For days I didn’t know what to write, I have been meaning to sit down and create a meaningful post, something about the state of the world, the impact of Covid-19 and how it is simultaneously showcasing the best and worst of humanity. It took a phone call with a great friend to realise what I needed to say.
I am sure this has been said already by people much more eloquent than me but I am at a loss as to how else I can help and is one of the worst feelings. I desperately want to feel like I am doing something to help people through this but I am so limited.
I am scared for my unborn child, scared of contracting Covid-19 and passing it on to my partner so that he can’t work and take care of the patients in ICU that will desperately need help. So I can’t offer to shop for people unless I am going myself, which won’t be soon as we have food and other essentials for at least a week, probably more if I stop eating 3x the recommended amount of cereal in one go.
I am tired of being scared though, tired of the rumours, tired of the anxiety, tired of sitting and hoping to get infected before the hospitals get overwhelmed, tired of hoping that I don’t lose a loved one, and tired of wondering how I will cope if I do.
So I have decided to sit down and write about how self isolation can impact mental health, and what we can do to help with the social limits imposed right now.
Those of you struggling with eating disorder specific concerns, click the image below to view the AMAZING guidance by BEat.org. It is specific to the current situation and covers far more than I can.
The effect on mental health:
The first and most immediate impact I am seeing is the closure of “non-essential services” such as group therapy, counselling etc. While this is clearly non-essential for the key purpose of treating Covid-19 patients it certainly doesn’t feel that way for the patients with mental health conditions that are relying on this help. Many are worried, and rightly so, many are scared and many are concerned about how to cope with this service being suspended.
The other side is the enforced isolation and the impact this can have. I personally am starting to find it hard and it has only been a few weeks. I miss seeing friends and family, I miss knowing that my parents are just a plane ride away, and I miss being able to stop and chat to people while out with Nala. And I am a solid, stay at home and not see people introvert, I am happy with my own company, happy to read and watch films and play with the dog. I can only imagine how hard this must be for those who need interaction with others.
Introvert or not humans are social beings, studies have shown that while it is hard to pin point loneliness or social isolation as the cause, limited social interactions do have a direct impact on both our physical and mental health.
Social media too has an impact, those who simply scroll and so don’t interact are more likely to feel lonely and suffer from low self esteem. This article brilliantly explores the effect different platforms have, for those that don’t want to read a scientific article the main gist is this: Twitter makes people feel lonely, as does lurking without interacting.
My last point is the anxiety being felt by presumably everyone, certainly this is the trend I am seeing across Instagram and Facebook. I am anxious too, as are all my friends and most of my family members. We are in a time of huge social upheaval, dramatic change and great uncertainty for the future, not to mention job loses and the resulting financial worry this is having for a huge number of people too.
What Can You Do?
Firstly take a deep breath and reread the above image. It’s okay to feel anxious, scared, depressed, angry or whatever it is you are feeling right now. We all are, even the most balanced and sane individuals I know are struggling with something.
1. Sort out therapy
Or support group, whatever you are missing. Many are simply switching to calls or skype, but if like me you are hard of hearing ask if there is a typing/text based option instead. Can you organise a weekly call between members if it’s not already been done? Are there any online services that you can use in the meantime?
Be creative, be brave and above all keep looking, now is not the time to try and wing it alone.
2. Talk to people
Call, skype, text, email, sing from your balcony, call someone else, spend quality time with the people you live with. Try and use this as a time to reconnect with others, to reach out to those who live alone, the elderly or those in at risk situations like domestic abuse. While nothing is a substitute for face to face contact it is so important to keep yourself connected to people in the wider community.
3. Make use of social media
I know I said earlier about twitter increasing loneliness and the impact on self esteem, but this advice comes with rules!
INTERACT, no dumping posts and running! Like and comment on other peoples posts, try to start a conversation with someone you have been friends with for ages but never known what to say. Share things you like and let others know why. The point of this is to be SOCIAL, most of the others are at home and struggling like you are too, use this as a tool to find more like minded people, to support others and to spread love and positivity. Make your social media a space that makes you happy, this is a good time to review who or what you follow, if images of models on Instagram are impacting your self esteem then unfollow, support yourself too.
If you are finding it hard, limit the news pages or the worst sites (for me it’s Facebook). I have unashamedly blocked the worst offenders for spreading rumours and have unfollowed news sites, if I want updates I will google them. I have separate accounts on Instagram and Tumblr, one for the blog that is full of wholesome book things, and the other that is personal with some content I like but find hard, like dog rescue pages, so I am limiting time to checking notifications until I am ready again.
4. Be a positive force
Can you pick up shopping for others when you are out? Participate in an online pub quiz, or music event or cheering for the essential workers? Are there skills you have that could be helpful? Are you able and willing to volunteer? Even talking an elderly neighbours dog out for them could be a huge help. BE SENSIBLE, STAY SAFE AND REMEMBER SOCIAL DISTANCING. There are a load of ideas and things going viral on social media at the moment, if you think you can do something similar do!
5. Keep busy
Learn a new skill, read that massive pile of books you have been meaning to get around to but not had time, deep clean the house (mine needs it, yours probably does too). Click here for the ultimate cleaning checklist by tasteofhome.com. No excuses.
Have a look through a recipe book and see what you can make, or add the ingredients to your shopping list for the next time you need to go out. If you can’t cook, now is a great time to learn, start simple and see how you go!
Paint, draw, write, learn how to do make up, crochet, cross stitch, gardening. ANYTHING that gives you a sense of achievement and gets you away from panic trawling news articles.
6. Get fresh air and sunshine
Providing you are still able to, a daily walk can help a lot, avoid crowds, stay at least 2m from other people and don’t touch your face. This links to my above point of borrowing a dog, they need to go out even if its for a short walk to toilet and humans need sunshine and fresh air. I walk Nala at the weirdest times I can think of so there are as few people as possible, I stick to routes that are less popular and don’t stop to chat, it’s the best I can do when I have to take her out to toilet due to living in an apartment.
If you don’t feel happy with this then OPEN WINDOWS. Even for an hour or so or if doing a workout at home. Copy cats and go sit in a sunny patch, watch the sky for a while. If you have a garden, a) USE IT, I don’t care if it is a patch of muddy swamp right now, or a tiny bit of concrete b) be thankful, so many people don’t, c) don’t hang over the fence to talk to neighbours, be sensible.
This one is obvious. Tons of youtube workouts are now free, find one you like and commit to it at least once a week.