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Looking after your Mental Health during Isolation

21.05.2020

The sudden arrival of COVID-19 has meant that many of us have had to adopt living in isolation as our ‘new normal’. We must stay at home. This has meant that many of us are now working remotely, have become furloughed and sadly some have even lost their jobs. That’s not to mention the most vulnerable members of our society who have been asked to stay at home for 12 weeks. There’s no beating around it, life is pretty tough at the minute.

For many of us, this complete disruption to our everyday lives has had a negative impact on our mental health in some way, shape or form. In light of this, we’ve put together a short guide for individuals, employees and employers on how to look after your mental health during isolation. Whether you use the advice yourself, or to help out one of your friends or family members who may be struggling during this unprecedented time.

How is isolation affecting our mental health?

Isolation is affecting our mental health due to the many tough changes in our life we have had to make. Some of the key factors hitting our mental health hard are:

  • Loneliness – Many of us who are now stuck at home are missing our family, friends and general human interaction. This is especially the case for those living alone, or for people who are used to having a very active social life.
  • Lack of Routine – This new way of life has turned our normal routines upside down, both in everyday life and in terms of work. This can leave us feeling unmotivated and in some cases without a sense of purpose.
  • Exercise – We are now restricted in how often, and where we can exercise. If you are a type of person that thrives in the gym, unfortunately, this isn’t somewhere you can go at the minute which can affect your mental wellbeing.
  • Higher Levels of Anxiety – The aggressive spread of COVID-19 has gotten us worried about our own and our loved ones’ health and safety, leaving us all feeling a little more anxious than usual.
  • Social Media – If not used appropriately, social media can really take a toll on our mental health. Whilst social channels are an excellent way to keep us fully informed and up to date, reading about coronavirus news and statistics all day, every day can cause us to worry more, resulting in higher levels of anxiety.

So what can we do to help boost our spirits and look after our mental health during this time?

Communication

Generally, smartphones get quite a lot of backlash, however during this time is really when they come into their own. For many of us, our digital devices are the only way that we are able to stay in touch with our friends and family. Whilst face-to-face communication and interaction is really important for our mental health, using video calling is the next best thing. Seeing a loved one’s face can really help to lift your spirits during this tough time, so try to stay in regular contact with those who you would regularly speak to and spend time with. Why not get creative with it? We’ve seen a rising trend in people holding virtual quizzes and even virtual date nights! Try it out for yourself.

Create a Routine

During this time, it can be really tempting to do what you want, when you want. Now, we’re not saying you don’t deserve a lie in every now and again – after all, how common is it to get to sleep in on a Monday morning! However, for the most part, setting a routine and sticking to it can help to provide you with a sense of purpose and normality.

Try to go to bed and wake up at a regular time, how about making sure to go for a morning or afternoon walk? Perhaps do any chores or cleaning in the morning and leave afternoons for learning a new skill, or doing something you enjoy. When you put your mind to it, there are plenty of jobs and activities you can use to fill your time and create a new routine. Just as you might do at work, try creating a to-do list each day so you can work through these goals, and gain a sense of achievement at the end of it.

Diet & Exercise

Whether you’re bored, or just because ‘you can’ it can be really tempting to snack more regularly between meals whilst you’re at home. However, consuming too many sugary or fatty foods can make you feel sluggish, and can even contribute to breakouts, both of which can impact people’s mental health and self-esteem. Make sure to balance the occasional biscuit or chocolate bar with a healthy diet, containing plenty of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, dairy and fish. Perhaps even use this time to improve your cooking skills and cook some new dishes!

Similarly, exercise is really important for the health of the body and the brain. Exercising releases endorphins, which is the hormone which helps us to feel great. Move your body in a way that works best for you, whether that’s running, home workouts, yoga or a daily walk. Get your body moving!

Learn a new skill

Now is the perfect time to learn a new skill! From gardening to baking, drawing to painting or even doing some DIY. Doing so will help to take your mind off what’s going on in the world at the moment, helping you to feel much better. Learning new skills can also help to boost your self-esteem and give you a sense of accomplishment, giving you a much-needed pick-me-up during these times of uncertainty.

Looking after your mental health when working remotely

The toll that working remotely can take on a person’s mental state shouldn’t be underestimated, especially when in most cases that change was made suddenly and without proper preparation. If you are working remotely, you may have some feelings of guilt when you compare your situation to others who have been furloughed or may have lost their jobs, or when comparing yourself to some key workers who are putting their lives on the line. However, this negative-positive thought of ‘it could be worse for me’ won’t help you to feel any more positive about the situation. Instead, tell yourself that it’s okay to feel low – recognise and validate your feelings, then you can put proactive things in place to help improve your mental state.

Some tips and practices you could adopt are:

  • Create a routine and structure for your day, perhaps start with creating a to-do list for what you want to achieve, just as you would if you were in the office.
  • Make sure you have a set start time and finishing time. This helps to create a routine and ensures that your mind can properly unwind outside of your work hours.
  • Speak to colleagues. Perhaps a morning video call to catch up and share your goals for the day. Seeing or speaking to familiar faces can help to add a much-needed sense of normality to your day.
  • Take regular breaks from your screen.

If you are reading this from an employer’s point of view, share some of these tips with your team and help to put some of these processes in place to help them. Or if you’re an employee, why not share these with your colleagues or your manager to help others who may also be struggling.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

There is absolutely no shame in asking for help if you need it. It’s unlikely that any of us would have ever experienced anything like this in our lifetimes. If you are suffering from a pre-existing mental health issue, such as depression or anxiety, this experience can be incredibly hard to cope with. Try talking to someone you trust in your life about how you are feeling, failing that, there are many mental health helplines out there to help you.

Here at LycaHealth, we have a team of leading psychiatrists on hand if you would like to seek help for a mental health condition. We deliver treatments that are specifically tailored to your needs, with a high level of trust, safety and care. We also offer a mental health and wellbeing service that is a purposefully designed mental health service for employees. If you would like more information, contact our team today.

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