One of the most recognizable features of the COVID-19 pandemic is the requirement for people to quarantine themselves at home if they test positive or come into close contact with a person who has tested positive for the virus. Being quarantined likely means having to stay in one room away from the rest of the family. It means “being there but not there” for two whole weeks.
Here’s a question: what can be the impact on mental be when being quarantined at home?
Some people are able to stay in one spot for a week or longer and enjoy it. This is the person who, when on vacation, is happy to flop down next to a pool and tan for a week – I envy them!!! Chances are if they have to be quarantined, they will find it tolerable at least from the perspective of being in one place.
On the other hand, there are those who find it hard to be in one place. This is the person on vacation who, after an hour or two by the pool, heads off to find a new activity to do. Chances are that this person will be stressed if asked to stay put for a day or two. Two weeks can be very difficult.
That is just around the physical part of being in isolation. What can be more difficult are the emotional challenges that tag along.
When an individual in a family has to separate themselves from the rest it can be very stressful. It is kind of like being away from home while being at home. They hear what the rest of the family is doing but cannot take part. This can be hearing the good times such as a shared meal that they can’t be a part of. For a child this can be devastating.
It can also be the bad times, such as an argument between children that they can’t help resolve. It might mean having to skip a dinner at a restaurant or not being able to go to a child’s doctor appointment.
Being at home and unable to do anything can lead to feelings of loneliness, frustration, powerlessness, and depression. Sleep may be difficult as well.
When it is a parent who is isolated, their partner now has to work overtime. They are in charge of everything – kids, meals, cleaning, driving … even looking after their partner who is in isolation.
What To Do
Here’s my take on how to deal with this if it happens to you or a loved one.
First, accept how you are feeling and don’t beat yourself up for your feelings. If you are upset, then give yourself permission to be upset. Living at home but not really being with the family is not a natural situation for most people, so expect that you will find it hard.
Second, if you have a safe way to go outside then do so. Being outside, say in your backyard, allows you to feel fresh air and get out of your isolation room. It is a change of scenery that can help you cope with a difficult time. Check with your public health team to make sure what you are planning makes sense.
Third, exercise is important in general. While in quarantine I think it is even more critical. Find ways to keep your body moving and in motion. This is not easy but also not impossible. There are videos online that you can find for guided exercise. Here is one that I found that is great for people like me who are not in the best of shape!
Fourth, don’t keep your feelings to yourself. Tell your family and friends how you are feeling. This is a great time to call (or even better FaceTime/Skype!!!) people to stay connected. If you are a parent, you can still talk to your kids. You just can’t do it in the same room. Communication will be different than you are used to but still can happen.
Finally, if you are not the one in isolation try to keep the person quarantined involved as much as you can. Don’t forget that they are there even though you can’t see them. Ask them how they are feeling and if they need anything. If your home allows for it, sit in a place that they can see you and talk to them.
Most importantly – accept their feelings for what they are. Just as it is important for them to accept how they are feeling, you need to be accepting of how they feel. They might have reactions that to you do not make sense. Accept that and do your best! You might also be having a reaction to your loved one being in isolation. Accept that as well!
I found some websites that you might find helpful in finding things to do while you are in quarantine. If you have others let me know!
Stay safe and healthy! Questions? Call me at 416.613.1259 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.