybody, but that’s no reason to lose touch with your loved ones. We’re fortunate to live in a connected world, so make use of it and make efforts to speak on the phone or video call loved ones regularly.
Eating healthily (for the most part, at least) will support your immunity and overall wellbeing. Stable blood sugar and nutritious foods will help you to feel good.
Maintaining a good sleep schedule is also important. Irregular or insufficient sleep is a fast route to poor mental health. Retaining that routine I mentioned earlier will benefit here.
Make Time for Calm
Whilst staying active is important, carving out time for reflection and relaxation is also critical to wellbeing. Depending on personal circumstances and imposed restrictions, this will look different for everybody, but your self-care might be a bath, a quiet book, a bit of Netflix, cooking a meal, or meditating.
Wellbeing Tips for Families
There are some activities which are especially important for families isolated together, for the sake of the children and also for the mental health of the adults taking care of them. It may be that you usually have time away at work which you view as a break and will be missing out on, or you children may be anxious or fractious.
Whatever your personal difficulties, being confined to your home with young children is not going to be easy. In addition to the above tips, the following will help help to make it as comfortable as possible during a lockdown:
If the kids get bored, you’re in trouble. Try to plan activities to keep them occupied, especially if they’d usually be at school. There are tons of free resources online, particularly at the moment.
Equally important – of course – is plenty of time to play. My own girls love a home day, and actually if we have a busy week they begin to actively crave that time.
There’s never been a better time to have a sort out and rotate toys that haven’t been looked at in a while. Provide opportunities for lots of open-ended creative play which may encourage them to share any worries through role play, interspersed with more educational activities to stimulate their little brains.
Older children who have a better understanding of what’s going on may be feeling overwhelmed. It goes without saying but making time to chat is vital. You could also encourage journaling or similar to help promote their emotional wellbeing too.
My First Happy Journal
Read and Relax
Again, after a busy day, chill out time with the kids is necessary too – and a little escapism is a perfect way to do it. It’s beneficial for the whole family, especially if boredom sets in. It’s also really important to support school age children’s education while they’re missing lessons.
Practical Checklist for Families:
- Stock up on necessities
- Bookmark free learning resources
- Order ingredients for fun baking
- Find free educational apps for kids
- Order craft items for activities
- Separate and rotate toys and books
Wellbeing Tips for Couples Isolated Together
Carve Out Time Alone
It may be the last thing you’d think to do, but time alone is an important aspect of wellbeing for us all. If you only have each other for company for an extended period of time, it becomes all the more crucial: cabin fever could easily lead to feelings running high and translate to unnecessary fallings out.
This is a surreal time and there will naturally be a lot of confused feelings about what’s going on and how it’s affecting us. Block out time during dinner or in the evening to talk through fears and frustrations.
It’s important to keep things in perspective: this won’t last forever.
Planning fun adventures for when life returns to normal is a good way of staying positive during an uncertain time – especially for those of us who’ve had planned holidays cancelled!
Practical Checklist for Couples:
- Dig out board games and a pack of cards
- Research relevant information for keeping on top of bills
- Make a list of vulnerable family to check in on
- Plan a trip
Wellbeing Tips for Adults Working From Home
If you’re not used to working from home it can be tough getting into the necessary mindset. However, if you’re healthy and supposed to be working, then you obviously need to keep on top of those responsibilities.
Keep regular office hours, take lunch, and try to maintain your usual work routine as far as you can. This will help the time pass and keep life as normal as possible.
Don’t skip exercise. There are so many workout routines online that you can do almost anything that appeals to you.
As you’re stuck in the house you’re missing out on even walking short distances; even if you don’t usually take any formal exercise, it’s a good idea to spend some time moving your body, even for 20 minutes a day.
Since mindset is so vital to how we cope in a situation of social isolation, practicing mindfulness is a powerful way of staying mentally healthy.
You could try doing some yoga, journaling, or even watching nature programmes in the absence of the real thing. Anything that will help you to create boundaries between work and relaxation time when your physical environment doesn’t change is beneficial.
Practical Checklist for Working From Home:
- Ensure you have sufficient office supplies
- Make a realistic daily routine
- Plan days off each week
Wellbeing Tips for Isolated Adults Who Are Completely Alone
This is one of the most difficult situations for people to be in when self-isolating or during enforced social isolation, particularly if you don’t need to be working. But there are ways to make it more bearable, starting with those outlined above, and with these more practical suggestions as an addition.
Declutter / Decorate
If you’ve been wanting to make improvements to your home for a while and not had the time or motivation, it’s your moment.
Tackling a cluttered area in your home, whether the airing cupboard, your wardrobes, or your kitchen drawers can be both satisfying and cathartic. Making chaos into order in your home, often translates to what’s going on inside our heads too.
Alternatively a little project to make a room into a sanctuary you love will also keep you busy, active, and result in a new space you’ll love to spend time in.
Learn or Refine a New Skill
Been meaning to pick up that crocheting, take that mini online course, or write the first chapter of the book that’s in you? Start now.
It’s natural to feel lonely when you’re alone. Keeping in contact with others is important, but it may not completely stave off those overwhelming feelings.
If there are any indulgent or extravagant ways you can spend your time alone, you should. Do what you have to in order to stay healthy. Balance is key, and that means routine – and lots of self-care.
Practical Checklist for Being Alone:
- Make a list of projects you plan to tackle
- Order any necessary items for projects
- Create a schedule for keeping in touch with loved ones
- Write a daily gratitude list to promote positivity
Check out this post for more tips on staying optimistic during tough times.
Staying Positive During Social Isolation
Social isolation along with confinement is a real threat to our mental health. The antidote to prevent us descending into an unhealthy downward spiral is that sense of purpose. It gives us drive and keeps us going until things get better.
It is what’s better; it’s hope.