Staying resilient in isolation

Monday 30 March 2020

Whether you are self-isolating, working from home or just social distancing, everyone is going to feel a lot more isolated and vulnerable now we are in lockdown. We need to work on our personal resilience to get through it and to support those around us.

National measures have been taken to try to protect our physical health, but it is acknowledged that the new world in which we are living will impact on our mental health.

It will be a particularly challenging time for those with ongoing mental health issues and we must continue to access the support we need.

For many who are taking time out from the always-on culture we have become used to, and spending more time with our loved ones, COVID-19 restrictions may be ultimately beneficial. Whatever our personal situation and state of mind, this experience will be life changing.

At a time when we are being immersed in a global emergency, feeling out of control of our personal circumstances, and threatened by illness and financial deprivation, staying strong and well is a tough call.

According to the NHS personal resilience is the ability to maintain personal wellbeing in the face of challenge.

Personal resilience action list

Go local, not global!

  • Don’t fixate on the big picture. It’s too overwhelming. Make sure you know what is expected of you as a citizen but concentrate on what you can do and need to do within your own household.
  • It’s a chance to get community-focused – try to connect with neighbours and local groups (safely and legally).
  • Avoid social media disinformation, ranting and conspiracy theories. It’s not good for your mental health!
  • Arm yourself with the facts and act on genuine guidance. Stick to reputable information sources.

Stay positive. This emergency is an opportunity to look at what is good in your life.

  • Share your vulnerability and your concerns with others. We are in this together.
  • Accept there are things you are not in control of - and do not try to control them.
  • Try to focus on what you need to do as an individual and a family, and create a routine.
  • Try to avoid negative posts and people. Difficult and harsh maybe, but you need to keep resilient. If friends and family are negative let them have their say, but don’t take it on board - their story is not your story.

Human beings are creatures of habit.

  • Establish a routine to focus your day. You may have to keep to work hours, if not, invent ones that suit you.
  • Anchor your life with one constant element a day, like walking the dog with the family, listening to Pop Master on Radio Two with your partner, or relaxing on the sofa with your cat and a coffee.
  • Weekdays and weekends may blend into one, which can be disorientating. Establish a weekly routine.

We can thrive through change. It can bring out our best selves.

  • Practice gratitude - reflect on three good things you have today. For example: you have food, you are warm, you are loved.
  • Be kind to others. Think of others. Give something away.
  • Celebrate and reflect on the ‘the old life’. Look at your life anew – it’s a chance to create something good and declutter what does not serve you.

Sleep – you need it!

  • Try to get a good night’s sleep each night (seven to nine hours for healthy adults) and go to bed and wake up at regular times. Its ok to box set binge on Netflix in week one of lockdown but establish a good sleep routine.
  • Have a bath, listen to music, read a novel, or meditate before sleep. Switch off the phone!
  • Good quality sleep is even more important now. It’s a chance to recover from the emotional exhaustion we are experiencing through these unprecedented times.
  • Make sure your bedroom is dark and cool.
  • Sleep is thought to help support our immune system and gives us the strength and courage to celebrate each day.

Exercise!

  • Take the opportunity we all have for one external exercise session a day. Get out, get some fresh air and stretch your legs every day. Walking improves creativity.
  • If you are working from home, make sure you get up and stretch every 20 minutes. Move your neck up and down and from side-to-side to release synovial fluid between your joints.
  • Home yoga and pilates is great! We are all housebound, so if you can, tune into exercise videos online.
  • If possible, get out into a green space. Connecting with nature is proven to help our mental health. Even a plant next to your laptop can be beneficial.
  • If you can’t get out to green space, download an app and listen to sounds of the sea, or birds singing. Or watch nature programmes on TV. A virtual experience is shown to benefit our wellbeing and health too.

Honest relationships. We are all in this together.

  • Resilience comes from having meaningful and authentic relationships, so ask for help, have an open heart, and be honest. We need each other to get through this.

Adele Cherreson Cole, Editor, stronger (adele.cherreson-cole@alarmrisk.com) and Shireen Walton, Positive Psychologist, Bee Resilient (shireen.walton@btinternet.com)

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