There’s no denying the coronavirus pandemic is stirring all the fear and uncertainty feels — and self-isolation measures probably aren’t helping emotions either. You’re not overreacting. Isolation is especially linked to higher levels of anxiety and stress (which, let’s face it, we certainly have enough of right now).
But as counseling psychologist Dr. Sarah Davies says: Give yourself a break. Even as you find enforced separation challenging, or if you’re experiencing feelings of guilt about being unable to support your friends, this isn’t something you can control.
“Feeling guilty is understandable and really demonstrates you care. However, it’s not helpful to the situation,” she says. “It’s important to try to ease this guilt with compassion to yourself and the situation. It’s important and helpful to remind yourself you’re doing the best — and all — you can, given a very difficult and challenging circumstance.”
Now is the time to look at different ways to band together and show care through traditional and creative ways. Even if you can’t provide in-person TLC, doing what you can on a remote-level is just as important and can be equally effective.
In a society dominated by WhatsApp messages and social media posts, we often find ourselves catching up with people via a few swiftly typed words as we stand in the queue for our morning latte or wait for the bus.
However, science has proven having deeper, more meaningful conversations is related to better mental well-being than passing small talk. So, let someone know they’ve not been forgotten and give both your brains that warm n’ fuzzy feeling.
Don’t be afraid to hit dial and start a proper conversation, even if it means starting off the conversation with, “I’m freaking out right now.” Vulnerability is a beautiful thing.
“The biggest fear is people not getting their medical supplies, so this is something that needs to be a priority for everyone,” states Tom Page, managing director of West Park Care. This is a big fear and source of anxiety for people in their later years and/or those with weakened immune systems.
Regardless of COVID-19, not being able to access their medication could ultimately be a matter of life or death. Offering to be there for them, to pick up their medication so they don’t have to risk the outdoors, is definitely a sign of love.
No need for a stethoscope and doctor’s badge — most pharmacies will allow you to collect medication on behalf of someone else. Just make sure the person named on the prescription indicates on the form that you are doing so, or calls the drugstore in advance to make staff aware you’ll be coming in.
Technology means we’re more connected than ever: At the touch of a button, our faces can stream into the homes of others, wherever they are in the world. Great for talking, but why not use your noggin to come up with something a bit more imaginative?
“It might be time to think creatively about ways people [can] stay in contact with each other and keep morale up,” explains Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK.
For example, you might not be able to play a traditional board game, but visual and quiz based games — such as Pictionary, Charades, Never Have I Ever and 21 Questions — are easy to play with the aid of a couple of screens.
This might also be the time to get into Calendly, to help intentionally schedule screen time. And, whether you’re chatting over a beverage or playing a game, be sure you give your full attention — that viral TikTok or Instagram Live can wait.
“In my experience, elderly people are very resilient and often do not fuss. So just making sure they have the essentials… will make a huge difference to their well-being,” shares Page, noting that this could involve as little as “a cup of tea and some fresh food.”
This might be the case for friends who are high-risk, or folks in your apartment complex. Before you next head out to tackle the queues at the grocery store, check in with your community and ask if there’s anything you can pick up for them.
If you don’t live near your loved ones, give them a call and ask if you can assist by doing a food order on their behalf so the goods are left outside their door.
Know that your friend loves the four-cheese pizza at the local Italian, or your cousin inhales the tacos from the nearby Mexican? While you can’t enjoy these meals with them in person, you can order a virtual gift card for their favorite eateries or takeout service to show they’re in your thoughts.
Going virtual allows them to order for safe delivery at a time that suits them — while also helping smaller businesses facing a tough time.
Gift cards are also a great way to help your friend keep up with their hobbies and remain upbeat. If baking is how they relax (and make the house smell amazing when stuck inside), send them a gift card. It might not be exciting, but it’s a golden ticket to have all the ingredients they need delivered.
Or, if they’re an expert with a paintbrush, surprise them with an e-certificate to an online art store. Pick up some supplies yourself, too, so that you can join in over FaceTime. Or just watch them create their next masterpiece while you avoid paint splats on the carpet.
Arranging with your pal to work out over Skype at the same time will provide moral support and laughs — plus, studies reveal that having an exercise buddy encourages you to get off the sofa and increases your active minutes. Win-win.
“Doing what we can to encourage older people to stay physically active at home… will be essential,” says Abrahams — although it goes without saying that the same applies to those of all ages who are currently unable to venture outdoors.
While walking on the spot as you watch TV isn’t great for the knee joints at any time of life, those tin cans you’ve stockpiled away can be used as mini weights until eaten. Chair backs can aid squat movements and several laps of the staircase will quickly raise that heart rate.
YouTube is also a goldmine of exercise videos to suit all ages, abilities, disciplines and room sizes — so find some of your favorites and share inspiration.
Now’s the time to really get your money’s worth from those streaming service subscriptions. But rather than switching on by yourself, why not pair up with your BFF to watch and discuss after — just as you would if you were sitting on the sofa with a bag of popcorn or heading to the movie theater together.
Text or call to decide what you’re going to watch (no arguments), agree a time to press play, and get started — we guarantee it will help you both feel less alone.
If movies aren’t quite the right fit, there’s always books. Abrahams suggests a neighborly book club dial-in, adding, “Some of these options might be good way to nip loneliness in the bud in the long term as well.”
Whatever plan of action you take to help support your loved ones during this time, your efforts are sure to be appreciated. And, as Dr. Davies reminds us, it’s important to remember: “This whole situation is not permanent. It will pass.” Just be sure you’re doing your best to keep you and everyone else safe.
Chantelle Pattemore is a writer and editor based in London, UK. She focuses on lifestyle, travel, food, health and fitness.