Self-isolation is typically associated with the loss of “freedom” and agency – where one perceives that he has lost his sense of control. Without planning, one can start to feel overwhelmed by the change and disruption to routines and lose sight of the fact that there are actually things that are within their control. Coupled with stress or other worries, people can definitely be at risk for developing low mood and therefore, it is important to mitigate this risk by planning ahead and anchoring themselves through structure and familiarity.
Tips for managing self-isolation:
1. Plan ahead where possible – this includes practicalities such as access to comfort items/necessities and coping resources. Ensuring that basic needs will be met can help one to quickly establish a sense of safety and control when faced with uncertainty
2. Create a new routine – this helps to preserve a sense of order and purpose in a novel situation
3. Engage in meaningful activities (this includes staying connected with friends/family/co-workers through phone/video) – this can serve as an anchor to connect people with their values, and also contributes to having a sense of purpose
4. Set realistic expectations, especially regarding productivity – while there is the perception of having more ‘free’ time, it is also important to acknowledge that it is an unfamiliar and stressful situation. Therefore, it is helpful to expect that more time is required for self-care activities (doing nothing is also a form of self-care!)
5. Remind oneself that self-isolation is temporary, and focus on the altruistic reasons for doing so (i.e. for the protection of loved ones and the larger community) – this can help to put the situation into context
6. Take a step back and look for the silver lining, or find things to be grateful for – this creates the opportunity for one to be more open and to allow for a different perspective
Dr Shawn Ee.
BSc. BPsych. DPsych.(Clinical), Clinical Psychologist & Psychoanalytic Psychotherapist, Registered Psychologist (AHPRA; Australia)