Protect your mental health during social isolation with these useful tips
How are you? To help control the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) across the country, all Australians have been asked to practise social distancing. In some cases people are required to, or may choose to, self-isolate. Understandably, the challenges associated with social distancing and isolation, icnluding separation from loved ones, loss of freedom and reduced income, are leading some people to experience feelings of anxiety, boredom, frustration, and fear.
This article outlines some useful strategies you can use to maintain good mental health during this unprecedented time of social distancing and isolation.
HOW TO: Protect mental health during social isolation
#1 Stay Connected
Positive social connections are essential for our mental health and can help us cope in times of stress. In the current crisis, we are being asked to distance ourselves from others so it is important that we maintain our social networks using available methods of communication. This can be as simple as phoning a friend to share your experience, using videoconferencing technology to check in with a family member, or spending quality time with the people you live with.
#2 Avoid dificult situations
At times, people will be required to self-isolate with others in their household. While this will provide opportunities for social connections, living with someone 24/7 with little or no time away from each other may give rise to arguments and/or tension. There are a number of things you can do to limit conflict with those who are isolated with, including:
- creating a roster to help you distribute chores equally and fairly
- identifying and taking part in activities you like doing together such as movies, board games, jigsaws, gardening
- sharing positive emotions and experiences, rather than anger, frustration and disappointment
- communicating about your worries and concerns, and seeking support from one another
- maintaining your sense of fun and positive humour
- remaining respectful of each other in times of conflict – walk away and take time to calm yourselves, returning to the discussion later and repairing any hurt caused.
#3 Structure your day
While in isolation, it is beneficial to plan out your days to restore a sense of purpose and normality to your daily life. Schedule tasks such as cooking and laundry, as well as activities you enjoy to help you stick to your routine. Structuring activities around mealtimes and bedtime can also help you to keep your schedule while ensuring you eat regularly and get enough sleep.
Given the current need to practise social distancing and isolation, many people are also being encouraged to work from home where possible. Working from home can bring a whole new set of challenges and the need to provide structure to your day is even more important
Some tips to help you have a sense of normality and work effectively from home are listed below.
- Change out of your pyjamas every morning
- Set up a dedicated workspace
- Set a strict schedule – It can be hard to switch-off from work, so it is important to clearly define your working hours, ensuring you have regular breaks. Disconnect from all work-related accounts at the end of your working day to help maintain a clear boundary between your work and home life.
- Limit distractions
- Keep in touch – Maintain regular contact with your manager and colleagues via email, phone, or chat
Seek additional support when needed
If you feel that the stress or anxiety you experience as a result of self-isolation is getting too much, a psychologist may be able to help. Psychologists are highly trained and qualified professionals skilled in providing effective interventions for a range of mental health concerns, including stress.
Go to findapsychologist.com.au if needed.