10 Ways to Stay Emotionally Healthy during Physical Distancing
Blog Series: Surviving and Thriving in Lockdown: protecting your mental health in a crisis
Having anything imposed on us can feel really negative and frightening, so being in a period of imposed social distancing (or, more accurately, physical distancing) could leave us feeling helpless, anxious and out of control. But finding a way to shift your mindset and think about this as an opportunity might help. It could be a good time to slow down, re-evaluate things and relinquish unrealistic expectations of yourself.
I’ve been thinking about how to manage moments of overwhelm recently, because sometimes things have felt difficult, despite my efforts to stay grounded and not catastrophise about the future. I have put together a list of sanity-saving tips to make every day of lockdown feel more manageable.
1. Be selective about what you let in
There is so much information about the Coronavirus and the impacts of it everywhere just now. Choose carefully what you let in. Being reactive to everything becomes overwhelming and can create stress, anxiety and fear. Be responsive and proactive instead, by deciding where you will get your information from and when you will access it. Choose your preferred sources, then consider muting or hiding any other information sources for the time being.
2. Aim for Balance
At the moment, your home is serving a lot of purposes. As well as being where you live, it could also be where you work, where your partner works, where your kids go to school, where you exercise, where you look after a sick relative, and - in amongst all that - where you all try to relax. Managing all of that is bound to be challenging! Planning, organisation and putting boundaries in place will help to create harmony and minimise conflict.
3. Write it out
Writing can be therapeutic. If you feel overwhelmed by worries, writing a list of these can help you to sort through the messiness and come up with some solutions. Writing can help clear your mind and give you a different perspective on issues.
4. Take back control
It is easy to feel helpless in the face of crisis, when we don’t know how long it will last and when things will get back to normal. So taking control of what you can is one way of helping you to feel more empowered. Keeping to routines, having plans, and organising yourself can help.
5. Stay productive
What are all those things that you never get around to because ‘there’s not enough hours in the day’? Now is the perfect time to get on top of some of those. Setting projects to work on that fill the time and where you can see progress could help you feel you’re accomplishing meaningful things, despite the restrictions. Allow yourself to feel a real sense of satisfaction when they’re done and find a way to reward yourself for your effort.
6. Get outside (if you’re safe to)
As long as you are not self-isolating because of symptoms within your household, spending some time outside will really help to perk you up. Even if you don’t want to venture far from home, spending some time in the garden with a cuppa and a good book can improve your sense of wellbeing and make you feel more like a part of the wider world.
7. Stay connected...
Turn social distancing into physical distancing by using technology to help you stay connected to your friends. Platforms like Skype and Zoom are being used for work and business all the time, but can also be used to have virtual coffee meet ups, dinner parties and movie nights. There are loads of apps out there to help stay connected too. It’s not quite the same as being in the pub together, but it’s a good alternative at the moment and can help you feel less isolated.
8. ...but honour your need for solitude
No matter how extrovert or sociable you are, there are likely to be times when you need some quiet time to decompress. That can be hard to find if you are at home with your family all the time. Taking some time for everyone to agree some boundaries about their need for quiet, private space will be beneficial and could minimise conflict.
9. Get some mental exercise
Being safe at home could be the perfect time to learn about that thing you’re interested in. There’s a wealth of resources at your fingertips and a lot of them are free. Try setting yourself a challenge to find something to read, listen to and watch to learn about a topic that interests you, then try to teach someone else about it to cement that learning.
10. Be deliberate about selfcare
Whatever your days look like, factor in at least one thing every day that you do just because you enjoy it. Whether that’s watching your favourite soap, colouring in, doing yoga or playing guitar, doing something that makes your heart sing will improve feelings of wellbeing.
I hope some of these tips help you find some balance during the hard times and I’m sure you will have others in your own mental health toolkit that I haven’t thought of or used. Sharing what works for you with others might be the most useful gift you can give them right now. We’re all in this together, and together we can get through it.
If you feel that you would benefit from counselling to explore issues, I am currently working online. You can contact me at email@example.com to enquire about availability.
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