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Managing your mental health during self-isolation

Top tips from an occupational therapist

Our Occupational Therapist, Christie Alkin, shares her top tips for maintaining your mental health during COVID-19 (Coronavirus). 

“All of us at Combat Stress understand this is an anxious time for so many people. That’s why as an occupational therapist at the Charity, I’d like to share with you some of my top tips for managing your mental health while in self-isolation to help you deal with anxiety and feel at ease during this difficult time.

Find the positives:

It’s important to remain focused on the positives, being asked to go into self-isolation is for our best interests and to allow our population to remain as healthy as possible in the long term. While it can feel like a scary time, this is also an opportunity to reconnect with ourselves, families and immediate environment.

Start a new activity:

This is also the perfect opportunity for you to master a new skill. If you’ve got a guitar in the corner you’ve never got around to learning to play, or there’s a language you’ve always wanted to learn, now is the time. You could even become a creative writer!

Set goals:

Continue working towards your goals as they provide purpose and a sense of achievement. Now would be a good opportunity to focus on a good diet, good sleep, learning a new skill or getting those bits done around the house you’ve always been meaning to do.

Keep a routine:

Your day-to-day routine is, inevitably, going to change. However, it’s important you remain in a routine for the day, waking up at your usual time, eating your meals at your usual time and getting to sleep at your usual time. This helps provide structure to the day and will assist in getting things done as you can schedule times to do them.

Have balance:

Having balance within your routine is essential. Ensure you have activities for work, rest and leisure, and if you have children ensure they have time for play too.

While your usual ‘work’ activities may have stopped, are there things you could be doing using technology? Emails, phone calls, video meetings? If all your usual work has ceased completely, you could look at work to be done around the house, an online education course or you could learn a new language.

Be sure to balance these with things you enjoy, like listening to music, reading, calling friends or home exercise workouts. To keep yourself going, you can write these down and tick them off when you’ve done them.

Eat well:

It’s likely that being at home without access to your usual amenities could lead to poor decisions around food. Continue to focus on having a healthy diet where you can, and be mindful of snacking when you’re bored. Keep caffeine and alcohol to a minimum as these can increase anxiety. A healthy diet with plenty of fruit and veg will boost your immune system and keep you feeling energised.


It’s so important to keep moving to maintain a healthy mind and body.

Download apps or look for home workouts on YouTube for inspiration. Moving up and down the stairs, doing housework, yoga and bodyweight exercises are all great ways to keep moving. Body weight exercise including: planks, static holds, and pushing against surfaces have a regulating effect on your sensory system, which can leave you feeling calm for hours afterwards.

Alternatively, if you need energising, you could try a HIIT workout or energising yoga routine. If you live with family, why not get everyone involved at the same time to make it more fun? If you try to exercise at the same time each day you’re more likely to do it.

Keep up your regular activities:

Have your usual activities that you enjoy stopped? Church, the gym, yoga, eating out? Try to carry on with them at home in an adapted manner. Have dinner with your family at home, Skype friends over dinner if you live alone, try new recipes, try at home workouts.

Make time for your mind:

In times like this it can be easy to fall into thinking traps and ruminations. Make sure you ‘switch off’ screens and limit the time you spend on social media, otherwise you can feel overwhelmed.

Keep up-to-date using only factual information through the World Heath Organisation (WHO) and government websites.

And consider using meditation. Great apps include Headspace and Calm that can take you through meditation techniques. If you don’t have a smart phone – schedule time each day to write down what you’re grateful for in that moment.

Get fresh air:

This may be limited depending on your home environment. But make use of windows and keep curtains open in the day to let light in. Grow plants on the windowsill (sweet peas are good) and this will encourage you to spend time connected to nature near fresh air, despite being inside.

Keep connected:

If you’re on your own, make time to talk to people using the phone or video call apps like Facetime or Skype. Refrain from just messaging and use it as an opportunity to catch up with distant friends or relatives who you’ve been meaning to contact for a while.

Keep connected to those in your local community and encourage people to share their concerns in a constructive manner to enable support. Keep up-to-date with information through official sources to minimise hearsay and panic. Age Concern have a good telephone network for those in need.

Wash your hands:

When it comes to this follow the advice, washing your hands excessively will only damage your hands and will not be effective. Wash your hands as necessary and minimise touching others. You should wash your hands for 20 seconds and be thorough. The NHS website has good hand washing advice.  

Financial concerns:

Some of us may experience challenges and worries about finances. There is information on the financial support available as a result of this period on the Government website. You can also contact Citizens’ Advice for further support. Use the time to assess your finances and look where you can save money if you need to.

Keep your sleep routine:

While it’s tempting to stay up late because you’ve not got to be anywhere, this can be detrimental to your sleep routine and make it harder to keep energised and motivated; especially when you do go back to work! Keep your sleep routine as best you can.

Have positive affirmations:

It’s important to be realistic and rational with our thinking. Having positive affirmations including ‘this is for the best, for the health of the population’ or ‘this is only temporary’ will help you keep motivated.

I hope you find these tips helpful. More tips and information is available on the Combat Stress social media channels.”

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