In the final instalment of tips for good mental health during self-isolation and social distancing, I want to talk to you about keeping momentum in your life because feeling stagnant in any area of importance to you, can be detrimental to your mental health and happiness.
Tip 5: Keep making progress
When we become stagnant, we can feel all sorts of negative emotions, from anxiety to fear to anger or sadness. I love Maxwell Maltz’s words when he said: ‘Man maintains his balance, poise and sense of security only as he is moving forward.’ When you think about your life, were you most happiest when you were making progress of some sort? Do you feel uncomfortable or stressed when you feel like your life, or a particular area of it, is stagnant? There is something about striving to make progress, not even just the making of progress itself, that is important to your mental health. So, let’s look at ways you can maintain your ‘balance, poise and sense of security’.
a) Set realistic goals that also stretch you
Goals for the future distract us from worry so redirect your focus to the things you want to achieve that you can still work towards and achieve regardless of the pandemic. Time doesn’t stop so don’t you stop living.
Here is the best definition of goal-setting I’ve ever come across, written in a review of over a decade of research. Goals affect our performance by:
i. directing our attention towards them;
ii. preparing us to take action in their direction;
iii. increasing our persistence;
iv. and motivating us to develop a strategy. 
This highlights why setting goals helps us to achieve them. This also clarifies why our goals must be defined in terms of what we want and not in terms of what we don’t want.
b) Schedule time in your diary
The best way to ensure you spend time working on your goals, is to carve time out for it. Working from home, even if purely for self-isolation and social distancing reasons, works best when you have a schedule. Know what time you are going to:
- start/finish your working day,
- have me-time,
- work on personal life goals,
- enjoy hobbies,
- meditate (religious or secular),
- spend time with loved ones (even if just via phone calls and video chat),
- get into bed by,
Be specific bout how long you will commit to each, too. Use SMART goals to help you so that you know specifically what you’re going to do, and when. SMART goals are goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound, e.g. ‘I’m going to take a brisk walk in the local park from 5-6pm Mondays to Fridays and 12-1pm on Saturdays.’ Obviously you can have a different schedule every day if you prefer, this is merely an example. This is your life, live it how you want to. For some, variety every day is very important whilst others prefer the same routine every day or most days. Do what feels right for you.
c) Be kind to yourself
Forgive yourself for ‘bad days’ where you don’t stick to your plan of action. Don’t beat yourself up. Just start over the next day. Equally, don’t use one day of not sticking to your goals as an excuse for giving up. Remember that if you do frequently set goals you’re not sticking to, they’re probably not the right goals for you. Set goals for you, not based on what others think you should do.
d) Adjust as you go
When your mind or body is feeling overwhelmed, fatigued or fragile, rest.
If you need a new strategy for developing your goals, create one.
Listen to your mind and body, they have a wealth of information for you. They are a gauge for how you’re feeling which conveys important information about your thoughts, both the conscious and subconscious ones.
Tune into the visceral sensations within your body when you are making decisions. Research demonstrates that our subconscious mind makes decisions before we consciously become aware of those decisions and then ‘consciously make’ those same decisions!  To gain access to information that the brain is only yet aware of subconsciously, you can use your bodily reaction to help you make great decisions, and do so very quickly, even before you can pinpoint with words, why one specific decision feels like the right decision and why the other options feel like they would be the wrong decisions for you.
For example, when reviewing three possible courses of action, does your heart feel like it’s beating harder or faster or does your chest area feel tighter when you consider two options out of three but feels more relaxed when you consider the third option you have? Does your breathing become faster or slower? Does your back feel more tight or more relaxed?
So, keep making progress on your important goals, regardless of what life throws at you. Make it clear and easy for yourself. Rest and recharge as and when required. And don’t stop until you get there. In the words of Confucius: ‘It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.’
I hope you’ve found these 5 tips for for good mental health during self-isolation and social distancing, helpful.
Love and virtual hugs, Sam xx