As more and more people are finding themselves in self-isolation or complete lock-down in the combat against the COVID-19 pandemic (including ourselves here in New Zealand), one concern that keeps coming up in our chats with friends and family is: How to stay positive amid all this uncertainty and deal with feelings of boredom, loneliness, anxiety or depression during self-imposed or forced social isolation?
After all, we are social creatures. Not being able to do what we enjoy every day can have significant impact on our mental and physical health (even without catching the virus). Social distancing also takes away the very support mechanisms that usually help us in times of crises. We’re all being tested in ways we’ve never experienced before, and even more so those among us who’ve already battled with mental health issues before a tiny virus turned the world upside down.
So, how do we best manage self-isolation and remain upbeat despite all that’s going on? Here are a few tips from us.
How to prepare for your self-isolation?
- Make sure you stay connected virtually with a good internet connection at home or wherever you self-isolate.
- Monitor the situation in your neighborhood/city/country – and of course your health and the health of those living with you. Stay informed but don’t get caught up in the frenzy: get your information from reliable sources, and leave the opinions and recommendations to experts. Have the number ready you need to call if you or those living with you start feeling unwell.
- Tell friends, family and your neighbors if you are by yourself so that they are aware of your situation (and can help out if need be – especially if you feel ill).
- (Especially if you don’t get paid during this time) check your finances, make a budget, cut your spending and speak to your employer, landlord, financial institution and/or social services if you need help. There could be a rent or mortgage relief, or government subsidies you may be able to access. Avoid slipping (further) into debt and stay away from payday lenders at all costs.
- With your budget in mind, prepare a meal plan and shopping list. Make sure you’ve got some fever-reducing medication at home/on your list. If you are healthy and allowed outside buy your supplies from local grocery stores to help the local economy with your limited funds (keeping your distance to other shoppers, of course). If not get your supplies delivered from the supermarket or dropped at your doorstep by neighbors or friends who live nearby. Whatever you do, DO NOT stockpile more than you need.
- Make a list of things to do and schedule them over the self-isolation period. Make sure there are some fun items on the list. Tick them off so that you feel you’ve accomplished something daily.
How to make it through your self-isolation time healthy and productively?
Keep calm and stay healthy – physically and mentally
- Stick to a similar routine you normally have. But instead of going to work, work from home and/or be productive in other ways (that’s where your to-do list comes into play).
- Walk or run around the neighborhood (if you’re allowed outside and it’s safe to do so). Have a workout, yoga or meditation session at home or in the park (make sure you wipe down any outdoor gym equipment you may use). You could even organise a fitness instructor for a work out session for your apartment block.
- Be social – virtually: Check in on your family, friends and co-workers via Skype, WhatsApp, FaceTime etc. Stick to your usual coffee and lunchtime catch-ups but have them via video.
- Hug your loved ones at home. Play with your children. Give your pets extra attention. And if you live by yourself cuddle a soft toy. Be kind to yourself and those around you.
- Sing with your neighbors or join a virtual gig with your favourite musician. Put music on while doing chores. Sing and dance around the house (just be mindful of your neighbors).
- Document your thoughts in a diary and show gratitude (rather than delving in the negative thoughts that will invariably come). Contact your local helpline if you need to talk to someone.
Get your affairs in order
- If you’re allowed to go outside and have a car clean your car. If you have a garden do some gardening. These are quick wins that get you off your butt and in the mood for more.
- Declutter your place. Pack clothing and box up household items you no longer need to drop-off at thrift/charity stores when it’s safe to do so. Ear-mark stuff you can sell and put them on eBay/Trade Me when the worst is over. This will also help you make some cash when there is nothing coming in.
- Digitize your old photos, negatives and any important documents.
- Fix things that are broken around the house or tackle that DIY project you’ve been putting off (if you’ve got the tools to do so – we don’t want you to hurt yourself). Or just give your home a good (spring) clean.
- Get your finances in order: make a budget and cut your spending. If you’re expecting a refund do your tax return. Now is the time.
- Update your will and speak to your loved ones about your final wishes. We’re not suggesting anything might happen to you. But once these things are sorted you can stop worrying about them.
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- Learn a new skill. There are tons of great online courses, webinars, YouTube videos, language apps, etc out there. You can even learn to become more resilient, a skill that’s not only important as we grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Dream about and do some research for your next trip. Visit some top travel destinations virtually with the help of webcams. In the words of Zurab Pololikashvili (Secretary General of the UN WTO): Tourism [is] becoming the hardest hit sector so far [but tourism is also] uniquely placed to lead future recovery. […] By staying home today, we can travel tomorrow.
Most of all, remember: There is not a single person that won’t be impacted by COVID-19 in one way or another. So, let’s help each other get through this.
Kia Kaha (Stay Strong in Māori).