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Managing Mental Wellbeing in Times of Self-Isolation

Feeling the pressure of self-isolation during the lockdown? Fitness expert Nazia Khatun shares three tips to keep both mind and body in check.

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Right now, the whole world is on lockdown and many of us have been forced into self-isolation. With the sudden changes to our normal routines, for many of us the situation is playing havoc with our mental wellbeing. But you needn’t let it get you down.

Though I understand self-isolation is necessary for the greater good, we need to adapt and learn to manage our mindset and emotions to overcome the impact the situation has presented us with. It will affect us all in different ways. The feeling of being disconnected and not having any control over the situation will see some feeling low, sad or depressed and many of you may be experiencing the following:

  • Fear
  • Sadness
  • Numbness
  • Insomnia
  • Confusion
  • Anger
  • Post-traumatic stress symptoms
  • Symptoms of depression
  • Low mood
  • Stress
  • Emotional disturbance
  • Irritability
  • Emotional exhaustion

Although I am experiencing all of these symptoms, I have been working on myself over the past five years to manage my mental wellbeing, and my coping mechanism is very much rooted in the resilience of being a former athlete.

At the start of my self-isolation, my body’s natural rhythm was off key: My sleep routine has been all over the place, I have experienced anxiety, mood swings and a lack of focus and concentration. I’m just about managing my emotions without going crazy on my family.

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This time will be different for everyone. I am a shy extrovert: I love the outdoors and I need and thrive on human interaction, but I also enjoy my alone time. Introverts are also going to feel the impact of staying at home for too long at some point. To overcome this challenge, I’ve found techniques which have helped to make my time in self-isolation more peaceful.

Here are three tips which have helped me manage my mental wellbeing during the lockdown:

1. Adapt to a new routine

Our morning routines normally help us to get ourselves ready and out of the house to get to work on time. Now we find that things have changed overnight.

This won’t have been easy for anyone and it probably won’t get easier as the situation takes a toll on us. The good news is, however, we can rewire our brain to adapt as quickly and as efficiently as we want it to.

Routine helps us sleep better and manage our emotions. To reset your routine, set your alarm to wake up and have a cut-off time for going to bed, create a planner for each day for each hour and try out new things such as cooking, drawing or reading. Don’t forget to factor in breaks.

Do not overcomplicate things right now, the idea is for you to have fun at home and look after your mental wellbeing. Take each day as it comes and be proud of the small things you achieved that day.

2. Express gratitude for what you have

In quarantine so many of us feel trapped in our own homes. Our brains do not like restriction. We are social creatures, so the distancing from loved ones and reduction of social interaction has a negative impact on our psyche.

This is probably the most basic and effective tool that has helped me to escape my darkest days of depression and manage my mental wellbeing. It’s the first important thing I do upon waking up till this day.

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Gratitude journals have helped Nazia overcome depression and achieve mental wellbeing

Being grateful for what we have rewires our mindset. When we express gratitude, our brain releases dopamine (the chemical associated with learning and euphoria) and serotonin (the chemical associated with feelings of wellbeing and memory). They enhance our mood immediately, making us feel happy from the inside.

Every day, wake up and say ‘thank you’. Put pen to paper or write it in big letters on your mirror and say it out loud. When you do that, your brain doesn’t have a chance to think about yesterday’s failures or unproductiveness.

3. Exercise for your mental health

Staying at home for prolonged periods of time can pose significant health issues, both physically and mentally. Sitting down all day long and not staying active can have detrimental effects on our mental wellbeing.

Exercise releases dopamine, serotonin, glutamate (which plays a role in learning, memory and plasticity) and gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA), which is important for emotional processing. Our brains are neuroplastic, which means you can physically change your brain by creating routines – such as working out.

Participating in any form of home workout will reduce anxiety, stress or any negative emotions we have cooped up. It will help you to sleep better and focus on the tasks you have to do. It can also serve as a distraction, allowing you to find some quiet time to break out of the cycle of negative thoughts that feed depression.

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Your body is your first gym, use it

In the comfort of your home you can start small. Run up and down the stairs, jog on the spot, do some star jumps or push-ups, just get creative with moving around. Our bodies are designed to move and to be free and right now we have to get creative with the things we can do. Most importantly I want you to focus on exercise being the medicine for your brain.

I promise you that applying these simple actions will enhance your mental health during self-isolation and help you to manage your emotions during these testing times. The gyms may be closed, but you always have access to your body, your first ever gym.

I’d love to hear how you’ve reacted to the situation. Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.


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by Brandon 20.06.2020
Thanks for this! Really helped.

First time here?