Occupational therapy and isolation
Sir, – As an occupational therapist, I cannot help but see the importance of occupation during this time of isolation. People are finding themselves without any routine, reduced roles and altered rituals. They are finding themselves stumbling at the first block of Ann Wilcock’s “doing, being, becoming and belonging” theory (1999). People are unable to do. This in turn has limited their capacity to contribute to their own lives, their families, and society.
This, in some instances, may lead to a reduced sense of self-worth, self-esteem, purpose and ultimately affect their mental health. If we are unable to do, we are unable to be, and if we cannot be, we cannot become and cannot belong.
An example of this is through the impact Covid-19 has had on the sporting world. Can you imagine having trained for the Olympics for most of your life and then to see it postponed? The athlete has built his/her life around this event, every second of every day, carrying out training sessions with the hope of being the best, and then the rug is pulled from underneath them.
Occupational therapists try to design interventions to get you back to doing what you enjoy, and being whatever your role is (a mother or father, colleague and friend), belonging to your community and the opportunity to become whatever it is that your goal may be.
Some people may end up experiencing a type of isolation following a diagnosis of a cognitive impairment, a stroke, a brain injury, a car accident, a fall, fractured limbs, etc. They may find themselves stuck in a rehabilitation facility or at home without the ability to do, be, belong, or become.
We can gain a deeper understanding into what these individuals experience now that we are going through it ourselves and see how this can affect us.
If we cannot interact with other people, we can feel lonely, and even depressed. If we cannot work, we feel a lack of purpose.
I find myself wondering, “What is the point in getting up early? The day will only drag.” This has has given me a deeper understanding of being in isolation. They may feel, “What’s the point?”
I have had to force a routine because I felt my own mental health was beginning to get affected.
I write a plan every evening for the following day, even if it’s only four or five things, and this gives me a purpose when I wake up and a guide. I also get a sense of satisfaction when I complete these tasks. Since doing this, my days go by faster and I feel better. I am still confined to the same space, with the same people, but having a daily plan set the night before has been really helpful to me.
It’s not all doom and gloom being in isolation. There have certainly been a lot of positives.
Another key term in occupational science is occupational balance, and I feel as though we have all achieved a deeper insight into how we are balancing ourselves.
We have been given this precious time to reflect and look at how balanced our lives are. Have we been working too hard or not enough? Have we been spending enough time with our families? What is actually important to us? Is my career everything? Am I watching too much Netflix? Should I exercise more?
A lot of thought-provoking questions can arise at a time like this when we stop and have time to think.
A friend of mine said she learned that she uses time as an excuse because even though she has time now, she is still procrastinating when it comes to completing certain jobs. That is something she may never have learned because who knows if this time in society will come again.
My personal hope for people at home is for people to have time now to reflect on the environment.
We can see how the world has benefited from people self-isolating.
I would hope that the world coming to a standstill will have a positive effect on reducing CO2 emissions. If it is only one change in your life that you can make and we all make one change together, it will have a huge impact, so don’t ever think, “I’m only one person. What can I do?”
You can do a lot. – Yours, etc,