During these unprecedented times, hundreds of thousands of people are self-isolating and experiencing an entirely new mode of life. It is of the utmost importance to stay healthy and positive, so here are some basic tips for both physical and mental health.
The number one piece of advice is still hand-washing. Especially if you are isolating with family members. Think particularly of bathroom use and handling food. If you can’t recall the last time you washed you hands, you should probably go and wash them now!
Eat well. Don’t forget a regular dose of fruits and vegetables, and drink plenty (1.5 – 2 litres) of water per day, even if you do not feel thirsty.
Get creative about exercise. There is plenty of advice online and you really don’t need much space to do basic exercise routines. Download a new exercise app and follow that. Write out a daily routine and be sure to follow it as best you can.
Get some fresh air. Ideally that would be walking in the countryside, but that may not be possible for you. Even having windows open for a regular time each day will make a difference to your health.
Research shows that more mental health issues will surface during next stages of self-isolation and quarantine. Feelings of frustration, boredom, fear or a lack of control will come to the fore in the extra downtime that people have in which to ruminate and introspect. Here are some things you can do to protect your mental health:
Social media can help you stay in touch with people, but it can also make you feel anxious, especially if people are sharing sensational news stories or posting their particular concerns and worries. Think about taking a break or limiting your use of social media. You might decide to view only particular groups or pages and not scroll through timelines.
The virus is likely to affect people from many different cultures and countries. The WHO says to avoid attaching the disease to any particular ethnicity or nationality. It’s important to have empathy with those who are infected and remember that they haven’t done anything wrong.
Build in some achievement moments into each day. Set goals that you can tick off each day so that you avoid falling into a negative spiral. These could be reading that book you’ve never quite gotten around to reading (set yourself a chapter a day), learning a new skill online or from a book, exercise, Skyping a friend or family member, writing an email or tackling DIY jobs at home.
You do not need 24/7 news updates from around the globe. If news stories make you feel anxious, confused or not in control, consider switching off or limiting what you look at for a while. Think about limiting your news consumption to a regular time each day and then don’t ‘check’ it all throughout the day.
Routine, routine, routine! It’s easily to slip into binge watch TV, getting up at noon, staying up into the small hours and letting personal hygiene standards fall. Establish a routine of getting up, getting dressed, having a healthy breakfast and setting a sensible bedtime. If you are isolating with family, establish a regular family mealtime.
Connect with nature. If you can’t get out, listen to natural sounds, like recordings or apps that play birdsong, ocean waves or rainfall. Get as much natural light as you can. Spend time in your garden if you have one, or open your front or back door and sit on the doorstep. Go for walks if permitted and you are able to. There is more and more evidence linking regular contact with nature and positive mental health.
Be positive! Advice from the WHO states that when possible we should try and share positive or helpful coronavirus stories. Do you know someone who has recovered? Is it bringing people in your community closer together? It’s normal to overthink things when we’re alone and self-isolation could be the perfect breeding ground for negative thoughts. Try not to use your extra time picking apart every aspect of your job, relationships, friendships and life in general.
Stay in touch with people. Self-isolation does not meet solitary confinement! Make plans to video chat with people or groups you’d normally see in person. Arrange regular phone calls or send messages or texts. If you’re worried that you might run out of things to talk about, make a plan with a friend to watch something or read a book separately so that you can discuss it when you get in touch.
Finally, if you find that you are struggling, if confinement is troubling you and you are losing focus in daily life, do make sure to talk to someone. Counselling online exists, and there are resources out there for everyone.