Surviving and Thriving in Isolation
Posted by Fiona Gavine on the 14th April 2020
Surviving and Thriving in Isolation by Dr. Holly Trengrouse, Chartered Counselling Psychologist. April 2020
23rd of March 2020. A day that will be remembered from this day forward as the day that the UK was put into lockdown. Schools, colleges and universities closed. Working from home. Maximum of two packets of toilet rolls per customer. Gyms and swimming pools closed. Organised large events of people gathering cancelled. Our places of escape, gone.
Stay home. Stay safe. Protect the NHS. Protect your loved ones.
As day 8 in lockdown began, I couldn’t help but wonder … what about our protection? What about the protection of our mental health? Yes we understand the vitality of staying indoors, limiting our activity and washing our hands and thereby surviving… but how do we as a nation of social creatures, thrive? How do we stay alive mentally and emotionally?
When we are in our normal fully functioning week, we pride ourselves on being able to multi-task the school run, the coffee run, the work schedule, squeezing in an actual run, the bedtime routine, attempting to eat dinner before staring blankly at the television screen before we give in and retreat to bed where we replay the day and/or predict the day impending. Yet now, we try to conform this lifestyle into the limiting rooms of our homes. Almost seems impossible. Impracticable for starters. We might be starting notice thoughts of worry; “What about my future?” “How can I best protect those that I love most?” … all very valid thoughts during this time. With so much seeming to be outside of our control, it can be hard to find what actually is.
We are told to only leave our house for the bare necessities … so here is a little recipe of life.
- Have a routine (as much as you can). We are creatures of habit and maintaining a form of routine will help normalise this current experience.
- Start an at-home exercise routine. Exercise has fantastic mental health benefits so do keep moving at home. You can access fitness classes being streamed online such as Joe Wicks at 09:30am Monday – Friday or try to keep the beat with strictly come dancing professionals on YouTube and Instagram daily or even dig out the old Rosemary Conley or Mr Motivator videos!
- Be of service, from a distance (follow the guidelines). Regardless of your political thoughts and opinion, please follow the guidelines. They may seem extreme but please know that these are extreme circumstances. We as a nation have power in this whereby we can limit our outdoor interactions but still make the most of it. Why not create “Stay safe. Stay home” posters for your window? Then let neighbours follow your lead and create a sense of solidarity with your area. That sense of community has a wealth of benefits for not only our happiness, but also our self-esteem and resilience.
- Maintain community and social connection. We are fortunate to exist in a time where we have full access to Wi-Fi connections and technology that can keep us connected without being in the same room. Whether it is Skype, FaceTime, WhatsApp or the video-conference software Zoom or BlueJeans, we can stay in touch with loved ones, friends and colleagues.
- Mindful eating. Reflect on your eating habits whilst in isolation. Has your meal prepping diet plan gone out the window? But why did it have to? Just because we have lost our professional daily routine does not mean that we need to lose our diet and nutrition routine. This is especially important just now in order to boost your immunity.
- Sleeping pattern. It is wise to maintain your sleeping routine. Although you perhaps have more flexibility to stay up later binge watching a new series on television, but will that bring any benefit to the following day if you oversleep because you were up so late? Probably not. So keep the routine. Keep the bedtime. If we flip our perspective of working from home, we have less hours of our day commuting… so use that extra time wisely.
- Use helpful resources like apps such as Headspace or Calm which are create for mindfulness and managing your wellbeing. There are also lots of helpful resources on YouTube that you can access such as talks on anxiety management during COVID-19.
- Limit social media and notice your reactions to COVID-19 news. Social media has an immensely powerful influence upon all of us. So notice whether you are using your social media to keep up with friends… or whether it is actually dragging you down into a vicious cycle of perhaps false information and then creating unnecessary yet negative feeling. Furthermore, many posts on social media may trigger our angry and resentful side as we remain on lockdown. We are all starting to become frustrated with being confined to our own homes and inevitably, our emotions will flare. Sometimes, social media posts of a certain nature can gaslight how we are feeling. Please do not lose who you are in the middle of this chaos. If you feel yourself become overwhelmed with rage or sadness or passion, then try to take a step back… put down the phone and get started on a new task. Ground yourself in something more positive and beneficial for your experience.
- Gratitude and appreciation. Gratitude has been shown to have a powerful effect on wellbeing; reduces stress, increases happiness and improves self-esteem. It can be very easy to get stuck in the “suckiness” of this situation… but take a look around at where you are right now. In your home. Would you usually be there at this time? Would you usually have all of this free time to catch up on things around the house or spend time with those who you live with? Probably not. So perhaps each day, it would serve us well to reflect on and share what we are thankful for that day… as many things as you like but as long as you take a moment to pause and experience that warmth of gratitude, we can keep the fire going within our hearts.
We have time right now. You have time to read this blog… so take the time to reflect on your life. We have been forced to put a halt on our lives. Let’s seize this as an opportunity rather than tackling an obstacle. Take this time to reflect on changes you may wish to make either now or when lockdown is lifted. Notice what makes you unhappy but has come around from getting stuck into a hard grinding routine. Make that change. Get those wheels in motion. This is our chance to empower ourselves to make changes that will only bring about more greatness, joy and fulfilment. Use the time wisely. In these tough and uncertain times, we owe it to ourselves to keep our human spirit alive. We are resilient and never underestimate the power and strength of love and kindness.
For sometimes when you are in a dark place, you tend to feel like you have been buried… perhaps you have been planted. Bloom. This is our time to bloom. To grow. To see who we can become. To see what we can achieve as a nation. Acting for the greater good. We can survive COVID-19 and we can most certainly thrive.
Sending you strength and love,