Effects of a Quarantined Life and Coping Skills

Life has changed dramatically for us all. Covid-19, or coronavirus, has had a profound effect on the worldwide population in ways never expected by anyone. Everyone has had to adjust and at times many of us have felt unable to cope. People have responded in different ways, some helpful, some unhelpful, and advice has not always been clear or consistent, further heightening anxiety. In today’s blog post, London-based therapist Teyhou Smyth provides some insight into feelings that may have been triggered in us and the reasons behind some of the behaviour displayed by people over the last few weeks. We hope her advice on coping with life in quarantine is a positive addition to your own coping skills at this difficult time for us all.

clothed maya by goya with face mask


As enforced orders take place to ensure our health safety from the deadly Covid – 19, it is not uncommon to respond with fear and worry as we struggle to regulate our fight/flight responses which are triggered automatically. The primitive parts of our brain (otherwise known as the reptilian brain) is the oldest part of our brain and acts as an “alarm system” which ensures our survival as a species.

What is Survival Mechanisms?

Once activated, we are no longer operating within our higher cognitive functioning processes but rather we resort to our survival mechanisms which are responsible for a host of drastic behaviours which we are currently witnessing in our society at the moment.

Fear and Hoarding Mentality

Among the concerning behaviours that we are experiencing at an alarming rate is the hoarding mentality that is leaving our stores bare and depleted. Fear is an emotional, behavioural and physiological coping reaction to perceived threats. People are experiencing anticipatory anxiety and it’s a means of keeping themselves and their families safe which is influencing hoarding behaviour.

“We have two levels of thinking. We have our rational mind that tells us, No, I don’t need to buy another roll of toilet paper. But we also have a more primitive, visceral, gut reaction that says, Well, I better be safe than sorry. The herd instinct can also kick in, where people suspend judgement and start doing what everyone else is doing. So, if everyone else is panic-buying supplies, people follow the herd.“ Link

How to manage Uncertainty

We struggle with uncertainty which exasperates any other mental health issues they may be already facing that can result in hoarding behaviour. Operating purely from the fear factor accompanied with flight/fight response activation can manifest in a diverse variety of unusual behaviours including hoarding. Another reason for stockpiling behaviour is that individuals often interpret danger based on how other people are reacting. With panic buying, people feel a strong sense of urgency and a fear of scarcity resulting in thinking like “if they are doing it, I better do it too”. Link

Although “quarantined life” can appear grim and socially isolating – a change of perspective can help to use the time effectively and productively. For example: the time can be used to do projects around the home that have been overlooked or focusing on learning a new activity which was once of interest. Suddenly, the time we often crave always seems to become available to us but we have lost our ways of using it effectively.

Mental wellbeing is paramount during this time and affirmations are powerful and a positive way to manage time in quarantine.

Practice saying the following things every day (quoted from @Femislay):

  1. I am allowed to rest.
  2. I am worthy.
  3. My feelings are real.
  4. I am allowed to take a break from the news cycle.
  5. I can spend extra time on myself.

Human beings are social creatures and require interaction to maintain their wellbeing. Here are some tips to help with social isolation by National Association of Social Workers:

  1. Keep in contact with your loved ones via social media. The more interactive the medium is the better!
  2. Create a daily self care routine and access anything that brings a smile.
  3. Keep yourself busy: games, books, movies, etc.
  4. Explore new relaxation techniques.

Start where you are, Use what you have, Do what you can.

(Arthur Ashe)

Stay calm and remain positive!

[This blog post originally appeared on Teyhou’s website www.livingwithfinesse.com ~ some content may have been modified for the UK context.]

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