How to manage your mental health in long periods of self-isolation - GulfToday

How to manage your mental health in long periods of self-isolation


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Gulf Today Report

Although staying in isolation is a necessary measure for public health and safety, it may have a detrimental effect on people’s mental health. If your mental health is suffering during these periods of self-isolation, here are some ways you can ensure that your emotional and mental well-being are safeguarded.

Keep a healthy diet

When you’re at home it can be tempting to just sit on the sofa without moving, eating unbalanced meals and snacking all day as a way to entertain yourself.

Make time for micro-lifts throughout your day

One of the main problems with self-isolation is that we start to miss “micro-lifts” that we normally have peppered throughout our day without even necessarily realising. For example, while going to work, you may stop at your favourite coffee show or say hi to someone; these are small things that help lift us without us even realising.

When you’re alone at home that doesn’t happen — and the cumulative effect of that is massive, especially around the two-week mark. So instead we need to create micro-lifts, it has to be something that generates a sense of achievement. That might be a new exercise, learning a little bit of a language, talking to someone on FaceTime or joining a book group online.

Engage with nature

Try to get exposure to the outside world and exercise as much as possible within the limits. Our physical health and mental health are linked so try to create a routine that includes some physical exercise. Although you can’t spend time with others, do make the most of any private outdoor space you have — such as a garden or balcony — if you have one, as being in nature can also help our well-being.

Alternatively, try looking out of the window to watch the birds or tend to houseplants to keep your mind stimulated and engaged with nature. If you can, also open the window and let fresh air into your room.

Maintain a sense of routine

Find yourself spending all day in your pyjamas or remembering at 3pm that you haven’t brushed your teeth because you knew you wouldn’t be seeing anyone? Although in the short term it can feel nice to be lazy, in the long term this isn’t going to be good for your mental well-being.

Try and maintain a routine, for example, wake up and go to bed at healthy times to ensure you get enough sleep.

However, don’t just fall into a cycle of sleeping, working, eating, and repeating. Find some time to still have value to your day. Do something fun for yourself (that isn’t just Netflix).

Don’t just sit in front of a screen vary your activities

Sitting in front of a screen all day — whether for work or pleasure — is not the best way to spend long periods of time. Especially because the blue light from devices, like smartphones, can be disruptive to your sleep and overall wellbeing.

A list of self-isolation activities to diversify what you do at home can include downloading podcasts, watching box sets, doing arts and crafts, knitting, trying meditation, baking new foods, learning a new hobby like origami, skyping friends, FaceTime calls, cooking, writing, reading a book, doing DIY or gardening.

Limit your news intake

If you are finding the constant 24/7 coverage of coronavirus is impacting your mental health, particularly on social media, then you can opt out. The World Health Organisation says: “A near-constant stream of news reports about an outbreak can cause anyone to feel anxious or distressed. Seek information updates and practical guidance at specific times during the day from health professionals and the WHO website and avoid listening to or following rumours that make you feel uncomfortable.”

Stay connected to people

Just because you’re self-isolating, doesn’t mean you have to cut yourself off altogether. If you feel that you’re beginning to struggle, take some time to call a friend or family member. Talk about how you’re feeling.

The WHO also recommends maintaining your social network during self-isolation. Even when isolated, try as much as possible to keep your personal daily routines or create new routines. If health authorities have recommended limiting your physical social contact to contain the outbreak, you can stay connected via email, social media, video conference and telephone.

Don’t get drawn into a negative spiral

One of the most dangerous things for your mental health is having too much time to think about your life critically. When self-isolating you’ve got a lot of time to think and it’s very common to experience massive life dissatisfaction as a result. You can start off the process feeling calm and not germaphobic but gradually you start to morph into this. You get into a constant flow of critiquing your life and yourself, and you really need to avoid those negative cognitive spirals.

The Independent

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