How to look after your mental health when you are self-isolating

Being cooped up inside for days on end can have a detrimental effect on our mental health.

So what on earth are we supposed to do when we are being advised to stay inside for the next few weeks, and potentially months?

Feelings of cabin fever, along with constant news updates, are likely to promote anxiety and stress. Even the World Health Organisation (WHO) has recognised that coronavirus is having an impact on our mental health and has published its own guidelines on how to deal with it (most of which revolve around checking the news less).

For those looking for more practical ways to look after their mental health when you are self-isolating, we’ve asked health and wellbeing experts to share their advice.

Pick up a hobby

TCM practitioner Ada Ooi says that taking up a hobby will help to stimulate your mind and fill the time.

She said that activities such as, ‘cooking, sewing, stretching, painting, reading’ and ‘things that you think you can finally dedicate your time on’ will help.

Hobbies are a great way to practice mindfulness as they often require an individual to concentrate solely on one thing – banishing other thoughts for a certain period of time.

Meditation

Kristy, a specialist in mental health who runs a holistic therapy centre The Ki Retreat, believes that meditation is another great way to banish feelings of anxiety or restlessness.

She says, ‘The main purpose of meditation is to stop the endless mind chatter, and to find the quiet and space within. By withdrawing from your surroundings and going within, you’re able to stop the worry and anxiousness that comes with self-isolation and the unknown of what is going on right now.’

She offers advice for beginners who may feel a little overwhelmed at where to start.

She explains, ‘There are many different types of meditation and it can be difficult to know where to begin.

‘The simplest way to start is to focus on your breathing. Set a timer. If it’s new to you, start with just five or 10 minutes a day. Take a few deep breaths to help calm your mind and close your eyes.

‘Then take your attention to your breath. Follow it’s pattern in and out – just focus on your breathing. When thoughts intrude – and they will – just return your attention back to your breath. Carry on doing this until the timer sounds.’

Digital detox

Ada also says that limiting the amount of time spent on your phone can help reduce anxiety and prevent low moods.

She says, ‘It’s far too easy to be non-stop browsing over the phone all day. If you find that reading too much about the virus can make you panic, I suggest setting a daily phone quarantine period as reading more can’t help change the situation but can be toxic to your mind and wellbeing.’

Of course, ditching your phone entirely isn’t practical for most people, but a lot of devices let you set time limits on certain functions, such as social media. The phone then notifies you when you’ve hit your daily limit.

Kristy adds that – while social media is a great way to keep in contact with friends and family during self-isolation – is known to have a detrimental effect on mental wellbeing.

She believes self-isolating is the perfect time for a social media detox, to stop our brains becoming overwhelmed.

She says, ‘Make sure that you don’t cut off completely from friends and family. Use technology to your advantage. Perhaps switch to Skype, Messenger calls etc this will help you to keep in touch in a positive way. Set up a WhatsApp group with friends where talk of the outbreak is banned, but you’re still able to post photos of your day and share positive stories and chat.’

Practice gratitude

‘Gratitude seems to have become a buzzword recently,’ says Kristy, ‘however, it’s a very simple and effective way to re-train the brain into a positive mindset.’

She adds: ‘Grab a diary and make a list of things you’re grateful for. This could be as simple as having a hot cup of morning coffee.’

These positive affirmations should help to put your brain and body in a good mood for the day.

Get fresh air

Just because you can’t physically go outside, doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a bit of fresh air. This is something Kristy believes will really help to improve mental health, too.

She says, ‘Whilst in self-isolation you may not be able to get outside, but it’s still important to get fresh air and feel the sunlight. If you’re able to, throw a window open and sit by it. Perhaps taking the time to read a book.’

Exercise

We all know that exercising releases those all-important endorphins which boosts our mood, but Mykay Kamara – CEO of workplace wellness platform Welbot – says there’s no need to set up your own home gym.

He said, ‘House work contributes to exercise so you can concentrate on doing tasks around your home. So you don’t need a home gym to keep healthy – even tidying up and cleaning can help you get on top of your mood.’

We’re put together a simple workout you can do in your lunchbreak while you are at home.

Create a plan for the day

As human beings, we crave a little structure – so coming up with a plan for each day will help pass the time, during self-isolation. It’ll also give individuals a sense of control.

Sasha Sabapathy, founder of wellness company Glow Bar, says, ’Making a plan even to schedule in a home workout, as well as a time plan for your work and video calls will all help with that feeling of restlessness and helplessness.’

Stay healthy

Keeping our physical health in check can help enormously with our mental wellbeing.

Sasha says that ‘feeling well will help you feel less anxious about getting sick.’

She adds, ‘Do this by getting lots of sleep, eating fresh and healthy food, drinking lots of water and taking immune boosting supplements like turmeric and vitamin C.’