Maintaining your balance in isolation

I’ve been feeling a bit off lately, and I think it’s because of the whole isolation thing. It’s like staying home all day and doing nothing is bringing me down. A quick survey reveals that a lot of my friends and fellow students feel the same way, that all of this downtime has lost its initial shine and what we’re left with now is an unsatisfying fug. And once you’re in a fug, well, it’s fug as far as the eye can see. It’s hard to understate the difficulty of getting yourself out of a fug like this, they can be comfortable in a way, and being surrounded by fug makes anti-fug efforts that much more difficult. So how do you restore your balance when you find yourself in one? 

Jacqueline Olley, senior manager of the university’s counselling and psychological services, stresses the importance of maintaining a good routine. 

Trying to keep some type of routine,” says Jacqueline “is so important at the moment.” Keeping a routine looks like a lot of different things. It’s allocating time for sleeping and setting alarms for waking up, it’s making sure you’re allowing yourself mealtimes, and it’s even as simple as remembering to brush your teeth in the morning.  

All those things you normally take for granted,” says Jacqueline. “Because when you’re leaving the house you’re doing them automatically. But when we don’t have to leave the house we’re not doing them, and it does impact on how we feel. 

Maintaining control of the little things, in other words, is an effective weapon in the fight against fug. Letting those little things slide will eventually have a negative impact on your well-being. 

Another thing that can tip your balance too far in the wrong direction, according to Jacqueline, is an overload of screen time. Something that’s all too easy to do at the moment 

There’s a whole lot of scrolling on our phones and clicking on a video, which leads to another video and another video, and that’s fine in small amounts,” she says. “No problems with that. But it’s really unfulfilling. At the end of the day you feel sort of rubbish, like eating a lot of junk food. It’s good at first, but you don’t feel good afterwards. 

Olley’s strategy for dealing with this overloaded feeling, which can also result from too much binge-watching and gaming, is delay, delay, delay, and change your setting. 

“Say to yourself, ‘okay I’m going to scroll Facebook’, but wait ten minutes,” she says. Try and delay it a bit or change where you are. If you find you’re just sitting on the couch scrolling, take your phone outside if you’ve got that option. Sit on the veranda and do it. Something that’s a bit differentso it’s less mindless. 

By simply putting off your craving or desire, and telling yourself that you’ll feed it shortly rather than immediately, you also won’t fall victim to feeling bad and beating yourself up if you give in to it after promising yourself you wouldn’t. This is especially sagely advice for those of us likely to turn to alcohol or drugs to alleviate feelings of pressure.  

Another reason we can feel fuggy is a lack of social contact. At the current moment, with most of us still living in isolation, this can be a difficult issue to manage. We’re social creatures and we require socialisation. If you’re feeling disconnected from your friends and family then why not try and set up a Zoom call? Or text someone you trust and let them know how you’re feeling. Reach out. Maintaining social connections, even in simple, small ways, can make a world of difference. 

Charles Hersey, a Bachelor of Nursing student, also recommends regular physical exercise as a way of clearing your head.  

“Specifically, skill-based exercise,” says Hersey. “So it’s less repetitive, you’re learning new stuff, and it’s more stimulating.” 

If you’re feeling really trapped by fug, then Jacqueline Olley recommends looking into one of the many online programs, courses, or services for mental health.  

At the moment there’s so many resources and funding being put into mental health, which is fantastic,” she says. “We should be taking advantage of it. 

The university’s counselling services are a great place to start. Then there’s Relationships Australia for those having a hard time isolating with, or without, a partner. And Beyond Blue is an amazing organisation that knows how to assist people experiencing anxiety and depression associated with isolation. 

There is a myriad of ways to restore a bit of balance to your life and clear away the fug. Stick to a routine. Brush your teeth, put your pants on, and take a shower (but not in that order, please). Put off your bad habits, commit to a walk around the block every day, and buy a sudoku puzzle book. Remember to stay in touch with your friends, and if things do get too much then take a look at the kinds of services available.  

The senior manager of the university’s counselling and psychological services believes these things, and practices them herself. 

I had my lunch outside on the veranda today, in the sun, rather than sit on the couch,” says Jacqueline. “It was so nice, so perfect to be sitting in the sun. And it really did help, a little bit.” 

And that’s all it takes. 

If you’re struggling especially hard at this time then please explore the links below. 

  • University Psychological and Counselling Services ‘Maintaining Momentum Webinar’ - 6-7pm, Thursday 7th MayThis webinar will give you techniques and strategies on how to cope with changing times and still engage with your studies effectively. Access via Zoom at the time of the webinar. 
  • University support Group for students who are parents 
    This online support group is for students who are also juggling the demands of parenting. It is a series which will be held across four consecutive weeks. Topics discussed include self-care and self-compassion, expectations, routine and communication. 8-9pm Wed 13th May, Wed 20th May, Wed 27th May Places are limited – register here.




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