Coping strategies for self-isolation and social distancing

And just like that, in an instant, life as we know it has dramatically changed. All the routines, comforts and freedoms that we took for granted are no more or are becoming scarcer and harder for us to carry out. I have spent my days watching the unfolding situation in horror and with immense sadness, seeing the suffering and ensuing chaos that is going on around the globe. Since coronavirus hit the UK I have been busy adapting to our new reality, cancelling upcoming plans, and bobbing between feelings of disbelief, frustration, panic, confusion and fear (as well as seriously counting my blessings!)

Unfortunately, my career is now on pause. As my job involved working 1-1 with students and graduates, in a face to face environment, I have found myself out of work for the foreseeable future. Working from home is not an option in my particular circumstances and to prevent the spread of the virus my workplace has had to close. However, my circumstances are far from grim, especially considering everything else that is going on in the world right now, and I feel incredibly grateful that my husband is able to continue working from home and we have a lot of support around us.

My family has been in a period of self-isolation since my two children came down with coughs and cold/flu-like symptoms. So, like many other people right now, I’ve been confined to the house and trying to work out the logistics of bringing in food and other essential supplies (with zero food delivery slots available and without putting anyone else at risk of any potential infection). 

Thankfully my children’s symptoms have now subsided so as well as keeping them entertained throughout the day with arts/crafts, board games, and their favourite films, we are now making the transition to some sort of home school set-up following the announced school closures. I have started browsing through home schooling information websites for tips on how to structure and manage the day, dug out any workbooks I bought at the beginning of the academic year, and am sifting through the work and online resources that their teachers have now sent through. I’m preparing myself to be both mum and ‘teacher’ for the next few weeks (even months) and I can tell that it is going to be a steep learning curve.

During this period of isolation, unprecedented change and with all the stress and anxiety arising from this horrible situation, it is obvious that now, more than ever, it is of paramount importance to look after mine and my family’s wellbeing. So for the time being I am focusing on finding ways for us all to stay sane, to prepare myself for life when some sort of normality resumes and, since I am prone to health anxiety, to avoid the temptation to obsessively check the news or get lost in the various posts on coronavirus that abound on social media.

To preserve my own wellbeing, I decided that the best thing to do was to use the time I now had to complete all the tasks and activities that I said I was going to do until other commitments got in the way. I started by revisiting my current list of goals, reassessing my priorities and noting down all the various things that I wanted to accomplish over the next month or so (while also factoring in the time that would be needed to educate my children and keep them entertained during the day).

Here is my (very loose) plan of action; I hope it provides some ideas and inspiration if you are in self-isolation, social distancing, or in any other kind of lockdown!

  • Establish and stick to a routine as much as possible – this means getting up at our normal time, getting dressed, eating at the usual times, and adding some structure to the day by deciding when it will be time for concentrating on school activities (or just chilling out and having fun).
  • Make time in the day for self-care activities – there are loads of free and simple ways to add self-care to your day – mine will mainly involve deep breathing (probably lots of that!), checking in with how I am feeling, reminding myself of the things I am grateful for each day, writing in my journal, pampering myself, practising mindfulness, listening to guided meditations to help me to relax and committing to a healthy sleep routine.
  • Exercise – It won’t all be sitting around! I can dust off my exercise bike or take a stroll around my local country park. I can also do the online yoga and aerobics classes that are available on YouTube and are suitable for my level of fitness (I’ll be honest…that’ll be beginners’ level for me!)
  • Maintain social interaction – Connecting with friends online, participating in online networking events/webinars and watching live videos on Facebook and Instagram.
  • Complete an online course – I’ve got many interests so I figured now was the time to sit down, explore these topics and keep my brain active. I particularly like OfCourse, FutureLearn, and OpenLearn and have recently been checking out the offerings on Coursera.
  • Plough through my huge pile of self-help books – As I’ll be at home a lot I’m focusing on books that address some of the challenges involved in raising a family (I’m currently reading Mindfulness for Mums by Izzy Judd and The Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read by Philippa Perry). Also, because of this incredibly uncertain time, I’m brushing up on techniques for managing anxiety by working through the exercises in Overcoming Worry and Generalised Anxiety Disorder by Mark Freeston and Kevin Meares.
  • Read my favourite magazines – I love flicking through magazines that are based around the topic of wellbeing and am a proud subscriber of In the Moment and Psychologies. I also really enjoy reading Breathe magazine and looking at the beautiful illustrations that they include in their articles.
  • Listen to podcasts – I’ve already made a long list of podcasts that are of interest to me (there are so many brilliant ones out there) so I’m looking forward to being able to settle down and listen to one or two episodes during the week.
  • Read through all the articles I’ve stored on my phone – I come across so many great posts and articles via the organisations and individuals I follow on social media but it’s all so easy to keep them open in my browser and to forget to look at them. I have more than enough to read so I think this will keep me going for several hours!
  • Make a list of my favourite films, and any series or films that I’ve always wanted to see, and then get watching! – Netflix and Prime here I come (armed with plenty of yummy snacks and a nice warm cuppa tea of course!)
  • Create a playlist of songs that cheer me up – Dancing round the kitchen to the cheesy hits of the 80s, 90s and 00s will be a must for keeping my spirits up.
  • Give the house a good spring clean – Unfortunately, I’ve got no excuses now (but I’ll sure as hell try and find one…) I can treat the house to a thorough top to bottom de-clutter and clean, with my cheesy music playing in the background to spur me on.
  • Tackle the great toy tidy of 2020! – I think it’s only fair to rope the kids in to help me with this one, I’m sure they’ll love spending their free time doing this (well, OK, maybe not!) but its time to sift through the toy cupboards, get things organised just so they can be messed up again (ahem!) and then put a pile of unwanted items together for the local charity shop.
  • Do all those craft activities I have been storing up – I have calligraphy, painting, colouring and cross stitching sets that are just waiting for my time and attention. Whenever I take the time out to do some crafts I find it quite therapeutic as I’m kind of forced to stop all the overthinking that I am so prone to doing and just simply concentrate on the task at hand. Bliss!
  • Plan some indoor date nights – with the kids running around all day me and my husband will be in need of some quality time together so I thought it’d be nice to make the effort (well I mean sometimes you just have to!) and plan in something special for us to do in the evenings. There are tonnes of ideas for indoor date nights if you do a quick search on Pinterest and elsewhere on the internet.
  • Update, implement and review my wellness plan – this will remind me of all the things that I can do to keep well and to manage my anxiety triggers. It will also be key to assessing whether the activities and techniques that I am doing are actually having a positive impact on my wellbeing or not.

I’m still not entirely sure how much of this I will actually get done especially considering that I will now be home schooling my children. I can’t even promise that I’ll have achieved my goal of staying sane… But committing to carrying out even a few of the activities that I have on my list will hopefully be enough to stave off the boredom and prevent cabin fever!

Most of all I sincerely hope that you all stay safe and well.

Note: This post contains no sponsored material or affiliate links and is based on my own opinions, views and experiences of carrying out the personal development activities described above.

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