Presented by "The American Psychological Association".
Around the world, public officials are asking people who have contracted or been exposed to the new coronavirus to practice social distancing, quarantine or isolation measures in an effort to slow disease’s spread.
Social distancing means keeping a safe distance (approximately 6 feet) from others and avoiding gathering spaces such as schools, churches, concert halls and public transportation.
Quarantine involves avoiding contact with others if a person has been exposed to coronavirus to see if they become ill.
Isolation involves separating an individual who has contracted COVID-19 to prevent them from spreading it to others.
Spending days or weeks at home with limited resources, stimulation and social contact can take a toll on mental health. Though controlled studies on interventions to reduce the psychological risks of quarantine and isolation are lacking, psychologists have established best practices for handling these challenging circumstances.
Here is a summary of research on social distancing, quarantine, and isolation, as well as recommendations on how people can cope if asked to take such measures.
What to Expect
People asked to stay home due to illness, exposure or active community spread of COVID-19 will likely be cut off from their regular routines for at least two weeks, the estimated incubation period for the virus.
Common sources of stress during this period include a drop in meaningful activities, sensory stimuli and social engagement; financial strain from being unable to work; and a lack of access to typical coping strategies such as going to the gym or attending religious services.
Psychologists’ research has found that during a period of social distancing, quarantine or isolation, you may experience:
Fear and anxiety
You may feel anxious or worried about yourself or your family members contracting COVID-19 or spreading it to others. It’s also normal to have concerns about obtaining food and personal supplies, taking time off work or fulfilling family care obligations. Some people may have trouble sleeping or focusing on daily tasks.
Depression and boredom
A hiatus from work and other meaningful activities interrupts your daily routine and may result in feelings of sadness or low mood. Extended periods of time spent at home can also cause feelings of boredom and loneliness.
Anger, frustration or irritability
The loss of agency and personal freedom associated with isolation and quarantine can often feel frustrating. You may also experience anger or resentment toward those who have issued quarantine or isolation orders or if you feel you were exposed to the virus because of another person’s negligence.
If you are sick or have been exposed to someone who has COVID-19, you may feel stigmatized by others who fear they will contract the illness if they interact with you.
Older adults, people with pre-existing mental health conditions and health-care workers helping with the response to the coronavirus may have an increased risk of experiencing psychological distress when they engage in social distancing, quarantine or isolation.
People with disabilities who require specialized diets, medical supplies, assistance from caregivers and other accommodations are also at risk for psychological challenges during a pandemic because of the increased difficulties in receiving the care they require.
How to Cope
Fortunately, psychological research also points to ways to manage these difficult conditions. Before social distancing, quarantine or isolation orders are enacted, experts recommend planning ahead by considering how you might spend your time, who you can contact for psychosocial support and how you can address any physical or mental health needs you or your family may have.
Limit news consumption to reliable sources
It’s important to obtain accurate and timely public health information regarding COVID-19, but too much exposure to media coverage of the virus can lead to increased feelings of fear and anxiety. Psychologists recommend balancing time spent on news and social media with other activities unrelated to quarantine or isolation, such as reading, listening to music or learning a new language. Trusted organizations — including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the World Health Organization — are ideal sources of information on the virus.
Create and follow a daily routine
Maintaining a daily routine can help both adults and children preserve a sense of order and purpose in their lives despite the unfamiliarity of isolation and quarantine. Try to include regular daily activities, such as work, exercise or learning, even if they must be executed remotely. Integrate other healthy pastimes as needed.
Stay virtually connected with others
Your face-to-face interactions may be limited, but psychologists suggest using phone calls, text messages, video chat, and social media to access social support networks. If you’re feeling sad or anxious, use these conversations as an opportunity to discuss your experience and associated emotions. Reach out to those you know who are in a similar situation. Facebook groups have already formed to facilitate communication and support among individuals asked to quarantine.
Relying on pets for emotional support is another way to stay connected. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend restricting contact with pets if you contract COVID-19 until the risks of transmission between humans and animals are better understood.
Maintain a healthy lifestyle
Get enough sleep, eat well and exercise in your home when you are physically capable of doing so. Try to avoid using alcohol or drugs as a way to cope with the stresses of isolation and quarantine. If needed, consider telehealth options for psychotherapy. If you already have a psychologist, contact them ahead of a potential quarantine to see if they can continue your sessions using phone-based or online delivery.
Use psychological strategies to manage stress and stay positive
Examine your worries and aim to be realistic in your assessment of the actual concern as well as your ability to cope. Try not to catastrophize; instead focus on what you can do and accept the things you can't change. One way to do this is to keep a daily gratitude journal. You may also choose to download smartphone applications that deliver mindfulness and relaxation exercises. For example, PTSD Coach is a free application developed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ National Center for PTSD and the Department of Defense’s National Center for Telehealth and Technology. It contains coping and resilience resources such as exercises for deep breathing, positive imagery, muscle relaxation and more.
Focusing on the altruistic reasons for social distancing, quarantine or isolation can also help mitigate psychological distress. Remember that by taking such measures, you are reducing the possibility of transmitting COVID-19 and protecting those who are most vulnerable.
What Happens Next
Following a period of quarantine or isolation, you may feel mixed emotions, including relief and gratitude, frustration or anger towards people who worry you may infect them with the virus, or even feelings of personal growth and increased spirituality. It’s also normal to feel anxious, but if you experience symptoms of extreme stress, such as ongoing trouble sleeping, inability to carry out daily routines, or an increase in alcohol or drug use, seek help from a health-care provider.
Resources for Students
To support students during this crisis, Coursera opened free access to a large number of its courses offering students forced to stay at home an alternative to continue their learning. This platform is a pool of knowledge where you can get high-quality education on a wide range of subjects without even leaving your home. As a student, you now have a chance to get a certificate while studying absolutely for free.
Udemy cannot boast with the same number of free courses as Coursera can. Yet, Udemy is one of the best and most recognized learning platforms too. You can find free educational resources there by visiting the Udemy Free Resource Center. These courses are aimed at providing students with technical skills and self-improvement needed at every school.
FutureLearn is dedicated to providing help in learning wherever you are. The platform offered lots of free online courses from the leading educational institutions before the coronavirus. Today, affordability and variability have become its most notable advantages. Whether you need to learn something on the subject or advance your professional skills, FutureLearn is there for you.
edX is one of the most recognized platforms that offer online courses to students. It hosts courses developed by such universities as Harvard, MIT and other institutions. They all are offered for free. If you want to learn anything from Python to Physical Health, try surfing edX to find the best course.
Useful Resources Just for Kids
BrainPop is a wonderful platform where your kids can learn through the gaming experience. The website offers various information resources on Science, Social Studies, English, Math, Arts & Music, Health & SEL, Engineering & Tech, and New & Trending. It also hosts around 1,000 animated movies combined with quizzes and other evaluation materials that cover different fields. Learning with BrainPop is nothing but an adventure.
FunBrain is an amazing platform that is designed for kids but can be useful and interesting for the entire family. It is focused primarily on educating math and reading for children in grades 1 to 8. There are lots of video files, quizzes, and games available to kids on this resource.
This website provides universal educational services to kids, offering them exciting ways of learning. If you wonder how you can make your children interested in learning, introduce Turtle Diary to them. Its activities are nothing but fun. They would definitely immerse your kid, providing them with measurable learning outcomes from the high-quality gaming experience.
No child would reject an offer to travel to space and back. NASA has made it possible. Thanks to its Kids Club, millions of children can learn things about space online on the platform with excellent graphics and gaming experience. This is truly the best way you make your child interested in learning astronomy and physics with all the advanced technologies at hand.
Storybird is known among new writers for an opportunity to gather a readership by publishing short serial stories. Yet, teachers also use it to publish their learning materials. Today, it hosts over 700 lessons, quizzes, prompts, and other tasks that can spark an interest in education in your child.
Skills Building and At-Home Learning
If you have a passion for learning new languages and cultures, you will definitely enjoy the opportunity provided by Duolingo. You can study any language you’d like at your own pace with a gamified learning experience. There are no deadlines or time constraints. The website and app are intended to immerse you in the learning process.
If your passion is sports and you want to stay active during the quarantine, you should definitely visit Yoga International. Currently, they offer a month of trial period so you can try whether yoga is your thing and learn its basics for free. Once you register, you find lots of videos categorized based on your expertise level. It is definitely worth trying especially when the government prevents people from getting physical exercise in the parks.
Audible also contributes to raising awareness of people during coronavirus. It has launched Audible Stories where children, teens, and young adults can access audiobooks for free as long as the pandemic persists. The service is intended to support teachers, parents, and kids while the schools, colleges, and universities are closed.
If you miss going out and traveling, Google Arts & Culture has something for you. You can access the platform absolutely for free and tour any museum that is listed on its database. No limits. These tours would be especially interesting for people excited about the history, arts, and culture of various people across the world.
Help and Awareness Resources
It is hard to assess the incoming information critically when there is so much fake news and misunderstanding about COVID-19. WHO has launched lots of different courses, striving to raise awareness on the topic among people. Anyone can access these courses for free from the official WHO website.
If you feel that you need more information about the threat of COVID-19 and your authorities fail to provide it, it is reasonable to visit the WebMD website. It has trusted content that is regularly updated based on information that comes from reliable resources and is evidence-based.
Given the fact that coronavirus is dangerous not only physically but also mentally, the NSW Government has launched special mental health skills training accessible for everyone. You can apply and get trusted and science-based help as soon as you feel that you need it.
Head to Health is another official project launched by the Australian government to help people deal with the problem of coronavirus. Here you can learn more about the virus as well as learn to look after your mental and physical health better.
Coronavirus has already made lots of damage to billions of people. However, it should not cause any disruption to your plans on self-actualization and self-development.
We’ve tried to make the above-mentioned list as comprehensive as possible to include all the information that might be interesting to you. Hopefully, you’ll definitely find some resources that will come in handy even when quarantine is over .
We encourage you to stay at home and take care of your physical and mental health during these uncertain times. Education is one of the few ways to benefit from COVID quarantine.
Other Tools and Resources
GeroCentral Covid-19 Resources
Resources for clinicians, older adults and families
Mental Health and Coping During COVID-19
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2020
Parent/Caregiver Guide to Helping Families Cope with the Coronavirus Disease 2019
The National Child Traumatic Stress Network, 2020
Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Advice for the Public
World Health Organization, 2020
Taking Care of Your Behavioral Health: Tips for Social Distancing, Quarantine, and Isolation During an Infectious Disease Outbreak
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2014
The psychological impact of quarantine and how to reduce it: rapid review of the evidence
Brooks, S.K., et al., The Lancet, 2020
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Disaster Distress Helpline
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
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