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Mental health awareness and advice to offset anxiety around self-isolation and lockdown


Posted on 26 Mar 20

Self-isolation and the stay home lockdown, combined with the worry about the coronavirus pandemic, can cause anxiety. At a time when we would instinctively reach out to one another to seek or offer support, social distancing measures can make things feel even more challenging.

Dr Dane Vishnubala, GP and Chief Medical Advisor at Active IQ, who co-wrote its Award in Mental Health Awareness training programme, has the following advice to help people manage at this difficult time.

Stay connected

“Staying connected with loved ones, friends and family is key. A quick call or sharing messages via WhatsApp, Skype or a phone call will make all the difference to you helping you feel connected to the outside world and people who matter most to you.”

Plan your day

“Having too much time on your hands can lead you to dwell too much and lead to feeling more anxious. Each evening plan for the next day. Ensure you include some time to exercise, call a friend or family member, catch up on work and, if possible, engage in a creative activity such as drawing or painting or doing some DIY. Write your plan down and leave it where you will see it first thing in the morning: this will immediately give your day shape and purpose.”

Get up and get on

“Don’t be tempted to take three weeks’ worth of ‘duvet days’! Set an alarm for a reasonable time, get out of bed and get dressed. Open the curtains, open the windows. These will all help set you up mentally for a productive day ahead.”

Stay active

“Physical activity is great at reducing stress and anxieties, so do workouts at home: there are plenty of great online workouts to try for free. Many are adapted so you don’t need much space or any equipment. Remember to do exercises that get your heart and lungs working and get you out of breath. Aim towards 150 minutes a week. Also remember to do some resistance exercises: these are where you lift anything heavy or use your own body weight – such as doing press ups or squats – to fatigue your muscles.”

Find a purpose

“This could be as simple as setting time aside to read each day, signing up to learning a new skill online or completing a jigsaw puzzle. Set yourself a goal for each day. Take a moment to acknowledge when you have completed it: that mental ‘tick’ is rewarding!”

Eat well/sleep well

“Good sleep and a healthy nutritious diet are both important for a good functioning immune system. Aim for at least 7-8 hours’ sleep each night and try to eat fresh and healthy food. Think of this time as an opportunity to prepare food from scratch and slow the pace compared to your normal rushing around of usual life.”

Try mindfulness/meditation

“Staying at home for extended periods of time and with others can be draining, tiring and affect your mood. Take quiet time away from others to clear your mind. Apps such as Headspace or Calm are great introductions to short focused meditations. Or simply lie down flat on your back, let your arms and legs go floppy and close your eyes. Focus on your breathing and slow it down as much as you can. Just let everything go for 5-10 minutes. If you’re worried you may fall asleep, simply set an alarm so you can completely relax. This is surprisingly refreshing!”