As we’re all being asked to restrict our social interactions to try and prevent a spike in the number of Coronavirus cases, you may be wondering how you are going to manage. We know that social isolation is not good for humans, so working out a strategy to make sure you can look after yourself during this time is really important.
To try and help ourselves and each other to stay as healthy and happy as possible while the restrictions are in place, here are some tactics that could help.
Try and stay socially active
How do you normally socialise? Most people like to get together in person for a chat and to share experiences. But when you can’t do that in person, you can still “gather” in other ways. Call your friends and family, and encourage them to call you. Think about using the video call facility in WhatsApp or Facebook messenger, or video services like Google Hangouts, Skype or Zoom, to stay in touch. Many video link services allow groups of people to chat together; it doesn’t just have to be one-to-one.
If you’re missing your regular hobby or activity group, there are lots of ways to access activities online. Many local teachers and group leaders who previously took lessons in person are now holding classes over the internet via video – and worldwide, there are thousands of experts running online courses and classes which you can sign up to through YouTube.
If you do find yourself feeling lonely and can’t talk to friends or family, most charities and community support groups are still running, albeit remotely. Find them online, or in the phone book, and ask about online or telephone support services.
Try and stay physically active
If you’re feeling well, and not showing symptoms, you can leave the house for exercise… as long as you don’t stray too far from home and can keep your distance from other people. Go somewhere local that you know well, where you can get some fresh air and stretch your legs. Your local park might be a good idea, if it’s open and not busy. But a simple walk around the block is just as good.
For people who can’t or would rather not leave the house, there are plenty of exercises you can do indoors. Start with some simple stretches or chair-based exercises. If you can do more, there are plenty of home workout routines available online, including some creative stair-based challenges!
If workout routines aren’t your thing, think about how your regular hobbies or activities could be beneficial to your physical health. Gardening, cleaning and DIY will all benefit your body in the longer term.
The great thing about physical exercise is that it’s good for your mental health too. Mental and physical health are strongly linked, and research shows that exercising helps your brain to release endorphins: the “feel good chemicals”. When you’re isolated at home, it’s important to do as much as you can to stay mentally healthy. Even if you don’t feel like it at first, making the effort to undertake some form of physical activity – even if it’s just for ten minutes a day – will help you to keep your spirits up.
Change up your habits
Everyone’s routines are naturally having to change at the moment and some people are finding they have more spare time than usual. So why not think about how the change in routine could help you to reduce your bad habits – and even introduce some positive ones? Anything that could benefit your mental and physical health at this stressful time is a good thing.
As well as the simple physical exercise routines mentioned above, you could try learning some basic meditation techniques. Apps such as Headspace offer an easy way to calm down, concentrate on your breathing and get into the habit of taking time out.
Or perhaps you are a regular pub-goer. Could the next few months help you to cut down on your drinking?
And of course, now would be a really good time to think about stopping smoking. If you smoke, you’re more susceptible to viruses and your body finds it harder to fight off infection. It can also worsen or prolong the effects of respiratory conditions. Why not give your immune system a boost by cutting down? Local stop smoking services are still running and you can get medication to help you quit if you need to.
Many are finding social media very helpful at the moment but it’s worth taking a minute to think about how you’re using it. Are you constantly refreshing the news and worrying about what other people are doing? It could be better for your mental health to switch off more often. Instead, see if you can spend more time actually speaking to friends and family, talking through how you feel.
Think about the positives
When life becomes unpredictable, it’s worth taking the time to seek out positive news and maintain some balance. It might be hard to believe, but there are some good news stories coming out of the current situation.
Locally, more and more people are getting to know their neighbours and forming community support groups. People are helping those nearby with shopping and other errands, friendly phone calls, home education tips and online activity groups.
On the internet, choirs, music groups and craft circles are getting together via video link to go national, helping people to make new friends and share happiness through the hobbies they love.
In the wider world, companies are stepping up, with distilleries creating hand sanitiser and vacuum cleaner manufacturers designing ventilators. And across the globe, travel restrictions have already caused some positive and surprising changes to the environment. Satellite images are showing significantly less air pollution over China, thanks to the reduction of air and road traffic, and the air quality is improving in a number of countries. In Venice, the famous canals are clear because boat traffic is not churning up the waters, and wildlife is being allowed to flourish again.
Finally: it may not feel like it, but it’s important to remember that you are doing a good thing too. By staying at home, you’re reducing the risk and helping everyone.