We’re all stuck inside and therefore our mental and emotional wellbeing will take a hit. Not everyone pays attention to their mental health, but we all should, especially right now in these trying times.
Here are some of my ideas about how to cope and care for yourself right now to maintain mental and emotional wellness during self-isolation periods.
You might have work to do, or you might not, but being stuck at home isn’t often as good as it sounds at first. You will get bored quickly and that boredom will soon become anxious or depressive feelings. To combat this, you need to stay busy (or rather, productive).
Get something done every day.
Set yourself a goal or challenge or project to keep you focused and motivated throughout your days.
This also isn’t an excuse to be lazy and just binge Netflix all day. It’s important for your wellbeing to keep active. To move your body as much as you can.
- Exercise (with your household, alone, in the garden, living room, jog, whatever)
- Move around (switch up positions and environments often)
- Stretch (if you are working, get up and stretch every hour)
- Dance session (great for positive vibes and endorphins!)
- Go for a walk (at a safe distance from others and only once a day)
The sudden lack of routine can make us feel off-balance. Therefore, it is now your job to create a routine for yourself.
- Don’t fall into the trap of sleeping in just because you can
- Have set working hours just like you would normally and keep to them
- Take breaks at the same times and regularly
- Health and wellness routines kept
In all this fear and uncertainty, it can do you a world of good to escape the reality of this situation (which is perfectly fine to do). It doesn’t do your mental health any good to be constantly checking the news or updates. Keep safe and informed, but don’t drive yourself crazy with it.
Instead, have a form of escape.
- Read fiction books
- Watch fantasy films or TV shows
- Create freely
- Social media and news “off hours” where you don’t check
Care for your space
While you’re home, make sure your home is a good place to be in. Keep it clean and tidy. Make sure it’s motivating and appropriate for what you now need it to do.
A messy space will quickly make for a messy mind.
Avoid the news and social media
If you’re feeling anxious, I repeat, TAKE TIME AWAY FROM THE MEDIA. There is a lot of misinformation and fear-mongering going on. Don’t ignore it, but don’t fall into panic and the lies either.
Respect those in your household
If you have a full household right now, it can be tough for all of you. You’re suddenly hanging out (or working with) people you usually wouldn’t see all day. It is therefore important to respect their space and set boundaries so that they respect yours.
- Tell them your working hours and what you need from them to be able to get on with things
- Have House Rules that you all follow (we do!)
- Have Alone Zones so that everyone knows where they can be alone if needed
- Be there for each other, too
We may not be able to meet up with each other, but we can still keep in touch. Our modern world makes it easy to stay connected, so use these tools. Message your friends and loved ones. Call, FaceTime, Skype, Google Hangout, whatever.
Don’t forget to check in on people, and reach out if you’re feeling lonely.
Mix up your day
Routine is important for stability and productivity, but it is also a good idea to change up what you do each day, at least a little. This helps you feel less bored and frustrated with being stuck inside. Don’t do just one thing (or one type of thing) all day every day.
So, for me, I shouldn’t write (or write the same thing) all day. I could break it up with other things like yoga, reading, online content, learning etc.
Get up, get dressed
Just as you would for work, get up and get dressed. Don’t allow yourself to go bra-less and shower-less just because you’re not leaving the house. Showering and getting dressed (properly, not in joggers) can help you feel motivated and normal.
Separate “work” from “home”
As with a routine, you need to also know, and distinctly separate, work and home. You no longer have an office space to do that for you. If you’re lucky enough (like me) to have a desk or home office, great; keep that for work and remove yourself from that space when not working.
If not, create a space where possible. Try not to work from your bed, as this will start to affect your sleep patterns. Your brain needs to associate your bed with rest, not work. Maybe use the kitchen table. Or the sofa. Or a makeshift table made from books or folders. If you have a lap tray, then great!
Use your imagination and your space as best you can, but keep your home, home and your work, work.
Use your garden and neighbourhood (away from others)
For those of us who have a garden, use it! It’s Springtime and the weather is beginning to turn, so get outside and get fresh air regularly. Exercise in your garden. Do some work or reading or creating out there, too. It may not be summer, so wrap up warm, but the fresh air and added space are good tools for combatting Cabin Fever.
And get outside in your neighbourhood for your one-exercise-a-day allowance, now placed on us in the UK. Whether you walk or jog, make the most of that time.
Get out in nature and it will help you feel refreshed.
And of course, do so away from others.
Speak up and share your fears
If you are feeling low or anxious, speak up. Sharing how you feel right now will do a world of good. You’re not alone. We’re literally all in this together, so share your thoughts and feelings with someone you trust and open up a dialogue for them to do so, too.
Make a list
Lastly, make a list of things you can do or want to do so that you know each day when you wake up that there is something worth doing. Something to motivate and inspire you.
I wrote a list and categorised it by Creativity, Work and Content, Social and Leisure, Learning, Health and Wellness, and Home Care.
This helps me to see what I can do, should do, and want to do with my time across all categories. Writing it out helped me feel purposeful and inspired, while helping to guide my days and fill my free time productively.
But of course, also rest. Allow yourself this time to press pause and relax a bit more than usual. I know a lot of people get stressed and never get to stop. The world is forcing you to slow down, so maybe you could use this time to finally do so.
Here’s an article from the BBC with more advice (especially for those who already suffer with their mental health or from a mental illness).
Also, help from the Mind Charity website on the coronavirus and wellbeing.
Take care, all.