Many of us are on lockdown, quarantine, isolation, social distancing or some variant of basically keeping yourself well away from every other human and rarely leaving the house. This is a pretty important step in the human race coming together to try help recover, slow the spread, flatten the curve and just generally improve this awful situation. We can all agree it's really important to take seriously, however, staying at home all day everyday can not only become repetitive but can ultimately be damaging to our health without consideration. I'm in my fourth week of self-isolation (now government enforced lockdown) and I've compiled a list of things I've learnt that have really helped keep my physical and mental health alive and reasonably well.
Staying Socially Connected
I cannot emphasise this enough, especially as an extravert, I am feeling LONELY. It’s normal, I mean I’ve literally spent a week only talking to my husband, my parents and my in-laws and for me, it’s not enough. It actually took the whole first week for to realise that it’s one of the main reasons I started feeling really down, I missed social connections. Introvert, extravert or ambivert, it doesn’t matter, you will feel this because isolation is not naturally human and it makes us sad to be alone. It makes me sad. So I’ve been checking in more with my mates, seeing how they’re doing and having a quick phone call in the evenings after work. If your video calls are feeling a little awkward try organising an activity to do, remember, you'd normally catch up with your friends over a meal or a bottle of wine or a pub quiz or a park walk... try bring these activities to your video calls and suggest a wine tasting or a quiz night.
Outside Time (if possible)
My day-to-day life would normally include walking from my flat to the tube, or taking a walk at lunch, walking to a meeting or taking a long weekend stroll, and I really took that for granted. I never quite realised what a big impact it had on my health.
In the UK we're allowed to leave the home once a day for exercise (e.g. a walk, run or bike ride). This has been a really difficult increase in measures for me personally but making sure I make the most of this one outting has been really important. I've been heading to the park at some point between 6am and 8am most mornings to try start the day with a bit of sunshine and fresh air but also to reduce the number of people at the park in peak hour which seems to be lunchtime (I went to the park once around midday and it was a struggle to keep the 2 metre distance rule).
What’s been important is taking time while outside to be present, to look at the trees and the leaves, how they’re changing. To breathe in deeply and be appreciative of the world around me. Noticing nature seems to give this confusing situation a bit of calm and perspective.
Now if all of this isn’t possible for you and you’re unable to go outside for walks, make sure you take time out of your day to sit by a window, preferably open, and take in a bit of fresh air. After you’ve done this, see the later discussion about exercise in part 2.
Food has a big impact on how we feel and this is something I had to figure out myself, no food blog or Instagram dietitian could help me with (not that I condone either because I really don’t). I made a list of what meals made me feel energised, satisfied and happy. I tried to focus on meals that were a good inbetween of healthy and enjoyable (no, I’m sorry, I won’t be having kale salads and celery juice every day, it’s not sustainable for me). I also focused on meals that satisfied the basics; a good number of my 5 a day, foods that would fill me up so I wouldn’t feel hungry and grumpy later. Listening to my body and understanding firstly how I wanted to feel and secondly which foods got me there was the most important step. This is a really good opportunity to reconnect with yourself and learn a bit more about what’s important to you.
One On One Time
With a bit of extra time on my hands (no more commuting for one), it was appropriate that I took this opportunity to work on the elements of my life that I felt needed help. This requires some key time to reflect, plan, meditate, ruminate, whatever works. For me I’ve spent more time journalling, just jotting down my thoughts on good old pen and paper. It’s made me consider what actually makes me happy and what areas of my life I should focus on to work towards that. Having this one-on-one time with myself has meant that I’ve gotten to know me and where I want to go a little better over the past week and it’s been a real comfort.
After talking to friends and family all in the same sort of situation, these are some of the things that we're all finding to help get us through this really unatural situation, so hopefully they can inspire you too. Our collective list was actually too long to fit into one post so part two will be coming soon but until then, remember, we're all in this together (and stay home)!