I can’t avoid it any longer. Coronavirus has impacted my travel plans one way or another for 3 trips in the last month, so I have finally accepted that I will probably have to be at home for the foreseeable future. As a lot of us will be spending time indoors, it’s important to look after our physical and mental health while we are here. So, these are some of my favourite tips I’ve collected over the years to help me take care of myself.
Please be aware that I am not a healthcare professional, these are just a few things which help me. These tips are designed to help you if you have to self-isolate with mild or no symptoms, or are spending a lot of time at home. If you have any Coronavirus symptoms then seek medical advice from The World Health Organisation or your local health service online or over the phone before you do anything else.
In the UK, currently, we do not have our movements restricted, but we do need to self-isolate if we have any symptoms of the Coronavirus. I am staying with my parents at the moment and they are both in the high-risk category so although we are free to move around, we are reducing our contact with other people so I will be following these tips in the coming days and weeks!
Easier said than done, of course, but in situations like these there is very little we can control except our own behaviour. You can’t control what is happening, but you can control how you react to it. Worrying simply makes you feel worse and does nothing to change what is happening. Panic buying only puts pressure on the supply chain and means people who really need the products you are stockpiling don’t have access to them. Try to keep a positive attitude and remember that we are all in this together. You are not alone. This too shall pass; we all need to help each other get through it. And we will.
Wash Your Hands
We all know this one already, but especially in times of Coronavirus, we all need to be washing our hands regularly with soap and water. The UK government recommends washing your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds, which is the equivalent of singing happy birthday twice. If you are bored of wishing yourself happy birthday all day, try a different song as recommended by The Guardian. My personal favourite is Jolene by Dolly Parton, but I suspect I’ll get sick of that soon too! If don’t have access to soap and water, antibacterial hand sanitizer will do until you get to a sink. Avoid touching your face and if you cough or sneeze do it into a tissue and throw it away, before washing your hands again.
Step Away from Social Media and the News
This week I have been constantly checking the news and social media for information which might affect my travel plans. Seeing every update about the virus spread has sent my anxiety levels through the roof. As soon as I put my phone away, I feel a weight lift and am much calmer when it is not in my face. It is still important to be aware of current recommendations by your government but try to limit yourself to checking once or twice a day, and only on official outlets. Don’t believe everything you read or see on social media, and follow the advice given by the World Health Organisation and your own government.
Keep in (Virtual) Contact with People
Even if we have to self-isolate, keeping in touch with people by phone or message is vital. Loneliness can kill, especially in a stressful situation like this. Call up your friends, family and neighbours for a chat and see how they are doing. Skype calls are great for this as you can still ‘see’ your loved ones even if you aren’t physically together. Think about vulnerable people who might be having a particularly tough time; a phone call can make a huge difference to their and your wellbeing. If you are struggling with your mental health and need someone to talk to, the Samaritans are always available to talk on 116 123 in the UK or 1 (800) 273-TALK in the USA.
Take Deep Breaths
Whenever I feel myself panicking or getting stressed about Coronavirus or anything else, I sit down and breathe deeply in and out for as long as I need, and that helps me to relax. Concentrating on breathing helps your mind to focus on you instead of your surroundings, and deep breaths get more oxygen to your brain and in your blood. Sit, lie or even stand comfortably and breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Breathe in gently and regularly and let the air flow out again. You may like to count as you breathe in for up to 5 seconds, and the same as you breathe out. I usually get to about 4 before exhaling. Doing that for a few minutes whenever you feel anxious is a useful way to relax. Fresh air is also important for your health, so if you can’t go outside, open up a window and let in some fresh air. Meditation and yoga can also help to calm you down if you are feeling stressed.
Keeping active if you are confined to your home or trying not to go out can be quite challenging. I have an exercise DVD which I try to do in the morning before getting dressed. Getting my body moving really helps my energy levels and helps my mood too, it really is the best way to start the day! Walk up and down the stairs if you live in a house or do some stretches or yoga if you don’t feel like running around inside. There are lots of exercise routines you can access on Youtube if you don’t have your own DVD. I also saw someone who was self-isolating with her family recommended getting a mini trampoline so she and the kids could jump on that and let off some steam! If you can, take a walk outside – ideally to a nearby park or even in your own back garden. Fresh air and getting in contact with nature is a welcome break from being inside.
Although people are panic buying everything from loo roll to rice, please remember that this causes huge problems for people not able to buy the essentials they need. Even in Italy on full lockdown, shops are still open for buying groceries and you can still order food to be delivered to your door if you can’t get out yourself. Making sure you have the vitamins and nutrients your body needs will help keep you strong and can help fight off infection too. Depending on what is available in your area, eat plenty of fruit and vegetables and try to keep a healthy, balanced diet.
I must admit sleeping well is more of a challenge when I am worried, but sleep is your body’s best way to repair itself. Try to keep a routine of going to bed at a similar time each night so your body knows when to start slowing down. Avoid using your phone screens or reading the news late at night as that always gets my brain thinking too much! Eating or drinking before you go to bed also affects your sleep patterns, as does the temperature and light in your bedroom. This article has more tips to sleep better.
Get Up & Get Dressed
If you have to be at home all day, every day, it is tempting to stay in your pyjamas. If you are not feeling unwell, getting washed and dressed is important to give your day a structure. Washing or showering every day will also help to kill germs and keep your body clean. Putting on clean, fresh clothes even when I’m working from home makes me feel more “normal”. After getting dressed, make the bed too so it is ready for when you go to bed at night. Simple things like this can trick your mind into feeling prepared for the day ahead, even if you are not going anywhere.
There are lots of things you can do in the house to keep your mind occupied. From reorganising your DVD collection to taking up a new hobby, your brain and wellbeing will thank you for doing something. That’s not to say that you don’t deserve a day vegging out with Netflix, but try to mix it up a bit so you don’t get bored. When China first went into isolation, there were lots of videos of how people were keeping themselves entertained! Reading books is another great way to keep busy, and if you can’t get to the library then e-books, audiobooks or podcasts are very useful. If you have a garden or outdoor space then gardening is a great way to keep busy while also spending time outdoors and getting some exercise at the same time.
Learn a New Skill
What better to do with all this time indoors than learn something new. I started an online pet-sitting course which I never got around to finishing, and now I have the time to do that. The internet is full of instructional videos to teach you everything you might want to learn, from self-defence techniques, painting or a new language. You can also find online communities all around the world to help with your new skill – a language exchange for example with someone on the other side of the world is a wonderful way to learn and meet people from different cultures.
Be Kind to Yourself
We all need to be kind to ourselves, and others. In difficult times, self-care often gets pushed to the wayside as we concentrate on other people – but your health and well-being will suffer if you don’t take care of yourself. Make sure you have some relaxation time just for you. If you have a family who is also at home, tell them all that you are having some time to yourself – even if it is just 15 minutes. Take a long bath, paint your nails or sit and read a good book. Watch your favourite TV show or listen to your favourite album and don’t let anyone interrupt your personal time.
Make a Special Effort
This applies even if you are self-isolating on your own, or with your partner, friends or family. The monotony of staying in the house and doing the same thing over and over can drive you crazy, so make an effort to have a special “date” night at least once a week. Get dressed up in your favourite outfit, open a bottle of wine and have a ‘date’. If you are with other people, talk about things you wouldn’t normally discuss – you could chat about childhood memories, best holiday destinations or discuss books and films – anything to make life different to the norm and mix things up a bit! If you are alone, then treat yourself with the same special care that you would do a friend or loved one. Just doing something different from your usual routine is stimulating for your body and mind.
I find these well-being tips help me to keep perspective and keep my mind from worrying about things I can’t control. Do you have any more tips to get through self-isolation and Coronavirus while stuck at home? I’d love to hear your ideas, please let me know in the comments below.
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