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How to cope with isolation in uncertain times

I had a very different post subject in mind for today. After spending a ridiculous amount of time reading endless headlines online, however, I have decided this is much more useful. For over 10 years of my life, I struggled deeply with an undiagnosed illness. During this time, social isolation was necessary and frequent due to my ill health. It’s one of the reasons why this site is named oh no fomo – you can live a full life, even if you’re spending it at home. Here are some takeaways from that time that can be useful during this time of isolation in the wake of COVID-19.

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Alone but not lonely: how to cope with isolation in uncertain times

Reach out to your people

How many times in your life have you waited for your phone to ring and for other people to contact you? I do this all the time. The truth is, we’re all a little preoccupied and fairly anxious right now. Don’t wait for your friends to reach out to you – message your friends and check in on them. It doesn’t even have to be related to anything going on right now. Heck, it can just be a funny TikTok you saw or something.

Get creative with this, too! If you’re all working from home and you’re not used to that, make a Slack channel so you can feel social while working. You can also play online games together. Missing social nights? I’m personally a huge fan of Jackbox games, which can be played on the Steam platform and be used to play remotely for all players. Having regular game nights with friends in the coming weeks or months can be a great way to stay in touch and get your mind off all the bad things happening right now.

Keep your regular routines during the isolation

isolation doesn't necessarily mean constantly being inside
The trails are open – remember to maintain distance from others on the trail.
Get some fresh air!

I know firsthand how gloomy isolation can get. Sure, the first few days start out nice – you get to work from home! No judgemental jeans or business casual today, satan. After that, however, it’s easy to start getting off of your normal routines. What’s the point of getting out of bed early to work out? Why should I move from the couch today?

In a chaotic new world, keeping your regularly-scheduled routines can help keep you on track. Not just your work, but your mind. It’s easy to fall into a near full-blown depression state if you’re not careful. Having a routine can help give you a sense of purpose, and help you keep moving forward. It can also break up your day. Are you used to going on a walk at lunch? Go on that walk! When everything seems so unstable, having the stability of your routine is something nice to fall back on.

Health is wealth

The stress of these uncertain times can really wear you down. Stress can cause a myriad of health issues, including making you more susceptible to viruses, i.e. the very reason we’re all staying home right now. Take care of yourself the best way you know how to. Stocking up on food doesn’t mean you have to buy all the ramen noodles in the store. You can also buy fresh fruits and vegetables and freeze them for later use. Used to going to the gym? There are a lot of workouts you can do at home. If nothing else, consider adding meditation and breaking up your day with small stretches or breathing exercises (I’m a fan of the Wim Hof Method).

Journal about the isolation

You probably have a thousand notebooks laying around if you’re anything like me

If you have a lot on your mind but don’t want to continue screaming into the void about it, journaling is another great option for coping with isolation. This way, you’re not feeling like you’re adding to the stress of your friends and loved ones, but you can get the feelings out regardless. It’s very nice to be able to just unpack what you’re feeling. It’s totally okay to feel how you’re feeling, by the way. Scared, anxious, angry, whatever. Those are your feelings and they are valid. Journal about them.

Be prepared

Yes, stock up on healthy food, but also take preventative measures and make sure you can sustain for several weeks

Being prepared is solid advice for literally anything. The phrase “prepared not scared” is a great one for your toolkit in a time like this. When I was at my sickest, I would do anything in my power to be prepared. I would have food in my pantry and email my professors for what was to come. I would not know when or how long I’d be down. There’s no way to be fully prepared for anything, but having everything you can control in order is a way to ease your mind and give yourself room to breathe. The stress of the unknown is enough, but knowing you’ve done everything you can to ensure your safety can help mitigate unnecessary stress.

Keep yourself busy

Isolation is a good time to pick up a new craft - here, someone is passing the time with embroidery
Currently teaching myself how to embroider

I’ve saved the best for last. Even from a bed, keeping myself busy was incredibly important for getting through years of on-and-off isolation. Finding activities to occupy your time is incredibly important. This not only makes the days go by faster but can help take your mind off the current situation. Sitting around dwelling on everything all day is, frankly, exhausting (I know because that’s how I spent my day yesterday). Using this time to start a new activity makes it a little more fun and exciting, some stimulus your brain could use.

Have you always wanted to try art but haven’t? Or have you had a craft kit sitting in your home for months and have totally forgotten about it? Did you fail at writing your novel for NaNoWriMo? Get crackin’. Maybe you, like me, are planning a huge garden for the summer and could work on that. Bonus points for outside activities (in non-crowded areas). The fresh air and sunshine can do you some good as well.

Everything is temporary, even isolation

We don’t know anything right now. None of us do. We literally have no clue how long this virus is going to last and how long we’ll be needing to be in isolation. That said, we know it probably won’t be like this forever. Will our lives be changed for quite a while? Most likely. Will we be sequestered to our homes for the rest of our lives? Quite unlikely. The phrase I used a lot in my darkest hours of isolation: this too shall pass.

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