As my client shared this with me, I knew she was not alone.
We have been isolating ourselves in our homes to prevent the spread of a deadly virus, and our worlds and interactions have become smaller than ever before. Many of the activities and connections we considered unimportant before, have now become a dream that we long to experience again.
With university and college campuses closing down, many students have returned to their family homes, presenting new challenges for them and their families. Different generations living together — some facing financial and employment difficulties and many feeling frustration, anxiety, and depressive symptoms — can be difficult.
The same goes for those in relationships who are now in quarantine together. Being coerced to spend long periods of time together without having the breathing room to interact with friends and strangers can lead people to experience irritation and resentment. Or, as a client put it, “I love her, but I just hate being with her so much.”
Why is it so hard to spend long periods of time with those we love? The answer lies in choice. All humans want to have the power to choose how and with whom they spend their time. Being in isolation means that in addition to managing your own anxieties and frustrations, you have to be aware of others’ moods. It means when there is a disagreement, there is nowhere to go but within oneself, and to use the conflict resolution techniques you can learn from a therapist.
Set your alarm to wake up and go to sleep at the same time every day. This will help your Circadian Rhythm support your coordination, cognition, immune system, and metabolism.
Setting goals and breaking them into smaller tasks is a great way to feel motivated and enhance your mental health. Ask yourself, “If I had all the time in the world (and surprise, you do have all this time in isolation!), what goals would I like to reach in six months?”
Then, break that goal into smaller goals you can reach each month and week. At the beginning of each day, ask yourself, “What is the one thing I can do to get closer to my weekly goal?” With every small step you take, you will become more confident and closer to reaching your final destination.
You are likely in quarantine with other people, so what better time than now to learn and practice your communication skills? The most important rules are to be clear, consistent, and kind when communicating your needs to loved ones. Remember others are not aware of your internal feelings unless you express them.
A healthy body and mind will do better in extreme circumstances like self-isolation. Eat healthy, get at least 30 minutes of exercise (yes, walking counts!) a day, and practice mindfulness every day. If you feel blue for long periods of time or have lost interest in things that used to bring you joy, talk to a mental health professional.
If this all feels like therapy, it is; and just like therapy, it can change your life.