Let's re-brand the message...
I'm calling it Physical Isolation, rather than social isolation, because what we still need is social connection - just in different ways. The benefit of our internet world is that we can still connect with others without the risk of spreading infection. Yes, keep the recommended physical distance from others, but it's important to stay connected with yourself, and others - in different ways. Let's explore some ideas...
Stick to a routine
Go to sleep and wake up at a reasonable time, write a schedule that is varied and includes time for work as well as self-care.
Get dressed in neat and comfortable clothes each day. Have a shower, wash your face, brush your teeth. Put on some bright colours.
Stay hydrated and eat well. Stress and eating often don’t mix well and we find ourselves over-indulging, forgetting to eat, or avoiding food. Drink plenty of water, eat nutritious food, and challenge yourself to learn to cook something new.
Stay active and connected
Get out at least once a day for at least 30 minutes. If you are concerned about contact, try first thing in the morning, or later in the evening, or in quiet areas/streets. Open the windows and let some fresh air in.
Similarly, find time to move for 30 minutes each day. If you can’t get outside, there are many videos and apps that offer free workouts and movement classes. If all else fails, turn on the music and dance.
Reach out to others at least once a day. Try to do FaceTime, Skype, phone calls, texting. Connect with others to seek and provide support. Do this for your children as well. You can set up virtual movie nights on Netflix or do online workouts together.
Find a project (fix something, learn a language, take up a musical instrument, do a giant jigsaw), or re-engage with creative activity.
Practice radical self-acceptance. We are doing too many things in this moment, driven by fear and stress. This does not make a formula for excellence. Instead, give yourself what counsellors call “radical self-acceptance”: accepting everything about yourself, your current situation, and your life without question, blame, or pushback. Check out this 2 minute video:
Reduce your (information) exposure
There is no benefit to constant exposure to information about COVID19. More information will not reduce the risk to you or your loved ones, so limit social media and COVID conversation, especially around children. One can find tons of information on COVID-19 to consume, and it changes minute to minute. The information is often sensationalised, negatively skewed, and alarmist. Find a few trusted sources that you can check in with consistently, limit it to a few times a day, and set a time limit for yourself on how much you consume (consider 30 minutes max, 2 times daily). Keep news and alarming conversations out of earshot from children—they see and hear everything, and can become very frightened by what they hear.
Notice the good in the world, the helpers. There is a lot of scary, negative, and overwhelming information to take in about this pandemic. There are also plenty of stories of people sacrificing, donating, and supporting one another in wonderful ways. It is important to counterbalance the heavy information with the hopeful information.
Manage your worry
If you are struggling with worry and anxiety, try practicing mindfulness: https://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/docs/default-source/psychological-toolkit/7-mindfulnessineverydaylife-(with-gp-notes).pdf?sfvrsn=6),
and worry management techniques such as worry postponement: https://www.cci.health.wa.gov.au/~/media/CCI/Consumer%20Modules/What%20Me%20Worry/What%20Me%20Worry%20%2003%20%20Negative%20Beliefs%20About%20Worry%20Uncontrollability.pdf).
Reachout.com has a great app called ‘worry time’ that can help you to take control of your worry (https://au.reachout.com/tools-and-apps/reachout-worrytime).
We cannot think or worry our way out of this situation, particularly by focusing on the ‘what ifs.’ It can help to write down your worry, and decide if it is a current problem (the negative consequence has already happened or is definitely going to, in which case you can problem solve) or a ‘what-if’ (something that might happen in the future, so worrying leads to pointless rumination: if it hasn’t happened yet, you can’t fix it).
Make some time in each day to explore the things you are grateful for. You might consider things like family members, the delicacy of a leaf or flower, your health (in other words, focusing on what you have, rather than what you don’t). Whether big or small gratitudes, connecting with them can be a powerful way to re-frame your situation and soothe anxiety.
Taking care of family and children
If you have children, spend extra time playing with them. Children often can’t communicate clearly about how they are feeling, but will often make a bid for attention through play. Don’t be surprised to see themes of illness, doctor visits, and isolation play through. Play is cathartic for children – it is how they process their experience and problem solve.
Give everyone the benefit of the doubt, and practice patience. A lot of cooped up time can bring out the worst in everyone. Each person will have moments when they will not be at their best. It is important to move with grace through blow-ups, to not show up to every argument you are invited to, and to not hold grudges. Everyone is doing their best to get through this. So...
Some of this content was adapted by Fiona Shand from a social media post by health professional Eileen Feliciano
Vanessa Steele: counsellor, mum, partner, blogger... listening and learning every day.