As the country faces a minimum of 15 days of strict confinement, some experts have been offering tips on how to stay at home without climbing the walls.
According to a paper published recently by The Lancet, quarantine, whether medical or preventive, can have severe effects. After reviewing more than 3,000 papers on quarantine, the researchers from King’s College London concluded:
“Most reviewed studies reported negative psychological effects including post-traumatic stress symptoms, confusion, and anger. Stressors included longer quarantine duration, infection fears, frustration, boredom, inadequate supplies, inadequate information, financial loss, and stigma. Some researchers have suggested long-lasting effects.”
To lessen the danger of psychological damage, the team recommends that quarantine should last no longer than required, provide a clear reason for the measure and good information as time goes on.
“Appeals to altruism by reminding the public about the benefits of quarantine to wider society can be favourable,” the paper says.
One remedy, according to Leuven university professor Filip Raes, is to establish clear and fixed routines.
“People in quarantine often let their tried and tested routines drop. Regular habits are nevertheless extremely important for your frame of mind. If they fall away, it has a major impact.”
The current situation, for most people at least, is not a full quarantine, but the changes to routines of work, school and social activities still have an effect.
“With my children I’ve worked out a detailed daily agenda for the coming days,” Prof Raes said. “Breakfast, a short walk, school work, play time, TV with some fruit. That sort of planning gives them something to hold on to in difficult times.”
Marieke Impens, a psychologist with The Human Link, agrees on the benefits of order.
“What we always advise patients to do is to look for structure and predictability in everything they do. What do I have control over, and how can I adapt to the corona crisis?”
Another tactic is simply to accept the situation.
“Because of the crisis, the balance of a lot of people has been disturbed,” she said. “All the pleasant activities have gone, while the negative experiences pile up. That’s why we have to accept that there’s more stress and tension now, because it’s not always possible to wish it away.”
The effect of accepting the fact, she says, can help to reduce stress not only for yourself, but also for others around you.
Elsewhere, take your mind off the situation with some inventive occupations. The Instagram user blijfinuwkot offers some ideas: number the sheets of your toilet rolls, make a jigsaw puzzle with the picture facing downwards, set the Christmas tree up a little early, or make a city trip using Google Street View.
Another Instagram account, Dogs Working from Home, has photos that speak for themselves. While you were away at work all day, your dog was working from home, and the photos are there to prove it.
Bowie the cat – so-called because he has two different-coloured eyes – is in quarantine at home in Alicante in Spain, where the lockdown is stricter than it is here. So he’s perfectly placed to give advice to others.
Finally from Instagram, the account Goodnews Movement does what it says on the tin: brings together good news from around the world, to balance the not-so-good news from everywhere else.
Teleworkers with families face an additional burden: how to split yourself in two by juggling the demands of the job and the demands of the children.
“For families, this period is complicated. The burden on parents is enormous, whether they have to go to work or not,” said Moïra Mikolajczak, a professor of psychology and education at the university of Louvain-la-Neuve.
“We know that the more parents are exhausted, the less energy they have to manage the children, but also to manage themselves. To put it more plainly: this is a time when it’s easier to blow a fuse.”
Her solution – somewhat contrary to the confinement rules currently in place – is to take the air.
“If I feel things are getting too much, I go outside into the fresh air, to avoid as far as possible fits of temper, whether verbal or physical.”
For those who would rather not tempt fate by breaking curfew, there is a phone number to call: 0800 30/030. Or go to the website for parental burnout (in English).
The Brussels Times