Coping With Self-Isolation
PTSD Resolution’s guide to getting needs met whilst trapped in self-isolation
Getting dressed and out of bed is good for morale
Sounds pretty obvious, but resist the urge to take duvet days or have a lie in or stay up later than normal. Setting the alarm for your usual time and sticking with your morning routine is a positive thing you can do to control how you start your day. Shower, shave, eating a healthy and breakfast and making your bed are all good drills. Wearing a suit is maybe taking it a bit far, so dress down but no pyjamas. Think too about taking just a short walk or a run to re-energise the senses.
If you're working from home, Stick to Your Routine
Decide how you're going to structure your day listing the goals you will achieve. If you're working from home, then you'll have a diary and things that need to be done. If you're not working then still have a goal list, including things you like doing – preparing food (maybe take time to learn how to cook new things via YouTube), time to read, time to call friends and family, time to exercise, DIY etc. Taking control of your actions in your own home will help you stay balanced especially if you have different activities for relatively set times. Ideally there will be a mix of chores i.e. stuff you need to do (pay bills for example) and things you just like to do. Doing things proactively is actually an evidence-based treatment for depression called "behavioural activation" that can help prevent depression.
Plan Your Week
So, having sorted the day, think about the future and the week ahead so decide what those goals will be. It's important to try and separate the weekends by making them different, for example taking on a new project – clearing out the shed, gardening, making an extra special meal perhaps. The combination of having a to-do list and variety, helps keep us settled but stimulated – both important for our emotional well-being.
Go Outdoors – get moving
If you're not self-isolating then get outside, taking a daily walk or run, because exercise, sunlight and being around trees and nature all help boost our mood. If you are stuck indoors, try one of the many workouts that you can follow on the internet and if you're lucky enough to have a garden then use it.
Exercise has a hugely positive effect on our mood and is a prescribed treatment for mild to moderate depression. Make it a 'must-do' on your daily schedule.
It's easy to let one day merge into the next and whilst we all love Netflix, try and pick some new skills and things to learn. Plan to come out of this situation with a new skill or hobby. Charity shops have shelves of books and board games at reasonable prices and eBay can deliver things to your home, or maybe ask a friend to teach you a new skill.
Beware of Too Much Social Media or Fake News
Try and limit your social media – it can be a great thing and helps us feel more connected but try not to fixate on every piece of news and be wary of fake news. Instead, use social media to meaningfully connect with people. Plan weekly (or even daily) group video chats with friends, family, neighbours or colleagues. Social connection is one of the most important drivers of well-being and if you're self- isolating and/or live alone think about having a buddy-up system where you each look out for one another.
Be a Helper
Our elderly people are very vulnerable and are facing months in isolation, so think, if you are fit and well, how you might help them. There are lots of local ad hoc groups being setup and there's bound to be one where you live. Helping others is a known mood-booster. Be aware of who in your friendship and neighbour circle might need your help and check on them by phone or email, maybe offering to get them shopping or tidy their garden for them.
Spread Out at home
If you're couple-isolating or family-isolating, be aware that people quarantined together run the risk of crowding each other out and creating irritation and drama. Normally we're together some of the time, but separated at other times. So, try and replicate this at home by intentionally planning "together time" (meals, watching films) and "separate time" in separate rooms, if possible (working, reading, learning). Even if you're confined to one room, plan agreed times when you're not talking to each other all the time, use companionable silence sometimes to give each other a break.
Shift Your Mental Space
Take control of any frustration you might be feeling about what's going on right now and use your mind to focus on how things are changing. Perhaps keep a diary (written, drawings, or video) of your experience of self-isolation; what you did and how you felt day-by-day. Keeping a diary will give you a little distance, which can also reduce distress, as well as keep you open to the positive or simply interesting things that may happen during this very unusual experience.
If you're feeling overwhelmed or suicidal
Remember that all crises pass and this crisis too will pass, it might take longer than we would all like, but it will end. If you are struggling, some of our therapists can offer telephone counselling and are working through this time within the current safety guidance, so call us if you need us and we will try to help; and remember to check the rest of our website, as there's some useful stuff on it.
If you are feeling totally overwhelmed and urgently need to talk then there's the Samaritans on 116 123.
We are all in this together – the Forces FamilyFinally, let's remember whether we're veterans, reservists or family members, we are part of the wider Forces Family and we are all in this together.
Look after each other and look after yourself. We are here now and we will also be ready to help at the other side, when this crisis passes.