A big part of being human is enjoying the social connections we have with friends, family, and neighbours. That’s why it’s understandable that many of us are feeling lonely as a result of social distancing. We can no longer meet with friends, have the grandchildren over for Sunday dinner or take part in our normal daily routines.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, you’re not the only one. Many elderly Brits are feeling lonely, anxious, sad, even bored during the current lockdown period. It’s perfectly normal to feel like this and more importantly, there are steps you can take to make living in isolation that bit easier.
The trouble with living in isolation
According to UK government guidelines, you can meet one other person from a different household outdoors. However, you must still remain two meters apart. You can’t visit friends or relatives in their houses or indoors meaning you still can’t have guests in your home, and you cannot gather in a large group of people who aren’t part of your household. It’s also ok to go outside and exercise alone or with another individual provided you maintain social distancing.
Even with restrictions easing, you may still want to self-isolate, particularly if you have a pre-existing health condition that could put you at higher risk if you contract the virus. The trouble is, being confined to your home for long periods of time can cause increased feelings of loneliness. You might even find yourself feeling out of sorts as the quarantine continues.
Being forced to stay at home can be problematic for older generations since many of us rely on getting out and about to get that much needed human interaction. Even little things like chatting to our neighbours about the weather can make a big difference to our day. While isolation can be somewhat manageable for families with children or those living with flatmates or friends, it can be an entirely different experience if you live alone. But how can you get through isolation, without losing your marbles?
Putting things into perspective
If you don’t live with anyone else, you’re one of millions of Brits, young and old, who live alone. Even if you live with a partner or friend, you might still feel lonely from time to time. It can help put things into perspective when you remember that coronavirus has forced people all over the world to self-isolate. We’re all in this together and we’re all facing new challenges as a nation.
Rigid lockdown and social distancing rules can be somewhat distressing but reminding yourself why we’re doing this can help you to remain positive. We’re all doing our part for those most vulnerable in society. Staying at home saves lives and keeps us safe. It’s important that we do what we can in the meantime and eventually, this will all blow over.
How to handle negative feelings while in isolation
You might feel worried, scared or overwhelmed at times. Staying positive and keeping busy can help keep you grounded. These feelings are normal and you’re certainly not the only one experiencing them.
The first thing you can do to help combat feelings of loneliness and anxiety is practise mindfulness. The scariest part of this pandemic is the fact that we can’t control what’s happening around us. But, what we can do is use mindfulness to train our bodies and minds to better manage the stress caused by coronavirus and social distancing.
What is mindfulness and how does it work?
Australian psychologist Lea Waters describes mindfulness as being aware of what you’re doing, while you’re doing it. It’s about being present in the moment. When we practice mindfulness, we generate more serotonin which helps us keep calm and happy. Believe it or not, it’s possible to apply mindfulness to almost every aspect of your life,
Here’s how to practice mindfulness from the comfort of your home
Start with big exaggerated breaths – deeply inhale through your nose for 3 seconds and deeply exhale through your mouth for 4 seconds. Repeat this practice until you feel calm and relaxed.
Take your breathing exercises one step further and practise meditation, which can be a very effective mindfulness exercise. To begin meditating, set aside a few minutes to sit in a comfortable chair and close your eyes. Pay close attention to your breath as you inhale and exhale. Then, focus on relaxing each part of your body from the top of your head to your toes. You’ll probably find you’re far more tense than you realise!
Don’t worry if your mind wanders, learning to meditate takes time and practice. Nobody gets it right the first time around.
The key to mindfulness is being aware of your surroundings and focusing on the present moment. Pay attention to what’s around you; colours, shapes, smells, a breeze on your skin, the taste and textures of your favourite foods, the movement of water or trees in the wind, the sound of birds chirping. This exercise can give your mind a much-needed break from worried thoughts.
Listen to peaceful music
Sit comfortably in a chair and listen to peaceful music while you practice mindful breathing exercises. Music can be relaxing and uplifting. Check what’s on the radio, you might find something to help you unwind. If not, you can always find a playlist on YouTube.
Reach out and stay connected
Communities around Britain are finding new ways to be social, while following government guidelines. Just look at the weekly Clap for our Carer’s event. People all over the UK are coming together to clap in appreciation for our NHS workers. Clap for our Carer’s allows people to celebrate while practising social distancing. It’s a great way to feel part of something, so why not pop outside your home at 8pm on Thursdays to give our healthcare workers a well-deserved morale boost?
If you’re feeling lonely or stressed, don’t hesitate to reach out to family or friends. We have nothing but time on our hands and people are longing for company now more than ever.
Connecting with technology
If you’re tech-savvy, you can use apps to video call your loved ones. Some popular apps that allow you to make video calls from your phone, tablet or laptop include:
- Facebook Messenger
No matter how you choose to connect with the people in your life, don’t be afraid to share your concerns. You might be surprised to find others are in the same boat - just be safe when using the internet – Age UK have an excellent guide on how to be safe online.
If you don’t have anyone to contact, there are a number of organisations you can get in touch with. These organisations offer befriending services designed to help lonely seniors in the UK.
Maintaining a normal routine and keeping busy
Routine is an important factor in maintaining our mental and physical health. Just because you can’t go to work, visit friends or take a walk in the park, doesn’t mean you should become a couch potato. Believe it or not, there are lots of quarantine activities for seniors in lockdown. Here are some things you can do in your home to keep busy and fit:
Organise your home
Being in isolation is the perfect opportunity to get organised. Clear out your clutter. Give those skirting boards a good clean. Get the garden in order. Prepare bags of old clothing and brick-a-brack ready to donate to charity shops when they reopen.
Light exercise – if you can
Everyone’s entitled to go for a walk each day, even under lockdown restrictions. If you would rather not go outside, you can do some gentle exercises at home. Age.co.uk provides a guide to simple and safe exercises for seniors.
Podcasts and audiobooks
The local library or bookshop might be shut but you can access tonnes of interesting audiobooks online. Audible UK has a vast selection of audiobooks for you to choose from (membership may be required).
You might even like to try out podcasts. Podcasts are similar to radio shows. There are usually several episodes in a series where a host talks about particular topics and in some cases, they conduct interviews with celebrities and industry experts. Whatever you’re interested in, there’s a podcast for you!
Cooking and baking
Cooking and baking are great boredom-busting activities. There’s also the added benefit of tucking into a tasty dish when you’re done! If you don’t have any cookbooks lying around, why not look up ideas online? BBC Good Food share new recipes daily. It could be the inspiration you need to become the next Delia Smith or Jamie Oliver!
We’ve all got books lying around that we never got around to finishing. If there are some bestsellers gathering dust on a shelf somewhere in your home, now is the perfect time to pick one up. Not only is getting lost in a good book is a great way to pass the time, reading before bed can make it much easier to drift off if you’re having trouble sleeping.
Gardening or caring for plants
If you have a garden, why not check in on your flowers and plants? If you don’t have a garden, how about ordering some seeds or succulents online to plant on your window sills or balcony?
Get into arts and crafts
If you’d like to get crafty or take up a new creative hobby, you can always order supplies on the internet. In fact, over half of Britons aged 65+ now shop online. You can get just about anything you need from crochet equipment to easels and paint. Again, always be safe when shopping online.
Some final tips for keeping a positive outlook during the Coronavirus pandemic
As stressful and lonely as it can be in quarantine, remember that this is temporary. With each day that passes, we’re a little bit closer to normality. Here’s a final reminder of some tips to keep in mind while you’re in isolation.
- Acknowledge your feelings but don’t let them weigh you down. If you’re feeling low practice mindfulness or keep busy with activities or light exercise if you can.
- Maintain a normal bedtime and morning routine. Go to bed at a reasonable time, get up, wash, get dressed and have your breakfast at the same time you normally would.
- If you can, go for a walk or sit down outside and get some fresh air. Even opening your windows and airing out your home will do the trick if you’re not pushed on going outside.
- Eat lots of healthy food and veggies. The food we eat can have a huge impact on our mental wellbeing. It’s also great for our immune systems, helping us to keep fit and healthy.
- Most importantly, if you’re feeling lonely or worried, reach out to family, friends or one of the helpful organisations we mentioned earlier. Coronavirus has posed new challenges for just about everyone and there’s no need to go through this alone. Opening up to others means you can get the help you need.
Need help with maintaining a healthy daily routine? We’ve got just the thing! A printable weekly planner to better manage your time in isolation.
A Quick Guide to our Weekly Planner
Keeping busy and maintaining a familiar routine can be key to a healthy body and a happy mind. Unfortunately, in isolation, it’s easy to lose the motivation we need to keep up with our normal daily routines. Many of us fall into the trap of watching too much television, developing bad eating habits and ignoring our need for fresh air and exercise. Make time for productive, healthy activities with our weekly planner.
Planning out your day is a handy way to make sure you’re keeping track of your routine and making the most of an unusual situation. You can use this space to set regular meal times, make time for any activities you have planned and schedule any calls you may have.
With everything going on right now it’s easy to forget key information that keeps your week running smoothly. This space is somewhere you can jot down anything that you might need to remember when planning out your days. You can also use this section as a space to reflect on the week gone by – is there anything you would do differently?
Isolation can feel like an overwhelming and lonely place, so it’s important to keep an eye on how you’re feeling each day. That way you can make sure to include more of the things that make you happy in your daily plan. In this space, we recommend that you use a single word or a smiley face to describe your overall mood for the day. At the end of your week, have a look at what days you felt your best and try to include similar plans in the coming week.
One of the ways that you can help keep anxiety and boredom at bay is by setting small and achievable goals for yourself to complete each week. Maybe you’ve been meaning to try out a new recipe or take up a new hobby and you haven’t found the time to start it yet? This the perfect place to get you started. If you need some inspiration, check out our suggested goals below.
- Read for 20 minutes
- Chat with someone on the phone
- Follow a guided meditation class online
- Experiment with a new hobby
- Try cooking a new recipe
- Spend 30 minutes outside