The coronavirus pandemic has been ongoing for several months. Whilst in some countries, strict lockdown policies are beginning to be lifted, a return to pre-lockdown socializing is likely to be some time away. This social isolation, and the loneliness that can come with it, is a major concern for mental health.
Social isolation and poor mental health are strongly linked, in studies of both the elderly and young people. As such, plenty research has gone into formulating strategies to help people in isolation better manage their mental health.
One center involved in the study of these issues is the Órama Institute for Mental Health, Wellbeing and Neuroscience at Flinders University. Mike Kyrios, the Institute’s director and also a professor, vice president and executive dean of Flinders’ College of Education, Psychology and Social Work, recently outlined a six-point acronym named STREAM that he says can be followed by anyone quarantining or working from home.
What is STREAM?
- S is for Social networking. Kyrios maintains that whilst the physical distancing involved in isolation is critical for our health, social networking should still be kept up, using social media, skype or phone calls.
- T is for Time out. Whilst some families may initially relish the chance to catch up, Kyrios points out that separating from each other when you are stuck together in the home for long periods is important. Timetabling periods of time out, Kyrios says, can be useful to reduce the stress of being confined with others in a small space.
- R is for Relaxation, mindfulness or yoga strategies. Kyrios says that relaxation strategies can be really helpful to manage anxiety. These include breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxations, dancing, yoga and playing musical instruments.
- E is for Exercise and Entertainment. Whilst some lockdowns include strict regulation on exercise, other countries allow daily runs or cycles. Kyrios says that burning energy can be done outside, in a yard if you have one, or inside using online exercise videos or classes. Entertaining yourself is also essential, be it through reading, playing digital or board games, or other hobbies. Flicking through your phone to look at more coronavirus-related news does not count as a hobby.
- A is for Alternative thinking. Kyrios says that the novelty and uncertainty that the current pandemic present will cause increased tension and stress. If you are becoming angry or anxious, says Kyrios, ask yourself whether your fears are likely to come to pass, whether your responses are reasonable, and whether there are better ways to tackle your underlying feelings. Thinking things through or talking to a friend or counsellor may help with this.
- M is for being Mindful of others. Kyrios advises to remind yourself that the current crisis is a short-term situation that will be overcome. He says that checking on vulnerable neighbors, when proper hygiene practices and government restrictions are observed, is important.
By following STREAM, alongside the excellent advice from the sources below, the strange, socially-isolated world we are living in should become more manageable. Kyrios finishes with a simple reminder: “Never forget that simple acts of kindness make us feel good about ourselves, the world and the future."
Needing urgent mental health support?
If you are in the UK, reach out to the Samaritans or Mind.
In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be found at 800-273-TALK (8255). You can also reach out to Samaritans USA.
Mental Health Resources
- In addition to the well-known Skype, Zoom offers a more focused videoconferencing platform.
- Houseparty – marketed as effectively Skype with games added in, the current pandemic has rejuvenated this 2016 socializing platform. I haven’t used it yet, but this review suggests it might not quite recreate a night in the company of friends, but could help you stay sane.
- Scholastic have made a truckload of courses available for kids now out of school for US Grades 1-9 (that’s ages 5-15 for non-Americans).
- Coursera have over 1800 free courses available. They are mainly computing-based but include public speaking and language courses.
- Want to come out of this quarantine with Harvard on your CV? freeCodeCamp have assembled a huge list of Ivy League University Courses on everything from art and design to data science.
Relaxation, mindfulness or yoga
- CorePower Yoga have made hours of yoga class streams available on demand.
- Calm – Calm’s meditation app has a 7-day free option, but if your self-isolation is going to last several times that, check out their free resource page.
- Headspace say their app can increase your happiness by 16% in just ten days. Whether that statement makes your eyebrows raise through your roof or not, their app has a free trial and a huge collection of calming meditations.
- Streamed yoga sessions are available across a huge number of Instagram accounts as well.
- London-based studio FLY LDN are making a wide selection of their classes available through the IGTV app and YouTube.
- Yoga with Adriene – the Queen of YouTube yoga, Adriene Mishler’s channel has a ton of free classes.
- British Museum Virtual Tour – a substantial collaboration with Google has created a wonderful tour through the archives of the British Museum.
- Google Street View Arts Program – a collaboration between google and some of the world’s foremost art institutes and galleries, this special street resource can take you into the Guggenheim and Rijksmuseum and even includes this 1805 portrait of an “extraordinary musical dog”, whose eyes you should be able to gaze into for a day or so.
- The Metropolitan Opera – Whilst visiting the opera might be out of the question, you can watch the Met’s productions through their streaming service for free!
- San Diego Zoo Live Cam – They have baboons, they have elephants, they have an owl that lives in a burrow in the ground. What more could you possibly need?
- YouTube Channel Global Citizen have a library of home-streamed concerts from musicians and celebrities.
- Tour Mars – your living room may be quite a boring place to be, but at least you aren’t trapped on an airless, dusty rock hundreds of millions of kilometers away. That’s exactly where Curiosity, the Mars rover, is, but it’s a robot so it doesn’t care. Explore the Martian landscape through Curiosity’s eyes with this cool website.
- Edinburgh Zoo Penguin Cam – It’s penguins. On a camera feed. You don’t need to know anymore. Just click the damn link.
- Virtual Tour of US National Parks – explore image libraries and plan a hike that you will appreciate way more after spending weeks walking solely between the fridge and sofa.
- Gold’s Gym have made their app available free until May 31 for US and Canada users.
- Gymshark, a fitness clothing company, have made conditioning workouts available for free on their app.
- Chris Hemsworth's Centr app has made a six-week trial available for free. If you don’t do the exercises, you can still watch Chris satisfyingly lob weights about.
- I should probably point out here that if your local gym has closed, it’s possible that personal trainers from said gym will be having a tough time. Many PTs are offering their own classes through social media platforms – check them out.
Found more resources for this list? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know.