Research tells us that periods of self-isolation and the practice of social distancing can have a detrimental psychological impact on us. Studies of people in community quarantine show increases in levels of psychological distress, including increased levels of anxiety and irritability.
But we also know, from research, that there are things we can do to help ourselves maintain a positive outlook despite the inevitable increase in our stress levels. The Covid-19 Five-a-day is a set of five daily goals that you and your family can implement, based on global research on resilience and coping with adversity. You can turn each of the five daily goals into actions that are appropriate and relevant to your situation. By actively attending to each of these five areas every day, you can strengthen your mental fortitude and stay resilient! The descriptions below provide some examples to get you started.
The Covid-19 Five-a-day
1. Have some fun!
Shared humour and laughter are great ways to combat stress and help people to feel connected. Taking time to notice funny moments in our everyday lives and engaging in playful interactions with others can help us to momentarily take our minds off our fears and worries.
Why don’t you:
Share a joke or a funny moment.
Invent a silly dance and share with your friends and family.
Play a board game with friends or family over video-link.
Have an online singsong.
2. Take time for me!
Take some time out every day to look after yourself. Everyone needs a little personal space to ground themselves and get some perspective. The same is true for others who are in the same household. Perhaps you could all agree on times or spaces that everyone can own for part of the day to be with themselves. “Time for me” also includes self-nurturing activities such as taking care of your appearance, finding creative ways to get exercise, creating moments of downtime, finding ways to relax. Some activities to think about:
Take time to listen to your favourite music.
Read those books you always wanted to, but never got round to.
Have a relaxing bath.
Meditate for 30 minutes on your own.
3. Cultivate compassion
Being kind to yourself does not always come easy. Use this crisis to develop ways in which you can be more accepting of yourself and also more tolerant of others. Research shows that people who help others altruistically benefit in terms of both their health and well-being. So if you are able to, get involved in local efforts to support vulnerable people in your community.
Living for extended periods of time in close proximity to your nearest and dearest can also lead to moments of intense irritation and conflict. It is important that you find compassionate ways to deal with any conflicts in your home and do what you can to prevent escalation. This may mean that you need to remove yourself temporarily from fraught situations, work hard to find win-win solutions to conflicts, and be more accepting of the differences between members of your family.
You can think about:
Learning mindfulness meditation (there are lots of good online resources available).
Starting or joining a local group to support vulnerable people or self-isolating families.
Doing something kind for everyone in your family.
Sharing support with others by joining a time bank or other local initiatives in the sharing economy.
4. Interact with others!
Social distancing does not have to mean that you cannot interact with others. It is very important that you find creative ways to keep yourself socially connected. A phone call to ask someone how they’re getting on, an email or face to face contact (at a safe distance) can help to meet your need as a human being for contact with others. If you know someone who is isolated, reach out to them, let them know you’re thinking of them. It is also important to find ways to share your daily experiences and feelings with others, especially if you and your family are self-isolating.
Things you can do:
Write an old-fashioned letter or send a postcard.
Send someone a care parcel that you’ve ordered online.
Organise a telephone or video conference with friends (why not have an online party?).
Have a daily family meeting where everyone can share their experiences – and why not try doing it using video!
Organise a family talent show which you can stream to friends or family.
Re-connect with old friends.
5. Be positive!
You can choose not to give in to panic. Remaining positive is extremely important in this crisis. You might have to be very pro-active in this regard.
Things you can do to combat negativity include carefully managing which sources of information about the outbreak you access. Perhaps you can limit yourself to accessing a reputable news outlet or the latest government guidance only at specified times each day. You can refuse to spread rumours or to stigmatise anyone.
You can help yourself to remain motivated by setting yourself a daily routine and some goals: Make sure you keep to a healthy sleep schedule, and maintain the rhythm of the day such as meal times and housework, catch up with your paperwork, learn something new like a language or musical instrument, or write a journal. Spending time outdoors has also been shown by research to support mental well-being, so try to find ways for you and your family to enjoy being in nature, even if it is just getting some fresh air in the garden.
These 5 goals are based on a synthesis of over 50 years of research on how people cope with stress and adversity. One of the key messages of that research is that we can proactively implement steps to help us survive hard times. Even if, on any given day, you do not feel like doing much, try to include at least one activity from each of the Covid-19 Five-a-day in your day, to help you stay resilient.
The Covid-19 Five-a-day
We would really like to hear from you. If you have come up with creative activities that helped you implement the Covid-19 Five-a-day, please tell us about them. You can also read a longer article that provides some of the research on which the five goals are based here.
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