In these turbulent and troubled times, taking care of our mental health as we take care of our physical health is even more important!
Our contemporary western society has not prepared us at all for a long period of confinement, in fact quite the opposite! We currently live in a rather individualistic society, with multiple demands. And we are now going to move to a more communal way of life with fewer demands, in short, a lot of changes! Fortunately, human beings have tremendous capacities to adapt, so here are a few tips to help you live through this change as serenely as possible!
What’s changing for us?
Psychologically, it is a big upheaval for us. We are used to waking up in the morning with a plan for the day, often down to the minute. In times of confinement, the limits become more vague, the solicitations rarer, the race to the next appointment is no longer relevant, the commuting frenzy becomes a distant memory. There is a lot of downtime, free time, silence and emptiness that we are not used to and that can seem oppressive and even frightening.
Another big change is how families have been regrouping. In this period, it is not uncommon for young adults to return to their parents’ home, or for elderly parents to go to their children’s home, siblings may have to reunite, or 2 friends to live together, a young couple to \“move in\” together earlier than expected. We can even see separated couples with children deciding to cohabit during the time of confinement in order to avoid the problem of alternating custody. In short, so many family and social situations that are unusual in our Western way of life, not to mention children at home all day. In Africa or in certain regions of the world it is very common to live all under the same roof, in France we are much less used to it, so beware of tensions.
The general state of mind also changes: we are more anxious and that’s quite normal, the atmosphere is more tense, our entourage (and ourselves!) can be angrier, less patient, less tolerant, nothing really concrete but nevertheless everyone is a bit \“on edge\”, when it would be even more important to be able to keep calm.
1. Trying to act as if this had always been “the norm”.
This may seem surprising, but the human body and mind are made up of habits and points of reference, which, if they are not respected, will trigger warning signals (anxiety, insomnia, loss of appetite, etc.)
So you must try, as much as possible to maintain a rhythm of life close to the one you had before the confinement. This consists in:
- Getting up at the same time as usual.
- Showering, dressing, putting on make-up, even if we stay at home. This is important for self-esteem.
- Lunch and dinner at the usual times, and do not snack between meals, however tempting it may be with the fridge at hand.
- For smokers, don’t increase your cigarette consumption, only smoke during your usual work breaks or commuting times (even if these are fictitious). Again, it is tempting to smoke more because we are more anxious, and it is often easier to smoke at home than at work.
- If you are very fit, beware of withdrawal that can make you more nervous, so maintain a daily physical activity as much as possible all while respecting government guidelines: try running, using an exercise bike or a treadmill (some companies provide equipment for rent), doing floor gym, etc…
- If you are not sporty, don’t forget to practice a weekly physical activity: we always used to do a bit of sport every day without realizing it: we walked, we climbed stairs, we ran after a bus, etc. Go out and get some fresh air, climb the stairs of your house or your building hall, in short be creative!
- Eat a balanced diet at fixed times. Here too it would be tempting to heat up some pasta or eat a packet of crisps in front of the computer. Continue to eat at the usual times, take the opportunity to do so with your family if you are not alone in confinement, or eat on video calls with loved ones to keep you company!
- Work at regular hours if you are teleworking. Again, it would be tempting to take big breaks in the afternoon and get back to work in the evening for example, but it is much nicer to work at the same time as your colleagues, to be able to call them and have them answer you (which will not be the case if you work at 1am…). Try as much as possible not to deprogram meetings, to do them in video rather than audio, it’s nicer to see others and it forces you to dress up!
- Finally, go to bed at the usual times, even if this is less obvious because we feel less tired in confinement. Do not change your routine too much or you will completely reverse your day/night rhythm which will be detrimental to your mental and physical health.
2. Enjoy it!
As ludicrous as it may sound, try to find the good in every situation, no matter how difficult it is, because even then there is some!
- Take time with your children, your parents, your siblings, your spouse. Not everyone has the chance to not be confined alone, so try to be positive avout it! Reconnect with your loved ones, organise evenings of discussions, exchanges and board games. Have your elders tell stories, discover your loved ones from another angle, enjoy them individually through face-to-face exchanges over a coffee, this is undoubtedly a unique opportunity that presents itself so don’t let it pass: you will grow from it!
- Play with your children, talk with them, help them develop their imagination and creativity, cook with them, dance, sing, laugh! Even if you continue to work from home, the commuting time is removed, so it is possible to be home earlier and have more time for them. Also, organise your weekends differently: watch films together and then talk about them – yet another good opportunity to develop your imagination!
- If you are going through confinement alone, then do what you wish you had done earlier but didn’t have the time to: your photo albums, taking online courses, practicing yoga, learning a language or a musical instrument online, etc. Use social networks and streaming platforms sparingly, and keep some free time for learning sites. Talk to your loved ones daily, rather on video, have virtual dinner with them. Start drawing, painting, scrap booking, keep a daily confinement diary that will describe what you do, your thoughts, your feelings, put in drawings, press clippings, etc. Who knows, it could be useful to you one day!
- Take care of yourself, do body treatments, baths, massages, reflect on yourself, reconnect to what is essential, to your values, to what has meaning for you. This forced break is a unique opportunity to take stock of your past and future life, and perhaps to think about a change of course, to give it a new direction if you have been a little \“waylaid\” along the way in recent years. And then get bored too! Look out the window, watch your animals… Boredom (sparingly) is good for your health!
I hope that these modest tips will help you in your daily life.
And don’t forget: \“Each difficulty encountered must be an opportunity for further progress\” – Pierre De Coubertin