Top 10 Tips for mental health during isolation
In the midst of self-isolation, it’s easy to feel like our world has been turned upside-down. Our regular methods of connecting, interacting and coping have drastically changed as we can no longer take part in the routines and rituals that help keep us grounded – training at the gym, catching up with friends and family, or even going to the hairdressers. And that whole work-life-separation thing? Gone. And without a sense of Monday to Friday, or separation between work, home and family life, everyday blends into one another which starts to feel like Groundhog Day. Here Martha Tsakalos, Psychologist from The Indigo Project, has compiled some of the best ways to help keep you mentally healthy while in isolation.
Martha's Top Tips:
Without the work or school commute our days lose their sense of structure, so we need to introduce routine back into our days and weeks. Start by setting a regular (and realistic) waking time, then plan your days in blocks around all the activities you have to complete. If you’re working from home, it’s really important to set and stick to a clock-off time. Then prepare a list of all the things that make you happy, then problem-solve how you can fit them into your ‘new normal’. These should be activities that give you a sense of vitality and feel good such as a virtual workout, yoga session or even taking a relaxing bath.
If you are in the habit of putting everyone and everything else before yourself, now is a great time to practice putting YOU first. These moments of calm, stillness and self-honouring are important, as they remind us that we exist as someone important and worthy – which is not defined by what we do, how productive we are and what other people want from us. Build a morning ritual that works for you. Then make sure you shift gears from day to downtime. At the end of the day, removing your makeup or taking a soothing candlelit shower can signal calm through the body and release stress.
Dressing for the occasion can help you switch into work mode, (virtual) ‘drinks with the girls mode’, or even into downtime / Netflix mode. Wear something that makes you feel good, pop on a pair of earrings or some eye makeup for that important Zoom meeting. At the end of the day, you can get changed (just like you would after work) and top-knot your hair – these prompts will help give your mind another indicator that it’s time to relax.
Our brains create associations between environments and requirements, so it’s really important to set up a work space away from where you wind down and rest. So definitely no working from bed. Your wires might cross so you’re thinking about work and unable to sleep, or you find yourself dozing off during an important work meeting.
As humans, we’re hard-wired to focus on the negative and scary stuff more than the good stuff. It’s a survival instinct. But making space to focus your attention on the good stuff regularly helps you to prime your brain to seek more of the good stuff out in your life. Try writing a short list every morning of three things that you’re grateful for and three things that will make the day ahead great. You’ll notice a difference to your mindset within no time.
When was the last time you did something just for the fun of it? Something that fills you with joy and amusement and takes you by surprise. Schedule in some playfulness - extra points for trying something new! Experiment. Let yourself suck. Laugh at yourself. Immerse yourself in the activity and see how it makes you feel. Some perfect iso activities include: make a killer playlist and have a solo dance party, paint a self-portrait, bake some banana bread, try an over-the-top make-up look, repot some houseplants.
Nature has an incredibly soothing effect on our nervous system and can help to cultivate a sense of calm and connectedness. How do we do this indoors or with limited access to the outdoors? Look out the window – observe and be really curious around what elements of nature you see. Look up – look at the sky, the clouds, the constantly changing weatherscape. Be extra mindful if you’re exercising outdoors or taking a walk – feel the fresh air on your skin, take in the scent of the grass or outdoors, find your favourite tree on your walk, and really look at it!
Social connection and interaction is key for our mental wellbeing. And although we can’t go about it as we have been accustomed to, the gift of technology really offers us incredible opportunities to connect with people all over the world. The key is continuing to connect in honest and authentic ways – express how you really feel and take the time to listen and be present for your loved ones. Ask your friends amd family ‘How are you, really?’ and listen attentively, without the need to problem-solve or offer advice.
It feels like boundaries went out the window when we abruptly moved into isolation. Living in closer proximity (with uninterrupted time) with family members, housemates or your partner can be a melting pot for tensions and emotions to run high. Likewise, we are using technology, social media and tuned into the news more than ever before. Now more than ever, we need to set and communicate boundaries. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need. Set physical and time boundaries and create a set a time for watching the news or using social media. Digital detox on weekdays or the weekend – ensure some offline time!
Words by Martha Tsakalos from the Priceline Pharmacy blog.
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