Friday, 1 May 2020

Isolation Cool Down Self-Help Guide

Lisa considers how easy self-isolation really is when you have a job, a family, and a mental health issue to take care of. 
- Lisa

Self-isolation sounds simple in theory. We've all seen the memes. With your family around you and plenty to watch on Netflix, it's the easiest thing in the world, right? In practice however, it's not so simple. Cabin fever is real! And what if you live alone, or have no garden to go outside to, or both?? And even if you do have family around you, that doesn't automatically hand you an 'I'm fine' card does it? Add a mental health issue to the isolation mix, and suddenly it's a whole different ball game. 

I live with my partner and two children, and I'm trying to navigate the working from home route. My anxiety levels have been through the roof, and I've had to stop looking at the headlines. With my children trying to learn remotely, and a manager who doesn't understand, I, like many others undoubtedly, am starting to feel the strain. Even though I'm medicated, my depression poked its ugly hand through the cracks the other day and waved at me. Time at home without other distractions is time to dwell on things that are out of our control. We can't control anyone's behaviour, we can only control our response to it. But try telling my brain that at 3am when it wakes me up shouting that I'm going to lose my job, and everyone hates me. 

So I've tried to put together a Keep It Cool list to keep myself from going nuts and ripping my own skin off my hands with worry. If you're a postgraduate like me, stuck at home and starting to feel the walls closing in on you, maybe it'll help you too. 

Get Outside
I know, we're isolating, but if you're lucky enough to have a garden or even a little bit of outdoor space, use it. There's something so calming about just being out in nature, it always makes me feel better anyway. Inevitably, I start weeding or making garden to-do lists in my head, but at least it gets my mind off the stuff that's bothering me. Don't close yourself off from the outside world at a time like this, it helps you to keep everything in perspective. 

Get Creative
I don't know about you, but whenever I see a sale on arts and crafts supplies, I'm there with bells on. I've got boxes of starter kits for every craft out there. Recently I started on needle felting, and I've only stabbed myself with the felting tool twice. I'll take that as a win. Even if you don't have any starter kits or a ton of supplies, a piece of paper and a pen can still give your mind a break from the mundane. Focus your creative energies into something beautiful, whether it be a picture or a piece of writing. Get it out of your head and onto the page and you'll have something to look back on and be proud of one day. 

Keep Busy
Get started on jobs around the house. Or even finish the stuff you haven't had a chance to. There's nothing like a bit of DIY to get the feel-good hormones going. And I'll be honest, I've lifted this idea direct from my neighbours gung-hoeing their entire home renovation; chainsaws and all. It's extremely loud, but they look very happy. 

Get Talking
Your loved ones are your loved ones for a reason. If those dark feelings are creeping in, tell them. Talk it out: cry, shout, whatever you need to. You've nothing to be ashamed of, and getting it off your chest will definitely lighten the load. Stay safe and take care. 

For more information on looking after your mental health during the lockdown, please visit the Student Minds page here.  


I'm Lisa, a mature postgraduate, 3 months fresh from graduating with an MA in English Studies at the University of Leicester. I've suffered with mental health issues for most of my life, and have suffered more than my fair share of ignorance and stigma. Trying to use my personal experience to support and help others is my way of giving back to the student community who helped me during my studies. 

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