A lack of social interaction is proven to be highly detrimental to mental wellbeing. So remaining at home under lock-down, or self-isolation in our current global epidemic is a big risk for our mental wellbeing, particularly if you are living alone.
After time, the physical distancing translates into psychological and emotional distancing. Compounded by a host of other concerns to add to the list of potential anxiety formers; beyond the obvious uncertainty brought on by concerns about how the invisible enemy, COVID-19, might impact our lives and that of our loved ones. At the most mundane level it might include, seemingly irrational concerns over how tidy the bookcase backdrop to the work video conference call looks, to the obsession with washing one's hands, or ensuring we keep our distance from everyone we come into contact with. Equally, the global recession which accompanies the pandemic, raises concern over job security and this is magnified when working remotely and there is a lack of visible demonstration of output, which, if not understood and mitigated, can harm individuals self-worth.
One of the most invasive issues is the reality of 24/7/365 news; it is constant and can feel overwhelmingly relentless. It is therefore understandable that individuals with pre-existing anxiety are facing increased challenges.
“A lot of anxiety is rooted in worrying about the unknown and waiting for something to happen - coronavirus is that on a macro scale,” agrees Rosie Weatherley spokesperson for mental health charity Mind.
So how can we protect our mental health and that of those we love? Here, Wayne Keble OBE. Operations Lead at GE Aviation, shares his thoughts on ways we can protect our mental wellbeing during lockdown.
Here Are Some Top Tips to Help Support Your Mental Wellbeing When Living in Isolation
1. Manage the News and Rely on Trusted Sources
Make a concerted effort to spend time away from news of any type; limit the amount of time you spend reading or listening to reports which might cause stress. To help with this, set aside a routine time to check what is making the headlines, and do so from a source you trust. There are many myths and lots of misinformation circulating, this could serve to disrupt or undermine authentic public health advice.
2. Be Careful What You Consumer on Social Media
Social media can also be a trigger; it is all pervasive. Avoid clicking on the hashtags that fuel the conspiracy theories and supermarket shortage scaremongering. Mute key words that are trending on Twitter or WhatsApp groups, screen Instagram posts and unfollow Facebook sensationalists.
A much more rewarding use of your time online is to look up the official Central Government and County Council websites. For specific mental wellbeing advice visit the NHS website ‘Get Your Mind Plan’. This offers a 5 question interactive quiz which leads to top tips and advice in the form of simple ideas based on your answers, which include podcasts, videos and recommendations for Apps for your phone or tablet.
There is also a slew of information online under the NHS banner ‘Every Mind Matters’ about looking after your mental health, including specific advice related to mental wellbeing while staying at home and other issues caused by Coronavirus.
Mental Health First Aid England also has a well signposted site providing excellent advice on ‘How to support your mental health while working from home’ under the My Whole Self banner.
3. Stay Connected
Stay in touch with friends, family and reach out to your Mental Health First Aider. Interaction, especially with those you know well is key. Do you have their contact numbers or e-mail addresses to hand? Have you mastered setting up Skype, Zoom or Facetime accounts, and have you checked to see if they work?
Agree on regular connection times. Many more of us will be working from home and will need to be productive, so you will also need to strike a balance between having a set routine and trying to avoid the tedium of no variety.
4. Find a Mentor or Wellbeing Professional for Support
Most wellbeing professionals will be setting up online services including live one-to-one sessions to help and support people during this time. Whether it's provided through your employer, or you have to be more proactive and seek someone out for yourself, the industry realises how important continuity and routine is in our daily lives, particularly when stress levels are increased. You may have access to a trained Mental Health First Aider or Champions in your business so don't be afraid to ask for help and support. They can use their skills to support anyone struggling with their mental health by signposting them to the appropriate support, both in and outside of the workplace.
If you are freelance, self-employed or need further support, there are many online practitioners willing to help.
5. Create Structure
Start by creating a new daily routine that prioritises looking after yourself. Set a schedule to do normal day-to-day activities to give you a purpose and focus. Create zones in your day and stick to them to help create normality. Start your day with some fresh air, you favourite cup of coffee in the garden or a run or walk to set your mind in the right place. Utilise your morning for admin, emails and all of those tasks you never get around to. Or if you're home schooling set the kids up with tasks to complete before lunchtime. Take a lunch break and do something for yourself or with your family. Set the afternoon up for productivity. Whether that's a block of one, two or three hours, set yourself a task, turn the phone off and allow yourself to focus. Then set a time to stop work, and have family or you time. Find past times like reading that book you've been dying to finish, watch movies to clear the mind, enjoy yoga or cook something nutritious. If you struggle to switch off, try new relaxation techniques, meditation tracks or use the time to learn, and find new knowledge on the internet. Try and rest and view this as a new if unusual experience, that might have its benefits.
Creating these dedicated work, exercise, relaxation and family times will help give structure to your day and help you to achieve things.
The coronavirus pandemic has shown how vulnerable and fragile our interconnected world can suddenly become. But the resilience and ingenuity of communities challenged by a common threat has surprised us all. There have been remarkable eruptions of solidarity. Italy has seen festivals of singing with music from balconies and fitness classes on rooftops. In Paris and the UK, people in lockdown at home are opening their windows for synchronised rounds of applause for medical workers. This clapping and cheering, echoing around the empty streets, comes from thousands of people who are separated and together at the same time.
The overwhelming message must be to remain positive and harness the power of positive thinking, community and togetherness so we can all - Live Life Well.