When I was a single girl, I spent many years living alone and, while most of the time I was OK, I learned that isolation at home when you live alone can be a lot harder than when you have family or roommates to bond with.
In these times of COVID-19 lockdowns and ever-increasing restrictions on our personal freedom, all this extra time spent completely isolated from the people we love and indeed the public at large might be causing panic, stress, worsened anxiety, and a disconnect from society in general.
What can we do to cope with this isolation and feeling of overwhelm?
Here are some simple ideas to help you cope:
Add Self-Care to Your Daily Routine
You probably already know that having a routine is going to help if you are in quarantine or self-isolating, especially if you are living alone. I find it easier to cope when there is a structure to my days and a sense of purpose – even if it’s just ticking chores off a list or managing a batch of washing.
But one thing that helps even more is when you add some self-care to your routine. If you are working from home, you need breaks every day where you focus on your own needs. One day, this might mean going for a walk or doing an indoor workout. Other days, you might want to read for fun or take a bath. What it is doesn’t matter, as long as it makes you feel better, happier, and more relaxed.
Socialize Online or Through Video Chats
Whilst we are expected to keep our distance from others, there is no reason why we cannot use other ways to connect with our loved ones.
You should still connect with others, get and give support, and keep socializing as much as you can. This might mean talking to your friends through social media, texting or calling your loved ones, or even using the various video conferencing programs out there. It can make you feel connected, even though you are at home alone.
Our family hosts a quiz via Facebook Messenger where we each take turns to play host and set the questions. The winner gets to host next week. It’s a simple idea but it brings us together from Stoke-on-Trent, Worcester, Bristol and Dinas Powys.
Learn Something New
Make a list of anything you have been wanting to learn, but haven’t dedicated the time because you were too busy with other things. This might be a foreign language or sign language, a new skill, playing an instrument, or perfecting a handstand. Now is the time to practice and learn something new! You are at home alone with all this free time, so why not take full advantage?
Take Time to Journal and Self-Reflect
Journaling is beneficial throughout the year no matter what you’re doing, but can be even more therapeutic while in quarantine or if you are alone at home for any other reason. Your journal allows you to self-reflect, explore how you are feeling, discover ways to improve your life right now, set goals, and find clarity. Try to dedicate at least a minutes every day to writing in your journal. You can use journaling prompts, write about a specific topic, or just write about whatever comes to your mind.
How to Ease Panic During Isolation
Despite this, however, there may be times when you find things overwhelming but there are ways to ease stress and panic when you are isolating.
You might notice that the longer you spend alone or without your normal socializing, the worse you begin to feel. There are things you can do though to ease these feelings and regain control of your thoughts.
Get Information From Trusted Sources Only
Stop getting your news and information from social media. You need to look at trusted sources only. Not only will these reduce how often you are absorbing the news, but it allows you to get only the facts, without all the opinions and commentary. This can be reassuring as you don’t need to know people’s take on what “might” happen unless it is based on facts.
Some reputable sources included the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO). The British Media informs according to their own political agendas and are entirely capable of slanting statistics to suit their cause. Both Facebook is frequently accused of propagating ‘fake news’ and, currently Twitter has introduced a ‘retweet with comment’ feature to slow down (it is alleged), retweets promoting Trump in the US presidential election. When it comes to social media, these days everything has to be taken with a very large pinch of salt.
Set Up a Normal Routine
We’ve already talked about the importance of maintaining some sort of daily routine and this will be even more effective when you are feeling overwhelmed and panicked.
As well as increasing your self-care, try to add tasks or things from your routine prior to lockdown. For example, if you always ate lunch at 1 pm at work then do the same thing now. Try to maintain typical working hours and take regular breaks. When you work from home it is all too easy to keep working long past the point at which you would have switched your PC off and started your commute home. Make sure you ringfence evenings and weekends as the time to kick back and destress.
Focus on What You Can Control
You can’t do anything about what is happening in the world right now, except keep yourself and your family safe. Instead of worrying about what you have no control over, just focus on what you CAN control. Again, this is where your routine will help you. This might mean setting up a schedule to do homework with your kids, getting regular exercise, cooking meals at home, reading or doing other self-care, washing your hands, and so much more. These are things that are good for your mental and physical health, and that you have full control over.
Work with a Mental Health Professional
If you have severe anxiety that is leading to panic, then you might need to talk with a mental health professional. There are many therapists who work remotely that you can talk to on the phone or you could try online counselling with BetterHelp if you are not able to leave your home.
When you’re not coping – how to recognise the signs
Admitting you are not coping requires both bravery and honesty. Things to look out for include:-
- Poor sleep patterns
- An increase in addiction-related behaviours – e.g. gambling, drinking, overeating, drug use
- Loss of motivation or interest in life
- Intrusive and repetitive negative thoughts
- Feeling hopeless or having suicidal thoughts
Recognise that all of us are struggling in different ways and don’t hesitate to reach out for help if you need it.