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Interview with a psychologist

How to survive self-isolation and not go crazy – tips from a psychologist

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If you are responsible and organized – you surely are respecting the measures of self-isolation. It is hard: with springtime and the warm weather, careless people start flocking the streets. But by staying at home, you are doing the right thing – you protect yourself, your relatives, and even those careless strangers. However, even the most responsible people face the question of how to survive self-isolation without major losses and possibly, with some benefits. Luckily, there are ways to survive self-isolation and not to lose your mind.

Contents:

What to do during quarantine when you’re bored: how to make most out of your time

Boredom is, probably, the problem that has the easiest solution, during the quarantine. The time spent at home can be interesting and beneficial at the same time. Choose a task that you would find really absorbing, and you will not be bored.

Here is a list of such tasks:

  • complete an online course that you’ve been planning to attend for a long time, but did not have the time – right now, a lot of courses have special promotions and offer discounts;
  • do what pleases you for free: dance, sing, draw, sew, knit, do pottery, etc;
  • clean up — clean and organized surroundings help to maintain a peaceful state of mind and will make the manifestations of stress milder;
  • adopt the skills that will be useful to you after self-isolation: learn cooking new dishes, strengthen the knowledge in your field, gain practical knowledge (sewing, knitting, small renovation work…);
  • go on online visits of world-renowned museums, art galleries and theatres: the Louvre, the Vienna State Opera, the Hermitage, the Uffizi, and others;

Small piece of advice: if useful tasks irritate and bore you – opt for the ones deemed ‘useless’. Some people can only combat boredom by watching action movies or series and listening to their favorite music. Don’t blame yourself for procrastinating – do what would help you to get through being confined at home.

How not to go crazy during self-isolation: a word on physical and emotional health

Dealing with anxiety during self-isolation may prove to be hard. The person focuses on negative news, is constantly worried for their children and their relatives, suffers from sleep disorders, and other manifestations of anxiety.

Self-care and care for others will help you to stay sane during self-isolation: in a confined space, it is highly important to take care of your physical and psychological state.

Physical well-being

During self-isolation, time can be spent in such a way that your physical well-being will not only not suffer, but also may even become better. Here is what can be done in order to preserve your physical well-being whilst constantly being at home:

Organize your timetable

The body will certainly demonstrate a positive reaction to a well-organized timetable: waking up in the morning, having meals, and going to bed at the same time. Good quality sleep of at least 7 hours is the best prerequisite to calmness and composure.

Sort out your eating habits

Listen to your inner self and choose the right nutrition for your body. Self-isolation is not the best time to experiment with your diet: it is not recommended to go on on strict diets or, on the contrary, to start eating excessively to reduce anxiety.

Learning to drink enough water

Because of the absence of time, working people often don’t drink enough water. During the time at home, it is fully possible to adapt to this good habit – learning to drink enough water by setting a reminder, for instance, an alarm on your phone.

According to the recommendations of the WHO, a healthy person needs to drink 30ml of water for every 1kg of their body weight. Therefore, a person whose body weight is of 70 kgs, needs to drink 2.1 liters of water per day. During active physical activity, it is advisable to drink more than the set norm.

Add physical exercise into your daily regime

It is possible to practice the type of physical activity to which the body will react best – they can be intense or mild. If you are not at all into sports – it may be interesting to try meditation.

In the table below, you will find online classes in various forms of physical activity that could be performed at home:

  1. Fitness for beginners, a mild level of intensity, no special equipment required – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UItWltVZZmE 
  2.  An intense cardio session that will burn up to 300 kcal in 30 minutes, no special equipment required – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lQkD1b5HOPY
  3. Yoga for absolute beginners, an easy 20-minute sequence, no special equipment required – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v7AYKMP6rOE
  4. Core training with a detailed explanation of the technique of the logic behind the exercise, no special equipment required – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8LJ3Q3Fsrzs
  5. Meditation class for beginners to learn the foundations of meditation, no special equipment required – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KQOAVZew5l8

Breathe some fresh air

If it is impossible to go outside, you can still get some fresh air by ventilating your room or spending time on the balcony.

Psychological well-being and emotional state

A tense atmosphere can take a toll on even the most stable psyche. You can cope with negative emotions by following some rules: maintain some form of information hygiene, worry less about the elderly relatives, pay more attention to your loved ones, relieve stress in a safe and efficient way.

Information ecology

It will not be possible to completely avoid information about the latest events – coronavirus is addressed omnipresently: on TV, on the Internet, on the street, in stores. But it is in the power of any person to reduce the information flow for themselves: to obtain information only from verified sources no more than once a day, not to get involved in discussions about the pandemic, not to spread around unverified data.

Psychologists and psychotherapists claim that at this moment, people have a particularly strong influence on each other, «infecting» their friends and acquaintances with anxiety through endless discussions of the coronavirus and the current economic climate. If you feel that your anxiety about this type of information is increasing, it is probably time to fully stop reading articles or watching the news.

If you would like to keep track of the latest news, consult only reliable sources, such as:

  • BBC;
  • The Times;
  • The Telegraph;
  • Sky News;
  • CNN.

It may also be useful to consult official statements on the following websites:

Replace the never-ending scrolling through the news feed with entertaining content: films, series, games, and audiobooks.

Interacting with your family and your loved ones

Figures in certain countries suggest that people find it hard to stay home with their families 24/7, therefore this leads to a surge in the rate of divorce. You can avoid those unfavorable events by doing the following:

  • devote some time for you and your family members when you will be on your own, as well as for your child if they are old enough – a person needs to sometimes rest even from their loved ones;
  • finding areas of common interests: board games, watching movies collectively, online visits to museums and concerts;
  • split the household chores between members of your household in equal proportions – it is highly possible that during self-isolation there may be more of those chores.

Worrying less about the elderly members of the family

The elderly are under higher risk and worrying for your parents and grandparents is absolutely understandable. Reducing your worries for your elderly relatives can be done through constant interaction with them over the phone. If you have an opportunity, support your loved ones with an in-person visit, but if this proves to be impossible, more frequent calls will cut the deal, too.

Improving the mood

How to quickly uplift your mood during self-isolation:

  • Have a video call with your friends or relatives whom you do not see on a regular basis. Social interaction with a ‘new’ person will reduce the manifestations of irritability towards people that you interact with on a constant basis.
  • Read a real paperback book. According to the results of the research of Professor David Louis, reading reduces stress better than video games, drinking tea, and even walks.
  • Listen to music that ignites positive emotions.
  • Observe nature – from the window or on photos. Research carried out in Sweden, has proven that landscapes have the same positive effect on the mood as outdoor walks.
  • Keep a regular diary that would depict the events and your mood. A study carried out at Harvard University demonstrated that keeping a diary helps to calm down. Moreover, it would be interesting to read it again later on…

Nervous tension during self-isolation is almost inevitable. Stress can be beneficial to the body, but only in the short-term. During self-isolation, worries can enter into a long-term phase, and the nervous system may start displaying issues in the form of insomnia and irritability, which are frequent companions of prolonged nervous tension.

There are various natural methods to help to cope with stress:

  • breathing exercises;
  • relaxing baths;
  • natural remedies for relaxation;
  • adding certain foods into the diet;
  • self-massage.

Breathing exercises — they are particularly beneficial as they allow to calm oneself down in minutes and contribute to a quick drop in the level of adrenaline in the blood. Here are three breathing exercise techniques that aid to combat stress:

  • Take deep breaths in, maintaining the normal breathing pace. Focus on correct breathing: without it being abrupt and without swift exhalations.
  • Deeply inhale through your nose three times followed by three inhalations through the mouth. Repeat five times.
  • Inhale sharply, tightly clenching your hands in fists. When exhaling, straighten, and relax your fingers. Repeat 10 times. This technique is particularly effective in situations where relaxation is needed urgently.

Here are some examples of deep breathing exercises suitable for all levels, including beginners:

Relaxing baths help to relieve tension and as a bonus, to improve the appearance of your skin. Here is how to take a bath so that it contributes to maximum relaxation:

  • choose an appropriate time — so that nothing and no one bothers you;
  • it is better not to eat for 2 hours prior to the bath;
  • fill your bath in with warm water of 37 to 38°C.
  • the treatment may be accompanied by pleasant scents and peaceful music;
  • soothing essential oils may be added into the water. We recommend valerian extract, and essential oils of coniferous trees, peppermint, and tea tree.

The recommended duration of your bath is no more than 20 minutes.

Natural remedies for relaxation — herbs that are part of relaxing herbal blends that are sold in aromatherapy stores. Give preference to blends that contain lavender, valerian, St. John’s wort, Rhodiola, and peppermint.

Some of the foods are great helpers in combating stress. Here is what needs to be added to your meals at times when you feel strong emotional tension:

  • fruits that are high in vitamin C that promotes stress relief, such as oranges and papaya;
  • foods that contain magnesium which is beneficial for the nervous system: beans, green vegetables, potatoes;
  • chocolate and honey to uplift your mood;
  • warm milk with a teaspoon of honey that will help you to fall asleep better than store-bought sleeping pills;
  • linden blossom infusion that helps to get rid of irritability.

Light self-massage is a great way to improve your sleep. Here is the self-massage technique:

  • head massage that can be done with the use of a hairbrush for five minutes;
  • massaging the area between the eyebrows with the tips of the fingers;
  • finishing off with an energetic rubbing of the palms of the hands.

If your emotional state remains unstable and you cannot control it on your own – for example, you start having panic attacks, a constant feeling of anxiety, or anger outbursts for no particular reason – do not try to self-medicate, seek the help of a professional.

What effect does self-isolation have on the psyche?

Quarantine measures are highly important and inevitable, and this is obvious to everyone. However, remaining in self-isolation for a long time takes a toll on the psychological well-being of a person and affects them in a negative way.

Everyone would have their own traumatic factor. Some people find it hard to cope with the economic instability and the uncertainty related to their job. For others, it becomes unbearable to stay at home for a long time and not being able to go outside. Some people become restless worrying about their relatives that live in other cities or countries, for them to become ill and to be unable to get qualified medical help.

All of these factors trigger the mechanism of chronic stress and mental exhaustion. A narrowing of perception occurs. A person only reacts to what is associated with a stressful situation. Many start developing disorders related to anxiety, as well as panic attacks. Chronic diseases may enter into an acute state. The feeling of fear and anxiety begins to constantly haunt them. If you do not help yourself in time, this will result in a deterioration of the physical and mental state.

Dealing with stress

What matters the most for psychological well-being, is not the absence of anxiety and fear, but rather the ability to cope with those emotions, understand, and live through with the following techniques:

  • Put your worries into words. This way, it will be easier to understand what’s going on with you (for example: «I worry about my family getting infected. I am worried that I will have to change my place of work soon. I get angry that my husband does not support me»).
  • Remember that almost the whole world is in the same situation right now. Everyone is responding to the virus however they can. Staying at home in this situation is one of the most effective remedies.
  • Switch your perception in a positive way. Change the «oh, I am so tired from kids screaming», into «it is so good that my loved ones are here with me», and from «another long day at home», into «I will be able to do so many things today».
  • The cheapest remedy is to keep busy. Do not forget that.
  • If panic attacks or nervous breakdowns worry you, do not hesitate to seek help from a qualified psychiatrist or psychologist. A lot of them have switched to online consultations. They will help you to cope with your worries.

How not to destroy the relationships in your family during self-isolation?

Self-isolation tests out the strengths of family and parent-child relationships. If you already had conflicts and difficulties in mutual understanding emerging in your family, they can manifest themselves fully right now.

Even in the most unproblematic families, when people spend all of their time in a tight setting, the picking on small things and quarrels inevitably emerges.

In order for self-isolation not to cause the relationship in the family to reach a breaking point, follow these recommendations:

  • Consider self-isolation not as a time of compulsive co-existence, but as an opportunity to become closer to your relatives, to build a tighter bond with your partners and children, and to support your parents.
  • Talk more with your loved ones about their thoughts, worries, and feelings.
  • Build collective plans for the future. Create an action plan for the time after self-isolation, where would you want to go or what places would you like to visit.
  • Take care of your own health and of the health of your parents.
  • During conflicts and quarrels, do not let negative emotions reign over you. It is surely hard for everyone – for parents and their children. Therefore, it is unnecessary to take your anger out on your loved ones.
  • Every individual copes with stress in their own way: some find it easier to be on their own, some need affection and words of support. Respect the personal space of every member of your family.

Helping the child to go through the time of being at home for a long time

Children also experience stress during self-isolation. Their need to move around, to play, and to be physically active as well as to interact with their friends, is restricted during self-isolation. Students at school are occupied with distance learning, however, it may still be hard for them to constantly be in a confined setting.

In order to help your child to deal with difficulties, psychologists advise parents to do the following:

  • Try to maintain a calm and peaceful atmosphere at home.
  • Explain the situation to your child in an understandable manner.
  • Talk to your child about their feelings, worries, and thoughts. Share yours as well. Describe your experience of going through hard situations in life. Ignite the hope that everything will be ok in the end, in your child. Children that receive support and compassion from their parents, deal with stress much better.
  • Teach your child to control their emotions. Aggression can be relieved through physical exercise and physical activity, whereas anxiety can be relieved through a deep conversation with loved ones. If your child finds it hard to entrust you with their feelings, recommend them to start a diary in which they will be able to describe everything that worries them.
  • If your child is experiencing issues with distance learning, you should totally help them. You will have less time for negative thoughts and your child will feel your support and your interest in their life.
  • The more the child will be active at home, the better their body will be reacting to stress.
  • Collective lessons of parents and their children help with anxiety relief, foster positive emotions, and help to gain a better understanding of yourselves.
  • If your child is scared to get infected, tell them that respecting certain protective procedures would protect them against the virus. This includes washing hands, sticking to the daily regime, ventilating their room, exercising in the morning, etc.
  • Children need to interact not only with their parents but also with their peers. If possible, organize this interaction via the Internet.
  • The larger number of new positive emotions the child receives at home, the easier it will be for them to go through self-isolation. Arrange a theater play for them, enabling them to be the main character in it. Draw a painting together on a large poster. Organize a fashion show followed by a photoshoot. In short terms, aim to ignite positive emotions instead of anxiety or worries about the future.

How to go through self-isolation alone?

  • Do what pleases you and brings positive emotions.
  • Talk to your friends and relatives on the phone, over Skype and social media.
  • Use this time to gain more self-understanding and to better comprehend your wants and needs.
  • Don’t forget about maintaining some level of physical activity.
  • In the presence of strength and if it possible, consider working as a volunteer. It is easier for a person to cope with stress when they are keeping themselves busy in a situation of uncertainty. There are many people that need your help, so do not stay away from it.

Every crisis is hard. But we can get through it by helping each other, maintaining the self-isolation regime, and carrying on loving our families. A crisis, even this serious, will not last forever. And when it is all over, you will be able to get back to your normal life, live fully, and become even better than you were before self-isolation!

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