We’re certainly going through unprecedented, tough and worrying times; and the fact that the whole world is going through the same can be overwhelming, and perhaps even frightening. It almost seems surreal and sometimes it feels we could be in a horror movie film set.
With self-isolation being imposed on us there is a danger that many might find it difficult to cope. The anxiety level and worry, either about you or others, can exasperate the issues and as a consequence, our mental health can suffer. Boredom can quickly hit you, followed by frustration that you can’t do the things you would normally take for granted. However, help is at hand. With this simple 10-step guide to help you flourish. Even amidst the adversity, you’ll not only keep your sanity, but you might also improve it.
In some respects, if self-isolation is being imposed on us, there may never have been a better time with the Internet and technology providing such wonderful resources to stay in touch with loved ones, start a new project, or simply take the opportunity to watch your favourite films. Just imagine doing this without the internet.
Here’s our 10-step guide to help you through.
1. Maximise the opportunities
How many times have you told yourself you do not have time to do the things you’d like to do, whether that’s learning something new, catching up with old friends, cleaning those cupboards out and so on, I know there are loads of times I have said that. Well now is that time.
A precautionary word. I know many friends and colleagues, who, even after they retire from work, claim they do not have the time to do things they’d like to do. For many, it’s not the lack of time per se, but the lack of structure. Set clear objectives with timelines and strategies to do what you want. Be mindful the days do not start passing quickly and you just turn into a slouch potato, bingeing and watching TV!
This may be a one-time opportunity to do something special. Don’t miss it or let it go.
2. Routines: Put a structure in place
The priority is to put some structure into your day. When you go to work or school, a lot of the structure is in place. You know where to go and when to be there. You add other structures into your week, like going to the same gym class every week, or seeing a friend on the same day for a catch-up. Lots of our everyday structures have been put in place over the years. Routines will be key.
In this ‘stay-home’ period, we need to put our routines in place, as you will not only find time may either appear to speed up or slow down for you, but you may also spend more time worrying and perhaps eating, that you are becoming more lethargic and unhealthy, which may only compound your problem.
The first thing to do is to put a structure in place whereby you get up at a set time, do your exercise at a certain time, schedule chores, cooking and eating and then prioritise the time to do something really useful and beneficial for you. Write down your daily schedule after considering what you would like to get out of this isolation (and remember, it’s an opportunity as well as a challenge). Write down your overall objectives and then each day write down 3-5 things you would like to achieve within those objectives. Put a time against each item, both a time you’ll do it by, and how long you’ll spend on it, as another obstacle will be that you feel you now have all the time in the world so something that might normally take you one hour will take three. For me, some days have gone by so quickly I’ve wondered what I’ve actually done!
3. Be Curious & Explore New Opportunities
There may be many things you’d like to do, such as learning a new language, playing an instrument, improving your photography or cooking skills, read a book, write a book, and so on. You might want to update and improve your knowledge in an area you already use, perhaps looking at how to get the best out of social media, PR, marketing or video editing. Or you might want to explore something completely new. With the internet your opportunities have never been easier – some of the strangest hobbies I’ve seen include soap carving, milk bottle top collecting, Tape art and Navel fluff collecting (yes, really).
This is a great opportunity to explore your options, have fun and do something you want to because of you, the only limit is your imagination. Write down the things you’d like to explore and perhaps develop. Write down hobbies you are able to do indoors and things you might be able to do with friends online (help each other to try new things, play chess together or other on-line games)
Prioritise two or three things you’d like to really start and immerse yourself in.
4. Set Your Objectives
Once you have listed some of the things (it may be one thing) that you’d like to achieve set yourself an objective – for example if it’s learning a language it might be to learn 5 new words a day. That’ be 140 words in one month alone), it might be to learn 3 new recipes, or develop a skill to take creative indoor photos without using a flash (if you have a suitable camera) you might want to produce one video this week that you record, edit and publish.
Think about what you would like to achieve, a good starting point is to write down what you want to do and add some detail including time scales. Ink it – don’t just think it!
5. Planning & Strategy
The next stage would be to plan a schedule in which you will explore and learn those new skills. It might be you set a time every day between 10 am and mid-day, and/or repeat or explore something different every afternoon between 3 and 6 pm.
There are many free learning resources online in which to begin your new challenge, so explore YouTube and other links to sites that might help. Perhaps schedule to join chat groups or Facebook groups with people with similar interests (you’ll create some new friends in the process).
Again, be specific with the time and don’t get distracted during that time.
6. Socialising & Relationships
We’re social animals and need to maintain relationships with our friends and family. Set the time to call friends and family. Again, the structure will be useful rather than just being random. You may set aside some time in the evening to call 3 people (either close friends or someone you haven’t spoken to for a while). I have already received some nice calls from people checking how I am and talking about things we wouldn’t normally talk about. One good friend spoke of a bread-making course he went on (thank you Charlie) and I shared an Italian cooking recipe! We would never have normally spoken about these things.
Work on relationships if you live with others. It’s never been as important to interact well with people you may live with, in many instances, this will be easy because it may be close friends, family or partners. But where there may have been some tension before, again whether, in the family unit or flatmates, these issues will be compounded by the stay home rules.
This could also be a time that you mend broken relationships and perhaps call someone you have had a disagreement with in the past and rekindle that friendship. If our current situation is showing us anything, it is that life is too short to not try and be as nice and kind as you can.
It’s never been as easy to stay in contact with friends with technology including Facetime and Skype, or simply call a friend. We’re all in this together now. Some friends have really benefited from some of the relatively new social togetherness apps like House party, whereby groups of 4-5 couples have spent a virtual evening together playing quiz games! The wonder of technology in 2020.
Try and think of someone alone, old or young that might benefit from your call. You’ll both feel better for it.
Research findings show how beneficial exercise is to both our physical and mental well-being, Whilst it may be difficult, depending on current rules and regulations, to do your normal exercise (at the time of writing all gyms and classes are closed), we are able to go out for one form of exercise a day. As the weather improves in the UK (it’s current springtime) a brisk daily walk can really help maintain a level of fitness and help clear the mind. Remember to smell the roses and appreciate everything along your walk, people, scenery, plants, anything.
Also, there are many resources being put on-line to help maintain some form of exercise at home. Explore and find one that suits you.
You may be in a fortunate (or you may say unfortunate) position to be able to still do your normal work from home. Again, here structure is paramount and no doubt the work may take on a different slant to normal (maybe reduced hours or working in a different way).
Again, maintain a structure to your working day and make sure you take lots of breaks too, especially if you have family around that may want or need some attention.
9. Have Fun
Make sure you schedule some fun time into your day. If you have young children, you will be able to spend invaluable time together that you may not have had under normal circumstances. Again, you could explore lots of new ways to interact and play some games together. With older children playing a family board game will give a special bonding period that could last a lifetime.
Enjoy this special time together; you may never have such a great opportunity again.
Make sure you get your own personal fun, whether this is watching a film, reading a book or listening to your favourite music.
10. Get a Gratitude Attitude
It’s official, gratitude is good for your health. More than ever, this period is a great time to reflect the special things in your life – those special relationships, friends and family that you might normally take for granted.
Take time to make a list of the things that give you pleasure; it could be the most simple of things such as listening to nice music, working in your garden, making a model; those things we never have time to stop, reflect and tell ourselves how lucky we are to have.
Keep a gratitude diary. Every day, preferably before going to bed, make a note of three things in life your grateful for. You might be amazed at the positive effect this will have on your mood and mental well-being.
To summarise, here are ten things you might consider during these challenging times to maintain and even improve, your physical and mental well-being
- Maximise the opportunities
- Routines: Put a structure in place
- Be curious and explore new opportunities
- Set your objectives
- Planning & Strategy
- Socialising & Relationships
- Have fun
- Get a gratitude attitude
In No.2 (above), the ‘structure your time’ section, I suggested writing down what you might want to achieve during this period. At the end of each day and then at the end of each week (Sunday is a good time), reflect on how you have done. What goals did you achieve? Do you need to revise your objectives? Did you stick to your strategies?
Remember, we’ll soon be back to some form of normality, and you’ll back on this period as either an opportunity to have done something useful or a big disaster that left you anxious and mentally and maybe even physically unfit). It’s your choice.
Take care. Be Safe
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