Tips for Looking After Your Mental Health and Staying Productive in Isolation

I know there is a lot of advice floating around at the moment regarding isolation tips, but I think the more the merrier on this topic. Caring for yourself is such a unique and personal things, therefore, a variety of ideas is always great so that you can pick and choose for yourself.

In this post I will outline a few things I’ve been doing to keep myself occupied but also to keep my mental health more steady.

For those of you who follow me on Instagram I have been quite open about the fact that this period has been challenging for me and my mental health at times. Last year was a hard year for me in my personal life and being busy has always been a coping mechanism for me. Having to slow down seems to have opened up a few old wounds but actually its probably been good because I am finally dealing properly with some things.

On a brighter note I have found this time really quite cathartic. I am finally getting a healthy amount of sleep and have been finding more time for exercise and work life balance. I hope that I am forming some habits that I will carry forward.

Anyway, enough about me and more about the good stuff. Here are my tips

Stay Productive and Busy

I am all for taking some time to rest. However, for me personally, having routine and maintaining my productivity is key to ending the day feeling as though I have made the most of it. I recently watched a video from Ali Abdaal about being productive (linked below) and some of the tips are really good. I particularly have been using the highlights and low-lights method in my daily to do lists to give myself realistic targets for the day. So key things here for me:

  • Use a written diary to make a to do list for the day
  • Make a highlight – the one key thing you want to achieve in that day
  • Schedule roughly your rest and your work

Do the Things You Have Been Meaning to Do

Life as a medical student is very busy. The silver lining to this time of uncertainty and isolation is that I have finally have time to do the things I’ve wanted to do for a while. I have learnt to knit, made a big dent in my long list of books I want to read, got into more of an exercise routine and started being creative again. This has done wonders for bringing joy to each day and making me feel like I am improving and developing rather than stagnating. Key points:

  • Thing of something you want to do and DO IT
  • Do something that is purely for enjoyment and self-development each day
  • Try a few new things because you never know what will light your fire

Build Habits

Again, this time is unique in that we have complete control over our days. Normally, I find it really hard to build in new habits because, just one morning with an extra 10 minutes in bed, and its all out of the window. I have been making time to build a skin care routine because this makes me feel as though I am really caring for myself and is a great start to the morning. I have also been making time for a quick run or quick yoga session regularly and its making a huge difference to my mental well being. Finally, I am making time for fun, non-medical hobbies and I really hope this is something I will continue. So:

  • Think about something you would like to add to your routine that will be realistic once you return to normal life
  • Make sure you do it every day and enjoy it
  • Envisage yourself doing this as part of your routine once you are back to work/study

Gratitude

Now this one is very personal and doesn’t work for everyone but it is something that has really revolutionised the way I frame my day. As someone who is a massive over thinker, perfectionist and has a tendency to worry, re-framing the way I see my life and my experiences is really helping me to enjoy ‘the now’. I personally use a journal called ‘The Six- Minute Diary’. This sets out 3 minutes in the morning and 3 at night to answer set questions. I love that it is a hard-back notebook that comes in a variety of colours and provides me with a structure. When I have had a hard day, looking at; what has been positive, what I am grateful for and what I am proud of, really improves my quality of life. There is emerging evidence for this being useful for everyone but particularly those with mental health issues so maybe its worth a try! If you don’t want to buy a book its easy to do, just write down:

  • What you are grateful for
  • What you enjoyed in the day
  • What you are proud of
  • How you will progress

Get Out in Nature

Last but definitely not least is getting outside. We are so lucky that we still have the option to get out and about in nature. Taking a walk or a run each day is such a relief for my body and my mind. The sun has been shining the last few days and being out with the trees and the birds and nature has been the highlight of my day. There is so much evidence that being outdoors and exercising in nature has immense benefits to our physical and mental health so please, get out there and become the little hippy you’ve always dreamed of being.

I hope this helps. As I said these are very personal point but there may be something in there for each of you.

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