Updated: Jun 12, 2020
The Coronavirus pandemic is here and life has changed. This is the first in a series of articles and features that we will be running in50plus4men.com designed to help you deal with the challenges it presents and continue to live your best life.
Self - isolation. What to expect and how to cope:
Self-isolation has become a fact of life for many of us. Now it doesn't matter who you are, or how tough you may appear to the others, being separated from those you love, from friends, colleagues and peers is a challenge, add to this the spectre of a life-threatening disease and you have a poisonous cocktail that is perfect if you want to elevate stress levels and increase anxiety. Research undertaken during other disaster situations such as SARS, Zika virus, Ebola and London Bridge terror attack has provided useful insight into how best to manage these situations.
Fear and anxiety: A loss of control over our normal life routine is part and parcel of being in quarantine or Isolation. Such a loss of control can bring with it an increase in our perception of risk and so increase our sense of fear. For many men who are 50 plus those feelings of anxiety are only exacerbated by the worry, not just about our health and well-being, but also that of family, and those who may be relying upon us. If I can't work how am I going to pay the bills? How am going to keep a roof over my children's head? How am I going to keep food on the table? What will the future hold for me, my loved ones, for my community…? The daily barrage of bad news stories about the number infected and the likely death toll only add to our sense of helplessness.
Boredom to depression: For many of us work is central to our sense of self, to our identity. Without work, we can feel lost. This sense of dislocation is only heightened when isolation means that we can no longer partake in long-cherished activities like the gym, or football on Monday night with the boys. These feelings of loss and dislocation quickly become depression followed by reduced energy levels.
Frustration and anger (watch out for this one): For some, enforced confinement, restricted movement, when combined with an inability to undertake everyday activities, raise their level of frustration. This increased frustration can spill over into the limited interactions we have with others (including those we love) or just as damagingly may be turned in upon ourselves.
Thankfully psychological research does not only identify the problems associated with self-isolation it can also offer some solutions.
Make a plan and stick to it. Draw up a timetable, and post it where you can see it. Even in lockdown variety is the spice of life, so make sure you schedule a time for work and play. Remember leisure and exercise are an important part of maintaining good mental health whilst in self-isolation. Consider learning something new. Colleges and Universities around the world are currently offering free online courses for people forced to stay at home. Read that book you have always said you wanted to read. Take back control of your time, it will improve your mood.
Staying connected with friends and family has positive effects on your well-being. Whether it's text, video chat, social media or phone, just staying connected keeps us centred. If you can share how you're are feeling. I know it's not always easy for us guys over 50 to share, but I can tell you from personal experience it can make a big difference. Although a problem shared may not be a problem halved, research shows that sharing a problem with a trusted friend can have significant positive psychological benefits.
Focus on your health
Quarantine and isolation are stressful. Stress weakens our immune system, so staying healthy during self-isolation is important. Watch what you're eating, avoid snacking. It's not rocket science but anxiety can prompt comfort eating (even in men), so during our time in isolation we need to be conscious of these urges. Daily exercise not only helps to keep your body in shape, but it can also, help with your sleep and lift your mood.
Manage your media consumption
If you have been watching the news whether on TV or your social media streams recently then you will know for yourself just how depressing the constant stream bad new about the virus and its impact on the world can be. Consuming too much media in a crisis can be associated with increased stress levels so restrict your consumption of news and avoid social media. If you are going to watch the news then stick to traditional national media with direct lines to the trustworthy medical decision-makers.
Remember this quarantine is not about you, it's about protecting the whole community. So stay home and stay safe.
The views expressed here are mine. They are based on my own experience and the research I have done on this subject. If you feel that you are suffering real mental distress then seek professional help.