Don’t Netflix and Over Chill
Restricted access to physical environments is the biggest factor for most of us during the quarantine and social distancing of a pandemic outbreak. Activities we used to do outside the home need to be adapted, however some simply cannot be done at home, leaving a void. The initial excitement of being able to binge watch Netflix at home is a short lived solution to the deprivation because it’s a very passive activity and as humans we are driven to actively engage in something meaningful, not being able to do so can be very stressful.
By reading this article, you will be able to use a basic analysis, apply it to your individual circumstances to find solutions that are right for you. Some generalised advice will also be included along the way.
Just to highlight: this guide is giving suggestions on maintaining well being through occupations. It is not relating to issues of loss of income.
Defining Occupational Deprivation
Occupational deprivation is the prolonged restriction from participation in necessary or meaningful activities due to circumstances outside one’s control. Just as we are faced with restricted movement in these days of quarantine, many people find that the hobbies and activities that maintain their well-being or are part of cultural norms are being limited. This is a topic that is at the core of occupational science and therapy.
Consequences and Solutions
This guide will show you how to identify and find solutions to problems you may face because you are unable to go about your daily activities as you did before the circuit breaker. We are not sure how long the restrictions will remain or how long the after effects will last on us. There are steps we can take to foresee potential issues and structure solutions to offset these.
Social Isolation: The absence of social contact which can easily happen with the romoted distancing
Use instant messaging or ring people up.
Get updated news often.
Find topics that interest you and follow conversations on those topics, lots of uploads on YouTube, other online video platforms and websites.
Participate in virtual communities and projects you can be a part of remotely.
Restricted Movement with the Public Quarantine Orders can affect Fitness and Physical functions
Quantify how much physical activity you would normally do in a day (including walking between bus stops and walking to lunch), then schedule in the same amount or more for alternative physical activities.
Schedule ‘activity breaks’ throughout the day, for example, do 30 sit ups at 11am, 30 squats at 12pm, 15 push-ups at 3pm. Work all the main muscle groups.
Think up activities that can be done outdoors and indoors.
Difficulties in Structuring Time in a Meaningful Way
Keep your basic activities, such as showering, getting dressed, meal times and brushing teeth in a familiar routine. This ensures you have set time in between to schedule in other activities. If your weekend routine is different, then continue with having your weekend routine too.
Wash and get dressed even if you’re not leaving the house. This might mean changing from one comfy pair of track pants to another but it will help symbolise a new phase of the routine.
If it helps, list out your current daily schedule.. Identify if anything’s missing that would make the day feel more meaningful and find an activity to fill that. You may be missing mental stimulation that gives you a sense of personal or professional growth. Look for activities that can fulfil these needs such as learning a language, do an online course or learn how to make something new.
Alternate between activities which need active engagement that involves learning and interacting; and passive engagements such as watching TV. Be aware of getting sucked into just doing passive activities such as watching TV all day. This often results in feeling unsatisfied or frustrated with our choices.
Avoid the urge to ‘pass time’ with over eating and drinking. In fact, this could be a sign that you need to review how you’re structuring your day.
Capacity Atrophy: Decline in Function, both Physically and Mentally, from the Lack of Stimulating Activities
Occupational therapists have a phrase ‘ If you don’t use it you lose it’. If there’s a particular skill you want, or need to keep, find a way to keep it going. This doesn’t necessarily mean doing the exact activity you did before, but finding something that has the same components. E.g fast reaction times, hand eye coordination, problem solving, dexterity, critical thinking. Activities might include online games, board games, sewing, painting, writing articles, blogs, learning a new topic.
Reduced Self Belief from Reduced Relational Support
Are there things you would not try alone, yet would consider doing if your friends were doing with you? Here’s some tips to build on your self belief from within.
Acknowledge any negative internal dialogue you have regarding doing the particular activity. Replace it with something positive, reassuring or even a solution, i.e, “There’s no point doing it alone as I wont be able to do it well” vs “I can try it for fun, if it doesn’t go well I can still learn from it”.
Come up with a list of your strengths and weaknesses pertaining to the activity. Focus on the strengths. Find solutions to offset the weaknesses.
Plan out the activity and do it. If it’s a bigger task you may need to break it down into smaller components, but ‘the doing’ it is the most important bit!
Reflect on how your strengths and solutions helped you do the activity.
Reflect on how you can learn from the experience to do it better next time.
Repeating the activity soon after the first time will help you consolidate your new learnings and your self belief in being able to guide yourself through a new activity/situation.
General Advice on Healthy Balanced Activities
Factor in ‘screen breaks’ if you look at a screen a lot. This helps rest your eyes and break up a sedentary routine. If you’re looking at a computer or phone screen after dark, apply a blue light filter (can usually be found under settings) so the blue light does not affect your ability to fall asleep later on, consequently disrupting a healthy sleep wake cycle.
This is a whole topic on its own, but we’re keeping it brief here, stress is a sign of imbalance – ignore at your own peril. If you’re feeling stressed, acknowledge it. Identify poor coping strategies you may be prone to. Reflect on if stress is affecting you differently at different times during the day.
Fighting The Monotony Of Always Being At Home
Try and do your scheduled activities in different environments so when you move onto a new task you get a change of view as well. This might just mean moving to a different chair or table, or moving your chair to a different location. This will help break up the monotony of always feeling like you’re in the same place and help give you the feeling that you’re getting a different perspective on things, which after all is what leaving the house helps us do.
Perhaps the most important skill to learn is how to harness your internal environment. Although our external environment plays an enormous role in how we feel, at the end of the day our subject experience comes from within and there’s lots we can do with it. Finding ways to filter out the things that frustrate us and focus on positives is a good start, there’s lots of mindfulness apps out there that can help you with this. It’s a life skill that gets better with practise and will radiate out to other areas of our lives, wherever we may be.
Lifeweavers is a team of allied health professionals led by the knowledge that health and well being is influenced and maintained by the activities we choose to do. A loss of ability to do activities consequently can affect health and well being. Lifeweavers’ mission is to help people understand this link and how to promote health through activities even in the face of adversity.
Connect at AskForOT@lifeweavers.org