Tips for maintaining psychological well-being during isolation

We're going through a tough time. The emergence and rapid contagion of COVID-19 or "Coronavirus", as well as its undisputed threat to our older adults, people with certain chronic diseases, and health system, has led us to take a radical preventive measure: social isolation or Quarantine. Respect for these measures will play a momentous role in saving millions of lives, and I support it 100 percent. However, staying in our homes for long periods of time, especially to prevent the spread of a dangerous virus, has a negative effect on our mental health.

Similar scenarios have seen a significant increase in stress levels, irritability, anxiety and mood decay of people in isolation. Maybe for now we're not feeling any of this, but when it comes a week or two, they might start showing up. That's why I've decided to write a list of tips or guidelines that help minimize the adverse psychological effects of quarantine. While they can be taken as a corrective measure, ideally they should be installed from now on as a preventive measure, something akin to psychological hygiene.

Guidelines for maintaining our mental health during quarantine.

  • It clearly and simply understands the logical reasons for our isolation:

Being quarantined is not a whim of our government, nor a response to a media exaggeration. It is an emergency measure based on the successes and failures of other COVID-19-affected countries, which seeks to slow the spread of the virus, thus preventing the collapse of the health system. If we succeed, it will remain operating within its capabilities, so that it will be able to attend to that 15% of infected people who will require hospitalization, as well as people who require urgent medical attention for other reasons (appendicitis, bleeding, heart attack, etc.). Most of us will most likely eventually become infected with the "Coronavirus", but we don't need hospitalization to get ahead. This measure is then taken to help those in our population who are most at risk if they become infected: our older adults, as well as those who suffer from diabetes, cardiovascular problems, hypertension and certain problems Respiratory. Isolating ourselves is then an act of empathy, solidarity, civility and compassion. We stay home as a sacrifice of love that will save lives, which will be our greatest reward. It is an understanding of the irreplaceable worth of our isolation, that should guide us during this quarantine.

  • Recognizes and validates the unpleasant emotions that quarantine can generate:

Being quarantined by a global pandemic is extremely serious, and in many ways unnatural. This leads to a deep psychological discomfort. An important step in starting to manage this discomfort is to accept it as compassionately as possible, identifying and understanding its nature. Denying what we feel never helps, while recognizing it, noless much as it hurts, already generates relief and opens the doors for its handling. It is worth mentioning the importance of seeing an emotion as what it is, no more or less than an affection, as well as understanding that feeling something does not justify any kind of aggression.

  • Take action on your emotions:

Invest your energy in cultivating attitudes, ideas and actions that help reduce your and your family's discomfort, as well as increase emotional well-being in your home.

To. Faced with the enormous misinformation circulating in the networks about the "Coronavirus", it seeks one or two reliable sources of information on COVID-19 (e.g. the World Health Organization and the Peruvian Government), and ignores anything that comes from elsewhere. Also, avoid becoming a disinformation transmitter, sharing only information from your trusted source.

B. To eliminate or at least reduce a constant alert emotional state (which raises your stress, anxiety, and irritability), wear one or more moments a day to learn about the virus situation. As far as possible, try not to make it morning or night, to avoid predisposing your day negatively or making your sleep less restful. And following this line, if you're going to share information just do it during your chosen time, helping to decrease the alertness in others.

C. To maintain your positive psychological chemistry, do home physical exercise on a daily basis, from yoga, jumping jacks and squats, to abs, planks and weights. It also seeks to maintain a Mediterranean diet (the studied diet that most correlates with mental health), focused on many and varied vegetables, fruits, menus, nuts, fish and olive oil. Also try to keep a regular bedtime schedule, lying down and getting up early. If possible, sunbathe on the balcony, window, terrace or garden for about 20 minutes each morning, and if you have access, try to contemplate a little nature every day. As a big plus, all this elevates your immune system, reducing the harmful effects of any disease.

D. When bored with getting away from your daily sources of joy away from home, use whatever you have at hand and your creativity to find or manufacture new ways to rejoice. You may have a musical instrument, board games, charcoals, books, movies, music records, video games or other things at hand that could be amazing sources of well-being. Think about what you've been putting off for lack of time, such as learning to meditate, resuming writing, or listening to that group you've been talked about so much. Allow yourself to use the internet to access countless sources of entertainment, such as courses, series or games. And if you still can't find something you like, find out what others have found.

E. In the face of social estrangement and loneliness, make full and deep use of technology to stay in touch with family and friends. You can use the classic method of calling through the regular or cellular phone (the human voice has very beautiful nuances that stand out when we are fully focused on it). You can use the wonder of video calls to listen and see your loved ones, even several at once!, via WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, Skype, Zoom, etc. You can even venture into talking window to window with your neighbors! I invite you to use your creativity, creating online social gatherings. You can make breakfast, lunch, dinner or an after office with several friends, each with their own food and drink from their own home. I also invite you to contact relatives and colleagues from whom you had disconnected, many of whom are probably in a situation similar to yours. You can join virtual groups by themes or hobbies, making new friendships out there.

On the other hand, I invite you with a heartfelt heart to deepen, and perhaps even heal, those important family bonds with the people you love the most. Perhaps work and other activities have kept you not as close as you would have liked from your partner, your children, your siblings or your parents. Or maybe there have been difficulties between you that have formed distance and gaps. This is a wonderful opportunity to come back closer, to talk and to recognize yourself. To this end it is essential to allow us to be present with them, giving them our full attention, as well as to be empathetic, authentic and open to love. If you've been touched by this quarantine with some of these people at home, I invite you to look at them without the rush of everyday life, and to allow them to look at you in turn. Perhaps this harsh pandemic will help you awaken or cultivate one of the greatest treasures of human existence: bonding with others.

A very important fact! Humans also need alone time and privacy, which makes maintaining a quarantine with other people have the potential to become highly stressful. That's why it's important to talk about it and come to agreement, such as a family code when someone needs your space (e.g. "the gesture with T's hands of time"), as well as respecting our rooms or privacy areas. Strengthening our bonds is not synonymous with being together all day for two weeks. It's about quality over quantity, as well as balance versus any end.

To manage the anxiety that gives us the possibility of becoming infected with the "Coronavirus", or that our family and friends get infected, it is advisable to practice what in cognitive behavioral psychotherapy is called cognitive restructuring. In short, we must remember that our emotions do not arise in response to what happens, but to how we interpret it. Thus, one way to self-regulate our emotions is to identify our thoughts and question their validity. Specifically about thoughts that cause us anxiety, it's worth asking: Is it logical what I'm thinking? How likely, based on evidence and statistics, is that what I fear happen? And if it happens, how terrible would it really be? We know, for example, that while most of us will eventually end up becoming infected with COVID-19, most infected people pass it with mild symptoms (some are even asymptomatic). We also know that even for older adults and people vulnerable to the virus, most manage to survive the infection. We also know that all necessary measures are being taken to slow the spread of the virus, so that if we require future health care, it will be available, as well as to give time to the experimental drugs and vaccines that are currently are developing with the virus. Thus, chances are you and your loved ones survive the "Coronavirus". Just stay home and wash your hands.

In the face of other people's suffering, whether it's people who are serious about the virus, or people affected by the virus economic crisis that this brings, it is extremely important to validate our empathetic sadness, and use his energy to do something within our reach for those people we can reach. Maybe we can't cure sick, but we can help the neighbor. Maybe we can't solve the crisis. but we can still pay our employees. Maybe not. we can stop the pandemic, but we can spread messages of health, calm and Hope.

We can also focus our compassion simple acts, such as bringing purchases to an older adult, calling people who are frightened, or use our professional knowledge to help the community in this crisis.

Focusing on what we don't have control over is frustrating and a waste of time. We must pour our energy into what we do control, which is a lot.

I hope all of this will help our community in these difficult times. Please respect the quarantine, the distance of two meters between you when you go out to stock up, wash your hands frequently and for half a minute, and if you have symptoms of COVID-19 call your doctor or the government's hotline before going to a medical center. Best for you and your loved ones,

Luis Pedro Calmet Otero
Psicologist, High School



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