The psychology of self-isolation and what we can do protect our well-being at this time

Andrea Chatten Managing Director and  Lead Children's Emotional & Behavioural Psychologist at 'Unravel'. Picture Scott MerryleesAndrea Chatten Managing Director and  Lead Children's Emotional & Behavioural Psychologist at 'Unravel'. Picture Scott Merrylees
Andrea Chatten Managing Director and Lead Children's Emotional & Behavioural Psychologist at 'Unravel'. Picture Scott Merrylees | JPIMedia Resell
As we all know – and are most definitely all feeling – the coronavirus is impacting on us on a global scale.

This is unprecedented in every way which is why we are activating higher levels of unease due to the uncertainty of what lies ahead, with increased levels of sadness, anxiety, anger and for some real fear.

On top of the crisis we are all facing, we are now being asked to isolate ourselves from the things and people that we love and would, most definitely help us during this difficult time.

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This could undoubtedly affect our well-being. Our freedom will feel compromised.

Andrea ChattenAndrea Chatten
Andrea Chatten | ©Dean Atkins Photography

The independence that we take for granted being taken away. A dependency on others to look after and be there for us when we feel vulnerable is becoming necessary.

We have lost routine, structure, choice and that too brings a feeling of helplessness and loss. So, it is perfectly normal and natural to be experiencing what we are feeling, our brains are doing what is right not what is wrong.

Nevertheless, we must make sure that we don’t let our emotions get to carried away and pal up with our imagination as this will lead to greater

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catastrophising of the situation which is not going to help us at all.

Use the time to get busy such as starting an online courseUse the time to get busy such as starting an online course
Use the time to get busy such as starting an online course | Other 3rd Party

We must remember to focus on what we are doing now and not race to far into the future. The one thing we can all be certain of is that what lies

ahead has elements of uncertainty but it will all change, situations and emotions always do.

So, what can we do to help us to buffer further emotional distress whilst

in self-isolation:

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To reduce heightened levels of anxiety, take some time out to breathe slowly in for the count of 4, hold your breathe for the count of 7 and then slowly breathe out for the count of 8.To reduce heightened levels of anxiety, take some time out to breathe slowly in for the count of 4, hold your breathe for the count of 7 and then slowly breathe out for the count of 8.
To reduce heightened levels of anxiety, take some time out to breathe slowly in for the count of 4, hold your breathe for the count of 7 and then slowly breathe out for the count of 8. | Other 3rd Party

 Accept what is happening. This is out of all our control so we

either; fight it and hold onto all our negative feelings, stay

miserable or accept the reality and put our emotional energy into

doing things that will make us feel happier and better at this time.

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 Remember all our emotions are telling the truth but the degree of

which we are feeling them can sometimes be in excess. If you are

feeling overwhelmed, anxious, scared or sad label the emotion.

Naming our emotions correctly, helps reduce their intensity

 To reduce heightened levels of anxiety, take some time out to

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breathe slowly in for the count of 4, hold your breathe for the count

of 7 and then slowly breathe out for the count of 8. This floods the

brain with oxygen, to induce a sense of calm and lowers the heart

rate. Repeat for as many times as is necessary

 Use the time to get busy. This will help our days feel like they have

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a purpose and will also help the day go quickly. Do the jobs that

have been on your mind’s list for a long time, but you never get

round too. Sort cupboards, organise photographs, start an online

course

 Incorporate exercise into your day. If you lay on the sofa all day,

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every day, your brain will think you are ill and will shut down

positive chemical production. Boost those feel good chemicals with

movement, and pleasurable activities

 Ride the wave of boredom. In the busy, overdemanding lives we

all lead, boredom is often an emotion that many people yearn but

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rarely experience. Feeling bored is important for positive mental

health and well-being as it gives rise to doing the things that we

want to do rather than what we must do and awakens our creativity

and playfulness

 Use the time to reset your internal speedometer. This may well

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take some adjusting. We may miss the adrenalin that we are used

to functioning on but slowing down could do us all more good than

we realise and hopefully change things for a longer term good

 Stay connected with family and friends. Knowing we have people

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there for us and we are there for other people gives us a good

sense of well-being. Also why not use this time to contact the

people you haven’t spoke to for too long

 We are in this together. Often out of difficult experiences comes a

strength, a sense of belonging and wisdom that can add a richness

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to our lives. This learning curve is huge for us all and it will support

our resilience in the other situations we will undoubtedly

experience across our lifetime

By Andrea ChattenFounder and Lead Children's Emotional & Behavioural Psychologist at Sheffield’s Unravel and author of The Blinks novels supporting children's well-being

unravelsupport.co.uk