Humans and Health

Looking After Your Mental Health During Isolation 

On March 11 2020, the World Health Organisation declared COVID-19, aka coronavirus, a pandemic. In order to reduce the spread of the virus, the government has ordered social isolation, and here at the University of Nottingham, and many other universities across the country, learning has been moved online. Many clubs have cancelled all events, and people are being encouraged to stay at home, avoiding crowded places.

Routine is often something those who struggle with varying mental health conditions rely on in order to feel grounded, and whilst stuck inside, it may be difficult to not let this slide.”

Isolation can serve as a much needed break from our hectic society, however, as someone currently in recovery, I am petrified for the way this disruption of routine will negatively impact my mental health. Routine is often something those who struggle with varying mental health conditions rely on in order to feel grounded, and whilst stuck inside, it may be difficult to not let this slide. Here are some tips on how to protect your mental health during this time of uncertainty.

Wake up on time.

Whilst we no longer have to commute anywhere, and whilst we deserve this extra lie in, aim to wake up around the same time everyday in order to stabilise your internal clock, therefore improving overall sleep. Kick starting your day early will also give you time to continue a regular day of activity, and if you aren’t happy with your usual routine, now is the chance to try something different. With no clubs open, try and get in some early nights whilst you can. If you are still living with other people, encourage each other to stick to a similar routine. 

Find the right place to stay for you.

Many students have taken this opportunity to go home and enjoy a break from living independently, however you need to consider if this is the right option for you. Home can often be a source of stress for many, so if you feel more secure in staying at your university accommodation, or even with a close friend, don’t feel pressured to go home. Do what is right for you.

Make this place a haven.

Clean your room! You may have been neglecting this all year, but now you have no excuse not to. Cleaning is not only therapeutic in itself, but will leave you feeling much better about the space you will be spending the majority of your time in. Drag out your old comfort toys, burn some incense and redecorate. 

Maintain a balanced diet, and stay hydrated.

Yes, the shops are running low, but this does not necessarily mean you can’t eat healthily. Treat yourselves to a takeaway, try a new recipe and drink lots of water.

Take a break from social media.

Whilst it may make you feel more connected, social media can often be overwhelming, with large amounts of rumours and speculation spread far and wide. Instead, try to find reliable sources of information, or even just switch off your phone for a few hours to focus on yourself.

“Reach out to your friends, download multiplayer games on your phone – Mario Kart has just updated to allow long distance multiplayer games – and invent new ways to interact”

Stay in touch.

Now more than ever we need to reach out to our friends and family. Ring up your old housemates and organise online Netflix dates for example. Proximity is not needed for social interaction anymore, and a simple call can go a long way in making someone feel connected and loved. Reach out to your friends, download multiplayer games on your phone – Mario Kart has just updated to allow long distance multiplayer games – and invent new ways to interact.

Get some fresh air.

Open your blinds and crack open your window, and if you aren’t self isolating due to symptoms, make use of that one allocated bit of exercise a day and go take a walk, or simply just stand in your garden or on your doorstep for a few minutes. Bring the outdoors in, get some new plants and focus your energy on looking after them. And if you get really desperate, listen to recordings of the ocean!

Plan your work.

Whilst it varies from degree to degree, you’ll likely still have uni work to do! Clear the clutter from your desk, and try to stick to your usual university timetable in order to not let things snowball. And if you are struggling, don’t be afraid to reach out to your lecturers, they are there to help you through this.

Relax. 

Whether you write, draw, sing or meditate, find your way to relax and take a minute.

Stimulate your mind and browse the abundance of Impact articles, or even have a go at writing one yourself!”

Exercise.

The gyms may be closed, but there are thousands of workouts you can do in the comfort of your own bedroom, and in your desk chair! Get that summer body you’ve always dreamed of and wow everyone when we eventually get to party again. Make use of all those stockpiled cans of food as weights, or even just run up and down your stairs.

Finally… Use this as an opportunity to find a new hobby.

Do something simple, learn to juggle or pick up that paintbrush you haven’t touched since GCSE art. Stimulate your mind and browse the abundance of Impact articles, or even have a go at writing one yourself! 

If you are worried about your mental health during this time, I encourage you to find support. The University of Nottingham’s Mental Health Advisory Service no longer requires referrals and can be contacted on 01157584652. Call Samaritans for free at any time on 116 123, and know that there is always someone you can talk to.? 

Abi Kara-Fernandes 

Featured image courtesy of R. Miller via Flickr. Image license found here.

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