Coronavirus: seven tips on how to avoid going stir crazy in quarantine

It is ok to want to be informed, but not all the time, because this keeps us in a state of alertness and anxiety, which stresses adults but also children.

Medical staff with protective clothing are seen inside a ward specialised in receiving any person who may have been infected with coronavirus, at the Rajiv Ghandhi Government General hospital in Chennai (photo credit: REUTERS)
Medical staff with protective clothing are seen inside a ward specialised in receiving any person who may have been infected with coronavirus, at the Rajiv Ghandhi Government General hospital in Chennai
(photo credit: REUTERS)
As tens of thousands of Israelis find themselves in a 14-day self-isolation due to the coronavirus pandemic, not to mention the millions forced to stay at home all over the world, a pressing question is how to deal with the situation without surrendering to anxiety, boredom and a whole host of negative emotions.
If people think massive amounts of binge-watching and social-media time will do it, they should think again, Prof. Julie Cwikel, director of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev’s Center of Women’s Health Studies and an expert in social epidemiology, told The Jerusalem Post.
There are different populations who are experiencing the crisis, and they might have different needs: people who were forced to enter isolation after traveling abroad or coming in contact with someone who was infected, people who have suspected symptoms but are not sure whether they are ill, families with children, the elderly and people living alone, she said.
For everyone, the key to remain in shape, both physically and mentally, is to stay active and to fight the sense of isolation while avoiding spending too much time just occupied with screens.
Here are seven tips to do so effectively:
1. Maintain principles of self-care, i.e. take care of yourself
“It’s important to maintain principles of self-care, which in general means to continue doing the things that keep people healthy,” Cwikel said. “People should eat well, get enough rest, exercise.”
Sitting all day long should be especially avoided, she said, adding: “It’s important to keep busy and active within the framework of your house. Sitting is not a good way to lay off physical tension and emotional distress.”
Listening to their own needs is crucial also for people who take care of others, whether they are children or adults, including medical professionals, Cwikel said.
“Caregivers should give extra attention to their needs, because taking care of others is also a risk factor for feeling anxious and depressed,” she said.
2. Reach out to people, talk, express how you feel
In spite of being forced to remain at home, those quarantined should try to limit their isolation.
“Use your social networks to talk to people,” Cwikel said. “When they feel stressed, people should call someone and chat or talk to those living with them and express what is making them feel stressed.”
“Anxiety is exacerbated in conditions of uncertainty,” she said. “Talking about what we can do within the constraints of the situation will help people feel they are in control.”
Very often, friends or colleagues might not be aware that someone is in quarantine, so it is important to let them know and give them the opportunity to help, Cwikel said.
“This is especially crucial for those who are living alone,” she said. “Others should check in with them regularly. For example, people who are worried about their parents should be in touch with them on a daily basis to see how they are doing, just to chat, to connect and not leave them feeling isolated.”
Several phone lines are set up for people to find help, Cwikel said. Her own center is in the process of establishing one line for parents to call and seek advice on how to handle the situation with their children, she said, while the university is also preparing to offer other resources to the community.
3. Do what helps you relax
People should try to implement what has helped them in the past to cope with a situation of stress and to find new techniques within the framework of the home, Cwikel said.
“It might be reading a book, doing crafts or handiwork around the house, having a cup of tea or a special comfort food, getting up and moving around” she told the Post.
Cwikel suggested implementing or carrying out mindfulness or meditation techniques, which can be learned online.
“It’s important that people try to do something to contrast their anxieties, to relax and stop the worrying cycle,” she said. “We know that continual worry about something without taking action increases the level of distress.”
“Moreover, people struggling with depression should keep doing what they know they are supposed to do: talking to people, taking medications, perhaps do online therapy,” she added. “Again, do the things that have helped you in the past, keep active physically, write a journal, draw pictures and so on.”
4. Limit the time looking at screens
Whether watching one movie after another or constantly checking the latest news, the temptation to spend time forced at home looking at screens is strong for everyone, Cwikel said, but those activities should be limited.
“There is a tendency for adults, and sometimes also for children, to be always connected to their phones,” she said. “We know from research that this doesn’t help lowering their distress level.”
While watching TV can be a good way to pass time, people should find the right balance between doing something that people enjoy and activities that actually benefit them, Cwikel said.
“People should not spend too much time sitting,” she said. “Also, parents should realize that keeping children in front of a TV or video games does not help with their level of stress.”
Checking the news compulsively should be avoided, she said, adding: “It is okay to want to be informed, but not all the time, because this keeps us in a state of alertness and anxiety, which stresses adults but also children.”
5. Be playful with your children
“For those who are home alone with children, it’s especially important to recognize that they pick up on our moods, so we might see more irritability and problems with sleeping or eating, also depending on the age of the child,” Cwikel said.
To cope with the situation, more hugs and holding can help, as well as being playful and silly together, she said.
“We encourage people to be playful with their children and do things with them, even silly things, drawing, putting hats on, dressing up, moving, dancing,” Cwikel said. “This helps them as well as the adults.”
“Don’t assume that because children might act clingier, there is something wrong with them,” she said. “They may be picking up on the distress of their parents. If you see children reflecting your own distress, try to lower it and then do it with your child.”
6. Don’t feel embarrassed
“People should not feel embarrassed or stigmatized if they are feeling distressed,” Cwikel said. “A lot of people are on the same boat.”
“This is a very important message: Let’s not stigmatized those who are looking for help or reaching out,” she said. “This is the human condition. When we are in distress, we like to be with other people, to be told that someone cares about us. It is a universal need.”
7. Keep physically active from your living room using online resources
According to Tova Eastman, a personal trainer, fitness-nutrition specialist, weight-management specialist and founder of IGNITE Fitness, keeping physically active without leaving your home is possible.
“There is a common misconception that fancy equipment is needed in order to exercise, while you can just use your body weight,” she told the Post. “Push-ups, squats, abdominal exercises, planks, burpees, mountain climbers, lounges – there are exercises working on all different muscles in your body with no equipment, targeting every muscle.”
Regardless of the coronavirus crisis, a growing number of people are not going to the gym anymore, and they get beautiful results from home, Eastman said.
It is essential to know what to do, and this is easily solved thanks to online resources, she said, adding: “I definitely recommend guidance because it is important to avoid injuries, especially to those who have never worked out before. There are tons of ways to access information from your house.”
The biggest challenge often is finding the right mental motivation, Eastman said.
“Sometimes this is the hardest switch, so having a video to follow or the accountability of a coach helps motivate people to work out, even if they are not in their favorite environment to do so,” she said.
An online community going through the same program might help you feel motivated, Eastman said.
Working out can be a great activity to share with children, she said. A baby can become the perfect weight to hold during a squat series, while older children are easily inspired to follow along the movements.
“Also it helps remembering that you don’t need to do an hourlong workout. You can do get a great, effective workout in 20 minutes,” Eastman told the Post.
At the end of the day, the important thing is to start, maybe with some music to get in the mood and with the right outfit to be more motivated. A positive outcome is guaranteed.