Right now, the planet is in the midst of a crisis with the outbreak of Covid-19. Whilst the impact on livelihoods is ongoing, many of us in the UK will be self-isolating.
Whether it’s due to home-working or you have symptoms, self-isolation will likely be a new and testing experience for you. It's an unprecedented situation, with many risks about how this will impact on your mental and physical wellbeing.
Even if you have experience of working from home in your job previously, doing so for a prolonged period (and without regular contact with other people) can be hard. You must be mindful of the challenges this presents, so here are five things you can do to help you cope.
Please be aware that this situation is unprecedented and continually changing, so while the following information is relevant at the time of printing, it may be subject to change.
Take precautions to prevent spreading the virus
The health of you and others around you is of paramount importance. Self-isolation is currently the government’s stance to protect the nation’s health against the spread of Covid-19.
You could set up a ‘buffer zone’ at the front of your home where you remove shoes and coats, keeping them separate from other parts of your home. With any deliveries, you can request that they are dropped off outside without coming into any contact with the drivers. If you have a porch, this is ideal, otherwise a front hallway will also work.
There are also some other critical elements of advice which have been widely advertised by the media in regards to your general hygiene and prevention of the illness, and these are as follows (including but not limited to):
- When washing your hands, do so for at least 20 seconds.
- Use a tissue when you cough or sneeze, not your hands. Dispose of the tissue straight away and wash your hands immediately.
- Avoid public transport unless essential.
- Avoid contact with anyone over the age of 70, pregnant women or anyone classed as an at-risk group due to existing underlying health conditions.
- Many people have been wearing facemasks when in public. These do offer a level of protection as they prevent droplets from coming through, but small aerosol particles may still be able to enter your system. Do not assume this will provide you with complete protection.
The NHS is the best port of call for advice on the condition itself and your general health. If you are unwell and you’re unsure whether your symptoms could be indicative of Covid-19, then follow the advice they give.
This is a fast-changing situation with daily and hourly updates, so it’s a good idea to regularly check the NHS website to see if there are any changes in their advice. The government website on Covid-19 is also an essential resource.
Make exercise a priority
If you are self-isolating without any signs of illness, make time for exercise. It’s good for both your mind and body. At the time of writing, we’re still allowed out to do so, providing you are by yourself and keep a comfortable distance from others. Cycling, walking or running are all good options as long as you conduct them close to where you live.
If you are looking to exercise within your home, then there are plenty of options:
- YouTube is full of tutorials on circuit training and weights
- You could also try pilates or yoga for beginners
- Put some lively music on and try aerobics
- Or this hotel room workout is great for confined spaces
Maintain a routine
It’s important to maintain a routine when at home. Try to get up and go to bed at the same time as you would normally, and eat meals at regular times if possible. Speak to people frequently as part of your routine, so schedule calls for friends and family at set times of a day. You could even look into using services like FaceTime and Skype for further interactivity.
Whilst regularity is important, make sure to add a degree of variety when you can. If you usually watch TV every evening, look to mix that up with books or podcasts and take advantage of the longer days by spending time in your garden.
If you are working from home, then plan for this as a prolonged period. Here are five top tips to adhere to when doing so:
- Maintain regular hours. Set an alarm and get dressed in the morning ahead of your day.
- Take frequent, scheduled breaks away from your screen.
- Resist the temptation to work from your bed or the couch and have a clearly defined workspace.
- Have rules about contact with the other people in your home so you maintain a focus on your work.
- Stay connected with your colleagues. Try to use a more conversational form of communication such as Slack or WhatsApp alongside emails, and make regular calls with or without video.
Look after your mental health
One negative factor surrounding people’s mental health is feelings of loneliness, so there is the real risk that the next few months will see a drain on your mental wellbeing. This could be the case whether you have existing mental health issues or no previous experience of any. Try to:
- Communicate with people as much as possible, whether it’s via text, video or phone call.
- If you and a group of friends or colleagues socialise in a particular way, try and find a practical way of replacing that as best as you can. Could you all agree to watch a particular programme or film and have a regular chat over that? Any way of bonding regularly is vital, particularly as non-essential social contact has been advised against by the government.
- Be mindful of any media you consume. The news, particularly in difficult times such as this, can exacerbate anxiety. If you know this is a trigger for your mental health, or you feel yourself getting upset by it, restrict your consumption. You could ask a friend or family member to keep you updated on anything essential, or only watch or listen to a news programme once a day, for a set amount of time.
- Social media can also be hard. Misinformation is easily spread, so look to spend time away from these apps and try and avoid sharing or clicking on anything that isn’t a verifiable news source. Remember feeling connected to loved ones is also very good for you, so don’t abandon social media completely if you use it for these purposes.
As a final note, AnxietyUK recommends that the APPLE technique is an effective way to deal with rising worries and anxiety, which may be useful even if you have never experienced it before. It’s as follows:
Notice and acknowledge the feelings that are making you anxious.
Don't react. Instead, take a short pause and breathe.
Remind yourself this is just the worry talking, and demanding certainty on this issue is neither helpful or necessary. It is only a thought or feeling.
Let go of your thoughts and feelings, and they will pass. There is no need to respond to them.
Explore and focus on the present moment. Pay attention to your breathing and look around you. Focus on the things you can see, smell, touch and hear. Then start to think about something other than what was worrying you.
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