The Covid-19 (or novel coronavirus) pandemic is having immeasurable effects on the world at large and on us all as individuals. Many of us have chosen or been forced into isolation of varying degrees and this, at the time of writing, is having many effects on our mental health.
Depending on your personality type, being alone can be difficult. The common wisdom is that introverts cope better, but many people are finding that choosing to be alone and having to be alone are two completely different experiences. The feeling of effectively being under house arrest for an indeterminate length of time can challenge even the most devoted recluse in our culture.
So here are a few ways to cope with lockdown, this enforced me-time, and some ideas on how to make the most of it, perhaps even enjoy it…
Learning a form of meditation that really suits you can be an enormous boon during these difficult times. Anything that helps to relieve stress and anxiety will also improve health, both physical and mental. There are many types to choose from but the simplest techniques are often the best, such as setting a timer for ten minutes and simply resting your attention on your breath, gently bringing it back when it wanders. And it always wanders. Attention-wandering during meditation is not a sign of failure, it is an opportunity to patiently guide the mind, and thus build a new habit of taking gentle control of your thoughts, rather than letting it run wild.
2/ Take control
Anxiety can be a big problem for those plunged into isolation, especially those of us who are used to being surrounded by family, friends, and colleagues. Doing simple things each day that impose a sense of control can help with this anxiety. Plan meals, choose clothes and outfits (perhaps special items that you don’t often wear), exercise within the confines of your lockdown, and give yourself small achievable tasks on a to-do list.
3/ Narrow your focus
Our minds can spiral out of control during an emergency such as the one we currently face. We can find ourselves imagining how this will develop, what will happen to us, to our loved ones, in so many hypothetical futures, and all of that can become overwhelming. Try to limit your focus to the next twenty-four hours, or forty-eight hours at the most. Use a daily planner to give yourself a schedule, including meal times, exercise, reading, tasks, meditation, and other hobbies and interests. Plan smaller slots of time for looking at the news and social media as, although it is imperative to stay up to date, these have a tendency to increase worry.
4/ Find joy in the small things
A cup of tea and a biscuit. A phone call with an elderly relative or neighbour. A beautiful sky. The petals or leaves of a plant or tree, in your house, seen from your window or on a walk. Even weeds growing up through the cracks in the pavement in an urban setting can be the most beautiful sight. Look out for unusual, small reasons to see beauty and joy around you.
5/ Learn something new
Some of us have more time during lockdown or self-isolation and this can be a gift of an opportunity to learn new skills. There are more and more free courses on the Internet, using videos and text to learn almost anything you are interested in, be it cooking, meditation, learning music, physics or history. Perhaps you have a musical instrument at home that you never found time to learn. Now’s the time! Learning new skills and facts will distract you and relax you, giving you some respite from the problems in the wider world.
No one is saying that these are easy times. Family and health concerns and financial worries loom for most people, but a few small techniques and ideas can help you cope better from day to day. Stay safe and stay strong!
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