Maintain your wellbeing while self-isolating

Dr Dominique Thompson

Dr Dominique Thompson is an award-winning former university GP, young people's mental health expert, TEDx speaker, author and educator, with two decades of clinical experience.She is a Clinical Advisor for NICE, RCGP and Student Minds.

Self-Isolation may not be fun, but it doesn’t have to be awful. Follow these tips, with a mix of work and fun, contact with other people and a plan for each day, to give you a sense of achievement and help you feel in charge of your life.

It will be normal to feel a bit anxious at the prospect of self-isolating, so make sure you take some time to talk to people about how you are feeling, and remember to take it one day at a time. Uncertainty makes us all a bit anxious, we are only human, but you can do this. Here’s a few ideas to get you started and feeling safe.

Top tips for staying well when self-isolating

1. Get into a routine

It can feel a little overwhelming, if you think about the whole block of self-isolation, or even the whole day ahead of you. So break the day up into 30 or 60 minute chunks. You might like to write out a daily timetable of activities. Thirty minutes blocks for breakfast, catching up with a friend, academic work, lunch and so on. Be creative, and add in some music, drawing, gaming, writing or photography.

Don’t forget to be active. Make sure you keep a routine for meals and get 8-9 hours sleep, as this will help you to stay healthy and calm.

Use your imagination to make each day different so you don’t become stuck in a rut and anxious about leaving your room when the time comes.

2. Stay connected

One of the most important things to do when you have to self-isolate is to have contact with other people every day. Preferably throughout the day. Not everybody has lots of friends or family to rely on for this, and you may even have been feeling a little isolated already, so here are some other helpful articles to read on our site to support you through a difficult time.

Staying connected can be done in many ways, whether it’s through a closed door chatting to flatmates, or online ‘coffee with mates’, but it is vital to remain connected to the people in your life. Messaging is fine but it’s important to see the faces of your loved ones too, so video chat, or wave out of a window and chat if they live nearby.

You could even ask your family or friends to send a ‘care package’ of goodies, so you have it to look forward to.

3. Find a daily purpose

Being at university means you will hopefully have a sense of long term purpose. That purpose is going to stand you in good stead, but you also need short term, or daily, purpose. A reason to get out of bed each day and keep busy.

When every day is groundhog day in your room, it is helpful to have activities planned. Maintain your momentum and keep studying. Online classes, lunch or coffee breaks, study groups, and meetings related to volunteering or Students’ Union societies, will keep you going. It will also mean you are still engaged with campus life when you emerge from your room!

4. Maintain a positive mentality

Staying positive is going to be really important for your wellbeing. Staying positive isn’t easy of course, but when you notice yourself drifting towards the more negative thoughts, like “I hate this pandemic, it’s ruined everything”, take a moment to acknowledge that it is natural to be angry, frustrated or sad, but you will feel a little better if you can try to replace those thoughts with ones like “well at least I can watch that series I love” or “I can get started on that project I’ve been procrastinating over”, or even “When this is all over I’m going to treat myself to a fantastic day out/ trip away”! Try to think of something that really makes you feel good, focus your mind on that and feel excited as you plan for and anticipate it.

Always wanted to read that amazing book? Now’s your opportunity. Been meaning to plan an event? Go right ahead. You could even read ahead for your coursework, get on top of those essays, or grapple with some of the tricky aspects of your course. Imagine how great you will feel!

Self-Isolation may not be fun, but it doesn’t have to be awful. You can feel proud of getting through it, and protecting others, and it will be a bonus if you can use it productively or creatively.

You might even emerge from self-isolation with a sense of achievement, and a load of energy and ideas for the year ahead!