'Going a bit mad for a time is very common and is ultimately a rather sane right of passage.' - The School of Life This week we draw from the expertise of Principal Lecturer at the University of Central Lancashire’s School of Psychology, Dr Sarita Robinson. Also known as Dr Survival, Dr Robinson has spent 15 years researching people’s reactions to disasters, whilst providing training on the psychology of survival in both academic and non-academic settings. During the current government lockdown measures, Dr Robinson has compiled a list of helpful tips to combat ‘cabin fever’. For some people, the idea of staying at home is not a daunting prospect; whereas others can find that enforced isolation can cause feelings of loneliness, anxiety and even depression. However, Dr Robinson has provided some helpful tips and tricks to help you adapt to the new situation.
1. Boost your immune system
Research suggests that lack of social contact can cause problems with your physical health. However, self-isolation can be used as an opportunity to improve your immune system through regular exercise and maintaining a regular supply of vitamins. Psychologists also recommend listening to upbeat music or watching films to boost your immune function.
2. Structure your day
Self-isolation can lead to negative impacts on your mental health. Studies in polar research expeditions have found that 60% of crews reported feeling anxious or depressed, with 50% reporting feelings of irritability, problems with memory, sleep and concentration.
Although our current self-isolation measures are not as extreme as polar exploration scenarios, feelings of restlessness, sadness or demotivation can be prevalent. Establishing a routine and maintaining a daily structure can combat these symptoms. Set meal and bed times is essential to this structure. Planning activities and setting goals can be used as a source of motivation and stop you feeling down.
3. Maintain social contact
For some people, self-isolation could lead to a negative impact on your mental health and in times of stress such as these, people rely on social networks as a coping mechanism. As a result, it is vital that you stay in contact with your social network, be that via telephone, email or via online video conferencing facilities.
4. Avoid conflict The Government’s lockdown measures have, in some cases, forced members of the public to self-isolate in small groups. Although this may have a positive impact on individual’s feelings of loneliness, this close proximity could result in other challenges such as arguments. Research in to astronauts that had spent 211 days on board the space station reported that around 30% of time was spent dealing with crew conflict. Exercise has been proven to counteract the negative effects of confinement. Just 20 minutes of exercise per day can lift your mood via the release of endorphins as well as reducing feelings of tension. You can also reduce conflict by taking some time away from each other - take 15 minutes away to allow tension to deescalate. For further tips and advice from Dr Survival on the psychology of survival check out Dr Sarita Robinson’s website: www.drsurvival.co.uk