1 June 2020 08:08 PM

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ISHA LOHUMI | 20 APRIL, 2020

Alone During the Lockdown?

Maintain your daily routine, find ease where you can


Life has taken an unexpected turn over the past few weeks. The pace of our lives has drastically slowed, and everything is quieter.

People everywhere are staying at home with their families and trying to find a new normal behind closed doors. But what about those living alone? Humans aren’t meant to be in isolation: even before we were human we were social beings.

Some argue that for those with access to a smartphone and internet, staying connected shouldn’t be a problem. But these ways of socialising only complement our need for connection; they don’t fulfil it. They cannot replace a hug, a reassuring hand on your shoulder, intimacy, or the myriad ways in which humans communicate.

People living alone in this phase of social isolation might get stressed. Stress can lead to the development of mild symptoms of fever, which is said to be one of the symptoms of Covid-19. So it’s best not to panic or worry right now, because it can affect your immune system.

Things like maintaining a good sleep-wake schedule are important even otherwise, or you will disrupt your cycle leading to fatigue.

It’s essential to maintain your daily routine. You follow a certain routine when you go to work, follow it now too. Otherwise, you will disrupt your sleep-wake cycle and disturb your mental health.

Further, now that you are at home, you are restricted, so opportunities for exercise are limited. But if you stop exercising completely, it will lead to anxiety or stress.

A daily half hour of physical activity is a must.

Maintaining social contact through video calls, chats and phone calls could provide ease. Remember this phase of isolation is temporary and will come to an end.

In the wake of rising stress levels as a result of the lockdown, many psychological institutions are extending help online either free of cost or for nominal charges. People can seek consultation online through these websites if they experience anxiety.

Try working on things you couldn’t afford to earlier because of your hectic schedule.

Most of my friends who live alone have given in, to bingeing on screens. It’s certainly understandable at this point of time. But for those doing this solo, structure and discipline play a significant role.

In terms of screen time, it gets necessary to assess the limits carefully. For instance, one can reduce the number of episodes or watch streaming services only at a specific time could be.

Often one tends to binge because one is in a mood of not knowing what do to with ourselves. It is undeniably true that at times the quality of the show strings us to our devices, but more often than not one is bored.

People tend to suppress their boredom with distraction, rather than recognising it as a signal that they need to change either their perspective or activities.

If boredom bothers you, identify it as some form of stimulus or focus. It is quite apposite under the circumstances to change what you are doing.

Twiddling your thumbs? Read that book you always wanted to read, wield your brush over an empty canvas, pour your imagination into that empty journal, or pamper your tastebuds by making that dessert you saw on Youtube yesterday.

Amidst the lockdown, most of us have been feeling or have been forced to feel the urge to be more productive than usual.

First of all, we are trying to cope with a pandemic. Let’s not make it a productivity contest. The mindset of the hustle culture, the idea that every nanosecond of our lives must point to profit, and self-improvement is a natural endpoint…

Scrolling through social media I have seen many posts on how famous artists innovated during quarantine, like when Shakespeare wrote King Lear during the plague, or Issac Newton created calculus while practising ‘social distancing’.

These facts are intended to reassure and motivate, but they carry an inherent judgement. ‘Best’ is a subjective, relative term. Doing your best nowadays is different from doing your best during non-pandemic times.

And it can look different for each person. Comparing, competing and being in despair over how others are managing hobbies and activities during this crisis can induce anxiety.

Maybe you have felt some version of this judgement from friends and family who are using their time indoors to exercise more or come out of this global pandemic with a new skill?

It’s nearly impossible moreover to turn on the TV or scroll through the internet without being inundated by COVID notifications. The alerts are constant, and this incessant news of the increasing number of cases and deaths may be messing with our heads.

It may be driven partly by ‘negativity bias’, which leads people to pay more attention to things that are dangerous or threatening.

Exposure to negative media may have serious and long-lasting psychological effects beyond simple feelings of pessimism or disapproval.

Negative news can significantly change an individual's mood, especially if there is a tendency in the news broadcasts to emphasise suffering and the story’s emotional components.

Negative news can affect your worries. Viewing negative news means you’re likely to see your worries as more threatening and severe, and when you do start worrying about them, you’re more likely to find your worry difficult to control and more distressing than it would normally be.

This is a time to sustain. To find ease where we can in a world rapidly placing us inside chaos.

(The writer is a public health professional working in mental health and policy)

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