With the lockdown looking set to continue for the foreseeable future, we’re all facing the prospect of having to cope with a prolonged period of self-isolation. Being stuck inside with loved ones, flatmates, or the family can start to become very stressful. It could start causing strain on relationships, especially if space is at a premium where you live.
Not only that, if you’re working remotely or actively trying to find a job during this crisis (in which case, check out our Ultimate Jobseeker Guide for help and advice), then boundaries between home and work can quickly start to blur. This can make it hard to relax, de-stress, or find time for yourself.
Staying healthy mentally can be a real challenge as a result. If you’re starting to feel the strain, these five simple steps can help.
1: Keep Active
Mental and physical health are closely related – regular exercise can help keep a positive mental outlook, so even if you only do a short daily burst of exercise, it’s well worth it. Thankfully, working out at home is very doable too, and there are plenty of short equipment-free exercise videos available on platforms like YouTube.
Staying mentally stimulated is also important. Try making use of your lockdown time constructively, by learning or revisiting skills or hobbies. If you’ve ever wanted to catch up on your guitar playing or drawing, now is the perfect opportunity. Even giving yourself simple tasks like sorting out or organising long-forgotten drawers of spare parts, record collections, or anything else, can help keep your mind focused and give you a feeling of accomplishment.
2: Enjoy Escapism
Entertainment is understandably more of a focus during self-isolation, and luckily we live in a time when it’s easy to come by. Whether it’s a PS4, music streaming, or Netflix, being able to escape from reality for a while is very important when it comes to reflecting on and handling problems and stress.
Taking your mind elsewhere, whether into a song, virtual world or book, helps because it distracts you from immediate emotions that you might be feeling. This tends to be enough to ‘cool off’, giving you time to reassess a situation without being caught up in stress, anger, or anxiety.
That said, it’s also important to balance your escapism – too much Tiger King or Skyrim can start to have adverse effects on your mental health if you overdo things – and not just because you might start seriously considering a bleached mullet, or take an arrow to the knee.
3: Take Time Out
While an always-on digital world is fantastic in many respects, we also need to be careful just how much we engage with it. Some studies have found that excessive social media use, for example, can cause depression and anxiety. This is even more important to note given the current situation.
While we do need to keep informed of what’s going on with the virus, and government measures etc, we should also be mindful of taking time out from the constant barrage of coronavirus news and updates, many of which are likely to have a negative bias. Too much exposure to this kind of content and information can magnify the stress and anxiety of coping in self-isolation, and only make things harder.
Spending a few hours every day unplugged from socials and the internet is the best way to avoid adding additional anxiety to an already stressful situation, as a result. It’s also a great reason to spend some time with the family, loved ones, or flatmates.
4: Keep in Touch
As we near the end of the third week of self-isolation, it can be all to easy to start feeling lonely, or desperately in need of some personal space, depending on your situation.
One thing that helps us handle difficult situations in everyday life is to speak to friends or family and air them out. Socialising is extremely important for all of us, and making sure we keep our social connections strong during times of stress and isolation can be very beneficial.
Not only can talking through the difficulties you’re facing as a result of the current situation be very healthy, being able to help and support others if they’re having a hard time can make you feel better too. Given the plethora of video calling apps and tools available to us, this is easier than ever. Even a quick email or text message can work wonders.
5: Plan and Schedule
Whether you’re currently furloughed, jobseeking, or working from home, then the sudden, severe change in routine can be quite disarming. Finding and maintaining a new routine will help you feel more productive, and as a result, healthier. This is true in normal life too of course, but spending the majority of your time at home brings challenges that aren’t normally applicable.
The lure of a morning lie-in, one more episode, another quick snack, and so on, can all easily start to creep in and take over your day. If you’re remote working or jobseeking, then parts of your home are probably being used as a workspace. This can cause problems too, as it can become hard to ‘switch-off’ when you’re spending so much time in the same few rooms.
Coming up with a realistic schedule or plan for the day can help make you feel productive and give you purpose, which in turn, helps to keep your mindset positive. Also, making sure to limit your work or job search activities to a certain room or spot, and not deviating from this area, can help limit the blurring between work and home life.