By Uma Campbell
The outbreak of the coronavirus has made for a very stressful environment in more ways than one. Being in self-quarantine can be particularly stressful and it’s important to take care of yourself as best as you possibly can. Isolation and mental health have been linked for a long time so you are not alone if quarantine has left you feeling more lonely, depressed, anxious, or emotionally drained. Protecting our physical health with regards to the COVID-19 pandemic is of the utmost importance, but it’s also critical that those who need to, can take steps that promote good mental health as well. Everyone reacts differently to hardships and unprecedented situations but the following tips and coping mechanisms can be used by anyone and even continued after social distancing practices.
1. Take a break from the news
Society often unwittingly overdoses on media consumption, especially when it seems we have nothing better to do. An overwhelming amount of time spent on social media platforms and the constant news exposure is likely doing more harm than good, especially when so much of it is negative. Some sources, especially during these even more uncertain times are going out of their way to provide society with some good news, stories of inspiration, random acts of kindness and positivity. Just like we manage our time watching the news, we need to manage our time on platforms like Facebook.
2. Take care of your body
It can be extremely tempting to throw all patterns of healthy eating out the window when we are faced with unfamiliar and stressful situations. Do your best to keep a healthy, well balanced diet because what you’re putting into your system can have more of an effect on your stress responses than you think. Almost 80% of your immune system lives in your gut and is where most of the serotonin is produced. Excessive stress can cause a leaky gut, resulting in sensitivity, inflammation and a slew of other symptoms that may initially seem unrelated. If your gut is in good health, you likely will be too.
Staying at home with no gym access for such prolonged periods of time can make it difficult to remain active. But a regular exercise routine will get your blood flowing to and release endorphins which have a direct impact on your mood and mental state. Getting a routine going if you are not a regular gym rat may be a struggle at first but the hours after a workout you will likely notice a boost of positivity and energy.
3. Make The Time To Unwind
Writing, reading, solving puzzles, starting a new TV series, etc. These are all great ways to give your mind a break, especially if you are working from home and your regular work-life balance has been thrown off. Journalling or expressing writing is a great way to get anything off your chest judgment free. Although even writing creative short stories or letters to friends as a pastime is a great way to alleviate some stress as well.
4. Remain calm
Practicing meditation or yoga are great ways to still anxious nerves and boost mental productivity and physical fitness. There are many classes and tutorials being offered for free with routines for beginners to practice and experts to build on their skillset. Even a few moments of positive thought, paired with simple deep breathing exercises before you start your day can holistically be beneficial.
5. Get Busy Cleaning
Many people find cleaning quite therapeutic, especially when you have all the time in the world to get the job done right. Now is a great opportunity to catch up on housekeeping projects that have slipped by in your usual, hectic, day-to-day routine. Clutter can overcrowd the mind more than you might realize, and being home all the time you may find yourself getting easily lost in it. Not only does removing clutter and dirt allow you to burn off some steam productively, but it will leave your home a more positive space to be in.
6. Master Something New
As the age old saying goes: knowledge is power. Thankfully much of that knowledge is available for free, even more so throughout these weeks of nationwide quarantine. With all the extra free time you may find yourself getting increasingly bored. A great way to keep your mind sharp and build on a new skill set is to pick up a new hobby, talent or marketable skill. Harvard and other schools are offering virtual classes completely free, many platforms have extended their free trial periods, YouTube is overflowing with influencers tutorials and there are even apps that make learning a new language almost as easy as a game.
8. Lean On Loved Ones
Although most of us are required to isolate ourselves from most of our friends and extended family, it doesn’t mean we need to feel alone. Check in with your loved ones and friends often, for your sake and theirs. If you’re feeling especially anxious or depressed don’t be afraid to reach out to online counselors or the many 24-hour crisis hotlines. Especially if there are issues you aren’t comfortable discussing with friends. It’s important to prioritize your own mental health now more than ever. Virtual communication via Skype, Zoom, FaceTime or text can help cut through the loneliness.
It’s all about finding balance and a routine that works for you and your family, whatever it may be. Make time to keep in touch with those you care for, reach out for support when you need it, and engage in as many stimulating and stress relieving activities as possible. Be present in your emotions and make a plan to work some of these tips for stress relief into your new normal.