How to cope with self-isolation and anxiety amid the coronavirus outbreak

The nation has been challenged to undertake self-isolation and social distancing measures in the face of tackling the Covid-19 pandemic.

But what should you do if health-related anxiety has started to interfere with your day-to-day activities?

Reach out to your support network

In stressful times of uncertainty it can be easy to self-isolate and keep to yourself but it’s crucial to maintain human interaction to reduce anxiety levels.

Families talk on the phone and look at each other through a window at the Life Care Centre in Seattle. Credit: PA

Talking to friends and family and maintaining strong connections and relationships will help you feel more supported and surrounded by positivity.

It can also help you to avoid feeling low or lonely.

Take practical steps

There are simple steps you can take to help reassure yourself, particularly washing your hands with soap and warm water regularly for 20 seconds.

Try to keep yourself busy – you could try activities like cooking, reading, online learning and watching films.

You can use your garden, if you have one, and you can also leave the house to exercise - but the NHS advises to stay at least two metres away from other people.

Health experts advise to wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds regularly. Credit: PA

Don't always listen to your mind

We should pay attention to what our mind is telling us, according to psychologist Dr Michael Sinclair.

Instead of telling yourself 'I’m going to get ill', instead tell yourself 'I’m having the thought that I’m going to get ill', to help emphasise that this is not necessarily a reality.

Focus on the facts

It can be easy to read up on speculation, especially on social media and group chats, but keep referring instead to respected health websites such as the NHS and Public Health.

Under NHS guidelines you can leave your house but try to stay two metres away from others. Credit: PA

Write down how you're feeling

Setting aside allocated time to record of your thoughts and worries can feel reassuring.

If you have any worries about your health, doing an activity within your control can help to express your stresses, for instance making a list of things you can control and things you cannot control.

Coronavirus: Everything you need to know

Even with current restrictions, a coffee in the park is still achievable. Credit: PA

Don’t try to ignore physical symptoms of stress

Sometimes you can make yourself feel more unwell through panic and anxiety.

Psychotherapist Hilary Jacobs Hendel has written about how current neuroscience suggests that the more emotions and conflicts a person experiences, the more anxiety they feel.

In TIME Magazine, she said: "Thwarting emotions is not good for mental or physical health. It’s like pressing on the gas and brakes of your car at the same time, creating an internal pressure cooker."

Meanwhile other psychologists have recommended that in moments of panic you should try to take a few breaths, sit down and count your breathing in and out for ten seconds and then repeat.

Psychologist and author Belisa Vranich has said "Breathing is massively practical," before adding: "It’s meditation for people who can’t meditate.”

Only consume what you can handle

If you’re struggling to cope you don’t need to watch live news or use social media all the time.

You can also turn off push-alert notifications for news on your phone if it becomes overwhelming.

What is self-isolation?

The key to managing self-isolation is the ability to challenge everything you perceive to be normal. Credit: PA

Public Health England (PHE) recommends:

  • People to stay at home, except for when accessing medical care.

  • You should avoid going to work or using public transports.

  • Goods like food should be delivered but tell the delivery driver to leave the items outside.

  • Whilst at home, you should separate yourself from others by staying in a ventilated room.

  • Try to use a separate bathroom if possible and avoid sharing household items like towels.

  • If you do need to visit your doctor, you should call ahead of your visit so they can minimise impact with others.

  • Any waste like tissues or masks should be double bagged and kept until you have been cleared of the virus.