Looking after your mental wellbeing when you are in isolation.
This is a new and challenging time for all of us, as human beings we need contact with others and routines to give some certainty and structure to our lives and mental wellbeing.
For a lot of people that may mean struggling with a different reality, that is hard to plan for, when none of us have been in a situation like this before, and we don’t know how long this is going to go on for.
Being conscious of our mental health and making some small changes to how we usually live our lives will help, below are some tips you can use as a daily resource to help take charge.
Don’t forget we are all in this together and you are not alone. Stay as normal as possible and flexible as necessary.
Here are some tips that may help you at this time:
1. Keep your usual daily routines or create new ones
Getting up and going to bed at the usual times, getting dressed, mealtimes, exercise, social contact only with those in “ your bubble”. With the change in weather and daylight-saving finishing, get fresh air and sunlight as much as you can, this will help keep your mood up mood up, improve your sleep and is good for your bone health.
2. Choose where you focus your attention
Try to tune in on the good things in the World, like noticing little things out your window, identifying and acknowledging things in your life you are grateful for.
Share the good stuff to maintain your connections, acknowledge any loneliness and
get into action to ask for help, e.g. phone calls, skype, (ask for help with technology), have conversations at distance out your window.
3. Keep up with your home
Do those little chores you have been putting off, have wee treats for yourself, keep up your hobbies, use your imagination to take you on a trip to your favourite or a calm place, have a word that soothes you something like “peace” and say it over and over to yourself.
4. Seek out contact with positive people only
Only do stuff that makes you feel happy, remember you know you are not helpless and that positive, out loud self-talk is a great substitute, for not having someone else around.
Remind yourself of how far you have come in your life and that you know how to deal with “life’s hard parts”. Focus on what matters, especially what you can actually influence, worrying about what you cannot change, will only upset and frustrate you further.
5. Watch your media diet
A good tip here is look at what you have taken in in the last 24 hours and ask yourself “did listening to this, watching/reading that, help or harm me?” and tune yourself accordingly, apply this to conversations too, which will help you work out if that person is “good company” for me to be feeling our best and function as well as I can right now?
6. Give your brain a holiday from Coronavirus
It’s easy to have an overly busy mind at this time but no good comes from worrying about, wallowing or going over and over the same thinking about the world.
If you start to feel down, anxious or a bit sorry for yourself, do it for only a minute, put a timer on it. Have a distraction plan to kick into action it might be, phone a positive friend or do an enjoyable activity. You will know what works for you.
7. Be kind to yourself and others
Remember you like everyone else, is doing the best they can during these exceptional times.
A little kindness and understanding both of yourself and others will go a long way. We also get good feelings back when we are doing something helpful or kind for others.
8. Stay safe and calm
Keep following all safety instructions, understanding who is in your bubble and to the limit of it is what will keep you and others safe and well.
At times of stress or when feeling pressure from others we can all behave differently to how we might usually, like become irritable misdirect our anger or forget to do the simple things we usually do to keep ourselves safe like wear a seatbelt.
Add in extra precautions like making lists, cleaning your shopping items down when you get them, so they become your routines.
9. We all want to seek comfort
When we are feeling anxious, fearful and uncertain, be aware you may want to be tempted to partake in some non-productive distractions, such as drinking too much alcohol, online shopping or gambling, overeating or becoming so “overly busy” and we overdo it.
Listen to your body and rest when needed. It is better to stay connected to others and share your worries. It may be tempting to extend your bubble as time goes on, but don’t let that happen.
AND handwash, handwash, handwash.
Take time out in your day to do some calm breathing and relaxation, reach out by phone if you are lonely. If over the days and weeks you find you are becoming stressed, distressed or more worried or if you feel you are not coping, help and professional support is available.
For support with grief, anxiety distress, or mental wellbeing, you can call OCP to talk to a trained counsellor for free, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Adapted from Real-time Resilience Strategies for coping with Coronavirus.
Dr Lucy Hone & Dr Denise Quinlan
New Zealand Institute of Wellbeing and Resilience