The COVID -19 pandemic is taking an immeasurable toll on the world, forcing millions of people to adopt a strange and solitary new way of life! There are only grim estimates of how long this period of isolation will last.
Those experiencing isolation, speak of a series of burdens that take their toll on feeling of well being. The limiting of natural social contact, the end of a natural daily routine and the experience of a lack of control over one’s life can be challenging and draining.
The consequences experienced include the following:
Fear and Anxiety
Our anxiety is weakened by the worry, not just about one’s own health and well being, but also that of family, particularly if you are a chief carer or bread winner. Can I provide the natural nurture and care for my loved ones, how do I ensure my loved ones will have the everyday essentials? What will the future hold for me, my loved ones, for my community…? The daily announcements of the bounce in numbers infected can amplify our sense of lack of control.
Boredom to Depression
Being without work, or at least not having our normal rhythm, can lead to feelings of uselessness. The lack of opportunities to use our abilities can dampen moods leading to a general sense of blues. For many, being deprived of their natural physical activity regime, be that sport or gym visits, means unfamiliar stupor and depressed energy levels which are not positive for well being.
Frustration and Anger
Enforced confinement, restricted movement and not being able to engage in everyday activities elevates frustration levels. This frustration may spill over not just to loved ones in our surroundings, but also to those who fail to comply with the official guidelines.
Thankfully psychological research offers some insights on how to cope with the feelings associated with this adversity:
Take a Proactive Approach
Making a plan and identify what we can control is associated with sense of purpose and progress. Sketch a daily timetable or routine and post it where you and others can see it, as doing so increases our probability of sticking to it. Ensure variety in the schedule, work, leisure, exercise, learning, etc. Consider engaging in something new; a project that sparks your intrinsic motivation and curiosity. We can manage our moods and feelings, so try to be aware of what you are feeling, and understanding why you are experiencing these feelings is the first step to putting one back in control.
Whether one is extrovert or introvert, we are a social species and connecting with friends, colleagues and family has positive effects on our well being. Whether it’s text, video chat, social media or phone, just staying connected keeps us centred. In particular, it is good to share what you feel. While a problem shared may not be a problem halved, there is a host of research to support that sharing concerns with trusted others has significant positive psychological benefits.
Focus on your Health
While obvious, we sometimes fail to control what we can with reference to our health. Isolation is stressful and stress weakens our immune system, so being proactive about staying healthy becomes even more important. Stick to regular meals with the correct nutritional variety and avoid snacking. Anxiety can sometimes prompt us to comfort eat, so we need to manage these urges. Daily exercise will help regularise sleep patterns all of which boosts psychological health. Needless to say, the misuse of alcohol and drugs will not help longer term adjustment despite how the relaxing effect of alcohol may be appealing in a time of stress.
Manage your Media Consumption
Consuming too much media in a crisis situation is associated with increased levels of experienced stress. Restrict your consumption of news and avoid social media and depend on traditional national media with direct lines to the trustworthy medical decision-makers when accessing news.
If you are subject to quarantine or isolation, remember you are doing so not just for your own good, but that of your community. It is the ultimate act of humanity and it might be said you are among our nation’s silent heroes. We owe you and thank you!