‘I feel like I’m in a movie.’ A statement I have heard more than once in the past few weeks.
It made me think of the Chinese curse ‘May you live in interesting times.’
Times are certainly interesting at the moment – but I’m not sure I would use the word ‘cursed’. It’s true that our reserves – of money, patience, tolerance and optimism – are being tested.
Many people are now from home or are in self-isolation to halt the spread of COVID-19. Thousands more are now unemployed and will have to quickly re-group and decide on a new course to action to keep afloat financially.
Being along for extended periods of time is, for most of us, an unnatural state and one that can have impacts on our physical and mental health.
Even for someone normally quite happy with solitude, an enforced or prolonged period of this situation is boring at best and despair-inducing at worst. It’s a problem that has been forced on huge numbers of people in cities around the world in recent week and months.
Our economy has temporarily shut down but will recover once the levels of infection are under control. This period of crisis won’t be forever, although it may feel like it right now.
We’ve put together some ways to survive a period of isolation in a way that preserves both our mental and physical health.
Using Technology to Stay in Touch
We are lucky to live in an age where technology allows us to stay in touch in a multitude of ways.
FaceTime, Skype, texting, email, WhatsApp and social media platforms help us stay connected with friends and loved ones to ease the sense of isolation, to communicate important information and to keep us entertained.
You can avoid ‘news fatigue’ by keeping your online checks to once a day. Much of what is written online is in fact conjecture, opinion or harmful scare-mongering.
DIY and Clean Up
Have you heard the expression ‘action is the enemy of depression’?
It’s true! Keeping busy takes your mind off other issues and gives you a goal and purpose – things which are important for good mental health.
Take a break from the round-the-clock news coverage and get out into your garden. Weeding, mowing and raking leaves are good exercise and will give you a sense of satisfaction. Clear and repair your gutters, wash windows and concrete, clean out your garage and trim back trees and shrubs.
The same attention can be given to the inside of your home. Do an inventory of each room and donate unwanted items to charity or put out for a hard rubbish collection. Clean out your kitchen cupboards, fridge and freezer and get rid of old newspapers, bills and advertising material.
Learn Something Old or Learn Something New
It’s time to unearth the guitar or keyboard that has been gathering dust in your spare room, or to take up the paints, pencils or knitting needles that lay idle when our lives are consumed with the daily routine of work, family and our social lives. The internet abounds with tutorials and instruction for every kind of craft or hobby. Buying art and craft supplies, sheet music and even instruments online is a cinch.
Now may be the perfect time to do an online short course, enrol in more long-term online study or make your way through your book collection. Reading is an absorbing past-time and something that many of us feel guilty about doing in today’s culture, where being busy all the time is seen as admirable, and where our brains never really get a break from our screens.
Bake The Blues Away
If you have the means, why not sharpen up your cooking and baking skills? With plenty of recipes and instruction online, there is no shortage of knowledge or inspiration around. Even less-than-perfect offerings can be eaten, frozen or shared with family, friends, colleagues and neighbours if safe to do so.
Catch Up on Paperwork
This is a great time to make sure your personal paperwork is in order, including important documents like wills, property titles, records of insurance, birth certificates and passports (for when we can all travel again), warranties and receipts. Organise these in a folder and scan digital copies as a back-up. Your mind will be eased by knowing your life is organised, and this task will highlight any gaps in your records.
Exercise is great for both physical and mental health. Exercise creates a rush of endorphins which boosts your mood and provides mental clarity. You can improvise your own gym equipment with household items and furniture, or take a brisk walk once a day.
Share Your Experiences
There are millions of people all around the world right now who are feeling the same fears, frustrations and worries. People everywhere are sharing their experiences on social media and in forums, to help others in the same situation and to ease the sense of isolation. Join the conversation and share your experiences. You may just be able to help someone through a difficult time.
I know – it’s easier said than done. Panic, fear and doubt can be destructive and corrosive emotions, which lead to despair and a feeling of powerlessness.
There are plenty of online blogs, videos and articles which explore how to endure difficult circumstances, and how to develop mental resilience.
It can help to take things one day at time, and to look for one small thing each day which uplifts, brings joy or simply makes you grateful for what you do have.
This may be family, friends, your spouse or partner, your pets, a roof over your head and nourishing food, a sunny day, your garden, your favourite movie or TV show, a funny YouTube video, or just reassurance from your family, your friends or your faith that everything will be OK in the end.
And don’t worry -it will.
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