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As the countries of the world progressively move in to their own lockdowns, we can learn a lot about the impact of social isolation due to the COVID-19 pandemic on mental health, from the first wave of the crisis in China.
Fear caused by misinformation in mainstream and social media, the deadliness of the germ, the fact there is no treatment and no vaccine has shown how fragile the human race is and also how fragile our social and economic structure is and this causes a huge amount of generalised anxiety, depression, and will cause a large amount of post traumatic stress.
The COVID-19 Corona virus is causing us all anxiety, largely fuelled by uncertainty. Uncertainty as to how long we will have to socially distance ourselves, uncertainty as to how long we will be in lockdown and uncertainty at just how bad this pandemic will get.
So how can we look after ourselves mentally and physically, during long periods of isolation and quarantine?
1. Reframe your internal monologue from "I am stuck inside, I can't go anywhere" to "I can focus on my family, myself and my home".
It may feel awful initially, but use this as an opportunity. An opportunity to focus on the internal instead of the external. Complete those tasks around the house that you've been putting off, reorganise, create, take up a hobby, read a book or learn something. There are incredible resources out there like edx.org where you can do thousands of online courses from short free courses, to full blown masters degrees. My partner Brooke is incredible at crochet and embroidery and other crafty things and some of the projects she's already completed are amazing. She's made a crochet frog, she's sewn reusable cotton toilet paper (Yes, that's a thing) and cooked some amazing food. Me personally, I'm about as creative as a rock so I'm channeling my energy on providing better value to my online clients and completing some courses that I have been putting off.
2. Stay close to your normal routine.
Keep your normal routines and rituals as close to pre-quarantine as you can. People with kids will find this easier because they haven't got a choice, but for those of us that don't, it will be extremely tempting to fall in to a lethargic lifestyle. Wake up and go to bed at the same time, eat, shower, exercise according to your normal regimen. This is key, I can not emphasise this enough. Sticking to a routine will stop you spiralling and it will make it easier to readjust to the outside world when the time comes to go back to work. My daily regimen has changed, but I still maintain structure. For example I'm working 5am-1pm Monday to Thursday and 5am-10am on Friday and Saturday. This allows me to run a normal work week, service my clients, do check in phone calls and also keep training a few clients in their homes while I still can, because in the very near future we will be in complete lockdown in Australia.
My Weekday Ritual; This of course changes from day to day but my 'Startup ritual in that first 30-45 minutes never wavers and always sets me up for a productive morning
3:55am Wake Up, use the bathroom, daily weigh in, drink 1L of water and take morning supplements
4:05am Shave, shower, dress
4:30am Check emails, respond to messages
4:45am Either drive to my first PT session or settle down in front of my laptop and get down to business
13:00pm Finish work, eat, hydrate
15:00 Walk (Weather permitting and then shower)
3. Chaos at home can lead to chaos in your mind.
With uncertainty outside of your home, it's important to create an organised, predictable and clean environment inside your home. Keep your home clean and uncluttered or it will make you uneasy and claustrophobic. Set up your workspace in one particular area. Don't eat your chicken wings in bed. Eat at the kitchen table.
4. Start a new Quarantine ritual or habit
Set aside time in each day to do something new which can carry over when you go back to normal daily life, whatever that may look like.
- Put your phone away for an hour before you go to bed
- Read a book for 30 minutes a day
- Start a blog'
- Message 5 people every day and ask them if they're ok
- Send a friend or family member a message and tell them why you appreciate them
This is so so so important. Critical. Just because you can't go to the gym does not mean you can't stay fit and healthy. Keep engaged with your personal trainer, or if you need help feel free to get in contact with me. My clients are currently training in their home gyms, with bands only, with basic equipment and with no equipment. There is always a way to innovate and adapt so we can still achieve our health goals.
Remember to reach out to someone if you need help, a friend or family member, or one of the incredible services we have in Australia;
beyondblue Support Service - Support. Advice. Action
Information and referral to relevant services for depression and anxiety related matters. Phone: 1300 22 46 36
Black Dog Institute
The Black Dog Institute is a world leader in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mood disorders such as depression and bipolar disorder.
Headspace is the National Youth Mental Health Foundation. We help young people who are going through a tough time.
Kids Help Line
Confidential and anonymous, telephone and online counselling service specifically for young people aged between 5 and 25. Phone: 1800 55 18 00
24 hour telephone counselling service. Phone: 13 11 14