How I'm going to protect my mental health during social isolation

Like people up and down the country I’m preparing for months of social isolation and staying at home - but, the truth is, I’ve done this all before.

I'm young and fit. I have nothing that makes me particularly vulnerable to coronavirus but I'm going to be taking self isolation very seriously because I care for someone for whom the virus could be devastating.

I’ve been a carer for more than a decade and I already know what it’s like to barely leave the house for days, weeks, and even months on end.

My wife has a chronic illness and, at her worst, she’s been bedbound with care needs so great that I couldn't leave the house for more than an hour.

When Kate was most unwell she would spend weeks in bed and was reliant on mobility aids to leave the house.

I’ve lived a life within four walls and I’ve felt the impact this kind of isolation can have on your mental health.

I’ve learnt that when things outside of your control rock the foundations on which you've built your life, you need to be intentional about looking after yourself.

I know there will be times in the coming weeks and months where I will not be okay.

It's not an easy thing to admit, especially as someone who has built their entire adult life around looking after somebody else.

But now more than ever we need to be honest with each other - honest with ourselves.

These are a few things I’m going to be doing to protect my mental health and prioritise my wellbeing during this pandemic.

Keep active

Inactivity breeds inactivity so I'm going to set exercise goals to keep me moving.

Bring the outside world in

Plants are our friends so let them in the house. I'm going to be growing some vegetables in pots and even trying to keep some plants alive for a change.

Treat yourself

Give yourself something to look forward to and be intentional about it. I've already bought in some of my favourite food and drinks - something to enjoy at the end of a hard day.

Be kind to yourself

I know I'm going to have to cut myself some slack at times. Not everyday is going to be productive and that's okay. Sometimes getting through the day is more than enough. If something is causing me stress, or anxiety I’m going to get some distance from it.

Find time to talk

Now is the time to start the conversation because it won’t get any easier. We’re lucky to have the technology that means you don't have to be there, to be there for one another.

Paul reporting live for the ITV Evening News in the Channel Islands.

Sometimes when you’re in the eye of the storm, clinging on to the small things is enough to get you through.

When my wife was at her sickest she wasn’t able to shower or get herself dressed. Even the lightest touch would send a jolt of pain through her body.

I would wash her from bed, help her change into fresh pyjamas, and I even learnt how to curl her hair.

Katie enjoying a trip outside in better health.

It would take hours. It was agony for Kate and it would break my heart to see her suffer. But it was nearly always worth it because it would ultimately make her feel better about herself.

If there is one thing I took away from that time is that you can overcome more than you think you can.

What was unthinkable yesterday quickly becomes normal tomorrow. You learn to find joy is the small things and take comfort in knowing that this too shall pass.