Being unable to work, unable to connect and socialise with others, and living according to the imposed quarantine regulations (unsurprisingly) has a real effect on our mental health and emotions. The American Psychological Association reports that prolonged social isolation carries health risks such as contributing to poor sleep, poor cardiovascular health, lowered immunity, depressive symptoms, and impaired executive function (difficulty focusing, managing your emotions, remembering information, and following directions).
With another 2-weeks tagged onto an already prolonged quarantine period, mental health has definitely become an increasing concern. We take a look at what can determine our ability to cope with isolation, and some practical tips to help improve mood and state of mind while we continue to ride out this process.
What Determines Our Ability to Cope?
Multiple factors come into play when it comes to our personal ability to cope with stressful situations, and we’re all very individual in that respect. Some of these factors are:
We all have those friends who fall into the extrovert category (perhaps that’s you) who are about ready to climb the walls right now. Extroversion is characterised by a strong need for social interaction, which means isolation can create more severe feelings of loneliness than that of their introvert counterparts. Introverts find solace in alone time – at least for a period, but even the most introverted of us do need social contact from time to time and can feel the effects of quarantine loneliness, although maybe on a lesser scale.
Your current mental health picture
If you have gone into quarantine with pre-existing mental health conditions, then chances are isolation has probably exacerbated these. Depression and anxiety can be particularly hard to manage in isolation and affect the ability to cope.
How you deal with stress
Perhaps you are accustomed to high-pressure situations whether at work or home, and you have developed tools and ways to cope with stress. You may find you have a lot more resilience than others during quarantine, and the effects of isolation aren’t too bad for you.
Tips for Coping
No matter where on the coping scale you are, there are some recommendations that can be implemented to ease the effects and allow greater feelings of positivity and calm during this time. Of course, if you are suffering particularly badly please reach out to professional services that are available. Anne Nielsen of Green Apple Coaching specialises in stress coaching and life balance and is offering her services free to anyone in the lockdown zones, on the phone or on Skype. The British Counselling Service is also available for WhatsApp Video or Skype appointments.
Get into a routine
If you’re working from home, try to structure your day like a normal workday. Shower, get dressed, and make a to-do list. Getting things done can provide a sense of purpose and competency. It gives you something to work towards and something to look forward to each day.
Avoid burnout and take breaks
On the other hand, avoid overdoing the ‘must be productive’ mind set. Set strict limits to your work to avoid becoming overwhelmed and make time to unwind. Find tasks or activities to break up your day, and, if possible, move to a different spot to carry them out.
Take care of your body
Eat nutritious food, get 8 hours of sleep and incorporate some movement into your daily schedule. Even relatively short periods of physical inactivity can have an impact on your health, both mentally and physically.
Stay in touch with colleagues, friends and family via phone calls, texts, social media and video conferencing. Online communities can be great for reducing boredom, and regular communication is also critical for minimizing the sense of isolation. Talking to others who are going through the same thing can provide a sense of community and empowerment.
Limit media intake
Keep informed about the situation via reliable sources but limit your news and social media exposure to avoid the sense of panic that can arise from being immersed around the clock in reports that focus on inaccurate or overly negative information.
It’s ok to binge watch your favourite series from time to time when you’re feeling bored. Try to mix it up by adding in reading, working on projects you’ve been putting off, and activities that keep you mentally active.
Take one day at a time
Try not to project too far into the future. Remember that this situation is temporary, you’re not alone, and we’re all in this together.