Social distance and mental wellness: How to stay mentally fit during COVID-19
As countries worldwide continue to roll out social distance strategies to help flatten the curve of the COVID-19 infection, we’re all facing a new reality.
Conversations with your pals about your fave ab-workouts in between sessions of work are gradually becoming extinct. Water-cooler conversations don’t exist in a world where we’re all working from home and shutting off unnecessary contact.
As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to accelerate, it seems that it’s not just our physical health at risk, but our social lives too.
To be fair, chatting with your mates probably isn’t your biggest concern right now.
However, the more time you spend cooped up in your home office / garage, the more you’re going to crave those little bits of human contact. The truth is that human beings are social creatures.
We like being close to people. The concept of social distancing is pretty alien to all of us.
So, what are you supposed to do about it?
Well, first of all, you need to follow the government guidelines. Don’t be a dick. If you’re told to stay indoors, do it. The last thing you want is to be the cause of someone else’s illness.
Secondly, we all need to find ways to cope with this new lifestyle.
As usual, Blitz’d has you covered.
What are self-quarantine and social distancing?
We all know that knowledge is power – particularly during uncertain times like these.
So, let’s start by figuring out what “social distance” and self-isolation mean.
Social distancing refers to the recommended steps that people can take to reduce their typical interactions with others. The idea is that the less we mingle with pals, the less likely we are to infect others. Makes sense, right?
Everyone should be following these new pragmatic measures as much as possible:
Avoid contact with someone who displays symptoms of COVID-19, such as high temperature, continuous cough, etc.
Avoid non-essential use of public transport. Try to avoid rush hour when possible.
Avoid large groups of people and gatherings in small public spaces. Yep, that includes going to the pub. Fortunately, at the time of writing, pubs in the UK are closed, so you don’t have much of a choice. You can drink at home or not at all.
Use online and telephone services to connect. Stop visiting the GP in person and set up a teleconference instead.
Avoid gatherings with friends and family. This isn’t the time to go visit your nan or spend two hours talking about fishing with your uncle.
At first, social distancing doesn’t seem so tough. So you have to stay indoors for a while, big deal, right?
However, the more time you spend sitting in your house with only your dog for company, the more stir crazy you feel. That’s particularly true when you’re working from home too.
The effect of social distance on mental wellness
Let’s check the facts on this whole, mental wellness, and social distancing situation.
On the plus side, social distance gives us the potential to flatten the curvewhen it comes to the spread of disease and reduce the risk of further infection.
On the negative side, it means no more nights out with friends, no more weekends with the lads, and absolutely no trips to the bar to pull a hottie.
It’s no wonder that spending time in self-isolation can take a serious mental toll. For good mental health, human beings need connectedness.
Sitting on the couch drinking beer in your underwear on a Tuesday afternoon doesn’t exactly screen good mental wellness.
The isolation imposed by self-quarantine and social distancing also means that we end up feeling like we don’t have any control over our situation. We don’t like feeling this way, and it’s not good for our mental wellness.
No-one wants to feel like they’re stuck in their own home. There’s a big difference between deciding that you want to stay on the couch for a week and being told that you have to do it.
Feelings of loneliness can lead to reduce immunity, poor cardiovascular health, bad sleep, depressive symptoms, and even limited cognitive functioning.
So, how do you get by?
How to handle periods of self-isolation
The good news for those of us adhering to social distance guidelines, is that we can find ways to cope, and make the world a safer place at the same time.
It’s just like learning to work from home for the first time or moving to a new country. Once you’ve established strategies that work for you, the rest will fall into place.
So, here’s how you can get started.
1. Set up a routine
Part of being able to work remotely is that you can sometimes set your own schedules. Your boss might not mind when you get up and start working in the morning, as long as deadlines are met.
That’s great and everything – but most of us need a bit of structure in our lives. Without a routine, we forget to shower every morning, put on our clothes, and settle into “work mode”.
If you’re spending every day trying to work from your sofa in nothing but a pair of boxers, it’s going to be hard to stay focused and maintain your mental wellness.
Establish a routine that you can stick to, and you’ll find that your days start to feel a lot more normal. Decide when you’re going to get up each morning when you’re going to have meetings, and so on.
Structure is important in times of crisis.
2. Stay active
You don’t want to come out of self-isolation looking like Mr. Blobby.
Don’t use quarantine as an excuse to binge on the snacks you couldn’t have at work, or avoid your regular workout routine. Short periods of physical inactivity can have a serious impact on your mental health, muscle mass, and metabolism.
The good news. There are tons of ways to work out from home so you can maintain your physique without hitting the gym.
Putting workout routines into your day will also help you to combat some of the periods of frustration and boredom that can creep into your life.
Create a plan for how you’re going to keep yourself active in the home and stick to it.
3. Communicate (safely)
Just because you can’t sit down for a catch up with mates at the pub doesn’t mean that you can’t continue to communicate. Pour yourself a beer and sit down for a video conferencing session with the lads on a Friday night.
If you want to stay connected to your family, you can set up times to call them throughout the week so that you can chat for a while.
Connecting with people over video and phone call might actually mean that you build stronger relationships with them thanks to social distance.
You can’t sit and play on your phone like you would at the bar if you’re using the device to call your mum. Instead, you have to engage in the conversation.
Don’t be afraid to use things like social media to stay connected too. Just make sure that you don’t let the things you read on social platforms get to you.
4. Stay informed, but not obsessed
Staying up to date with current events is crucial, particularly during times of isolation.
These days, it feels like there’s some new information to catch up on every time you wake up.
However, living in our 24-hour connected environment can be a bit of a double-edged sword sometimes. It’s easy to find yourself glued to your computer, constantly reading one fear-mongering social story after another.
Our advice is simple here. Maintain the good vibes by ensuring that you don’t read too many upsetting stories. It’s not about burying your head in the sand and ignoring what’s going on around you. Instead, the aim is to be informed without getting overwhelmed.
We all need to take a step back from time to time.
Quick bonus tip – check the authority of your sources when reading up on info too. WHO, the CDC and the NHS are good places to start.
Give yourself permission to have some fun
Taking this whole COVID-19 thing seriously is important.
It’s a big deal, and anyone who doesn’t recognise that is putting themselves and their friends at risk.
However, that doesn’t mean that you should spend your whole time in self-isolation panicking.
Instead, use this as an opportunity to focus on yourself for a while. Keep yourself busy with not just important chores like painting the fence, but also stuff that makes you happy – like movies and video games.
No-one’s telling you that you can’t enjoy your time in self-quarantine. We absolutely recommend that you have as much fun as you can while being safe.
Keep sending memes to your mates. Don’t stop challenging people to battles online and laugh at some parts of your situation whenever you can.
It’s very easy to be serious and nervous about the life we’re all living right now. People are sick, and there are even some that are dying.
However, if you look back at some of the worst moments in history, the people who get through these periods are the ones that keep smiling.
If you’re having trouble with your mental wellness because of pre-existing conditions, then call your doctor’s or therapist’s office and find out what you can do.
People with problems can still usually get some form of help, even if it’s just a video conference once a week instead of a standard face-to-face session.
Just because you can’t go outside doesn’t mean that you’re alone.
We’re all in this together
Social distance and self-isolation have serious mental health implications.
However, we still need to follow the instructions given to us by the government and health professionals – no matter how much we just want to go and sit in a beer garden.
Eventually, this difficult time in our history will pass, and we’ll be back at the office, visiting our local bars, and taking girls on dates to fancy restaurants again.
In the meantime, you just need to figure out a way to survive and maintain your mental wellness in an era that’s confusing for everyone.
Whenever you’re feeling stir crazy or cooped up, remind yourself of why you’re using social distance guidelines. You’re protecting the world, avoiding the spread of disease, and keeping yourself safe too.