Mair Elliott: Maintaining mental health and wellbeing in self isolation

Over the coming months a series of bloggers will share their experiences of self-isolating during the coronavirus outbreak and provide their tips for staying healthy and positive. In her first post, Hafal Chair Mair Elliott discusses the importance of accessing nature…

It would be a lie to say that the recent global events have not worried me. It is a frightening thing to watch an organism a couple of hundred nanometres in size wreak havoc on global civilisation. I am a realist however and trust in the ingenuity of humans to get through. In the meantime, we must all, including myself, exercise caution and follow guidance to stay safe and protect others. This means self-isolating and social distancing for most of us.

Self-isolating and social distancing might be scary for some, for others it might not be too different from normal life (high five to all those fellow introverts out there). However, the uncertainty that is arising from this present situation will affect many of us. I find myself feeling a little vulnerable due to this uncertainty, which I’m sure many of Hafal’s clients and members can sympathise with. It is in these situations that we must all pay particular attention to our mental, emotional and physical health. We can still find positivity, light-heartedness and fun, despite what might be happening.

I am focusing on my garden during my social distancing. The garden has always been a place of solace and recovery for me. Being able to access nature keeps me on an even-keel and brings me calm when my mind is frightful. I am lucky to live in a rural area and have a large garden to satisfy my green fingers. There is also a thriving population of wildlife to keep me entertained.

So far, I have been able to build a new raised bed and plant it up with lettuce, sow a variety of vegetable, fruit and flower seeds in the greenhouse, and turnover and prepare a wildflower patch. The act of being outside in the fresh air, caring for something other than myself or another human, and getting some exercise has certainly kept me calm and happy during the past week. My sunflower seeds have already germinated and are growing at an exponential rate, it fills me with such joy to witness this process.

There is a certainty in which nature just keeps going despite whatever humans are panicking about. My seeds will germinate and grow; the garden robin still follows me around; the flowers will bloom; the field mice still nick my stuff; the birds are preparing for nesting season; weeds will keep growing in my raised beds; a ganet, on its eternal search for fish, flew overhead during my morning sea swim. These things are certain. Just like the roots of a great oak tree, having a connection to this infinite cycle gives me stability. I know that modern human life is unpredictable, messy and, more often than not, dramatic. I can turn to nature to find the ground beneath my feet and remind myself what is actually important, however. In these difficult times this is an invaluable coping tool.

I encourage you all to have a go at gardening if you have the resources, go out for a walk, take care of your house plants, watch the birds or connect with nature in a way that suits you. I also want to see you all following Dafydd’s home exercises video (that includes you guys in Hafal’s senior executive team!). My last tip for coping with self-isolation and social distancing is to have some fun, have a couple of minutes of pure silliness. Dance around the kitchen in your pyjamas, pretend to conduct a full orchestra playing Handel’s Messiah, watch Pirates of the Caribbean and pretend to be a pirate, sing along to ABBA’s greatest hits. Do something for the pure and sole reason of having a laugh. The greatest defence we have against sorrow is our ability to play and be silly just for the heck of it.

I wish you all health and happiness.