Social isolation, social distancing and self-quarantine have become the new normal amid the COVID-19 pandemic. With little to no face-to-face contact with co-workers, friends and family, you may be feeling lonely, depressed and anxious. It’s normal to feel stress when faced with staying indoors and interacting less with people, especially when that is added to the underlying stress of worrying whether you will catch the virus. Here are some tips to help maintain your well-being and good mental health.
Take care of yourself – Get enough sleep, eat well, drink plenty of water and try to avoid using alcohol or drugs to alleviate your stress. Exercise in your home or outside by taking a walk if possible. Even with stay at home mandates, you can go outside – just be sure to keep a healthy distance from others. Fresh air and exercise help with loneliness and stress, and releases feel-good chemicals in your brain to boost your mood.
Getting light is also important. According to Phyllis Zee, a professor of neurology and director of the Northwestern Medicine Sleep Disorders Center, “It’s essential to have plenty of exposure to outdoor light, particularly in the morning, for a strong immune system and positive mood.”
Maintain some kind of routine. Wake up and go to sleep at a consistent, reasonable time. It’s good for your mood and helps you feel less aimless. To keep a sense of structure, try to create a daily routine that consists of work or house projects, mealtimes, workout time, and even downtime.
Limit your news consumption – It’s important to obtain accurate and timely public health information regarding COVID-19, but too much exposure to media coverage of the virus can lead to increased feelings of fear and anxiety. Balance time spent on news and social media with other activities unrelated to quarantine or isolation, and make sure the news you do get is from reputable sources.
Connect with friends and family – Reach out to your circle of support through texts, phone calls and video chatting. Although virtual communication may not feel as satisfying as in-person contact, it’s much better than no contact at all. Video chatting in particular has the advantage of allowing us to see others’ facial expressions. Connecting with others who are in a similar situation can also help you feel that you’re not alone.
If you’re working from home, stay connected to coworkers. Schedule video meetings with co-workers or take intentional breaks from work to interact with others, including those who may be home with you.
Getting “me” time while living with others – Give yourself time “away” from others to relax. Find a quiet place to read a book, watch a favorite TV show, or listen to that podcast you’ve been meaning to get to. Not every minute of every day you spend at home has to be planned. Give yourself some time to relax. Consider trying guided meditation and yoga videos or apps.
Change your mindset – Try to avoid thinking too much about the future or worst-case scenarios which can trigger anxiety. Instead of saying, “I’ll never recover,” tell yourself, “I’ll make it through this.” Remind yourself that at some point we will return to more normal routines.
Get help – If you are suffering from extreme anxiety or depression reach out to your medical provider for a referral to a mental health specialist. Many professional therapists offer online or phone sessions to help you navigate and deal with this unique and unsettling time. You can also contact The Disaster Distress Helpline, which is a 24/7, 365-day-a-year, national hotline dedicated to providing immediate crisis counseling for people who are experiencing emotional distress related to any natural or human-caused disaster. This toll-free, multilingual, and confidential crisis support service is available to all residents in the United States and its territories. Call 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746 to connect with a trained crisis counselor.
Sources: webmd.com, healthline.com, apa.org