The isolation definition is simply the state of one who is alone. However simple it may sound, isolation and being homebound can be anything but simple, especially if it happens as a result of a sudden life change, such as an injury or a rapid onset of an illness. However, there are many ways to stay positive and still feel a part of the world, even while staying at home. This guide will suggest practical advice and hopefully provide you with some inspiration as you navigate your new normal.
Create A New Routine
In your previous life (prior to being at home) you likely had a daily routine and a long, “to do” list at all times. As you may have noticed, now it has become a “not to do” list and that can, ironically, be even more difficult to manage than the list of things to do. It is hard to not do, and rely on others for help. Trust me I know. Try to create a new daily routine that is not time specific, but a response plan for your emotional and physical well-being instead. For example, have set routines for self-coping when you have discomfort such as pain and other routines for moments of emotional overwhelm. For me, listening to my body when I feel discomfort is imperative, so I will take my medication, lay down, focus on deepening my breath and feeling into my bodily sensations, allowing myself to be with the discomfort as opposed to resisting it and tensing my body in response. In times where I feel an overwhelming emotion, I (ideally) find a secluded space, listen to soothing music or sound, connect with my body and breath in order to fully allow myself to feel all of the emotion(s) and how it presents in my body for a set amount of time, no more than thirty minutes. I try to let it go after thirty minutes if I am still unable to move through the emotion at that particular time. I practice letting it go and then come back to sit with it at a later time, as I have found that ruminating is never helpful. Having a daily routine, although much different than your prior routine, can help you feel more in control of your day to day life when you cannot control a lot of your other circumstances.
Isolation can be very lonely at times, but in this modern day there are more ways than ever to stay connected with loved ones. Use the available technology to your advantage such as video chats, phone calls, voice recordings, social media or messaging with friends and family. You can also participate in virtual events or activities together, such as online game nights or virtual classes. It is also vital to begin to make new connections with others who are in similar circumstances. Patient support groups can be a fabulous way to find others who can relate and support you in ways that your friends and family are unable to. Isolation can have effects on the brain as humans are very social beings. This is why even when you do not feel social, it is important to stay connected, despite not being able to be with others, in the same way that you once were. You can still maintain strong relationships and support systems right from your own bed, if you are homebound, bed bound or both. There are more ways than ever to stay connected on your own terms.
Including gentle physical movement into your day if at all possible, even if it seems very minimal or pointless. I started when I was bed bound with ankle and wrist circles. For every patient “movement” will look differently, and may not even include any physical movement of their body. Breath work is a great form of movement and most everyone can participate. Another great option for those who are not physically moving their bodies, is to use the imagination and pretend you are participating in the activity of your choice. There have been numerous research studies showing the body and brain still benefit, demonstrating the incredible power of our minds! Staying active, in mind and/or body not only benefits your physical health, but can also improve your overall mood and mental wellbeing.
Bring The Joy Back
One way to make the most of your time in isolation is to learn about something new. Perhaps you have always wanted to learn about a certain subject, but never found the time? Do not worry if you have limitations such as reading or struggles cognitively or simply feel you do not have the energy to mentally contribute to anything else. Trust me! There are still ways to enjoy a new interest and bring joy into your life even amongst the suffering. Maybe just listen to five minutes of an audio book each day, a movie you love, the voice of a loved one or a short TedTalk for example. Perhaps you do not feel any motivation to explore new interests? To that, I would say this is the BEST time to motivate yourself to listen to new perspectives or ideas. With so many online resources available, there's never been a better time to pick up a new hobby or improve upon your existing skills. Maybe you can write a book about your life experiences? With the technology available today anyone can tell their story. Or maybe for you, it is learning a new language, taking an online class, or trying out something creative? There are endless opportunities to expand your knowledge and creativity even if you are disabled or very physically limited. Do not let your new physical and mental obstacles hold you back, anything is possible when we think outside of the box. Not only can learning a new skill or hobby be a fun and rewarding way to pass the time, but it can also boost your confidence and provide a sense of accomplishment that you may be missing. It is possible to be, “Living a Beautiful Life Alongside Illness, Pain and Disability”!
Isolation Effects On Mental Health
Isolation and homebound life can take a toll on your mental health, so it's so important to prioritize your own self-care. Simple techniques such as regularly practicing mindfulness and other practices such as breath meditation are very beneficial. Additionally, staying connected with loved ones through video or phone calls, voice memos, messaging and social media are very helpful as well. Most importantly, seeking professional support whenever you feel that you need is imperative. Your mental well-being should be your top priority and it is just as important as your physical health. So please do not forget to include joy in your new routine, by making time for activities that bring you happiness and relaxation, such as reading, listening to music, meditating, gently moving/stretching your body, and communicating with a loved one. Whatever you are able to do today that feels good in your body and mind.