By SANDY CLARKE
If you’re feeling like the current restriction of movement during the coronavirus outbreak is getting you down, you’re not alone. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to keep our spirits up during periods of isolation
While some have suggested that introverts might be coping better than extroverts with the instruction to stay at home and minimise social interaction, we’re all in need of understanding how to deal with restricted physical connection at this time.
Whatever your social preferences, people are at heart social creatures – we simply vary in degrees of how much socialising we enjoy. Although older generations will remember times of restricted movements and lockdowns, for younger people this might be the first time they’ve ever experienced social distancing and isolation.
Although we might feel less connected than usual, that needn’t be the case thanks to the technology we all have at our fingertips. At the push of a button we can text, call, and video call our friends, families and neighbours.
Yes, it’s not the same as real-life interaction, but we’re still able to love, support, care for and be kind to one another.
We can also still enjoy many of the pleasures we know and love, even if some of them require a little bit of creativity. For example, people who love to run can clear a five-metre space in the living room and take part in a guided ‘bleep test’ run on YouTube as they run back and forth. (I tried this for 15 minutes…it’s not as easy as it sounds and gets the heart racing!)
Looking after our emotional health and well-being (as well as our physical health) during periods of isolation can be a bit of a challenge, and the following five tips can give us some ideas on how to make sure we stay in good shape:
1. Stay connected
Social distancing doesn’t mean social disconnection. With our smartphones and platforms such as Meet, we can easily connect to family and friends at home and abroad. Feel free to organise a virtual family meal, or hangout online over a cup of tea or coffee. Set aside regular time for this, and it will help to provide a sense of structure and strengthen bonds.
Some people even organise group workout sessions online, and the same can be done with many other interests. It’s a great way to have fun, get creative, and sustain emotional health. Make use of the technology you have in your hands and make sure you stay committed to precious time spent with family and friends.
2. Use your time online wisely
Try to avoid constantly watching or reading the news. The 24-hour news cycle is a relatively recent occurrence, and it can increase people’s stress and anxiety if they’re constantly receiving negative news updates. It’s fine to stay informed but do limit your time each day. During this period of isolation, I’ve been using some of my time to follow online exercise routines and guided meditations, re-watch favourite feel-good movies and listen to music.
I’ve also set time aside to come completely offline to read paperback books, do some chores, get some fresh air in the garden, and play with my dog. It can be hard to completely unplug, but setting aside even a few hours of digital-free time can really help lift our spirits.
3. Get some exercise
Whether it’s gentle stretching, walking in the garden, Tai Chi, or my awkward attempts at burpees, whatever you’re comfortable with and able to do can help maintain your well-being.
Ideally, I try to get in 20 minutes per day of exercise that elevates the heart. I find skipping (jump rope), running on the spot, jumping jacks and (attempted!) burpees do the trick.
According to the American Psychological Association, just five minutes of moderate exercise can elevate our mood and restore emotional health. Of course, if you have any health issues, please take care not to overdo it.
The main thing is to spend some time each day moving around, to help boost physical and mental health. Whether it’s gentle stretching, walking in the garden, Tai-Chi, or my awkward attempts at burpees, whatever you’re comfortable with and able to do can help maintain your well-being.
4. Protect your time if you’re working from home
One of the ways that helps us switch off from work is that we get to leave the office when our working hours are done. For those working at home for the first time, it can feel like there’s no escaping the office to-do list.
While it’s important that everyone pulls together (and some industries might be working on action plans), it is crucial for our emotional health and well-being that we establish time-boundaries for ourselves. That means unless your service is vital (e.g. doctors, nurses, carers), stepping away from work when the work for the day is done.
Work will always be there tomorrow, and by taking sufficient time to rest, connect and play, we’re helping healthcare and other valuable services by ensuring we don’t needlessly add ourselves to those in need of help.
5. De-clutter and do some tidying
During times of uncertainty, we often need to feel a degree of control and stability to maintain emotional health. One of the best ways to do this is to de-clutter those spaces we’ve been meaning to clear for ages
Might want to clean that up before it becomes the source of the next pandemic
Now that we all have a bit of extra time, we can use some of it to do the things that previously found no room on our to-do list. De-cluttering and other house chores (e.g. vacuuming, mopping) let’s us feel that we’re doing something productive and worthwhile, and at the same time we can see the cleanliness and order of things appearing in real-time as we go along.
Sandy is a freelance writer based in Malaysia, and previously enjoyed 10 years as a journalist and broadcaster in the UK. He has been fortunate to gain valuable insights into what makes us tick, which has deepened his interests in leadership, emotions, mindfulness, and human behaviour.