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Self-care when self-isolating

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Self-care when self-isolating

Despite the Australian government not yet extending new laws to combat the rising numbers of those infected with COVID-19 to the workforce, some Australians and workplaces have taken matters into their own hands, asking employees to work from home and others electing to do so in the interest of public and their own health. For others though, they are just beginning to grapple with the idea.

While for some the idea of self-isolating is a concept welcomed with open arms, perhaps offering the opportunity for productivity growth, or the potential to clock some serious Netflix hours, but for others, this can be a time of distress. Being separated from routine and restricted in space can bring up feelings of anxiety. Introverted or not, it’s not unusual for people to feel alienated from peers, colleagues and friends during this time, especially if they rely on the workplace as a platform for social interaction. Especially when coupled with the fact that a large percentage of the Australian population and workforce have never in their lifetime experienced first-hand such severe preventative measures, let alone a global pandemic; the word pandemic is triggering enough.

If you (like most) have given into the grocery hysteria and stocked up on various canned goods, frozen meals and a lifetime’s supply of noodles, you might have found while you’re prepared for any apocalyptic-like scenes, you might not be completely ready for the actual isolated part of isolation. Sure, sustaining your physical health is one thing, but what about your mental health?

Being separated from routine and restricted in space can bring up feelings of anxiety. Introverted or not, it's not unusual for people to feel alienated from peers, colleagues and friends during this time...

One person who knows better than most what it means to be isolated from friends, family and colleagues is Ellen Jacobsen. Ellen suffers from chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) which renders her debilitated for months at a time.

Working as a Social Impact Manager of local social enterprise, HoMie, Ellen’s work means she is community facing and constantly on the move. So, when she was bed-bound for six months last year, Ellen was forced to reflect on herself in a way that only those who have experienced what she did could truly understand. During her experience, Ellen noted the most important thing to do is try to maintain a feeling of normalcy by having a positive mindset and doing your best to have a good day.

“Even though you aren’t going anywhere, get showered and dressed in the morning. It’s important to tell your body you’re looking after it, and that you have a day ahead of you.”

 

Ellen focuses her energy into feeling “sparkly”.
Photo: Ellen’s Instagram (@bbyrebel_)

During the worst time of her CFS, Ellen wrote a list of short-term goals.
Photo: Ellen’s Instagram (@bbyrebel_)

Ellen focuses her energy into feeling “sparkly”.
Photo: Ellen’s Instagram (@bbyrebel_)

During the worst time of her CFS, Ellen wrote a list of short-term goals.
Photo: Ellen’s Instagram (@bbyrebel_)

So just like you would start an average morning in the workspace, plan out your day, from start to finish. Even if it’s making a mental note to get up and walk around for 15 or so minutes, this will account for the time you might spend grabbing a coffee on a mid-morning break or heading out for a meeting. Even better, pencil in time to stretch or do some light yoga to get the blood flowing – this will also help curb your concentration.

“Write a list of everything you want to achieve over this time and how you can make the most of the isolation. Tick off the list to feel a sense of purpose and fulfilment.”

Keeping in touch with colleagues via FaceTime or video conference is helpful too.

“Reach out to people and connect as much as you can. When you go from seeing a lot of people a day to maybe none, it can feel lonely. Plan and lock in meetings or creative pow-wows, just like you would at work.”

When it comes to your at-home workspace, it’s important to set up a comfortable spot in your house, near some natural light if possible. Even if your regular workspace might not have it, it will do a world of good to be able to see the outside environment and gives you a start and an end to your day. Otherwise you might find you’ve clocked hours of overtime before you know it, especially as your colleagues aren’t there to hold you accountable.

Dreamy workspace scenes by Melbourne architect Matt Gibson.
Photo: dezeen

And finally, this last one is a no-brainer – try to limit screen time. It’s understandably difficult in this period to not be glued to our phones and laptops, refreshing our social and news apps every 5-10 minutes for updates, but this is not healthy. Technology and the spread of globalisation has made us such an inter-connected community already. Try to embrace the chance, no matter how long or short your isolation may last, to tune out the white noise and tune in to yourself. Understand what is it that brings you happiness? If it’s people and being surrounded by loved ones, try to feel grateful for their presence in your life, and plan a time to catch up when things settle. If you’re still not sure, this is a golden opportunity to find out.

“Purposefully build joy and movement in your day,” says Ellen “Start a project that will take time. A painting, a puzzle, a piece of writing, something in the house that needs to be fixed or cleaned. Get busy.”

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