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Mental Health: Self-Isolation and Social Distancing Guide

Updated: Mar 31, 2020

Kate Byng-Hall puts together a mindful guide to help you through this testing time. | Mental Health and Mindfulness

Photo by Christopher Burns

On Monday the 23rd of March, Boris Johnson finally announced that the United Kingdom would be entering an increased level of enforced social distancing in response to the rapidly spreading Covid-19 virus.

Essentially the country went into lockdown for the foreseeable future, with people only allowed to leave the house to get food or medication, to exercise once a day, to go to work if they are a key worker, or help the vulnerable.

During this unprecedented period of national quarantine, everyone’s health could be compromised if we don’t look after each other and ourselves. Here is a guide to many activities you can try out to protect your physical, mental, and emotional health while social distancing.

What to do at Home

Get innovative with what you have around the house and get things done which you’ve been meaning to:

  • Dig out the board games

  • Try painting, drawing or colouring in

  • Do some baking (if you can find the ingredients)

  • Have a movie day – revisit classics or try things you’ve been meaning to watch

  • Spring clean and declutter

  • Sort out your book/movie/CD collection – you could find hidden gems

  • Learn the basics of a new skill such as a new recipe, language or even some code

  • Join some online pub quizzes for charity

  • Start a blog or podcast

  • Write a diary during lockdown to look back on

  • Make a scrapbook/photo album

  • Try some creative writing or poetry

  • Listen to full albums rather than just singles

  • Try upcycling or restyling old clothing items

  • Pick up a musical instrument or sing

  • Try a free online course with FutureLearn or OpenLearn

Get Outdoors

Being outside in nature is a very freeing experience, and should be valued at this time because it can alleviate symptoms of anxiety, and induces the release of serotonin and melatonin.

While our right to leave the house is limited for the time being, get out into the garden as much as you can, and use your daily exercise allowance wisely:

  • Try some outdoor yoga

  • Plant and grow some veg

  • Plant some wildflower seeds

  • Plant some sunflowers (you can buy seeds online)

  • Mow the lawn

  • Order some bird-food and set up some feeders

  • Have a picnic in the garden

  • Vary the routes you take for your daily exercise

  • Grow plants/flowers/cacti on windowsills or balconies if you don’t have a garden

Stay Connected

Retaining regular contact with friends and family is crucial during the tricky period of isolation, as it’s easy to feel alienated when you cannot meet people face to face. Get creative with how you can stay in touch:

  • Call elderly relatives who are in isolation just for a chat

  • Communicate with friends online via Skype or Zoom

  • Learn to knit and make a scarf for a loved one

  • Exchange music recommendations with friends

  • Try a book club – decide to read a book with someone and discuss it afterwards

  • Have a remote dinner party over a video call

  • Write letters and send cards to loved-ones

Protect the Mind

This shocking change to our way of life is bound to have adverse effects on our mental health. There are many possible ways to help your mind to stabilise during this uncertain time:

  • Stick to a healthy sleep schedule

  • Meditate daily; use online guides like Headspace if you need a helping hand

  • Maintain a healthy diet as opposed to comfort eating

  • Drink water regularly

  • Try and access online counselling if you need it

  • Keep your house tidy so it doesn’t become a chaotic or overwhelming space

  • Clean the house regularly to prevent spread of germs

  • Try breathing and mindfulness exercises if you are feeling panicked

  • Do not drink excessive alcohol as this can be damaging to your mental health

  • Join Elefriends if you need an online community to feel supported

  • Open the windows to get enough fresh air and reduce feelings of claustrophobia

  • Keep the mind stimulated through crosswords, quizzes, and reading

  • Find a ‘safe space’ in your house or garden where you can go if you feel at risk of having a panic attack

  • Receive ongoing support from therapists or healthcare professionals online

  • Get up at the same time every day in order to create a routine

  • Reduce the time you spend checking the news or social media for updates on the virus as this can aggravate anxiety or compulsions, and only rely on reliable sources

If you feel you need more support, consult the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy’s advice for dealing with anxiety related to the pandemic.

For more advice on how to stay safe during social distancing, consult the NHS, WHO, and government guidelines.


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