I’m a housewife, farmer, and blogger who is living with bipolar disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder. For me becoming socially isolated is commonplace. Mental illness often causes me to isolate for days, weeks, or even months. I guess you could say I’m a time-tested expert when it comes to coping with isolation.
Sometimes the isolation can be debilitating. It’s easy to get stuck in a spiral of loneliness and lose your sense of self-worth. So, over the years I’ve developed a self-care plan for isolation. It helps me feel intentional and gives structure to my days. I want to share some of it with you. So, here are 13 of the things I do on my better weeks.
I hope these self-care strategies help you.
1. Change out of pajamas when I wake up
It’s easy to wear pajamas all day, and that’s the problem. Wearing pajamas all day makes me feel sluggish and unintentional. Putting on “real clothes” makes me feel more human. It’s easy to feel unimportant and unintentional when you spend a lot of time alone. Changing out of pajamas can sincerely help.
2. Put on clean clothes daily
People don’t really see me during the day, so at times I feel inclined to wear the same outfit for a few days. I’ve found that this isn’t great for my mental health. I value myself more when I put on clean clothes daily. I have more self-respect. It makes me feel better about myself.
3. Eat at around the same time every day
I spend my days alone, so having a schedule helps me feel normalized. It’s easy to get caught up in a job or hobby and forget to eat. No one is around to tell me it’s lunchtime or to ask me if I want to go out for coffee. It’s all on me. I try to eat at approximately the same time every day. It adds normalcy to my schedule.
4. Prepare nice meals for myself
This doesn’t have to be expensive or extravagant. Just intentional. I prepare food for myself with respect. This can be simple like toasting bread for a sandwich or actually eating off a glass plate. At mealtimes I’m creating something for myself, it’s important that I create something nourishing and with love. I’m worth it.
5. Take breaks
When I’m isolated at home, there aren’t necessarily any distractions. There are no coworkers to joke around with. There are no meetings to walk to. There are no coworkers to smile at as I walk down the hall. Nothing happens to break up my day. Nothing happens that causes me to look up and take a deep breath. So I have to be intentional about taking my own breaks. Some breaks are five minutes; long enough to sit down and drink water. Sometimes breaks are longer.
6. Drink water
Hydration is so important. I’ll say it again – hydration is so important. When you’re isolated at home it’s oddly easy to forget about hydration. In the past I would drink coffee all day and totally forget about water. Now I make a conscious effort to drink more water than coffee, daily. This seems simple, but it’s so important.
7. Have a daily skin-care routine
Skin-care is how I start and end each day. For the longest time, I would wake up, throw some water on my face, and start my day. I thought it didn’t matter because no one would be seeing me. But it severely hurt my self-worth. I didn’t value myself enough to take care of my skin. Now, I wash my face with cleanser when I wake up and then apply a nice moisturizer. I do the same each night. Skin-care is also a nice way for me to show myself some respect. Other people might not be seeing me, but I’m seeing me.
8. Select a time to “clock out” and stick to it
When you are in the same location for weeks it’s easy to let the lines blur between work-time and recreational-time. In the past I would often wake up, work all day, then realize it was time to go to sleep. I literally worked from the time my eyes opened till the time they closed. So now I pick a time to “clock out” each day, and I mentally tell myself that my “work day” is over, and now it’s time for me to relax; I can read something, watch a TV show, or do whatever I want, because my workday is over. Rest matters.
9. Have a sleep schedule
It’s super easy to sleep all day when you are home all the time. Sticking to a sleep schedule is stupendous for my mental health. I’m going to be honest, the time I go to bed every night varies. But waking up early and at the same time each day does wonders. It adds structure that my days depend on. Also, lying in bed all day can make me feel worthless and pathetic. Getting up and starting my day makes me feel intentional.
10. Get clean
Basic hygiene can suffer when I’m isolated. Depression plays a part in this. But more than anything, it’s a self-worth issue. Staying home all the time makes me feel unimportant. When you feel unimportant things like showering can easily be forgotten. It’s important for me to take care of myself. I matter and I deserve basic hygiene self-care. I don’t leave the house daily, so I never have a reason to fix my hair and/or put on make-up. It can make me feel, for lack of a better word, “fictional”. I forget that I’m a real human who deserves to shower, dry my hair, and feel nice. I have to be intentional about hygiene because it isn’t a daily necessity for me.
Exercise is a wonderful form of self-care for the stay-at-home person. It’s self-worth and self-love in action. Sometimes I go long periods of time without seeing other humans (not counting my husband). So my physical appearance can become unimportant to me. For me, exercising is a true form of self-love. It’s something I’m doing for myself so I feel better. It’s time I can set aside to value myself and my body. I’m happiest at home when I keep up with a daily exercise routine. I will admit, however, it’s absolutely the most difficult thing on this list. My favorite form of exercise is yoga; I can practice yoga and meditation calmly within my own home. It’s good for my mind and body.
12. Do something fun
This is important. Fun needs to happen. Especially when I’m socially isolated. I need to smile and laugh daily. I read books. I play video games. I play music and dance with my dogs. I watch films and TV shows that make me smile. It’s important to remember that life can be spectacular and fun.
13. Bonus — Enjoy the outside
Being outside can be spectacular for mental health. During the summer I spend a lot of time outside on my farm. I read books to my dogs and take relaxing walks. It sincerely improves my mental health. Although, this fades during the colder months. Mental illness keeps me inside a lot. But enjoying the outside doesn’t have to mean going outside, it can also mean opening a window. I was hesitant to add “enjoy the outside” to this list, because I don’t do it often enough. But perhaps adding it will help me enjoy the outside more. Something as simple as having coffee on the porch can sincerely change the outlook of a day…
Please keep in mind – the strategies listed in this post are mine, they are not universal. We are all gloriously different so my strategies might not work for you. Although I sincerely hope some of them do. Isolation can be tough. Take care of yourself.
Additionally, at some point, you might be ready to step back out into the world and socialize again. Socializing again after isolation can seem overwhelming. I have some strategies that I use when it’s time for me to begin socializing again, I even wrote a blog about socializing after isolation, I hope you’ll check it out. I hope it helps you.
You are not alone
Isolation comes with tough days. Sure some days might be tough. But we are tough too. We are stronger than we know. And the tough days are temporary. It is all temporary. The tough days will come and go. The fog caused by the tough days will eventually lift and there will be sun.
I’m not a mental health expert or medical professional. I can’t offer medical advice and I’m not trained to help you in a crisis situation. I sincerely care about you and I want to help. I’ve created a directory of mental health resources, check it out. You matter.
You may be wondering why I’m sharing such intimate information. I share because someone like me might read this, and I want them to know that they are not alone. If you are like me, and you are reading this — please remember, you are not alone.
Do you have your own strategies? If so, please share them with me in the comments.
Thank you so much.
These are wonderful, Elizabeth! Thank you for this post – and for being brave enough to share!
The only suggestion I can think to add is to go outside into the sunshine at least once a day (when possible). Fresh air and sunshine have been proven to elevate mood and lower blood pressure. And, if you are physically ill, it can reduce recovery time and help strengthen you immune response. (They discovered this fact back in 1918, during the influenza pandemic.)
This is an excellent post, I will share this with people when I think they may need it! I can attest to all of these, having worked for myself from home for a few years, and now the last 2 years being even more isolated, and without even work to keep me occupied! It’s also been a great reminder, thank you!
“It can make me feel, for lack of a better word, “fictional””
I actually really know what you mean, here. I think that’s a great way to describe it 💙.
Posts like these are very important at this moment! This was really worthwhile 🙂.
It feels strange to be living in a world right now, where every person is empathetic about anxiety and depression. Perhaps this will be one silver lining in the future. Great advice although I find Netflix works pretty well…😁
Great tips! Thank you for sharing!
Thank you, that is a great reminder. I really needed that!
The insulation cannot be the reason for the lack of personal hygiene or permanent lying on the couch. It is a reason to take care of ourselves both physically and spiritually