How to Survive in Isolation
As an extrovert and someone who struggles with anxiety and depression, social isolation has taken a toll on me. I thrive on having a busy life and regular human interaction, both of which are now challenging to maintain. So, I’ve had to find creative solutions on how to survive in isolation.
Managing Isolation as a Highly Anxious Person
As a highly anxious person, I don’t like spending extended periods of time by myself- alone with my thoughts. This gives my brain the opportunity to run wild, which often means ruminating on the past or worrying about the future.
One of the things that make isolation so challenging is the uncertainty. Not only do many of us feel uncertain and fearful about our personal health and safety around COVID, but there is uncertainty about when this will all end. So, instead of focusing on the unknowns of the future, focus on right now and what you can do and what you do have control over.
There are times when I need to keep my mind busy and am unable to focus on work. So, instead of beating my head up against the wall and letting myself get more and more anxious, I take a break and do something for myself; read a book, have a bath, go for a walk, watch that TV show I love that my partner doesn’t.
It also helps, at least for me, to continually remind myself to be gentle with myself. It makes sense that I am anxious and that my threshold for managing day-to-day stressors is lower. Sometimes I just have to allow myself to feel those feelings before I can move forward. Maybe have a good cry, scream into the void, or vent to a friend- and there’s nothing wrong with that. There is no need to always be strong, and it’s okay if you only survive this isolation.
Top Self-Care Tips for Surviving Isolation
Now that we’ve talked a bit about anxiety, here are my top self-care tips for surviving isolation. I don’t always do them perfectly but they have actually made a significant difference in my daily functioning.
Maintain a regular routine.
Having a routine ensures there is at least some semblance of predictability in our lives. Even if you aren’t able to work from home and have significantly less structured time during your day, making it more structured can have a big impact. It gives us some of our control back.
Consider your morning and nighttime routines as these are easy places to start with developing a routine. Set your alarm for the same time and do the same thing every morning. I start my morning by making coffee and taking it outside for a short walk around my neighbourhood before I start my workday.
Also, consider mealtimes, these are natural times in our days to create a structure. When possible try to plan for healthy meals as this will help to boost your mood.
Include a practice in your day that can help you to manage your mental wellness. A mindfulness or yoga practice mid-morning could be a great place to start. Or make gratitude part of your bedtime routine.
Make sure to include regular sleep as part of this routine. Maintaining a regular sleep schedule not only helps us to get better sleep, but sleep helps us to be more resilient throughout the day.
Check out our sleep resources to help you to get better sleep more often by improving your sleep hygiene.
We don’t have to come out of this better. There is no need to put unnecessary pressure on ourselves to learn a new skill or even pick up that project we keep saying we’ll get to when we ‘have more time’. What we are experiencing right now is traumatic and it’s okay if all you do is survive it.
That being said being creative can be a great survival tool- just remember there’s no right way to be creative.
Dig out that colouring book (or download some pages of the internet), the drawings pencils or some paints and create something without judgement. Get in the kitchen and try out a new recipe or experiment with some new spices. Put on your favourite song and make up a silly dance routine. Or consider putting together a puzzle.
Humans are inherently social beings. But social distancing and isolation do not actually mean social isolation. Consider instead they mean creative connection.
Yes, I most definitely miss hugging my friends as I am a person who thrives on physical affection but this is a time for creative solutions.
Technology has made it easier than ever to stay connected with our loved ones. Bring those conversations to FaceTime, Zoom or other video platforms as this will help you feel more connected than text-based communication. It may even be worthwhile to consider scheduling these conversations into your regular routine.
You can also make social connection part of your gratitude practice! Consider taking the time to write a letter to someone you care about telling them about why you value them (it doesn’t have to be long). Sharing a letter like this not only fosters a connection with this person and makes them feel good but it makes us feel good about ourselves too.
When we’re stuck at home it can be easy to slip into a sedentary lifestyle. We watch a movie marathon, or sit and scroll endlessly on social media. And that isn’t necessarily in itself problematic but exercise and movement are important in maintaining our physical and mental wellness.
I know working out at home sounds like a lot, but it doesn’t have to be. This was a particular pain point for me early in isolation because working out is an important part of my regular routine and helps me to keep my mental health balanced.
Check out this article I wrote for Miss Envy on At Home Workouts During Isolation.
Yes, you can bring your entire workout home if you choose too. There are many creative ways to bodyweight exercises or using household items for weightlifting. But you don’t have to take on too much.
As I mentioned early consider adding yoga into your mid-morning routine or go for a short walk around the neighbourhood, getting out in nature is also good for your mental health. Make exercise part of your daily routine
Or even just consider taking movement breaks. Do some squats between episodes on Netflix, so some push-ups before dinner, do heel raises while you’re doing the dishes. Whatever works for you to get moving. It’s also important to do activities that are going to raise our heart rate some, and if you’re anything like me you don’t have any interest in going for a run. Instead, consider dancing or doing some jumping jacks.
Remember that this isn’t going to last forever, but in the meantime, it’s important to focus on the present and the things we can control. Do the best you can to establish a routine that includes, healthy meals, regular sleep and exercise. Get creative and engage in activities that are stimulating without distractions or judgement and stay connected in creative ways with those we care about. We truly are stronger together.
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Humans are social beings so engaging in social distancing may take a toll on our mental health. So, learn how to cope with isolation during this time.