As cases of COVID-19 rise around the world, more people are being encouraged to self-isolate in at attempt to reduce the spread of the virus, which so far has proven a particular risk to the elderly and those with underlying health conditions.
While self-isolating might sound like a dream scenario for the introverts among us, two weeks alone with yourself can very quickly become boring and frustrating. In some cases, people might find their mood is affected, says NHS England –- people might feel low, worried or have problems sleeping.
So what can you do about it?
1. Get on top of things.
Yes, it’s not ideal you’ve got to stay at home for two weeks, but think of it as a great time to do some of those things you’ve been putting off (like booking that dentist appointment or researching staycations). Reprioritize your wellbeing and happiness. Have a nice bath (or five), paint your nails, practice mindfulness, do some yoga. It all helps.
2. Use social media for good.
Social media should never be a replacement for physical contact with other human beings, but when you’re in isolation, you have to compromise.
Instead of scrolling mindlessly through your feeds, use social media to connect with friends and family. Find new networks and communities, join or promote worthwhile causes – perhaps one of those helping the vulnerable during the outbreak – or reach out to others who appear to be struggling.
Make use of Whatsapp and Facetime. It can really help to lift our spirits to connect regularly with those we love. Failing that, do it the old-fashioned way and give an old friend (or your gramma) a call.
It’s good to stay informed about the best health precautions, but you don’t need to be glued to every single news update, as this can feed and fuel our fears. If you find it’s all getting too much, avoid the news, turn off notifications and mute specific words on social media.
And if you find yourself spending too much time online, limit your use to a certain time (ie. 6p.m.) each day.
3. Read a book (or three).
Reading is considered very therapeutic, so throwing yourself headfirst into a good book (preferably an uplifting one!) could work wonders for the soul. Why not revisit our favorite holiday reads – because you’re ‘kind of’ on a break.
When you’ve got your nose in a good book, time passes quickly and you find yourself immersed in an entirely new world – one where you’re not thinking about coronavirus. A study by cognitive neuropsychologist Dr. David Lewis showed that reading for as little as six minutes a day can reduce stress levels by a whopping 60%. In fact, it was found to be better at reducing stress than music, having a cup of tea, going for a walk and playing video games.
4. Marie Kondo your room.
When Channel 4 presenter Jon Snow returned to the U.K. from Iran, he was told he had to spend two weeks in isolation. What did he do in that time? He organized his ties, of course.
If you’re house- or bedroom-bound, try to focus on what you can be doing to sort out the area you’re confined to. Is it finally time to have a clear out? How about putting up those curtains that have been sat in their wrapping for eons? Or tidying up that bedside table drawer that’s crammed full of junk? You’ll feel totally satisfied and fulfilled afterwards. Not to mention a little calmer.
5. Buy yourself something nice.
It’s seriously crap being stuck indoors and you’re doing the best you can, so buy yourself something nice (online, of course). Lovely flowers you can have delivered, or splurge on some new linens for the bed you’re having to look at and sit on day in, day out? Obviously if you’re being tested for coronavirus, or you’ve tested positive, you should be letting your delivery driver know that they should call you and leave the items on your doorstep when they arrive to limit interaction.
6. Prioritize sleep, but not too much.
You might want to sleep lots when you’re stuck indoors and bored, but don’t be tempted because it can really screw up your sleeping pattern. If you’re self-isolating, use the time to catch up on sleep (7-8 hours per night is enough) and don’t be drawn in by the temptation to nap for three hours each afternoon. Prioritizing your sleep can help boost your mental health, but getting too much sleep can actually make us feel 10 times worse.
7. Get creative.
Studies suggest that when we’re bored, we’re at our most creative, so use this time wisely. Write that book you’ve been putting off, paint that blank canvas, pen a poem or song, compose some music. Do something.
Alternatively, learn a new skill. YouTube is a great starting point. You’ll find tutorials for pretty much anything – whether you’re learning how to draw, knit, or even cook. If that’s not for you, why not download an app to help you learn a new language.
You’re confined to your room, you’re bored out of your skull, there’s only one thing for it: it’s time to dance. Turn up your music (upbeat songs only) and spend 20 minutes dancing around – not only will it boost your mood, it’s also a good way of squeezing in some exercise without leaving the house.
9. Focus on the future.
Remember this is a temporary situation, it’s not forever. So why not focus your mind on the things you’re looking forward to in the year ahead? The weddings you’re attending, the holidays you’ve booked, the big career or house move, spending summer in beautiful beer gardens, going to the beach, landing that promotion. If we focus on the future, there’s less chance to catastrophize about the present.
An original version of this article appeared on HuffPost UK.