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 anger, boredom, loneliness, anxiety or depression during self-imposed or forced physical isolation?
After all, we are social beings and creatures of habit. Not being able to do what we enjoy every day can have a significant impact on our mental and physical health (even without catching the virus). Social distancing (we prefer to call it physical distancing because that’s really what it is) 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 keep our sanity despite all that’s going on? Here are a few tips from us.
Plan ahead, then settle in
- Make sure you stay connected virtually with a good internet connection at home or wherever you self-isolate.
- If you live by yourself, buddy up with a friend or neighbour so that you (and they) have someone who can help out if need be.
- Monitor the situation in your neighbourhood/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: Limit the time you spend reading or watching COVID-19 news. 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.
- (Especially if you don’t get paid during this time) assess your finances, make a budget, cut your spending as much as possible 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 your community with your limited funds (keeping your distance from other shoppers, of course). If not get your supplies delivered from the supermarket or dropped at your doorstep by neighbours 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 (expected) self-isolation period. Make sure there are some fun items on the list and also allow yourself to do nothing.
Look after yourself – physically and mentally
- Stick to a similar routine you normally have. But instead of going to work, work from home and/or slowly tick off things on your to-do list.
- Walk or run around the neighbourhood (if you’re allowed outside and it’s safe to do so), especially when the sun is out to get a dose of Vitamin D. Have a workout, yoga or meditation session at home or in the park. You could even organise a fitness instructor for a workout session for your apartment block if that’s possible in your country.
- Eat healthily. We know it can be tough when the money is tight, but maybe now is the time to get creative in the kitchen.
- Be social – virtually: Check-in on your family, friends, neighbours 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.
- Watch a ballet or a musical – from the comfort of your living room.
- Sing with your neighbours 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 neighbours).
If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself but to your own estimate of it, and this you have the power to revoke at any moment. (Marcus Aurelius)
- Whenever there are too many things swirling around your head, ask yourself a simple question: ‘What is my job RIGHT NOW?’. Do just that.
- Document your thoughts in a diary and show gratitude (rather than spiralling into the negative thoughts that will invariably come). Contact your local helpline if you need to talk to a counsellor.
- Check-in with your (elderly) neighbour regularly to make sure they are okay. Ask them if they need anything before you go shopping for groceries.
- Check your home for any items you can spare to help those who may need them right now: food, blankets, an extra heater, whatever it may be, and contact your local shelter, women’s refuge or food bank.
- If you’re in the fortunate position that you can spare some cash, donate money to charities that help those who need it most right now.
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 easy things don’t require a lot of energy, but they get you off your butt and into 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 house a good (spring) clean.
- Get your finances in order: make a budget and cut out any spending that doesn’t give you value. 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 put them out of your mind.
- Learn a new skill. There are tons of great online courses out there, and even top universities offer many for free right now. Check out webinars, YouTube videos, language apps, etc. You can even learn to become more resilient, a skill that’s not only important as we grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Watch the documentaries/TED talks and listen to the podcasts you’ve never had time for.
- Read the books you’ve always wanted to read.
Dream about your next holiday
- Visit some top travel destinations virtually and with the help of webcams or watch a travel movie.
- Explore the best museums around the world – with a virtual tour.
- Do some research for your next trip.
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. (Zurab Pololikashvili – Secretary General of the UN WTO)
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).