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Self-isolation as an opportunity for self-retreat: 19 top tips

In the past weeks we have witnessed strange and unsettling times with the COVID-19 pandemic, and it may be difficult to remember how you can take care of yourself during self-isolation. Here Dr Gulcan Garip, Health Psychologist at the University of Derby Online, offers some research-based suggestions to help make the most of your days.

By Dr Gulcan Garip - 31 March 2020

1. Limit your use of social media and news about coronavirus

There's a lot of misinformation and scaremongering that is unhelpful for your mental health.

2. Daily plan

Make sure you have a plan for what you will be doing each day. You can do this on a computer or, if you want to minimise distraction, do it on paper. This will provide you with structure in a time of uncertainty. It will help you from doing nothing or from overthinking and worrying.

3. Writing as therapy

Take note of the things and thoughts that are freaking you out and try and challenge these with a "bright side" or "silver lining". Communicating them (even if on paper) will make it feel less heavy and it will give you the head space to carry on in the uncertainty. Coming up with positives to self-isolation (or self-retreat) will help shift your perspective to one that will transform these times to a more mentally manageable one.

4. Meditate

If you've never done it, try it. You might find meditation doesn't work if so, go for a walk in your garden or outside and focus on nature, and keep your attention on the present moment. Take a look at Professor Miles Richardson's blog on how nature can help us deal with the unprecedented restriction that the coronavirus outbreak has placed on everyday life.

5. Daily exercising

Exercising is very important. Try something new. The internet has a variety of exercise videos for all levels, or why not, put on your favourite song and dance your heart out.

6. Learn a new skill, activity or complete a course

Remember, things won't be like this forever and if you ever had the thought "I wish I had time to learn..," surprise! You have time now.

7. Start your own project

Find a project that is meaningful to you with the materials and resources available. This will keep your brain and creativity going, and it will give you something to look forward to the next day rather than binge watching FRIENDS (again!).

8. Laugh

Make sure you laugh, speak to people who make you laugh. Have you heard about the Laughie? Try it and exercise those laughing muscles, find your musical laughter. Read more about the Laughie in Freda Gonot-Schoupinsky's blog 'A laughie a day - a new exercise, you say!?'

9. Music is food for your soul

Sing, play an instrument, form a band with the people around you or online. For more advanced musicians, write a song and share it. Don't have musical instruments? Well, that didn' stop Stomp!

10. Sleep

Make sure to tire yourself out enough in the day so you can sleep well at night. Also make sure you are not over-sleeping. If you're struggling to sleep, look at Dr William Van Gordon's five psychological techniques for improving sleep quality blog.

11. Do things that make you feel you've been useful

This is important for maintaining our sense of self. Think of how you can help those around you, offer your help. If you're ill, 'help' might be isolating yourself. If you're not ill, you can also help by isolating yourself to slow the spread and find more "safe" ways to reach out to your community.

12. Books

You can always read, there are audiobooks you can listen to, and the internet contains loads of books in topics that may interest you.

13. Keep in contact with friends and relatives

Call your friends, relatives (particularly those who are elderly), arrange to have virtual meet-ups. Some people may be living alone and not have company with them. It is a good morale boost to remind them we are in this together.

14. Start a joy and gratitude diary

Write down things that bring you joy and that you are grateful for so you can use it when you are lacking joy.

15. Express your emotions

Have a good cry, you'll feel better afterwards. Being strong and calm may be tough for some, and that is perfectly fine. Bottling up emotions will only lead to over-thinking and stress, so share your pain and anxiety, cry if you need to. These feelings are part of being human.

16. Have a spa-day at home

Care for your body. Nourishing and caring for body without rushing to anything can be soothing and reassuring.

17. Create a tea/coffee/beverage ritual

These rituals are great for starting your day, preparing for a relaxing read, or getting ready for bed.

18. Watch a film, documentary, series, etc.

19. Do things you enjoy

I enjoy juggling and yoga. Aim to do at least one enjoyable activity each day.

Most importantly, take care of yourselves and others around you.

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About the author

Gulcan Garip

Dr Gulcan Garip
Programme Lead in Psychology

Dr Gülcan Garip is the Programme Co-Lead for MSc Psychology and teaches on the MSc Health Psychology. Gülcan is a registered Chartered Psychologist with the British Psychological Society (BPS), a registered Health Psychologist with the Health and Care Professions Council, a member of the BPS Division of Health Psychology, and Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

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