There’s no denying the COVID-19 coronavirus is impacting the health and wealth of millions of people across the world. But how is it affecting our happiness and ability to manage our mental wellbeing? Especially when we’re physically cut off from friends, family and other social interactions?
A recent report from The Lancet1 says studies have shown being in quarantine can result in psychological distress that lasts beyond the period of isolation. Feelings of depression, stress, low mood, irritability, fear, insomnia and even post-traumatic stress symptoms can be evident years later.
Ann Jewitt is Founder and CEO of Workplace Mental Health Consulting and believes many people’s emotional health is at risk.
“Currently, over two million Australians live with anxiety and over one million with depression in any one year. And this is without the additional distress of COVID-19”.
This makes it an even more important time to invest in some self-care.
Whether you live alone, with a partner, friends, or have a full house of family, here’s seven ways to care for yourself during isolation.
Catch-ups without contact
Spending more time with people who make you feel good about yourself can help you build the resilience2 you’ll need to get through this time. Attend those coffee dates or after-work drinks online and book time in the calendar to meet up with your friends or family on Skype, WhatsApp, Zoom or FaceTime. Being able to see as well as hear your nearest and dearest makes all the difference.
Keep a routine
It doesn’t have to be strict, but broadly sticking to a routine will benefit your wellbeing during isolation. Try waking up at your usual time, eating healthy foods, allocating time to exercise, and getting enough sleep. These things may help to regulate your mood and feel more prepared to face each day.
Engage with your community
Social distancing means no more hobby groups. If you’re missing being able to connect with like-minded people, you’ll be able to find fellow enthusiasts online. Sport, gardening, knitting, reading, keeping fit or building model aeroplanes; whatever your niche there’s probably a Facebook Group, Instagram account or online forum ready to welcome you.
Train your brain
No, we’re not talking Sudoku. It’s common during times of crisis and uncertainty to feel mentally overwhelmed3 – especially if you have a lot of time to ‘think’. Remind yourself that this situation is temporary. Your efforts to stay isolated mean you’re helping everyone in our community, and can help you feel calmer and gain perspective.
Avoid the hype
With COVID-19 saturating our TVs and social media feeds, it’s easy to overdose on ‘news’. Many headlines are designed to sensationalise and stir up emotions that are already heightened. Sticking to factual websites can help, and the government website Head to Health has specific information and resources to help Australians with their mental health through the pandemic.
Our physical health plays a big factor in our mental health4. Being able to get fresh air every day is vital. Whether that be in your own backyard, balcony, shared garden (as long as you are 1.5m away from other people) or going out for a daily walk. Take it an important step further and exercise between 75-150 minutes per week4, as exercising releases endorphins that improve your mood. There are thousands of home workout videos on YouTube and social media. Or if that’s not your thing, turn up the music and dance!
Focus on what you can control
When critical events beyond our control are taking place, it’s natural to feel uncertainty, fear, anxiety, dread, helplessness or denial5. It’s how humans are wired to react. So, what can we do to counteract those feelings? Ann Jewitt, Founder and CEO of Workplace Mental Health Consulting gives this advice –
“It is by acknowledging and accepting there are things we have little or no control over and letting them go. Through this, we can gain control over how we feel, think, behave and interact with others, thereby having a positive impact on our mental health and wellbeing.”
Useful resources for additional support during this time: