Isolation, social distancing, and quarantine are all buzzwords that describe the precautionary measures suggested to remain safe amidst the spread of COVID-19. And while essential to preventing the spread of the virus, cautioning to isolate and practice distancing measures is causing widespread unpleasant mental health side-effects. What are these side effects and how can we improve our perspective to adjust to isolation and distancing?
The Dangers of Isolation
Isolation can spark a myriad of issues ranging from physical discomfort to emotional/mental turmoil. Some unfortunate side-effects/consequences of prolonged isolation can look like loneliness, depression, anxiety, fear, hopelessness, boredom, loss of motivation, negative thinking/self-talk, insomnia, fatigue, overwhelm, anger and frustration to name a few. The more time alone, the more time to sit and marinate with ourselves.
Prioritizing Our Mental Health
Because isolation can negatively impact our mental health, influence spirals of negative thoughts, negative self-talk, and symptoms of depression, anxiety, and loneliness; understanding power, control, productivity, and expectations can redefine and reshape how we approach each day. How can we recreate, readjust, and adapt to this new form of living? How can we prioritize our mental health?
Prioritizing our mental health can be as simple as daily reflections or as complex as changing up lifestyle routines and schedules.
Note: Self-care is personal and can change based on our day to day needs. Whatever we find is the best/most helpful way to cope can only be defined by us.
Daily self-care and methods of preventing negative mental health side effects can include:
- Checking-in with ourselves.
- Making short term goals.
- Redefining “productivity” and time management.
- Being gentle with the expectations we have for ourselves.
- Knowing our needs and what we have control over.
- Resting, eating, keeping up with our hygiene.
- Asking for help if we need to.
- Connecting with trusted friends and family.
Doing a quick check-in with ourselves several times a day can help us stay on track with how we are feeling.
Some questions to ask ourselves when checking in could include:
- How is my mental health? How am I feeling?
- What do I need right now?
- How can I honor my needs today?
- Am I sleeping and eating enough? When was the last time I showered?
- Do I need support?
- Who can I reach out to for support?
- What makes me feel safe?
- What is in my control?
- Am I up to “doing” anything today?
- What do I want to do?
- What are some ways I can prioritize self-care today?
Productivity, Expectations, and Time Management
While in isolation, it’s easy to assume because we have “time”, we should utilize that “time” in being productive, completing everything on our to-do list and finishing that task we’ve been putting off for the longest. Ideally, of course, it would be amazing to get everything done, start up a side hustle, and exercise daily, but isolation isn’t easy to cope with. We are all collectively experiencing trauma and it’s okay to feel unmotivated. This is not a vacation or time off. There is no pressure to “figure life out” during isolation. It’s okay if we’re gentle with our expectations of ourselves because right now we are surviving. We can bask in the right now of simply “being.” Whatever we can get done is more than an accomplishment.
Reminder: Creating goals can look like getting out of bed, or remembering to video chat a friend. Whatever gets done is more than enough.
Affirmation: I am doing my best and that is enough for me.
Revisiting Hope and Purpose
Isolation isn’t an end by any means nor is it a guarantee for a lifetime of loneliness. We are getting through every day and that in itself is amazing. It’s okay to take one day at a time and be proud of waking up with the intention to do the best we can.
Nina is a Latina from Brooklyn, NY who struggles with depression and anxiety. She finds refuge and healing through her writing since she graduated from college in 2016. Nina writes to spread awareness and hope to those who struggle with their mental health silently. She also strives to motivate and encourage self-acceptance. She enjoys creating creative and uplifting content on her blog SparklyWarTanks.com where she shares her experiences, notes, poems, quotes, and articles