How To Cope With Self Isolation: Valuable Tips from Psychologist Jivan Dempsey

Like everyone else I’m at home struggling to stay focused and positive while I contemplate 12 weeks of self isolation. 

I’m one of the lucky ones. I have a family around me, a home and space to work, a garden, the countryside if I need a walk (until that’s banned) but how many of us don’t?

And of course things are changing so fast I’m glued to the news. The worry and stress is starting to build. Will I have a business at the end of this crisis? Will I get ill? How will my elderly parents cope? Oh why didn’t I insist they get a smartphone so I could facetime them? We are only a couple of weeks into this crisis and yet I feel a national anxiety and panic that’s bringing out the best … and the worst behaviours in us all. 

So here are a few tips to help you cope and build resilience for when we come out of this difficult time.

Self isolate – as the Prime Minister said, “we are a fantastic, spirited nation” with a sense of our own invincibility, but its important we do as we’re told by the government. Stay away from others. Social distance. This is for very good reasons and we all have to work together to flatten the curve, not overwhelm the NHS and we will all get through this quicker.

Keep a routine – its easy to become a couch potato binging on boxsets. A routine is really important to stay mentally alert. Try to get up at the same time, work and remember to take your breaks. If it helps why not get dressed as you would if were in the office? Make quiet time part of this routine to contemplate and recharge your batteries.

Set up virtual social time – videoconferencing is a great way to stay connected while we are working from home but why not use it to connect with your friends? Hold regular virtual get togethers and maybe a weekly party. It’s not quite the same as being together in the same place but a great alternative way of having fun. Be creative! 

Be a friend – Look out for your friends and colleagues that seem quiet or isolated. They may be struggling and need support. Listen to what they’re saying and challenge any negative thinking or catastrophising. This will help them see things in perspective. More importantly be a friend to those who aren’t engaging or talking and reach out to them. They may need your help more than anybody. 

Daily mindfulness – Even if its only for 15-20 minutes per day it will help to ground you and calm any feelings of stress and anxiety. It also gives you the personal space you need if you’re cooped up with your family all day long. 

Have fun with your kids – now that the schools are closed and our kids are also at home we have to find a way of working and rubbing along together that’s going to be productive. Its going to be hard on you .. but its also going to be hard on them. Let your kids into your work space and encourage them to do their “work” – draw pictures or read a book – while you do yours. Set in breaks so you can interact with your kids, comment on their work, praise them and give them lots of positive strokes. You will find a pattern that works for you all over time. Remember it’ll be frustrating for them as well. After this initial period of adapting and upheaval, things will settle into a routine for you and your children. And if all else fails there is always children’s TV! Try to structure your work routine around the kids … and the interruptions … this should help to make it a more positive experience for you all.

Stay fit and well – it feels like its getting harder to go out and get fresh air. But its important that we can go out for some exercise to get the endorphins pumping. Set up a makeshift gym in the garden, check out virtual exercise classes like yoga and try to do them outside in the garden or balcony, where you can, but with distance from other people.  

Prepare for the other side – it’s important to remain positive, this is temporary and business will bounce back. If you’re an entrepreneur, it’s a scary time. Think about your business and how you could remodel it. Can you take your business online? What additional value can you offer to your clients? What new services or products could you offer? If you’re an employee now is the time to really focus on what you want to do. Perhaps it’s a new career or more training? Maybe now is the time to write that book? 
 
It’s a confusing and frightening time at the moment for us all. Who knows how long this crisis will last and what kind of society we’ll be at the end of it. But hold onto the thought that we’re all in it together.

By: Jivan Dempsey

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