Adjusting to Self Isolation

Adjusting to Isolation:

As we have been strongly urged as a nation to stay inside our homes for the foreseeable future, different people are having very different reactions to the change of circumstances. Psychologists have found that feelings of uncertainty cause us to have more extreme reactions to our circumstances, be that positively or negatively. I have found this to be the case in terms of the coronavirus situation personally. Some people in my life have adjusted extremely well. They are making the best of the time at home with their families and are using their free hours to work on creative projects or take up new hobbies. They have found ways to adapt to this strange situation to bring a sense of fun to the uncertainty. Others in my life are really struggling to adjust to life in isolation and are experiencing extreme “cabin fever” already. Why might this be?

Autonomy Loss

A big factor is our loss of autonomy. Humans are hardwired to seek autonomy and want to have control over the decisions they make in their day to day lives. In the current situation however, we have been given strict instructions from our government and other people in our lives on how we should behave. Additionally, with the closure of our schools and colleges, many young people are forced to return to their homes and live under the constant supervision of parents. This forced regression is likely to cause people to feel that their lives are restricted. They could struggle with their sense of identity being challenged or dissolved. Also, as many have had no choice but to stop working, their sense of meaning and purpose could be gone. To deal with this loss of autonomy, it is important that people strive to find a new sense of meaning in their everyday activities. Previous studies on individuals who have lost their sense of autonomy found that retaining a strong sense of personal identity through social interaction was key to adjusting to their new circumstances.  Engaging in activities that give us a sense of meaning or purpose were also vital to dealing with autonomy loss.

Staying Social

So how do we stay socially engaged when we can’t leave the house? Well we must first recognize that there is a difference between physical isolation and social isolation. We are all being encouraged to limit our face to face interactions with other people outside of our own homes. However, there are still ways to keep in social contact with friends, family and the wider community. Utilization of these technologies could be the difference between feeling socially isolated or remaining connected. Research has found that the ability to create new virtual social settings to interact with others is key to feeling connected and not experiencing loneliness when our only means of interaction is online. This is called the simulation hypothesis, which states that the Internet can be used as an effective simulation for face to face social interaction. The most effective online communities are those that fulfil our need to belong to a group or a “tribe”. Members of an online group should have a common sense of identity that is different from individuals of other groups. They should be tied to each other through friendships or helping one another. Alternatively, they could have a clearly communicated shared purpose. Overall, the online community should feel like a home or a safe haven. The ability to create for oneself or seek out a community space like this during this isolation period could be the key to preventing feelings of social isolation.

Collectively apart

One positive aspect of this collective isolation is the fact that we are all in the same boat. So many more of these online communities mentioned above are emerging. People are offering live home workout classes, sharing recipes, tv shows and music or are simply chatting to one another about the situation. If anything, this isolation is a chance to feel more connected to our fellow humans than ever. However, as you are reading this blog, you evidently have access to the internet and all these online resources. There are many people who do not have this luxury. So, take some time in your day to reach out to someone who is unable to find an online community. For those who have a community text alert, perhaps utilise it to contact others in your community and keep them up to date with any businesses offering delivery services etc.

Staying Active

Finally, this global health crisis has likely made us all more aware of our own health and wellbeing. Invest this time to incorporate exercise into your daily routine if you haven’t already. The HSE advises that all adults should be getting at least 30 minutes moderate exercise 5 days a week. This is vital for your physical and mental health as regular exercise releases endorphins and boosts our immune system functioning. As we are likely spending less time moving around than we usually would it would be wise to aim to exercise daily. This could also help to alleviate the anxiety we are all likely feeling as higher levels of physical activity are associated with lower levels of anxiety and stress.


If you are feeling the effects of Self Isolation due to COVID19 and require additional support.  Under The Rainbow offer online counselling services in a variety of platforms. Please feel free to contact us for further information at Together we can get through this.

Blog written by Roisin McGarry, Current DCU Student Intern with Under The Rainbow.


Griffith, J., Caron, C. D., Desrosiers, J., & Thibeault, R. (2007). Defining spirituality and giving meaning to occupation: The perspective of community-dwelling older adults with autonomy loss. Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy74(2), 78-90.

Krishen, A. S., Berezan, O., & Raab, C. (2019). Feelings and functionality in social networking communities: A regulatory focus perspective. Psychology & Marketing36(7), 675-686.

Bar-Anan, Y., Wilson, T. D., & Gilbert, D. T. (2009). The feeling of uncertainty intensifies affective reactions. Emotion9(1), 123.

Nieman, D. C., & Pedersen, B. K. (1999). Exercise and immune function. Sports Medicine27(2), 73-80.

Collection & Use of Personal Information

By submitting your data, you are providing us with some level of personal information. This information is not stored on our website database. However, in order to respond to your enquiry, your data is emailed to our website’s email address where it is saved. Additionally, we may use your contact details to send you marketing material in the future. You may unsubscribe from any emails you receive following our first reply. We do not pass your data on to any third parties.