This guide is to help those who are self-isolating due to Covid-19 keep active and maintain good mental health. We know that that self-isolation can lead to a change in routine and activity as well as less social contact, and so can affect our mood. It is therefore really important to think creatively, problem solve and make changes prior to a reduction in our activity and mood. This guide will highlight tips and guidance based on cognitive behavioural techniques with a focus on remaining active to combat low mood while self-isolating.

Brief overview of making behavioural changes to help with low mood:

  • Situational factors can lead to low mood which is then maintained by unhelpful behaviour and cognition
  • One key factor to changing how you feel is to change what you do
  • This includes maintaining a structure and schedule of activities that follow a plan, not a mood
  • Change is easier when starting with small goals
  • Make your goals/activities Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-limited
  • Activities should be balanced to incorporate routine (activities that make you comfortable in your surroundings e.g. chores, cooking), pleasurable (activities that you enjoy) and necessary activities (activities that need to be completed or there would be negative consequences e.g. paying bills).

Pleasurable activities during self-isolation

When spending time at home, it may be difficult to think of activities that give a sense of pleasure if you usually spend your time socialising, outdoors or in environments/activities away from the home. Below is a list of pleasurable activities that can be done in a home environment:

  • Boardgames
  • Card games
  • Completing a puzzle
  • Crafts
  • Dancing
  • Films
  • Gardening
  • Getting or giving a massage
  • Group games that can be downloaded on smart TV
  • Home workouts (using youtube for videos)
  • Journaling
  • Lighting candles to create a nice mood
  • Listening to a podcast
  • Listening to the radio
  • Listening to music
  • Meal prepping, planning and cooking
  • Meditating
  • Odd jobs round the house that have been neglected (e.g. putting up photos)
  • Online shopping
  • Order air dry clay
  • Organising wardrobe
  • Playing a musical instrument
  • Playing computer games
  • Playing with pets
  • Praying (practising religion)
  • Reading
  • Reading magazines or newspapers
  • Relaxing
  • Romantic meals/family meals
  • Running in parks
  • Sending and updating Whatsapp groups with nice gifs, memories, or positive news
  • Sex
  • Singing around the house
  • Sitting in the garden
  • Sketching and sketching competition with those in house (it doesn't need to be good!)
  • Soaking in the bathtub
  • Start a new TV series
  • Talking to others on the phone or by video call
  • Tidying
  • Watching sports videos
  • Writing letters/postcards

Homeworking

If you are required to work from home while in self-isolation, be sure to keep up your usual routine as if you were going into work.

  • Wake up early
  • Complete your usual hygiene routine
  • Eat breakfast and dress as if you were working as usual

It can be appealing to be comfortable and casual all day. However, keeping the routine can help to differentiate between work time and home time (the commute usually has a similar function), and provide some sanity in otherwise not so sane circumstances. It may also be nice to create a comfortable working from home space in a separate room or area so that you can also differentiate between working and spending time at home.

Avoidance and spending time in unrewarding ways

When we are avoiding something that we don’t want to do, we aren’t doing nothing; we are doing something else. Quite often that ‘something else’ is not particularly rewarding or helpful in the longer run. It’s possibly just something that temporarily fills the time and maybe blocks out feelings of unease or guilt, negative thoughts or boredom. Some may be activities which are a bit like salt: great in moderation but not so good in excess.

Examples may include:

  • Sitting thinking trying to find reasons for how you feel
  • Thinking about things that have gone wrong in the past
  • Watching TV even when there is nothing you really want to watch
  • Playing computer games for hours at a time
  • Comfort eating
  • Surfing the internet aimlessly
  • Drinking (alcohol)
  • Sitting thinking and analysing your faults
  • Daydreaming and fantasising
  • Using pornography

With this in mind, self-isolation is a good time to be thinking about spending your time in productive ways or starting a new project. For example, if you are self-isolating for 12 weeks and you spend one hour a day doing a project or learning something new, you could become proficient or skilled in a new area. This could include learning a language, new craft or instrument with online videos, incorporating a new exercise routine, a DIY project, or reading/researching about an area of interest. Here are some helpful links to find free or cheap courses:

Activity Scheduling

You can maintain structure by planning things into a diary (see below). If you have kids at home, this could be a helpful visual tool to signify the different sections of the day and the activities planned.

Top tips for planning:

  • Remember to include a balance of routine, pleasurable and necessary activities
  • Start small and build up to more things so it is manageable and you can build on the positive feeling of accomplishing tasks
  • Follow the plan, not your mood (try to imagine how you would usually feel having completed the task)
  • Try an activity for 5 minutes and then stop if you don’t want to continue
  • Making your plans more specific will make you more likely to do it (how long will you spend on it, where will you do it, who will you do it with?). Try ticking each task off after you have done it.

Updated on: 13/04/2022