Cover These expert tips will help you manage your mental well-being during quarantine (Photo: Getty Images)

Mind Hong Kong’s clinical advisor, Odile Thiang gives her expert tips on how to manage your mental health during quarantine

Hong Kong has seen a resurgence in the number of daily Covid-19 cases, causing the government to bring back strict social distancing rules right after the new year and leading up to the Chinese New Year.

For many, this disruption in the sense of normalcy that people have tried to live with during the pandemic has once again caused stress. With a rise in cases, business closures and dinner dine-in bans, this also means a lot of people are quarantined which itself is a challenge given how long we’ve all been tackling the pandemic.

Tatler sought the help of Odile Thiang, a clinical advisor at Mind Hong Kong, a mental health charity. Currently finishing her fourth 21-day hotel quarantine, Thiang gives us her expert tips—based on her own experience—on how to manage our mental well-being during quarantine.

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1. Have a routine

Odile Thiang: A good routine is key. Quarantine can feel like a time-black hole, where hours and days blend together. With regards to the pandemic in general—the frequent changes in our daily lives, due to changes in safety measures—can disrupt our daily routines. All of these disruptions to our routine can negatively impact our mental health.

Routines help us create structure and stability as well as give us a sense of accomplishment throughout the day. Routines have been shown to reduce stress levels and contribute to improved sleep, both of which are central to positive mental health.

The way I’ve managed my routine through quarantine has been to be diligent with my daily routine. I wake up at the same time, every day and include two exercise sessions (morning and afternoon) each of which signals the beginning and end of my day.

I keep to my normal working hours during the day and have some downtime before bedtime. Over the weekend, I’m a little more flexible but generally keep to my structure, ensuring I schedule movement into my day through walking and yoga.

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2. Get enough sleep

Odile Thiang: Sleep is so important to our day to day functioning and our mental health wellbeing. This really should be part of your routine.

Make sure you wake up and go to sleep around the same time daily, with flexibility on the weekend. Sleep disruption puts us at risk of poor mental health and can be a symptom of mental health struggle.

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3. Exercise, exercise, exercise

Odile Thiang: Throughout several studies, exercise has been shown to be preventative and therapeutic for mental ill-health. Therefore, planning for daily exercise or movement is essential.

Getting an exercise bike, foldable treadmill, weights or a yoga mat can be helpful. There are also lots of free exercise apps and videos on YouTube.

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4. Keep yourself busy

Odile Thiang: Whether it is due to quarantine or disruptions or cancellations due to the social distancing measures, you want to keep yourself busy. I have been lucky enough to be able to shift my work online which has kept me busy throughout the day.

If you’re not able to do that, I recommend signing up for a free online course on a topic you’re are interested in. You can also learn or practise a new language or get crafty by planning personal projects, like sorting your photos and creating albums.

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5. Stay connected

Odile Thiang: One of the side effects of quarantine and social distancing is isolation. But with the help of technology, we can help reduce social isolation. It’s essential for us to set up a time to connect with family and friends throughout our quarantine period. I’ve found it helpful to call my sister regularly.

If you are receiving support from a mental health professional discuss the possibility of continuing that support virtually, most therapists are utilising virtual telehealth. If you feel that you need support, reach out to clinics and organisations and ask about their virtual resources.

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6. Be kind to yourself

Odile Thiang: This is a difficult time and even with meticulous planning and scheduling, not everything will go perfectly well and that’s okay.

It’s okay to have off or bad days. It’s okay to blow your routine some days and miss a workout here and there. Be gentle and kind to yourself, knowing that you’re doing the best you can.

Read also: 9 Easy Ways to Practice Self-Care at Home During a Pandemic

The Mind Hong Kong team has put together a self-help workbook for those struggling. You can read it here and here. For their full list of resources, please visit the official website.

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