Having suffered depression for most of my adult life, I’ve learned to put a high price on mental health. I hope the following can help you do the same during your time in isolation. – Will
“DO YOUR TIME BEFORE IT DOES YOU” – MENTALLY MANAGING YOUR TIME IN ISOLATION
The most noticeable trend to those of us self-isolating is the stretch of time. The days and now weeks, seem to go on forever. I’m sure this phenomenon is not news to anyone who’s had a sick day. And now, with time stagnant, we (particularly those of us with history of mental illnesses) have an elite capacity to wallow and ruminate. Which overall can be destructive for your mental health.
“Do your time before it does you”
Advice from Slim in Trent Dalton’s best selling, Boy Swallows Universe. Without giving too much away, Slim is an ex-con who spent a record amount of time in isolation in one of Brisbane’s maximum security prisons. ‘Do your time before it does you’, was his advice to keeping mentally fit during isolation.
Now, none of us are in prison or getting beaten by security guards in between meals, but the crux of the message here can be profoundly helpful while we are all compelled to spend some time alone.
So what does it actually mean?
Essentially what Slim is getting at is a shift in attitude towards time. If you can change tact from looking at time in isolation from a burden to an opportunity, you will start to feel your relationship with it change.
Think back to the glory days of socialising when your mates were going to the pub together. If you chose to have a night in rather than join them, your time in isolation is suddenly a blessing. Conversely, if none of your mates message you and ask you to join them, you’re then alone and unwanted. The time becomes an embarrassment or a burden. But if you look at it objectively, it’s still the same amount of time! It’s just about your attitude towards it.
So how can you change your attitude to ‘doing time’ rather than wallowing in it?
A person’s happiness generally balances between two modes of fulfilment: achievement and enjoyment. If we skew too far one way or the other, then you’re bound to end up in trouble. Too much achievement tends to lead towards self-judgment and too much enjoyment creates apathy.
Daily, most of us work pretty hard and then the enjoyment is something which naturally we seek afterwards: a beer, a cuddle, some exercise. This rhythm creates balanced fulfilment. But, because we’re in isolation and not running around ‘achieving’, it’s very easy to binge on the enjoyment side of things. Or alternatively, maybe you’re at home being too hard on yourself about what you can reasonably achieve.
Plus! In addition to creating balance of fulfilment, each of these occasions generate emotive responses which, when you look back on them now, were actually pretty absorbing. And the great boon of being absorbed is that time speeds up! (Time flies when you’re having fun!).
So, in order to feel broadly fulfilled and speed up your time again, my solution is to create an achievement vs. enjoyment chart and start to structure your daily routine around it. Start doing your time before it does you!
Start by listing all the things you deem as ‘enjoyment’ in the house. Then do the same with things you want to achieve.
|Sit down and enjoy Magnum from freezer||Exercise|
As you can see what goes underneath the banners is largely inconsequential. If you tell your yourself that something is a reward, you brain will treat it so. That’s the trick!
A lot of people would see exercise as enjoyment and re-arranging the closet as a chore, but it’s horses for courses and your mind is so easily manipulated. However you brand it, make sure you approach the activity that way.
After you’ve done this, then structure your day around these things. Give yourself a reward or ‘enjoyment’ after you’ve done a bit of work/achievement. You could even work up a little timetable. But whatever your ‘enjoyment’ is, try not to binge. In situations like these, renunciation can often be your best friend. Same goes for achievement, for all you workaholics out there. It’s all about creating balance in an unbalanced situation.
I hope that helps a little bit with time in isolation. It’s always helped me a lot when I’ve been at home for long periods whilst I’ve been depressed. And hopefully it can help to change your attitude towards the time you now have. Make sure you do it, before it does you.