We human beings are social creatures and despite our complaints about the daily grind, we tend to thrive on structure and routine as well. However, Coronavirus (COVID-19) and recommended self-isolation practices have thrown a spanner in the works in both these areas.

Research tells us that social isolation and sudden changes in our daily routine can significantly impact our mood, leading to increased stress, depression, and anxiety, which in turn can affect our physical health and immune system. If you’re currently in self-isolation or planning to be soon, PsychMed and the Wellbeing and Recovery Research Institute (WARRI) have developed a guide to staying mentally and physically strong.

Keep Busy

2 weeks of uninterrupted Netflix may sound amazing to begin with but in reality would probably only hold your attention for a limited period of time. For many, employers have rushed to try and organise ways for staff to work from home, if they’re well enough. We strongly recommend developing a routine and keeping work out of the bedroom and away from the TV to maintain productivity.

What else can you do to stay stimulated inside the four walls of your home? This is the perfect time to do the tasks you’ve been putting off, pick up the book you’ve yet to start, or try the hobbies you’ve always said you didn’t have time for. Try your hand at arts and crafts, mindful colouring, or jigsaw puzzles. Learn a new language or sign up for online education courses. Buy board games not bog roll!

Keep active with online fitness classes and videos on YouTube or through your favourite fitness personalities and dedicated workout platforms like Les Mills on Demand. Look up the viral video of an entire apartment block following a fitness instructor in Italy and organise something similar for your neighbourhood if it’s feasible.

Manage Stress

Mindfulness, meditation, and relaxation strategies are a staple of many mental health interventions. Being more present encourages you to focus your attention and take control of your thoughts and feelings with acceptance and non-judgement. If you’re a bit of a newbie, apps like Headspace and Calm are an excellent starting point for guided mindfulness exercises.

Journaling can also be a great way of managing or processing your thoughts for a less cluttered, more settled mind.

Stay informed through reliable sources – repeatedly scrolling social media or attending to news outlets may foster fear. The Australian Government Department of Health (www.health.gov.au) and World Health Organisation (www.who.int) websites are two key factual resources to check once or twice per day. The media will likely gather their information from these organisations anyway before repackaging it in more deliberatively emotive ways.

Support your Immune System

Caring for your immune system may have become more of a priority recently. Seek medical treatment if you feel unwell, follow medical advice regarding medications, and reduce your intake of alcohol, nicotine, and other substances.

Research indicates zinc and selenium are beneficial for immune systems. Consider supplements or increase your natural intake by adding foods like oysters and brazil nuts (max 3 per day) to a balanced, healthy diet.

Getting enough quality sleep is vital for more than just our immune system. Practice good sleep hygiene and head outside if you can to help maintain your sleep-wake cycle. Maybe it’s time to plant that herb garden you’ve been meaning to do…

Healthy Hygiene

You may be getting tired of hearing it but…

Cover sneezes and coughs. Wipe and clean surfaces with sprays and wipes. Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and use sanitizer regularly. Avoid touching your face or eating without washing your hands. Engage in social distancing.

WARRI & PsychMed’s Keeping Connected Campaign 

Our physical connections may be limited for the time being but a wide variety of technology platforms means we can still communicate with family, friends, work colleagues, and even professional services. PsychMed can offer video or phone therapy sessions for example.

Many of us are familiar with FaceTime, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Skype, and Zoom – all of which can help us stay connected with people near and far. Familiarise yourself with any new technology through YouTube videos or the platform’s FAQ section. For the older generation, the SA government and Catalyst Foundation run digital training sessions in technology skills.

Consider using these technology platforms to maintain any social routines, like video conferencing work coffee breaks and friendly catch-ups or taking games nights online.

In times of hardship, we often overcome adversity by pulling together as a local, national, or even global community. Start small and reach out to neighbours to offer help or develop online groups to improve communication.

Contact PsychMed

PsychMed feel a strong allegiance to our local and wider communities. We plan to continue adapting our practices to provide ongoing mental health services for new and existing clients in the safest way possible. Call 08 8232 2424 or visit our website www.psychmed.com.au if you need to reach out for help or to stay connected.

 

References

Avery, J., & Hoffmann, P. (2018). Selenium, Selenoproteins, and Immunity. Nutrients, 10(9), 1203. doi:10.3390/nu10091203

Gammoh, N. Z., & Rink, L. (2019). Zinc and the Immune System. Nutrition and Immunity, 127–158. doi:10.1007/978-3-030-16073-9_8

Leigh-Hunt, N., Bagguley, D., Bash, K., Turner, V., Turnbull, S., Valtorta, N., & Caan, W. (2017). An overview of systematic reviews on the public health consequences of social isolation and loneliness. Public Health, 152, 157–171. doi:10.1016/j.puhe.2017.07.035