“A man wealthy enough for man’s needs would never leave home to go to sea or besiege some fortress if he knew how to stay at home and enjoy it.” (Pascal)
Self-isolation has been enforced on some of us – and firstly we must be grateful that it is - healthcare workers are often those most disproportionately affected in pandemics.
It is also not an “extended holiday” – business needs to continue as far as possible, and many will be adjusting to new routines, further if schools close, children will need to be kept occupied and educated. We are unable to visit others as much as we used to, and while some have the delights of Netflix or other services to savour, perhaps we might also consider how we can optimise this gift of time to reflect. Not only will such an opportunity for self-care be beneficial for our own wellbeing, thus (hopefully) stopping us from causing extra strain on the NHS, but beyond the “lockdown” period, we might also emerge healthier and more energised when the situation improves.
Consider trying the following:
1. Self-isolation demands a reduction in our commitments – note the ones you are “ok” to lose
By being aware of the activities or people with whom you feel some “relief” that you can no longer participate.
Should one of them be work – know your bottom line salary and use this time to improve your CV
Perhaps take online courses and prepare yourself for changing jobs.
Should it be people, when we can socialise again, spend more time with the ones you miss and less with those you haven’t.
…if nothing else spending time with those who energise you will at least pep you up for the exhausting ones.
2. Technology may come into its own as a form of positive connection
You can still stay in touch through online channels and of course via the phone. It might remind us to reconnect with speaking to people again, rather than just sending a text.
Check in with loved ones regularly via your smart devices.
Use social media platforms to share photos and videos so no-one misses out too much.
3. Learn a skill
Many people are learning an instrument, developing their cooking skills, even trying out fitness classes (with care of course).
What have you wanted to do, but didn’t have time before?
The weather is getting nicer, perhaps develop the garden, or do that “I meant to get round to it” painting. There is a wealth of information on YouTube – now is a good opportunity to discover hidden talents and also new forum groups with people who share those interests. This keeps our minds active, and may even provide something that the whole family can do together.
4. Read, Write, Engage in a “forgotten” hobby
We always complain that there is “No time” to do what we used to love. How much of that is really “can’t be bothered”?
Revisit things you used to enjoy (and it’s ok to stop if you no longer like them - but at least you know that).
Visit a museam virtually - a number of cultural sites are presenting virtual tours.
5. Reconnect with family if “isolated” together
As well as doing things together, it’s a great time to talk and to listen.
Recognise how those close to you express themselves, learn their likes and dislikes – pay more than the cursory attention we usually afford when on our smart devices.
Do things together such as upcycling, cooking, gardening, making things.
6. Limit your “COVID-19” news
We know that the government briefings will tend to come daily between 4 and 6pm on the BBC, tune into those and perhaps be aware of one or two trusted sources - too much speculation from the media can cause extra anxiety (and many things that “trend” on social media are opinion). We need to remain aware, but too much stress has a dampening effect on the immune system in any case.
7. Respect curfews and instructions
As confident as you are of your own physical health, measures are in place to consider others. Further, your actions will also serve as role modelling on any young ones in the family.
As much as you may think you are well if someone in your family has any symptoms and remains “isolated” (or even if they are not “that sick”) – do others the courtesy of letting them know before they come round.
We already know that COVID-19 presents slightly differently in different people. And, as healthy as other “youngish” (I’m 44) ones are, we are still often the first point of contact for elderly relatives, or we may even have underlying conditions we didn’t realise – this is not how we want to find out.
8. Help where you can – how you can
You may not be in the emergency services, but whether this is making a food bank donation when you do your weekly shop, offering to pick up groceries for neighbours, or being someone others can call on (by phone or social media). This can contribute to better mental health and wellbeing which may ease up the pressure on the other services still going. Acts of altruism also make us feel more positive, and this can only benefit our immune system.
COULD your business help the health efforts? (3D printers are being used to create simple breathing valves; manufacturers are being asked to change their production lines to ventilator parts; Hotels and offices could be used as hospitals; and Louis Vuitton is making hand sanitiser). These adaptations can also open another opportunity when the pandemic is under control.
Utilise social media:
Are you a fitness trainer and can stream simple exercises for those who cannot go out.
Can you teach us to bake?
Could you demonstrate little creative activities that children might enjoy?
I’m posting short self-care activities (like these) daily on my Instagram @resilienthealthonline.
9. Future plan
What is it you want to do when we have come through this pandemic? What can you get into practice now? There will be changes to many industries, but they will need our custom more than ever once all the restrictions are lifted.
- Write down your goal
- Identify the smaller steps needed to reach it
- Outline one thing you can do a day
10. Try a bit of mindfulness
Mindfulness is less about yoga and meditation, and simply about finding ways to broaden the mind and your awareness (which in turn can unlock hidden strengths or help you recognise opportunities that a blinkered outlook may miss). (Yoga and meditation are ways of doing this – but they are not the only ones, although if you enjoy guided meditations, please visit my website www.draudreyt.com/meditationsand use the password <leaderretreat> for a series of such exercises.)
Decisions at this time may have made you angry, fear is causing anxiety, and of course I do not want to under-estimate the financial pressure many people have now been placed under as a largely service-based nation – however outrage and anger can drain energy at a time we need it most – if nothing else, to pick ourselves up again. It’s ok to be upset, angry, afraid, but in a carcophany of voices yours may barely even raise awareness - consider mindful practices as a means to potentially help you channel those emotions to take effective and meaningful action, whatever that may be.
What I have also noticed is that COVID-19 (like it or not) is the subject that we can (and will most likely) all discuss regardless of who we are. This shared experience can unify us in a way that an otherwise individualistic culture can benefit from. We may learn that collaboration is better than competition; that others’ opinions, fear or frustrations are valid – and similar to our own (despite differences in background, education or belief) – making us all more relatable as humans; that our friends and family on the front line of healthcare (and schools!) right now are far more special than we had thought before…in isolation, we may become more connected if we allow it.
Audrey is a leadership trainer and coach, Chartered Psychologist and author. Her books Be a Great Manager Now and The Leader’s Guide to Mindfulness are available on amazon, and The Leader’s Guide to Resilience will be out later this year. Follow her @draudreyt (twitter/insta) or learn more at www.draudreyt.com