Miserable at home
"The only people I talk to directly are my parents. I play the guitar and try to chill, but it’s not working," says a reader. Picture for illustrative purposes only. Image Credit: iStock photo

Dear doctor,

I love to mingle and socialise and the new stay-home measures are making my life miserable.

I go out and socialise every day. That’s my routine for a long time. I hate to sit at home.

I need to socialise and that is the kind of person I am.

With the new measures in place, I am staying at home all the time. And now, I started working from home.

My evenings are gruelling moments. I am not married and I live with my parents.

The only people I talk to directly are my parents. I am going nuts. I play the guitar and try to chill, but it’s not working.

Please help.

Wish to remain anonymous.

Question answered by Dr Melanie C. Schlatter, PhD, Clinical Health Psychologist, HEALTH PSYCHOLOGY UAE

Dr Melanie C. Schlatter

Human beings are social creatures. Close, meaningful relationships and positive group bonds make us flourish and thrive; and the ability to essentially do what we want, and to come and go as we please are great freedoms. Enter forced and unpredictable change, prohibitions, social distancing and isolation with people we may not even particularly like, and life can become frightening, overwhelming, morbid, and disconcerting.

Never before

Many people have never experienced this type of change, and we have had to try and adapt quickly. On top of that, just as some people get their energy from downtime or being alone, many others obtain their energy from being socially active. In your case, it sounds like you are strongly extroverted, so I can only imagine how you must feel with the advent of quarantine. I noticed your expressions also: “I hate to sit at home; I need to socialise; my evenings are gruelling; I am going nuts” and so forth. There are a range of things you can do--even just small tweaks to your days which might help. The first one is to control what you can control, and then be open and willing to adapting as much as possible.

Instant messaging and social interaction

You can still maintain and even increase social interactions through many telecommunication and instant messaging services available now. How about creating meetups for virtual coffee or the like? Online gaming? Facebook book clubs? Checking in on people you haven’t caught up with for a while? Try sending more personal audios or videos instead of written messages too. I’ve been surprised personally by the amount of people reaching out and sharing jokes and words of wisdom from all over the world– do not underestimate the positive impact these can have. Indeed, we can still work on deepening our emotional connections for that time when we eventually meet in person again too.

Online courses

What about taking up an online course that will help you develop your guitar skills (or any other hobby) to while away those evenings and to give you a sense of purpose and empowerment? udemy.com has an amazing array of online courses at extremely low prices and you can see previews of all courses too—“learn anything, on your schedule” .

You could also trial introspection and just slowing down in general for a bit. Self-development is a lifetime journey and as they say, ‘when you can’t go outside, go inside’. Do a personality test to learn more about yourself www.16personalities.com or experiment with journalling. It is free, easy, and a great stress reliever. You can also subscribe to a motivational journal app which may keep your spirits uplifted also. Try www.journey.cloud – a “sanctuary for your mind and soul”.

Calm and sanity

One of the best apps for maintaining calm and sanity is the ACT Companion app which is free of charge for the next few months if you use the code TOGETHER— http://www.actcompanion.com/ It has a ‘crisis tool’ for desperate moments, various mindfulness meditations, and notifications throughout the day to remind you to keep present in the moment (as opposed to being caught up in your head with negative thoughts), as well as goal trackers and weekly check-ins.

Know your parents better

Dare I say it, how about getting to know your parents better? Is there any way you can help them more with anything, either personally or around the house?

What about pinpointing even one change in your life that you have been putting off? Cleaning out a cupboard or organising something? Doing a scrapbook? You can do it while watching a series or listening to an audio book. There’s research to show that even hearing the background chatter of voices from the TV or radio can be comforting to the psyche.

This too will pass

The whole point is that this period shall pass eventually, so keep in mind that you will be able to go back to everything you used to—we are just not sure when. But you know what? Just try leveraging this period of life to your advantage to do all the things you may not otherwise have done, and grow and mature as a result of it. Don’t forget to keep up as many routines that you can—keep your usual sleep / wake schedule, shower, exercise, get outside in your garden or on your balcony, and eat as healthy as possible. You can do this!

If you have questions that you would like answered by a mental health professional in the UAE, please write in to readers@gulfnews.com. Also, please let us know if you'd rather stay anonymous.

Disclaimer: This blog is a conversation and is not an alternative for treatment. The recommendations and suggestions offered by our panel of doctors are their own and Gulf News will not take any responsibility for the advice they provide.