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10 tips to safeguard your mental health during the quarantine

By Amber Cowburn, founder at Working Well and Mental Health First Aid Instructor

As the coronavirus pandemic has unfolded, many around the world face measures of self-isolation, social distancing, quarantine or full ‘lockdown’. For many of us, this is the first time we’ve experienced such measures. The pandemic has also developed at an alarming rate, leaving us shocked, anxious or uncertain.

The near-universal guidance is to stay indoors, observe increased hygiene practices and only leave the house for vital tasks with only essential workers as exceptions. This is incredibly important to stop the spread of the coronavirus, but this suspension of normal life also presents a challenge for our mood, mental health and well-being.

The good news is there’s a lot you can do in your home environment to look after yourself.

Here are 10 tips to get you started — we hope you can feel well even during this time of isolation.

  1. A good morning routine — Whether you’re working from home or in full isolation and not working, a good start to your day is important. Try to wake up at a regular time and get washed and dressed, just like you used to. Consider using the time that you would normally be commuting to read a chapter of your book or listen to a quick guided meditation. Routine can feel reassuring in uncertain times, so try and stick to one every morning.

  2. Fresh air — Open your windows and get fresh air moving around your home. If you’ve got a balcony or garden, spend some time sitting outside. Fresh air and natural sunlight are important for your overall health, and ventilating your house is a good start. Try and spend a few minutes outdoors each day — guidelines permitting in your area — and take some deep breaths into your tummy, filling your lungs.

  3. Set up a work area at home. — Working from home might be a new experience for you, and without the structure of the office, it can be difficult to adapt. Whilst we don’t all have spare rooms to convert into home offices, try to mark the start of the workday by setting up your work essentials in a suitable spot. All you need is a table or desk, ideally with some natural light. Clear away all work duties at the end of the day, or enjoy your downtime in a different part of your home to create that separation. 

  4. Structure your days. — It’s important to accept this period of transition as one where you might feel unsettled. Take charge of a schedule or to-do list for the day. If you are working from home, then factor in breaks, and make time for your well-being, too.
  5. Try meditation and mindfulness. — Have you always wanted to try meditation but never got around to it? Now is a great time, especially if you’re feeling anxious. Meditation is a powerful tool to quieten over-thinking brains. Download a free app or go onto YouTube, pop your headphones in and listen to a guided meditation for 10 minutes of your day. You could factor this into your morning routine or try it in the evening before sleep.

  6. Home workouts to keep you active. — Without our walk to work, nipping to the shops or gym visits, our activity levels go down. But you can still get active at home, and there are brilliant resources at your fingertips. Try YouTube, fitness apps or fitness streaming services for a huge range of exercise classes, relaxing yoga classes and at home workouts.

  7. Be kind to yourself. — Give yourself time to not feel your best during this period of extreme transition and uncertainty. You may feel worried about health, family members or financial circumstances. All of that is normal. Try to take things day by day. Don’t set massive targets or goals that put pressure on you. Do a little bit of what feels good each day. 

  8. Video call friends and families. — Stay connected with some of the brilliant video-calling and videoconferencing services. You can get your whole family or a group of friends onto a videoconference call for a big chat. Or why not play a game or take a quiz together? Make time for these check-in calls and social interaction, as they will help sustain you emotionally.

  9. Limit your news intake and focus on the positive. — The news can be overwhelming now. It comes through non-stop on our phones and is often coupled with opinions and emotions from social media. Sometimes we need to quiet the noise and focus on our priorities: Ourselves, our well-being, our families and our work. If the news is making you anxious, limit how much you take in each day. Lift your spirits by focusing on positive news stories and accounts of people helping each other on social media.

  10. Remember there is help available if you are struggling. — If you’re feeling low or worried about your mental health, please ring a mental health phone line, contact a text line, access online communities or speak to trusted friends or family. 'You are not alone. There is help and support available.