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Embracing Isolation and Change amidst Uncertainty — 10 Ideas for Improving your Mental Health

Just weeks ago, many of us were liv­ing and work­ing in a fast-paced world char­ac­terised by end­less oppor­tu­ni­ties for con­sum­ing, trav­el­ing, and escap­ing. Now, every­thing has come to a stand­still — again. Some rest­less­ly await the moment they can return to the sta­tus quo — a cap­i­tal­ist-dri­ven lifestyle that con­tributed to a sub­tle, per­pet­u­al cri­sis; one which remained under the sur­face until the pandemic.
This cri­sis is affect­ing our emo­tion­al well-being. Dur­ing the few next months, we can expect to feel anx­i­eties over our finan­cial secu­ri­ty, our health and the health of our loved ones.

We might be feel­ing lone­ly and iso­lat­ed. And as time pro­gress­es, we’re like­ly to be con­front­ed with anx­i­eties spe­cif­ic to our own mind and per­son­al back­ground, which in the con­text of our busy lives, may not have emerged yet.

Some of us might face unpleas­ant feel­ings that are sur­round­ed by an unvoiced stig­ma in our cul­ture — to admit that we feel cut off, left out, lone­some, over­whelmed, vul­ner­a­ble, that we lack pur­pose and meaning.

Human con­nec­tions are why we are in this world. They give pur­pose and mean­ing to our lives. Iso­la­tion can be a big chal­lenge. At the same time, iso­la­tion gives us the chance to embrace our anx­i­eties, reflect on our life and on what tru­ly mat­ters. It does not mean sim­ply liv­ing with anx­i­ety — rather, it means acknowl­edg­ing who you are, and that you are not able to con­trol or pre­dict the future.

The pan­dem­ic may serve as a well-need­ed wake up call. Instead of seek­ing con­stant dis­trac­tion from the out­side to main­tain a sense of nor­mal­i­ty and to numb neg­a­tive emo­tions, we have the chance to look with­in ourselves.

Here are 10 sug­ges­tions you can use to improve your life in iso­la­tion. Pick what res­onates with you.

Be mind­ful of social media 

Be aware about your inten­tions while using social media. Relaxed enter­tain­ment? Bore­dom? Infor­ma­tion con­sump­tion? Keep­ing in touch? Voic­ing an opin­ion? Seek­ing atten­tion? Accord­ing to research, pas­sive social media is asso­ci­at­ed with an increase in depres­sive symp­toms. Instead of con­sum­ing social media as “emp­ty calo­ries,” be clear about your inten­tions. Why not call a friend or lis­ten to inspir­ing pod­casts instead.

Cre­ate dai­ly rituals

One of the most effec­tive ways of chang­ing our belief pat­terns is through prac­tis­ing dai­ly rit­u­als. Your usu­al rou­tine might have com­plete­ly changed. But this can be a good oppor­tu­ni­ty to imple­ment new rit­u­als in your new rou­tine. Rou­tines can be an anchor, help­ing us man­age uncer­tain­ty. Slow down, engage in healthy prac­tices and try to sus­tain reg­u­lar rou­tines that bring a sense of com­fort, achieve­ment and sta­bil­i­ty. Yoga, jour­nal­ing, breath­ing exer­cis­es, going out for a walk and spir­i­tu­al prac­tices are good start­ing points. Every­thing that goes under the umbrel­la of “self-care.” Action is pow­er­ful, even if we start with just one thing. It’s about qual­i­ty, not quan­ti­ty.              

Music mat­ters 

Since you may have loads of free time now, chan­nel­ing your emo­tions in a healthy and pos­i­tive way is vital. Cre­at­ing new sounds can be a pow­er­ful tool in pro­cess­ing your feel­ings. In that sense music can be cathar­tic and can be a calm­ing balm for anx­i­ety. On the oth­er hand, lis­ten­ing to music has a big impact on your mood. Music can pro­mote a sense of tran­quil­i­ty — or it can rev you up. Asso­ci­at­ed with feel­ings of eupho­ria, moti­va­tion, bliss, and con­cen­tra­tion, music boosts your lev­els of the “feel-good hor­mone” dopamine. It’s a good oppor­tu­ni­ty to dis­cov­er new music, cre­ate new playlists and inspire each oth­er through shar­ing them.

Prac­tice self-compassion 

Turn your atten­tion to the anx­i­ety you might be feel­ing with gen­tle curios­i­ty about what the trig­gers may be. The prac­tice of observ­ing our reac­tions allows us to bring the infor­ma­tion to our con­scious mind. In order to chal­lenge your thoughts com­pas­sion­ate­ly, you can note them on a sheet with four columns: Sit­u­a­tion: Who were you with? What were you doing? When did it hap­pen? Emo­tions and body sen­sa­tions: What did you feel? Auto­mat­ic thought: what went through your mind (thoughts, images, mem­o­ries) Com­pas­sion­ate response: What would a tru­ly self-com­pas­sion­ate response be to your neg­a­tive thought?

Jour­nal your heart out

Use paper and pen for inner cleans­ing and man­ag­ing your over­ac­tive mind. Mak­ing time to write every day, no mat­ter how much or how lit­tle, can help you feel more emo­tion­al­ly sta­ble. There is no “right” or “wrong,” don’t wor­ry about style and gram­mar. Writ­ing removes men­tal blocks and allows you to bet­ter under­stand your­self and oth­ers. Expe­ri­ences can be objec­ti­fied and sep­a­rat­ed from your inner you.

Ask for pro­fes­sion­al help 

Self-help is great, though  may not always be enough. If you feel over­whelmed and find it chal­leng­ing to get through the day, or your symp­toms of anx­i­ety, sad­ness, guilt, wor­ry, irri­tabil­i­ty, sleep­less­ness, hope­less­ness or over­think­ing are get­ting worse, don‘t hes­i­tate to con­tact a ther­a­pist (online) or a help line.


At times of uncer­tain­ty and anx­i­ety, devel­op­ing a grat­i­tude prac­tice can help you to con­nect with moments of joy, alive­ness, and plea­sure. At the end of each day, take time to reflect on what you are thank­ful for today and write it down. What is a bless­ing to arise from this sit­u­a­tion that didn’t exist before? What did I most take for grant­ed before this time? Be spe­cif­ic and notice new things each day, even tiny things such as hav­ing lunch on your balcony.

Con­nect and help each other

Due to the ongo­ing lock­down you may be lack­ing con­tact with peo­ple of your com­mu­ni­ty. We are con­front­ed with an unknown state of iso­la­tion, which can lead to feel­ings of lone­li­ness and anx­i­ety. Lone­li­ness is the sub­jec­tive feel­ing that you’re lack­ing the social con­nec­tions you need — the feel­ing of close­ness, trust and affec­tion of gen­uine friends and loved ones. You need mean­ing­ful, real con­nec­tions when you feel lone­ly. A five-minute con­ver­sa­tion when you have someone’s full atten­tion can make a big dif­fer­ence to how a per­son feels. Hav­ing eye con­tact is even bet­ter, so hang­ing out with friends vir­tu­al­ly on Google hang­outs, Skype, or shar­ing vir­tu­al din­ner par­ties are ben­e­fi­cial for your well-being.

Fur­ther­more, help­ing anoth­er per­son can be an incred­i­bly pow­er­ful expe­ri­ence that not only forms a con­nec­tion between peo­ple, but reaf­firms that we’re bring­ing val­ue to the world. Research has shown a sim­ple act of kind­ness direct­ed towards anoth­er improves the func­tion­ing of the immune sys­tem and stim­u­lates the pro­duc­tion of sero­tonin in both the recip­i­ent of the kind­ness, and the per­son extend­ing the kindness.

Words mat­ter 

They cre­ate your real­i­ty. The mind con­trols much of the body, and that’s cer­tain­ly true with anx­i­ety. When you’re upset or frus­trat­ed, the words you say to your­self can trig­ger greater feel­ings of anx­i­ety. If you tend to use a lot of neg­a­tive words when think­ing about your­self, prac­tice kind­ness and speak gen­tle to your­self. Or when prac­tic­ing self-talk, don’t refer to your­self in the first per­son, such as “I” or “me.” Instead, refer to your­self in the third per­son, using “he” or “she,” or refer to your­self by name. Using the third per­son can help you step back and think more objec­tive­ly about your response and emotions.

Cre­ate a vision for Post COVID-19

Ambi­tions are the rea­son why you get out of bed every morn­ing. They stem from core val­ues like love, belong­ing­ness, self-esteem, safe­ty and self-actu­al­iza­tion. New ideas and cre­ative insights don’t real­ly come from you, they come through you, they are float­ing around you. It’s a con­stant stream of images, acci­dents and gut deci­sions that all require a qui­et mind and trust. This pause offers an oppor­tu­ni­ty to go with­in and cre­ate a vision that is aligned with val­ues that tru­ly mat­ter to you.

But bear in mind that COVID does not need to be your most pro­duc­tive time. For some peo­ple, the space that’s opened up has already pro­voked inter­nal pres­sure around self-improve­ment and “mak­ing the most” out of it. But the pan­dem­ic also offers time for slow­ing down, reflect­ing and treat­ing your­self gently.

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