During these difficult and unprecedented times of social distancing, isolation, and lockdown, many of us are realising the core tenet of social psychology- that humans need to belong to groups, to feel a sense of connection to humans around us, and to share a sense of identity and purpose.
Technology has played a crucial role in helping us to manufacture this sense of ‘us’ or ‘we-ness’, however the most vulnerable in society may lack access or skills necessary to maintain social connection during physical distancing.
Therefore psychologists have been hard at work disseminating tips for mental and physical health during COVID-19 isolation, and I myself have been appearing on BBC Scotland radio and TV as concerns how best to mitigate feelings of loneliness, and preserve our sense of connectedness, during isolation.
First, I will share a few links from the field of psychology- where the British Psychological Society (https://www.bps.org.uk/responding-coronavirus) and the Psychologist Magazine (https://thepsychologist.bps.org.uk/how-psychology-researchers-are-responding-covid-19-pandemic - see also @psychmag on Twitter) have been very pro-active in collating expert advice. In addition, some of my fellow psychology practitioners have provided free and open advice and resources about mental and physical health maintenance. For instance, Dr Liza Morton and Dr Nicola Cogan, counselling psychologists, posted a popular blog with top tips for keeping mentally well during Covid19, including accepting uncertainty and being kind to oneself and others (see drlizamorton.com). The University of Glasgow’s counselling service - although devoted to university students - has collated a wealth of open resources (https://www.gla.ac.uk/myglasgow/counselling/self-help) from online Cognitive Behavioural Therapy to safe spaces for sharing, like the Big White Wall (links). Moreover, of course, the NHS has many links and information on their website (links), including to Samaritans and the Red Cross (https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/mental-health-helplines/).
In addition, at the University of Glasgow as part of the PhD Community Building Group, we have begun weekly Wed. coffee chats and skills-sharing sessions over Zoom. At our first session, we compiled the following list of tips we found helpful for coping as academics and researchers during isolation and in our efforts to both work productively at home and also be kind to ourselves during our not-so-productive times:
- Learn / do something new - baking, yoga, meditation, running, crafting, Duolingo to learn a language, but something you WANT to learn not necessarily NEED to learn. Never before have the benefits of lifelong learning and less formal learning appeared so clearly, but equally, we people should not feel ‘skills-shaming’ for opting out of new learning. It should be self-motivated learning of real interest to you;
- End the day at some point - for instance, pick a time to put technology aside and do something physical, like go for a walk (where applicable), or try one of the suggestions or links below;
- Alternate your necessary tasks with something fun like binge-watching - e.g. on Netflix, documentaries, reading for fun;
- Arrange to do something with a friend(s) online or via the phone- like workout with a friend, or engaged with virtual pub or games night. If you are feeling alone, you can always reach out to volunteer as a phone befriender for Food Train Scotland, ringing elderly folk in isolation;
- Try home Photography - e.g. Take photos from windows and share with friends all over the world to 'relax';
- Grow something- turn your windows into spaces to grow vegetables, flowers, these can be a sign of hope and that the future will not always be like this;
- Document your days, and how they change - Try journaling, or writing a novel, or use your social media, but try to find a way to keep track of the days and what is going on around you, as well as inside you;
- Avoid too much news- Be wary of the news you consume, much like you would be mindful of the nutrition of the food you put into your body- too much social media, and illegitimate news sources, can impact on one’s mental health and overall worldview;
- Find a working schedule to suit you - Routine can help some people, you may also wish to implement intentional working strategies, such as the Pomodoro technique, or set a broad schedule for yourself or your family;
- Be KIND to ourselves - We must acknowledge that these are not normal circumstances, and with the best intentions, we will have productive days but it is ok to have less / non-productive days... We are in exceptional circumstances, and everyone will handle it differently;
- Nutrition - Have proper healthy meals, with a break for lunch, as it fuels the mind and gives you a break in the day. It can be hard to eat well under stress, especially when locked in the house; but why not try to read up on nutritional advice and try to get as many coloured fruit and veg into your diet as possible?
- Check-in with others - Take it upon ourselves to try to keep in touch with others, for our own sake and for the sake of others, who might be isolated, see above link for Food Train befriending;
- Think about different ways of writing - If you have a job, as an academic or researcher, which requires writing then try 'setting mini goals', and setting aside smaller units of time. Writing with friends, writing circles, join an online writing group- sometimes accountability or hearing how others working/ knowing they are working helps;
- Do a SELF-Check-in every day - what are you doing, thinking, and feeling? What is working well and what could use some improvement, what do you need to do to nurture yourself;
- Get Creative! Add some more creatively into your life. Sing a song, write a poem, draw something, or just colour. Games can also be great spaces for creativity and some role-playing games can be played online with others;
- Music soothes the soul, so can colours and smells, so change-it-up! Make your days more colourful in many ways. Create collaborative playlists on Spotify or YouTube.
These are suggestions from the University of Glasgow School of Education PhD Community Building Group, but we think they might help many people around the world struggling at this difficult time.
I have taken this time to start my own Pilates YouTube channel called ‘Cathlates’ https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC8JdkjYdBrmd6EwHt86SZdw. Cathlates is an open resource of Pilates for all ages & all fitness levels. Pilates requires no equipment and can be done with minimal space, so it is an ideal exercise to stay fit during the COVID isolation period, with real benefits of better posture, spinal health, and reduced joint pain.
There are resources for all ages, and fitness levels with videos for kids, and Cathlates for those with joint conditions, illness or injury. This has been my way of giving back and trying to help myself by helping others. We look forward to hearing what is working for you!
Additional links our PhD Community Building Group have found helpful:
- Couch to 5k https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/couch-to-5k-week-by-week
- Neck health: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MRf-Q0IcG9E
- Fitness Joe Wicks 7 days of sweat: https://youtu.be/QXmdXilQaqA
- To go beyond gentle stretch- Power yoga: https://youtu.be/LRRbfcN29mM
- All types offered for membership fees online with Zen2Yoga (in Polmont): https://www.zen2yoga.co.uk/zen2yoga
- Pomodoro technique: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pomodoro_Technique
- Mindfulness apps such as Insight Timer, Headspace and Calm, and some practical, applied books: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mindfulness-Unravelling-Anxiety-Finding-Uncertain-ebook/dp/B01CUD6SFU#ace-g4131440328. Mindfulness tools: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mindfulness-Black-Dogs-Blue-Days-ebook/dp/B00GW1YZDE
With thanks to Dr Dely Elliot and Dr Yvonne Skipper, University of Glasgow, School of Education, Phd Community Building Leads, Dr Margaret Sutherland PGR Director, and to our entire community of amazingly resilient PhD researchers.
Dr. Catherine Lido is a Senior Lecturer in Psychology and Adult Learning, in the School of Education at the University of Glasgow. She is Associate Director at Urban Big Data Centre (UBDC) leading novel research in Educational Disadvantage and Place, with Prof Mike Osborne, which includes expertise in capturing lifewide learning with UNESCO's Learnings Cityies metrics. She is a Co-I on UBDC Phase 2 and their data service extension grant, where she helped deliver, and promotes the use of, the integrated Multi-media City Data project open data source (iMCD data accessible at:www.ubdc.ac.uk). She is also Deputy Director of the PASCAL Observatory (http://pascalobservatory.org/). She is the former Programme Leader for the MSc Psychological Studies, and teaches mainly face to face and online topics, including Psychology of Adult Learning and Cognitive Psychology at the Masters' level.
More information: University of Glasgow