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How you can manage isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic

The order to self-isolate issued by the government to combat coronavirus can be difficult to handle. It is an entirely new situation, full of uncertainty and not always easy to live with. It can affect your moods causing emotional distress, anxiety and stress, in addition to producing a feeling of vulnerability when we are exposed to so much information and measures introduced as a result of the coronavirus epidemic.

 “To manage social isolation it is important to know how to manage our emotional state during these uncertain, stressful times”, says Marta de la Fuente, head of the Psycho-oncology Service at MD Anderson Cancer Center Madrid, who is giving us some tips to make these days quarantine as easy as possible.

  • Stick to a routine: to maintain physical and emotional balance, it is very important to have a routine and a schedule that fits your ‘normality’ as much as possible. Just as before isolation we had time for work, rest, leisure, for our partner…, it is the same now. We must try to instill a routine within the madness.
  • Avoid social isolation: we can’t have physical contact with our loved ones, but we can have contact in a different way – we have digital contact with them. We can do it thanks to new technologies and applications available nowadays. For instance, if we used to meet up with someone after work or at lunchtime, we can speak on the phone, or by video-calling. We can use Whatsapp or e-mail of course, but it’s better to actually call and speak than use text messages.
  • Control the subject matter of conversations: our calls or conversations shouldn’t only be about coronavirus. Set limits – don’t spend more than 10 minutes on the subject and chat about the more mundane, normal aspects of life. “Speak about the cinema, books, our concerns, sharing them and not falling into the trap of always talking about the same thing can help”, explains Ms. de la Fuetnte. “ And don’t wait until others call you, make the call yourself, make plans for when to call your friends and family”.
  • Care for and help out people who live alone: people who live alone are most vulnerable in this situation, the probable feel very lonely. It’s important to be by their side, call them often, lend them our support – they must let others help them. We must remember that this period of isolation is for the good of us all and fight this pandemic – it’s our responsibility to stay at home, it’s the way we can help.
  • Look after yourself: we must keep to our person hygiene routines, as before – don’t let yourself go. Even our clothes, our appearance – we should dress just we would if were going out or to work. “Maybe not wearing a suit, but we can’t fall into the habit of wearing pyjamas or a track suit all the time, because that can lead to self-neglect and apathy or lethargy”.
  • Positivism: to avoid falling into indifference, we must try to be positive. We should pat ourselves on the back for what we achieve every day, reflecting on all of what we’ve done at the end of the day. We should feel good about what we are doing and focus on what we are doing well, not on what we haven’t been able to do. Let’s not talk about how many days are left, but on how many days we’ve gotten through.
  • This period could be an opportunity: our mental perception of things can change if we think that this could be an opportunity for personal growth. We can use this time to catch up on things we never had time to do, we can study to improve in our field of work or strengthen healthy relationships or deepen relationships with people we live with. We turn things around.
  • Managing our fear of becoming infected: the fear of becoming infected is always going to be there, but we can minimize it – the main thing is not to feed our fear by focusing on objective information, not on rumors and what you hear at the market, and by following the recommendations the government gives.