Following the latest recommendation from the government to stay indoors and avoid going out unless absolutely necessary, we are now facing a new challenge: how do you look after your psychological well-being during long periods of self-isolation?
Although working from home might feel like a dream come true for some individuals, others may struggle to adapt to this new way of living/working. Research suggests that people living in confined spaces for extended periods of time can experience “cabin fever”, with some reporting going “stir crazy”. During this time, various factors can come into play that can be either beneficial or detrimental to our wellbeing.
As we are social beings, lack of human interaction can have a negative effect on our psychological and physical health, which could lead to decreased immunity. In order to help combat this, it is vital to maintain a balanced diet and keep active. If you want to stay inside and exercise you can access free exercise classes online, with just your body weight (no equipment needed) and family-oriented activities.
Extended periods of confinement can lead to insomnia, poor memory, lack of concentration, low mood, irritability and decreased motivation. This has been reported by people working in polar stations, submarines, space missions, etc. The majority of negative thoughts and feelings can be significantly reduced by applying structure to your day. Setting aims/goals, scheduling regular breaks, planning meals and having a set bed time can help to increase motivation, concentration and overall mood.
We cannot underestimate the importance of having a social network to rely upon and being able to reach out to friends and family when needed. It is widely documented that people with lack of social support experience higher levels of anxiety and depression and tend to adopt negative coping strategies such as alcohol. So, we must be mindful that dedicating time to reach out to friends and family, even for light-hearted chats, can be incredibly uplifting.
Spending extended periods of time in confined spaces can lead to conflicts, especially between family members. Taking some time out as well as exercise can help to reduce tensions. There is also some evidence to suggest that separating yourself from work through meditation or mindfulness-based exercises can help to promote better work (from home) life balance.
HOW TO AVOID CABIN FEVER?
• Boost your immunity – get moving and eat healthy!
• Structure your day – don’t forget to schedule meals, breaks and have a set bedtime
• Maintain social contact – share your worries or concerns with friends and family
• Avoid conflicts – exercise or take some time out
Finally, if you or any of your friends and family find it hard to cope with self-isolation, please seek professional advice.
Monika Michalska, Principal Architecture Consultant- Adrem
MSc Organisational Psychology