Community Support Officer, Debi Gregory, shares her tips on social distancing, isolation and adjusting to staying at home. Many years ago i went from a strong (ish), able (ish) individual who could do things for myself, go where i liked when i liked, work and basically do all the things to a person who can't work, can't leave the house on my own or often even bath myself without supervision (stupid seizures!). Adjusting has taken me a really long time and i still get frustrated with myself over some things... But i'm trying to acknowledge when these are actually social expectations of me rather than real considerations. It's a work in progress; i'm a work in progress. As are we all, in the end. So, based on this rather lengthy learning curve of mine, here are my genuine tips for getting through social distancing without worsening any mental health, based on over a decade of experience. 1- Stop telling yourself that socialising in person and socialising online are different. The only difference is the way you see it. Online, telephone and email friendships can be just as rewarding as the ones you have when you see people face to face every day. 2- Try to find a single thing each day that makes you smile. There'll be a lot of things to annoy you, lots of things that make you smile, some things that make you feel fed up and more... But try to acknowledge one good thing and sit with it for a minute. Don't let it go unacknowledged and pass you by. As my last therapist kept trying to drill into me "be a Sunflower. Turn your face towards the Sun." 3- Even if you can't get outside, into the garden or to a park, try to look out of the window at least once during the day. See if you can see a bird, a bee, a flower or a tree. Something that you can watch and remind yourself that life goes on. 4- People talk a lot about guilty pleasures and it's about time we put that in the past where it belongs. If you have something you enjoy, a book, a television series, a game, anything that makes you feel calm and happy, then do it and don't feel that you have to apologise for it! If you want to sit in a blanket fort and take a colouring book, do it in your favourite PJs, a cocktail and a big "get stuffed" to anyone who laughs... And don't let them in to colour with you! 5- If you're feeling down and anxious, tell someone. Don't keep thoughts like that to yourself to fester and multiply. We are social animals and sharing our feelings, having others reassure that what we're feeling is normal or advise us to get help if those thoughts are becoming harmful to us, is something we benefit from greatly and forms part of the basis for group and social therapies. 6- There's always something to be getting on with. One of the things that those of us who've been isolated for a while think about a lot is the feeling of not achieving anything but that's because we live in a society that teaches us to dismiss many of the things we do on a regular basis that are still contributions to daily living. We all have those little things we do every day that we can count as wins and if we do so, the sense of achievement and lessened anxiety can be substantial for many people. Things like washing up, having an extra long bath or shower to relax, finishing that book you've been meaning to read for ages or sorting through old family photos, which you haven't had the time to do while you've been working long hours; these are all things that you can feel a sense of satisfaction from achieving. Don't let a society that treats us like the only achievements worth celebrating are the ones that make money take that away from you. 7- Doing nothing can sometimes be doing something. The Taoists have a concept called Wuwei (laid out here http://tao-in-you.com/wuwei.html ) in which we turn to nature for our example that doing nothing is not doing nothing at all. Doing nothing is living, it's breathing, it's growing, it's being at peace. We are never, as living beings, doing nothing. Remind yourself, no matter how unproductive you've felt in a day, that you haven't done nothing and that non-doing can sometimes be exactly the thing we need to be doing! 8- Don't get lost in other people's views and thoughts. The media, random people on social media, the news, whatever... They're not you and they don't know you. Articles like "people who stay indoors live shorter lives" (can't remember where i saw that one) may be discussing scientific studies but they're almost guaranteed to be paraphrasing to the point of almost lying completely and it's irrelevant right now anyway! Shut out anything source that makes you feel panicked, confused or anything that isn't calm and happy. This may seem like i'm asking you to shut out anyone disagrees with you or tries to give you possibly upsetting but vital information but i'm not. Let's use a bit of common sense. These tips are all based on a "within reasons" basis. We all know that we listen to unreliable sources, friends of friends and people we generally don't agree with more than is good for us. Cut that out. You deserve better than that and you get to choose the people you have in your life. You're under any obligation to deal with people who are crappy to you on a regular basis. So, these are the tips, off the top of my head. I've been working with my very hard working team of community support officers to produce a larger quantity of our online resources, which should start going out after our Online Equinox Moot this Sunday ( https://www.facebook.com/events/192724885365468/ ) and we hope you'll feel empowered to join us! Stay safe out (or in!) there folks. Remember that we're here for you all and check out our page for updates on our online resources!