Staying at home is something we often associate with rest and relaxation. However, when we are forced into quarantine during a health epidemic it can quickly lose its appeal.
A health epidemic may require some of us to quarantine in our homes, hotels or hospitals in order to slow infection rates and protect the health of our communities. Ideas of rest and relaxation can quickly be replaced with a range of difficult feelings or thoughts. If unchallenged, they can leave us feeling demotivated, anxious and overwhelmed.
Strategies often suggested
- Be compassionate with yourself
- Set up a routine with some structure
- Practice some grounding or mindfulness exercises
- Break tasks down – focus on the bit that comes next
- Mix up activities to combat boredom
- Notice any progress you make and tell someone about it, no matter how small
- Keep a journal to create a sense of order to your day
- Create spaces where you can be alone and places you can come together
- Think creatively about how to connect with friends or family
- Make time for COVID-19 free chat
- Check out ordinary people doing kind things: it can be uplifting
- Re-frame being “confined” to doing your bit to flatten the curve
Below you will find three common blocks (barriers and misconceptions) that can prevent us from getting the best quality from our necessary quarantine.
I'll start trying stuff when I feel better
Referred to as “mood forecasting”, our minds encourage us to make as few changes as possible when times are uncertain in an effort to keep us “safe” from possible danger. We often fall back into old habits which make us feel worse like avoiding people or activities we enjoy. What our brain doesn’t tell us is that by switching the order, we feel better because we do things that help. Getting started is the trick then watch how you feel start to change. See the boosters section for some more tips.
Why should I quarantine - I didn’t choose this situation
Feeling irritated or frustrated by restrictions is perfectly normal. We might also find ourselves questioning health recommendations, especially when we feel well. But much like dropping a stone into a pond, our actions ripple and can have a significant impact on the health of others in the community. Try switching your focus to the valuable part you are playing in protecting the health of those around you. Check out the boosters section for tips on ways to make room for difficult emotions.
I’m confused and don’t know what to do first
Coping with change can be hard. When we feel stressed, we can spend lots of time looking for a “perfect” tip to help us feel better. Hot tip - there is no magic exercise or ideal app so start by picking one thing to focus on and try to keep your planning simple. Try picking a small change or a strategy you want to try and make a plan to put it into practice. Check out ‘Think Sprints’ in the booster section for some tips.
Below are three things you can do to boost success.
Scheduling long or complicated wellbeing activities can feel overwhelming and then getting started will be a challenge. Instead try the following:
- Schedule a few short sprints, or 5-10 minutes activities around a wellbeing theme and space them throughout the day
- Listen to a 5 minute meditation before lunch or dinner, or plan a 7 minute work-out
- Get outside for 5 minutes when your energy is low and plan short study sessions when your energy is high
When we get started, half the battle is won so sometimes we may decide to continue with the activity for another 30 minutes.
Ride the feeling wave
Uncomfortable or unpleasant emotions aren’t our favourites. We may try to avoid them, push them away or distract from them. Counter-intuitively, this can make them bigger and cause more anxiety in the long run. Here are some alternative ways to manage uncomfortable emotions:
- When you feel something difficult, think of how you might respond to a friend feeling the same thing and let that mental dialogue be the way you speak to yourself
- Acknowledge you are having a difficult feeling and let yourself feel it knowing that like a wave, it will pass
- Our feelings often tell us about the things we care about. What do your feelings say about what you value in the world?
Start small and make a plan
Today is the day to try something new. Pick one technique to play around with and make a specific, achievable, realistic plan to get started:
- If you want to improve sleep, pick a sleep meditation and set an alarm to remind you to listen to it before bed tonight.
- If the focus is getting outside, pick a time, an activity and for how long you will do it.
- Your mind might try to get you off track so anticipate this, thank your mind and do what you had planned anyway. Afterwards, check-in with your mind and what it has to say.
- If you want to keep up to date with the news, limit yourself to the latest updates, once or twice a day from a few reputable sources.
Australian Government self isolation (quarantine) guidelines
For the official guidelines on how to self isolate
Need more info?
Isolation and confinement during covid-19 pandemic - The Psychologist
- How to avoid cabin fever - The Conversation
- United Nations News 27 March 2020 - tips on mental and physical preparations, keeping it in the family, communication, respect for frontline workers, and a changed life outlook.
- How to manage anxiety and isolation during quarantine
- I'll feel more like it tomorrow
- How to be your best self in times of crisis - Susan David, TED talk
- 7 ways to create a new habit - Youtube video
- The Struggle Switch - Russ Harris - Youtube video
- All it takes is 10 mindful minutes - Andy Puddicomb, TED talk
- Get rid of difficult thoughts and feelings
- Emotional mastery: The gifted wisdom of unpleasant feelings - Dr Joan Rosenberg, TED talk
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