Managing Your Mental Health in Isolation - The COPERS Strategy!
So being self-isolated in my little apartment at least provides A LOT of time to write blog posts, and as with most people trying to find a way to help feels like a good step towards fighting this thing together.
So I thought I’d take my isolation time to do a bit of a digging around the internet, and my own experience, to see if I can put together a layman's guide to keeping mentally health while self-isolating. I’ll try and keep this brief and direct you to a few good resources because I know there’s a lot of information overload at the moment.
For me it all links back to the mental health mind map and how you can keep the bubbles of the mental health mind map going while in isolation.
So I’ll consider these in order….
Clearly staying active is very important as its only natural that are levels of movement qill reduce if not commuting etc. As I’ve seen over the past few days keeping active outside your routine can be challenging, Especially, if you love running and the wild outdoors like me but this doesn’t mean there aren’t options. I have always grouped my fitness in to three boxes (strength, flexibility and cardiovascular fitness) and I think trying to find ways to maintain these areas is important. So here are a few ideas:
Yoga – this knocks off strength and flexibility all in one go. I got into yoga a few years ago and it has done wonders for a bad back and helped me in all other areas, not to mention the calming effect it can have. I really recommend this for anyone with extended periods indoors. Even if you’ve never tried it now is the time and there’s a YouTube channel called, “Yoga with Adrienne” that includes a 30-day beginner class.
Challenge a Friend - If you’re missing interaction with others and want some motivation to stay fit then why not setup a fun and silly challenge between friends such as who can do most push ups in a day or you have to do a push up for every time you hear or read the word Coronavirus - I'm still developing this but if anyone has any ideas I'd love to hear them. Perhaps we can find a game that everyone can play!
Indoor Trainer – Now this isn’t available to everyone but there are great virtual training worlds out there that allow you to train with friends with each of you connected from your own living rooms. Luckily as a cyclist I have an indoor bike trainer that links to Zwift and a few of my cycling mates who are in isolation as well have been joining for a ride each morning. We get to keep the teamwork alive even on our own. As I said this is not for everyone but if you want some ideas about where to get gear for this or how to setup then let me know (can be used on treadmills as well).
Wii – If you have one why not use a Nintendo Wii and do Wii Sports – I’ve not used this for years but I remember it being pretty tiring and I think you can pick them up for not all that much online second-hand now.
Fitness Apps – There are loads of fitness and group work out apps out there. Why not download one and set yourself an achievable target of say 20 minutes exercise class a day.
As with all fitness it needs to work for you and your life but you just need to make the targets SMART! Make it achievable and stick to it. Having the time is no longer an excuse – but I’m still doing my best to find other excuses! Here's a link to a few.
With food (and toilet paper) flying off our shelves at the moment this could be a tough one in isolation – last night I ate steak, a hot cross bun and some veggies – not your usual meal but it had protein, carbs etc. All I can say here is do your best and if possible, use your community to help each other out. Perhaps someone has lots in their cupboards and can help you.
It’s also possible to do take-away, this isn’t a cheap option but lots of restaurants/cafes are doing some great deals to try and help people through this difficult time – have a look online in your local area and see what you can find.
Most importantly do not join in the hoarding madness, there is no shortage of food. This pandemic does not affect food supply, it is only peoples reaction that makes that happen so lets all be sensible and look after each other.
This situation is new for everyone so sharing is really important and there’s a lot of this going on, but be careful what you take on board. Only trust sources when you’re directly on a legitimate website e.g. WHO or government health department.
It can also be really lonely in isolation so make sure you stay in touch with the outside world – take this unexpected time to phone an old friend or fix some bikes to the wall (a la Pedaling Heroine). Social media and Skype/FaceTime are your friend if used in moderation now.
If anyone feels lonely I’m more than happy to chat to anyone! Drop me a message.
Staying grounded is important at this time as it can be easy to get overwhelmed with all the information and for our mind to run away with that survivor instinct mode kicking in. Try and keep up those good habits or use the time to start a new one. I can recommend nothing better than meditating - The HeadSpace app is fantastic, and they’ve even just launched a meditation series specifically related to the pandemic. Check it out here. You can try it for free!
Being stuck indoors rather limits your ability to see a counsellor or psychotherapist but I’m sure most of these people will have contingencies, why not speak to them about having a virtual check in. Otherwise having this time on your own is perhaps a good time to start one of the online mental health courses, such as this one which I have used before and is great.
Also, if you used medication make sure you phone your doctor and find a way to ensure you have adequate supplies.
Beyond the MindMap there are some specific areas which I wanted to focus on:
1) Sunlight and fresh air is important at this time – set a time each day where you go on to your balcony or in to the garden (I've been reading a book for 20 mins per day on the balcony).
2) Routine – We are animals of routine, set a routine early for yourself that includes good spaces for doing things. For example a specific location for work so that the whole house doesn’t feel like an office if you need to work. Don't beat yourself up if you don't stick to this but try.
There’s no denying this is a strange and difficult time but it’s important to remember it will end and that everything will return to normality.
While we are in this period why not try and take advantage of the positives – more time to try something new (if you’re not employed in a profession that is critical to the response, if you are then thank you so so much).
Use the time to re-connect with friends, learn a new skill, read a book you’ve wanted to for ages. Most of all even if you don’t do any of this don’t be harsh on yourself, losing routine is tough so be kind to yourself and look out for each other 😊
To simplify this whole blog I’ve made a little anagram that represents the fact that we can all cope with this because we’re strong and I wanted a quick way to summarise what I think are the main point for staying healthy during this time. The anagram is COPERS
C - Community (Keep Connected)
O- Outdoors (Get outdoors as much as you can - sunlight etc)
P - Perspective (This will end and there are people and situations that are worse
E - Exercise (Keep your body and mind healthy with activity)
R - Routine (Plan your day and try to stick to it)
S - Stimulation (Keep your mind stimulated - read, learn a skill, work)
Here are links to some great resources I’ve found relating to mental health during this time -
Beyond Blue has some great tips for managing mental health during the outbreak here: https://www.beyondblue.org.au/the-facts/looking-after-your-mental-health-during-the-coronavirus-outbreak