The World Health Organization has made it clear that a period of social distancing or self-isolation is the best way to stop the spread of the coronavirus. It is vital that we follow this instruction, but it is important to protect our mental health while doing so. Loneliness is already a social health crisis and self-isolation can trigger deep feelings of loneliness or sadness. The process of isolation can also contribute towards anxiety, but there are plenty of ways that you can attempt to prevent these feelings and make the best of isolation. Just because you are physically distant from others does not mean you are alone.  

Here are some ideas to help you stay connected: 

Find a positive online community

Join an OMS Circle! It’s vital to keep up a healthy lifestyle while you are in self-isolation, so an OMS Circle will help encourage and support you to do that, while the OMS online forums are the perfect place to communicate with others who have MS and are going through the same experiences. 

Start regular video chats

There are so many video chat methods out there that it is worth doing some research online to read the reviews and see what is best for you (or by reading our article). They include Zoom, Houseparty, FaceTime, Skype, WhatsApp video calls and Google Hangouts. Face-to-face contact is important. It can be beneficial to see a loved one’s face, particularly if you are worrying about each other — seeing a smile can be reassuring. 

Video chats also give you the opportunity to organize group get togethers and group chats. Routines can also be beneficial for mental wellbeing, such as a daily lunch break with a friend or family member via a video call. These events can be added to the calendar and provide something to look forward to and get ready for. The dating world has even moved online during this period, with dating apps for those who are looking for love. 

Get the best from social media

Social media can be a brilliant way to stay connected with friends and family. There are groups which you can join that are supportive and encouraging and it can be a great distraction to see friends’ photos and anecdotes, helping friends to stay connected all over the world.

Others can find social media can trigger feelings of anxiety, making them worry more about the current coronavirus situation. Some people find themselves comparing their life to others in a negative way.  If you feel like this, take a break from social media for a while or limit yourself to a set time every day. 

Pick up the phone

With all the different ways of communicating online, a phone call can create a sense of authentic connection with a focus on tone of voice, pitch and volume. Some people might tend to stay on the telephone longer than a video call as they feel more comfortable and more at ease without a camera, less exposed and more intimate. And you don’t have to be video-ready! A phone call can cut through the chaos of social media and make the person’s voice the only focus. 

Stream a class

No being able to go to the gym or your regular fitness class can be frustrating. Fortunately, there is so much available online now, from aerobics classes to yoga. For a communal, interactive feeling, choose live-streamed workouts rather than pre-recorded classes.

There are also online classes such as cookery, music lessons or language classes. 

Organize an online social event

Facebook now has Watch Party so that users can watch public videos on Facebook in real time with a group of friends or family.

You can also use Zoom or Houseparty to organise online events such as a quiz, drinks parties, book groups and even a dinner party. Tabletop Simulator allows you to play traditional board games online in a group while Netflix Party means that you can watch a movie online with friends and family.

You could even organise a fundraiser for OMS - tips here.

Volunteer from home

During this time of isolation, helplines will be looking for volunteers so if you feel able to offer time and this can provide you with a sense of purpose as well as helping others to feel connected and less alone. 

Make the most out of solitude 

It’s important to stay connected with others, but if you’ve struggled to spend time alone in the past, take advantage of time in self-isolation to rest, relax, practice mindful meditation and start hobbies that you wouldn’t have otherwise enjoyed. A positive mindset will allow you to appreciate time alone as well as socialising with others.