When our freedom is suddenly curtailed and we are used to going to work each day, interacting with others, we take for granted the fact we can go and do what we like when we like.
In our new situation of social distancing, and staying at home to keep everyone safe, this has completely disappeared, literally, overnight.
How do we keep sane? For most people, social interaction is what keeps them alive; gives them a purpose in life, and keeps their spirits high. Many of us need human contact.
Life in the 21st century is fast moving, and it is rare that we have as much time as we might like with our families, or if we live alone, on our own.
The virus has forced us to slow down. However, being faced with a situation where we spend every hour of every day at home in the same place, can cause you to become downbeat, lonely, and isolated. You can even be lonely with other people around you. You are not in control of your life anymore.
The potential for poor mental health to develop, even with someone who has never had such issues previously is huge. Even within days it’s become clear that some people are struggling to cope mentally with this situation – which is one step away from martial law.
How can we help keep ourselves positive and gain control?
Physical and mental health
The first thing is to keep mentally healthy throughout this period. It has been proven that exercise not only keeps you fit, but it also improves your mental health.
During each day with take some exercise. Choose something that you enjoy – it may be yoga, Pilates or going for a walk, but choose something that makes keeps you calm, and also raises your heartbeat. It is very easy to sit around all day, either looking at the computer, or TV. There are plenty of exercise classes on the Internet to choose from.
Plan your walks or cycle ride on routes where you won’t meet too many other people, or where you can easily keep your distance.
Take healthy snacks with you, to stave off hunger, and to save having to enter shops where you may come into contact with others.
Do other exercise at home or in your garden, with or without your family, to release ‘happy’ chemicals from your brain and to divert your thoughts to something which makes you very present.
Keep your mind active too – outside of work. Build reading, creative writing or some kind of creative activity into your day. This could be crafting, painting, drawing or even cooking and baking (and you know where to go for products to help with the latter!).
Try to keep calm – or at least notice when you are stressed.
You may think you are calm and collected and then find you are snapping at your family members or being irritable on the phone or via email – not great for business relationships. Half of the battle is to clock when your own behaviour is not as good as it could be.
Practice breathing exercises if you are feeling stressed about the situation, it will help calm your nerves. If you suddenly start to feel panicky – use your breathing to keep calm.
Another thing to help keep you calm is to ensure that you have the household supplies you need – and reduce worry about basic needs.
If you live alone, or are unable to get out and about, contact family or friends to see if they can get things for you. Look at alternative recipes if you haven’t been able to find the foods you normally eat.
Try to retain your routines, including ensuring you maintain your normal sleeping hours, work is work time and down time is down time, weekends are weekends if you don’t normally work on a Saturday or Sunday.
Don’t continually watch the news if you know it will stress you – don’t be afraid to switch off and zone out for a while each day. Not much will change if you don’t listen to the tv or radio for a few hours.
What about the children?
Remember too that children model us, so how you conduct yourself during this time is what they will perceive as the correct way to behave. If you can keep calm and measured, they will take it all in their stride. If you panic, then so will they.
Particularly if you have children at home during this time, or just for you – try doing some creative things that you don’t normally have time for; such as crafting, drawing, making-music, baking or writing – depending on your children’s or family’s interests. It is worth getting the adults involved too and will bring a bit of light relief and fun.
Connecting with others
Ensure you keep in connection with friends and family via the many different media options we are lucky enough to have these days. This is where social media has come into its own. You can Skype, WhatsApp, Facebook, make video calls, or even make an old-fashioned phone call!
Talk to the people around you, either in your household, or when you connect, about the things you are worried about. Don’t bottle them up inside you; that’s the worse thing to do, because then it can build to something out of proportion. Or you can snap over something trivial because it’s the last straw.
Look after your body by maintaining your usual eating habits, and don’t make this time off as an excuse to eat more unhealthy treats to cheer yourself up – they won’t help in the long run. It’s more important than ever to keep your body and mind healthy to combat this virus.