The majority of people in social isolation, in confined places with limited opportunities for movement, might experience increased stress, uncertainty, and frustration. Some of us might struggle a bit more than others. People who isolate on their own might struggle more with loneliness and a lack of social interaction. Some of us with young children and big families might struggle with not having enough space to relax and feeling constantly torn between homeschooling and attempting to have a pleasant daily routine. It might be particularly challenging if we already have a diagnosis of a psychiatric condition and are at risk of heightened anxiety or depression, or are experiencing other symptoms and do not have the opportunity to access our regular appointments and treatment options. So what can we do to look after our mental health in a lockdown?

1. Support with reassurance

Check the news once or twice a day for a few minutes, trust that the whole world is uniting to develop a vaccine to fight the virus, and in the meantime, to give the scientists more time and not overload our hospital systems, we can stay at home and keep ourselves safe. Yes, it is boring and annoying, but it is temporary. You should not only support yourself to keep your spirits up, but maybe the next time you talk to a friend, instilling a bit of positivity and support with reassurance.

2. Empowerment

If you are on your own, you can help yourself to be a bit more resilient through empowerment and reminders that you are capable of learning to improve your coping ability and successfully changing your circumstances.

3. Correct your thinking mistakes

Thinking errors, also known as cognitive distortions or unhelpful thinking styles, refer to the mistakes we make when evaluating or trying to predict what might happen in the future by making assumptions, including referring to the perceptions of others. We might catastrophise; for example, imagine that it is the apocalypse and we will have to fight each other for a pack of pasta. Or we might underestimate our capacity to cope with changing circumstances. We might be jumping to conclusions or making other unhelpful assumptions or exaggerations that lead to exacerbated feelings of anxiety or a deepening of feelings of depression.

4. Use your sense of humour

Is there an opportunity to create a light and fun atmosphere? Have you seen people dressing up to take their garbage bins out? Some people are coming up with their own games, making funny videos, trying out stand-up comedy at home, and choosing to entertain themselves and others in a fun and light way. Just remember that sometimes when there is a little bit of tension and stress it is better to avoid using sarcasm; light and fun humour might be the best.

5. Improve your adaptive coping

Adaptive coping is your ability to adjust to changing circumstances using whatever is available to your best advantage to help you to achieve your goal. So every day and every week, come up with small and challenging but not overwhelming goals to help yourself to stay motivated to improve your belief in yourself and your ability to improve your circumstances no matter what.

Here is what you can do:

1. Set a goal and want to achieve it.
2. Believe you can achieve the goal, expecting success!
3. Commit to achieving the goal.
Be creative with your goals. Have some goals to improve your relationships, to nurture your creativity, and to simply learn how to nourish yourself better.

Here is an example:

1. Learn a new recipe (e.g., learn how to make a good chicken soup)
2. Tell yourself that you can do it, it will be nourishing for your body and you will learn how to make a new recipe!
3. Check the recipe online, write a shopping list, go to a shop tomorrow morning and start making it at lunch! Enjoy!

I am sure that looking after yourself by creating a nourishing meal is good for your mental health as well.

Here is another example:

1. Decide to improve your relationship with your better half.
2. Commit to a new routine or strategy of appreciation.
3. Every time you notice things that your partner does well and what you appreciate about them, let them know how nice it is to be with them in self-isolation, and remind them of the qualities you love about them. Give them an extra kiss and a cuddle.

P.S. If you live on your own, you can develop a culture of appreciation and support for yourself. Practice a body scan meditation, tune in to your emotional needs, practice intuitive eating, and nourish your body and soul.

Self- isolation is a challenging period for the majority of us. If you notice that you are not coping as well anymore, reach out to your GP and ask for a referral to see a psychologist. We are open and we offer telehealth, phone, and online (Zoom) sessions. Give us a call on 0403 866 997  or email to organise your appointment.