2020: hell of a year it’s been so far. From Brexit and bushfires to storms and flooding – and now this. A global pandemic that has fundamentally changed our way of life for the foreseeable future. COVID-19, Coronavirus, fun-killer, party-pooper, all round insufferable noob.
So here we all are, faced with the prospect of minimal social interaction and a mostly house-bound life for at least the next 12 weeks. It’s pretty daunting. And the uncertainty of when it will end is both frustrating and frightening.
There’s no doubt that this will be a testing time for the world’s mental health. With so much at stake – from the health of friends and family to work and financial prospects – it’s a perfect storm of stress and anxiety.
It can be hard to see the positives in this situation. But in this post, I’m going to try my utmost. I want to try and spread a little positivity and joy from my sofa.
So while I’m here waiting for this real-life Black Mirror episode to end, let’s delve into how we can turn this into a positive experience. It’s never going to be all sunshine and roses, but all is not lost. Here are 10 ways to deal with Corona-induced anxiety and self-isolation stress. Followed by some ways to get help if my attempt isn’t quite enough, as well as how you can help if you’re feeling up to it.
Here. We. Go.
10 ways to use social distancing and self-isolation positively
We are all suddenly going to find ourselves with more time on our hands. And that’s something we famously complain about – lack of time. Sure, we may not be able to use that time in the way we’re used to. But it opens up opportunities to use that time differently:
1) Time for self care
Stock up on bubble bath, scented candles and face masks. It’s time to turn self isolation into an at-home spa retreat. Self care is one of those things we all want to do more of. But spare time for yourself is a luxury that not many of us allow ourselves to enjoy. Not anymore my friend. Excuses are done, it’s time to be the pamper queen you always wanted.
Light those candles, put on some bougie music, run a hot bath, don your favourite face mask, and… relax. The pressure is off. You’ve got nowhere to be, so enjoy taking your time.
Face masks and pampering not your thing? Whatever works for you. Read all those books you keep saying you’re going to read. Start writing a journal. Do those little things which make you happy that you never normally have time for.
2) Health & wellbeing
Now is also a great time to focus on your health and wellbeing. It’s another aspect of our lives that often gets deprioritised in favour of work, partying and general lack of time or energy. Dust off those cookbooks and discover some healthy recipes. Find a new love of cooking and creating.
It’s probably best to avoid the gym for now, given that they are a hotbed of germs at the best of times. Instead, there are so many options for home workouts. YouTube, Instagram, apps. Try a new type of workout, or adapt your usual workout for your living room. Get into yoga, improve your flexibility, master that fancy looking handstand you’ve been meaning to perfect.
Nourish your body with healthy food and provide the fuel that your immune system needs to stay strong. Now is the time to look after yourself and be as healthy as you can.
3) We’re all in this together
Last year I found myself in a very similar situation to this – I was house-bound for six weeks with glandular fever. Everyone was scared of getting it so no one wanted to see me. And I didn’t have the energy to leave my flat. The worst part was that I was the only one in this position. Everyone else was carrying on with their lives, and social media was there to taunt me about all the fun I was missing out on (I actually ended up deleting it for several weeks).
The difference this time is that we are all in the same shitty boat. And there is an awful lot of comfort in that. We have a worldwide support network of people going through the same situation. We can cry about it together, we can laugh about it together, and we can sing on our balconies together. We can all help each other through it, collectively.
4) Space to breathe
Most of us live pretty chaotic lives. That ‘always switched on’ mentality is a given of life nowadays. Now Coronavirus has waltzed in on this chaos and pressed the pause button. We’re being forced to slow down, to take a step back. It’s a chance for us to stop and just breathe.
And I mean that quite literally. The benefits of deep breathing are seriously impressive. We all know it’s good for reducing stress but it can also relieve pain, improve immunity, increase energy and improve digestion. And inhale…
5) Chance to get outdoors more
Although we’re being advised to stay home where possible, there’s nothing stopping you getting some fresh air. Unless you have symptoms of course – then the fresh air will need to wait for two weeks. Take extra care when leaving your home, but get out and enjoy a walk. It will do wonders for your mental wellbeing.
6) Work on your living space
Whether we like it or not, we’re going to be stuck in our homes over the coming months. What better time than to work on your living space and make it a better place to hang out. Declutter your wardrobe, clear out your kitchen cupboards – hell, get painting and wallpapering.
You’ll be spending a lot of time at home, so you may as well make it look fab.
7) Learn new skills
You know when you said you were going to learn a language and you gave up after two lessons on Duolingo? Or when you said you were going to learn how to use Photoshop? Or that time you said you’d start playing the guitar again? Or do that course online to help boost your business skill set?
Yeah, those. Put this time to good use: learn and grow.
8) A new sense of perspective and appreciation
It’s times like this when you appreciate what you had before everything went to shit. People often say that big life events, such as illness or death, give you a new perspective on life and the things that are important to you. That’s no bad thing.
Gain a new sense of appreciation for seeing friends, for going to work, for the general freedom we have outside of this Coronavirus induced scenario. When we eventually get back to normal, we are all going to be so fantastically happy – over simple things like going to the pub with friends. And that’s pretty sweet.
9) Connect with your community
When bad stuff happens, it has the advantage of bringing people together. All of us are affected by Coronavirus, but some more than others. Use the time to connect with your local community and help those in need if you can. The elderly and those more vulnerable to the virus will need as much support as possible.
There’s something so heart-warming about a community coming together, especially in the relatively disconnected world we now live in. Let’s re-establish those connections and find that genuine humanity again.
10) Use social media responsibly
Social media can be both a great help and a great hindrance in times like these. There’s an amount of reassurance to be found online, with everyone sharing their own experiences to make us all feel a little less alone. But it can also be overwhelming. Coronavirus this, coronavirus that – it’s literally everywhere.
So use social media responsibly. What that means will vary from person to person. Follow accounts which inspire you and make you feel happy. Limit time spent watching, reading and listening to the news each day. Stay informed but don’t overdo it.
If you need more support
- Give Us A Shout – if you’re feeling anxious and struggling to cope, give Shout a free call.
- Trussell Trust – providing food banks to people in need across the UK.
- Women’s Aid – for women who may be suffering domestic abuse while self-isolating at home.
- Age UK – for those over the age of 70 needing help and support.
- Mind – support for mental health problems.
- Gov.uk – for all official advice from the government, without the sensationalism of news and media.
Ways you can help
- Check on your elderly neighbours and offer help with grocery shopping.
- Leave care packages on the doorsteps of friends, family or neighbours who are suffering symptoms.
- Join a local support group on Facebook.
- Offer childcare services to NHS workers.
- Download the NextDoor app and offer help to your local community.
- Stay in touch with friends and family on a regular basis, to make sure everyone is okay.
- Support small, local businesses as much as you can – buy gift cards for restaurants and other leisure facilities which you can redeem when this is all over.
- Donate to charities, for example any of the charities listed above.
- DON’T stockpile food, medicine and toilet paper.
It may seem like our usual sources of happiness have been temporarily suspended. But happiness is still there, we just have to look for it in a different way.
I’ll leave you with these beautiful words by Kitty O’Meara:
And the people stayed home. And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still. And listened more deeply. Some meditated, some prayed, some danced. Some met their shadows. And the people began to think differently.
And the people healed. And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways, the earth began to heal.
And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed.