Maintaining mental health during distancing, isolation and lockdown
It doesn’t look like the Covid Pandemic is going anywhere anytime soon does it? It’s not just the potential health issues but the restriction on our ability to move and interact freely. However, the real problem is uncertainty, uncertainty about our finances, future, family, friends, employment and the economy. Different areas of the country are experiencing different restrictions. It’s hard to keep up with the ever changing guidelines -where can we go, who can we meet, what shops, pubs and restaurants are affected and at what times?
I’ve heard some people say that this wave of restrictions and isolation will be worse than the previous one because, “at least the first one was during the spring and summer”. But surely it’s easier being cooped up whilst it’s dark, cold, wet and windy outside? So, there may be another period of lockdown coming up and, as you probably know, this can give us a feeling of cabin fever but you know what to expect now and you DID get through the last one right?
Prior to the first lockdown I would coach a lot of people regarding ‘burnout’. This is when the expectations and demands placed on us exceed our resources and abilities. This was due to the speed of the world: travelling to and from work, social engagements, workload, family etc.
During lockdown, my coaching duties shifted to the other end of the stress scale, in other words, ‘boreout’. This is when our abilities and resources exceed the demands placed on us. I’ve coached a range of people who go through boreout, from the injured to the retired. It can lead to depression, anxiety, frustration, aggression, anger and hostility!
Both ends of the scale are as bad as each other. So, what’s the answer? It’s the same answer as most things in life: balance. When we refer to stress it’s more relevant to call this balance, ‘flow’. So how do we achieve flow? Well, it’s not one thing; it’s a collection of things. The first one is to put things into perspective:
We ARE at war with an unseen enemy but we AREN’T in a warzone. There are no bombs or gunfire.
This situation is temporary, sit tight.
There are many clever people working on this problem around the world. Things WILL get better!
We are all in this together.
You are warm, dry and safe (hopefully).
We have stopped taking things for granted and started valuing what we have.
Now let’s get proactive with 15 tips:
1. Discipline. Set your alarm and get up, make your bed, shower and get dress. DON’T lie around in your pyjamas. Arrange times for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Set a positive intent for the day.
2. Restrict what you allow into your bubble and build mental resilience. You don’t HAVE to watch the news. You don’t HAVE to listen to other people’s opinion. If there is a source of input that is causing you stress, get rid of it! If it’s a newspaper, stop buying it. If it’s a TV channel, stop watching it. If it’s a particular person on social media, disconnect from them. You have control, don’t hand it over to someone else.
3. Time zones. If you are spending lots of time indoors ensure you have 2 separate and distinct periods, 9-5 is uptime - wear your trainers (remember – we subconsciously associate proactive achievements with training shoes). 5 onwards is downtime wear your slippers. If you don’t get this then try on both items, be aware of how they make you feel, I think you’ll be amazed!
4. Exercise is THE best way of dealing with isolation. If you have the room or garden I would recommend a quality leather skipping rope. How about aerobics? Restricted space is no excuse - prisoners around the world keep fit in their 6x8 cells mainly through body weigh manipulation: press-ups, sit-ups, squat thrusts, star jumps, etc.
5. Chew gum. The process of chewing actually relaxes us, another reason people comfort eat. The key is to chomp on a good quality, naturally sweetened, sugar-free gum instead of calories.
6. Music. Play empowering, relaxing, feel-good music. It is such a powerful tool for harmony and mental resilience. Compile a list of those song that really lift your mood and play them in the background when you need a boost.
7. Paperwork...it’s everywhere! You probably have draws, shoe boxes and carrier bags full of letters, receipts and bills. Empty everything into a massive pile and sort into “junk”,” shred” and “keep”. Then file the “keep” pile into “car”, “home”, “important”, “sentimental” etc. This could take you DAYS but is a real accomplishment. When would you ever get around to doing this?
8. Declutter. Time to get stuff out of the loft, shed, garage and garden and sort them into “junk”, “charity”, “sell” and “keep”.
9. Hobbies. Learn a language, an instrument, do an on-line course, make a model or just do some DIY. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. I’ve got a lot of people into the Rubik’s Cube. There are loads of videos online and, although frustrating, it really is good for moral when you solve it.
Remember: out of bad comes good! Conversely, during this period of isolation it’s actually a fantastic opportunity to put our technology to good use and reach out to and catch up with, people we haven’t spoken to for years. After all, they’ll probably have time to speak to us now!