During self-isolation, one can go through many different emotional stages. Everyone experiences all of these at some point but not necessarily in the same order.
- Optimism: This is going to be great. I can finally get to all the side-projects I’ve been wanting to work on, or improve a certain skill, pick up that hobby.
- Determination: When you can feel that you’re less positive about self-isolation, but you’re determined to keep going and stick to your routine and have a schedule to help you manage the situation.
- Satisfaction and frustration: You’ll experience times when you’re more productive, and times that you’re less productive, and alternate between moments of satisfaction and periodsof frustration.
- Depression: When you start struggling and feeling, “this is hard”. Boredom might settle in. Your routine or lack of routine might not be working for you anymore. You might experience restlessness that makes it difficult to concentrate. You miss going out and seeing friends and loved ones. You might feel demotivated, hopeless, or feel a sense of despair.
- Anger: You might experience anger about the situation, the confinement, and get easily irritated by others in your household.
- Acceptance: When you accept the situation for what it is and carry on doing whatever is in your control and letting go of what is not in your control.
- Making meaning: Remembering that this move to self-isolate is necessary and that you’re serving humanity and the greater good to help prevent more sickness and death.
How to deal with your mental health during this pandemic
Many of us are having thoughts or feeling such as “the world is ending” or “I am going to lose my job” or “I am going to get sick” and we then judge this as ‘bad’ or we push it away and try and stay “positive”. This is not helpful. Thoughts or feelings which are pushed have a tendency of coming back stronger. How to handle this? Find a quiet place and sit with your thoughts and feelings. What is your mind telling you? Practice saying aloud “I am having a thought that I am …” or “I am having a feeling that ….” Some people like to write their thoughts or feelings down in a journal. This can help.
Whether in a quiet room or in the middle of what feels like a burst of panic, try counting your breaths— one slow inhale through the nose, one long exhale through the mouth, then repeat — relaxing into the process and being aware of each one, and gradually feeling your heart rate slow. The more negative stimuli we take in, the more chance of an adverse impact upon our psychological well-being. I have made a conscious effort to turn off news during the day and play or listen to music. It is important to set limits on how much new and social media we consume.
Try and maintain day-to-day activities as much as possible. Having a healthy routine can have a positive impact on psychological well-being. This can include exercise, stretching, yoga and alike. We can take more time to phone or video call with friends and family. We can talk about how we feel, what it’s like for us and why we may be feeling vulnerable. Opening ourselves up and letting people see some of our difficult thoughts, feelings and emotions is a key to connecting with others.
Most importantly, we have to accept that no action is 100% risk-free and that we can’t totally control events, no matter how much we try. The first thing we need to do is to think about right now and not let our mind wander to the future. “Right now you can control your environment”—the food you decide to eat with its limitations, the clothing you decide to wear. This gives you a sense of stability.”
Puja Roy is a health psychologist and is currently working as a counselor at the Institute of Neurosciences, Kolkata. You can follow her here.