Advice on Prioritising Your Mental Health During Social Isolation


We all know the feeling: it’s 8pm and you decide to call your family to check in. You chat for the first 10 minutes, and then they pop the question: “so, what have you been up to today?” You look down at your grimy sweatpants that you haven’t changed out of since Monday (…or was it Sunday?) and you try to think of one productive thing you’ve done. “I ate lunch at the kitchen counter instead of in my bed” isn’t quite the accomplishment you may think it is. So you make up a long story about how you made yourself get up early, did a quick workout, made yourself a healthy breakfast, then set to work writing that novel that you’ve been dying to get into. In reality, though, you binge-watched two seasons of Suits and ate some nearly-expired quick-make Tesco pasta.

It’s time for this to change. Although it is easy to fall into complacency and boredom in a time where we’re (quite literally) not allowed to leave our houses, we cannot throw away valuable weeks of our lives in isolation. Just because we’re confined to our houses, we don’t have to let our activities and imaginations be hampered as well. Follow these seven steps to remain healthy and happy in isolation. After all, this could prove to be a wonderful period of growth and self-reflection for the human race if we let it.

Also, check out the NHS’s notes on mental health and well-being, as well as their mood self-assessment. Take care of yourselves and be sure to prioritise your mental health.

Keep a Routine

The most important thing to do when you're self-isolating is to create a routine and stick to it. It is the days that we stay in bed until noon — only to move to the couch to watch tv — that we end the day feeling anxious and bored. Focus on maintaining a routine: do exactly what you’d do if you were going to work (...but maybe give yourself an extra hour of sleep... because you can!!). Before you get out of bed, write a list of 5 things you want to accomplish today. These don’t need to be big things: "make a healthy breakfast" is the perfect place to start. Put on the same clothes that you would if you were going to be seeing 20 people. Sure, it’s comfortable to lounge about in a bathrobe all day, but it’s important to remember how much your physical state influences your mental state. If you begin the day by putting a bit of effort into your physical state, you set a precedent that is sure to flow throughout the rest of your daily activities. Then, spend some time making breakfast. If isolation has given us anything, it’s time, so allow yourself to try something new for breakfast. If you can’t get out to the shops or they’re not selling what you had in mind, challenge yourself to make a breakfast using only what you have in your house. Supercook is the perfect solution for this: just enter the ingredients that you have and it will provide you with popular recipes using only those ingredients! Begin your day by setting a precedent of preparedness and awareness, and your day will be a success.

Working from home?

Teooh’s Technical Project Manager Steve Wright suggests that you treat your space as if it were an office: maintain normal office hours, don’t work on the sofa if you can avoid it (it’s bad for your posture anyway), take time for lunch away from your computer, and stand up and move around every hour. Communicate frequently, but do it asynchronously (getting into the habit of communicating asynchronously is skill #1 for effective remote working — see this blog on asynchronous communication).

Focus on Finding New Hobbies

What’s something you’ve always wanted to learn but never had time to commit to trying? Well, now’s your chance! Pick up that dusty guitar, cracked paint-set, or worn-out journal, and just start. The most difficult part of a new hobby is starting, so set out thirty minutes to an hour every day to focus your time on it. Find Youtube tutorials, ask friends for (remote) help, or get creative. And remember: you’re not doing this for anyone but yourself. Begin this hobby at your own pace. Just because you set out an hour to practice a new hobby, doesn’t mean you need to have a song learned or a chapter finished by the end of that hour. Even if you just choose which paints to use, you are progressing, and you should be proud of the baby steps that you take every day.

Even if you just choose which paints to use, you are progressing

Choose Well-Rounded Activities

In your morning list of “5 things to accomplish today,” make sure that at least one of your day’s activities follows each of the below outlets. A well-rounded lifestyle is vital in self-isolation.

Creative

Creativity is key. Studies have proven that one creative activity a day changes your thought processes and pushes your brain to think in new ways. Your new hobby could, perhaps, be a creative outlet that fulfils this need. Teooh Creative Designer Miranda Seidl is the perfect example of the importance of a creative outlet: not only does she encourage the entire company to unleash their creative side, she does so in her everyday life. Before she begins her work, Miranda dances! Whether it’s a free-form dance to her most recent song or a choreographed routine, Miranda begins her day with a creative activity. For the last twenty years, Teooh CEO Don Stein has been releasing his thoughts through another creative outlet: rap. At the end of the day, Don culminates his thoughts into a creative, rhyming rap that allows him to not only organise his thoughts in a unique way but allows him to attach emotion to these thoughts. No matter what creative outlet you decide, you’ll be helping yourself: check out the following article: Forbes: Here’s How Creativity Actually Improves Your Health

Health-focused

With the gift of time, we have been given an interesting opportunity to focus on our health. Focus on healthy eating: create a meal plan (this will help with your schedule!) or make meals that you can freeze and reheat later (just in case you’re feeling lazy in a week’s time). Miguel Rufino, Teooh’s event success manager, suggests a quick 20-minute solution: boil chicken and rice for 20 minutes, add some seasoning, and pop it in a Tupperware in your freezer! Additionally, meal services such as HelloFresh allow you to make a certain number of meals a week without any unnecessary food waste. The government has classified these businesses as “essential,” so they will continue through the times of isolation.

Even though the government has mandated a “one walk a day” rule, you don’t have to sit on your couch all day. Take this opportunity to find some fun “work out at home” routines! Here are some of the Teooh Team’s personal favourites…

Intellectual

Challenge yourself: crack open a new book, start working on the newspaper crossword puzzles, download a sudoku app to your phone, or play scrabble with your family. It is important to keep our minds sharp. Here’s some of our team’s recommended books to read during self-isolation:

Spend Time with Friends

We’re all isolated, but in a world increasingly rife with social media platforms, we don’t have to be alone. Make sure that you are focusing on your mental health by surrounding yourself (maybe not physically…) with loved ones and friends. Our goal at Teooh is to create a platform where you can sit and chat with your friends, network with business colleagues, and share ideas with people all around the world. With an interactive, avatar-based platform, Teooh is able to capture the atmosphere and allure of in-person events without the accompanying cost, effort, and environmental impact. Teooh allows you to meet up with anyone, anywhere, in a fun, free online environment. While you’re not using Teooh, be sure to use the new “Netflix Party” Chrome extension, allowing you to watch movies and chat about them with friends. Remember to call family and friends too — now is the perfect time to remind those you love that you’re here for them.

The Three M’s

Meditate

Meditation often gets a bad rap: lots of people think that only the most “hippy dippy” Boulder- or Berkeley-dwellers benefit from daily meditation. In reality, though, meditation is a wonderful way for anyone to reduce stress, control anxiety, and enhance self-awareness: each of which are vital during social distancing. You don’t have to sit cross-legged while chanting “ohm” (although you can if you want) — just find a place that’s comfortable, sit or lie down there, and give yourself 5 minutes to focus on your breathing. There’s lots to think about in these hectic times, and if these thoughts come into your mind, acknowledge them and then let them go as you exhale. You can come back to them after your 5-minute meditation, but for the time being, just focus on your breathing. Five minutes of meditation every day will train your mind to focus on the task at hand and to redirect negative thoughts (that are, unfortunately, quite prevalent in these uncertain times). Check out some of our favourite meditation apps/tools:

Music

Many of us can recognise the vital relationship between music and emotions, and it’s very true that the music you listen to can affect your mental state. Sing along to your favourite songs in the shower, play some relaxing music while you’re working, or challenge yourself to listen to one new artist every day. Below are some of our favourite playlists..let us know if you have any recommendations — we want to hear!

For relaxed pop hits:

Mood Boosters:

Our favourite artists:

Minimise Screen Time

We all hear about the studies that discourage using your phone before bed or spending more than an hour at a time looking at a screen, but we tend to ignore them. Especially when we are social distancing, it is so easy to stare at a television, computer, or phone for hours on end. Some of us, Teooh team included, need to be on our computers all day for work. Business Insider’s article, What staring at a screen all day does to your brain and body, explains that not only does staring at a screen for a prolonged amount of time cause negative physical effects such as headaches and back pain, it also affects our sleep patterns, hormones, and brain cells. Whenever you can, take a second to look away from the screen. When you finish reading this article, commit to 30 screen-less minutes: it will do you wonders.

Don’t Dwell on the Negative

With everything happening in the world right now, it’s difficult to see the positive side sometimes. Turning on the news often brings a wave of bad news and negative emotions, and while it is important to stay informed, make sure that you are taking in at least twice more positive information than negative information. Here at Teooh, we suggest following @thehappybroadcast on Instagram — with a daily post including some “good news” and a bright graphic, they are the perfect account to follow if you want to brighten up your feed a bit. We also recommend keeping a “positivity planner” — when you wake up, write down three things you’re grateful for; when you go to bed, write down three things that happened during the day that made you happy. This will allow you to begin and end the day on a positive note, and hopefully this positive attitude will flow through the rest of your day as well.

Use this as an Opportunity to Better Yourself

This is an intensely difficult time — none of us here at Teooh has ever experienced such pain and hardship on such a wide scale, and it is quite nearly impossible to comprehend the repercussions that this will have on everyone’s lives. While it is easy to let the intensity of the situation weigh you down, try your best to channel that stress/anxiety/worry into positive self-improvement. We have been given an opportunity to spend time without the prying eyes of the world peeping in on us, and this is a rare gift. Choose to do things for yourself, not for your social media followers or even your closest friends. Be selfish: it’s okay. The world is a scary place, and the only way we can improve it is by improving ourselves.

“The impermanence of life is the only permanence, which is why we need to slow down and cherish the moments when things are great, while seeking comfort in the truth that challenges will, indeed, pass with time…And not only will it pass, but we will find something to take from it…Wherever you are, however this is impacting you — nothing is forever, which is both the beauty and tragedy of this life. Breathe through it, be kind to yourself. This too shall pass.” @haleyhoffmansmith