How is everyone doing mental health wise during this quarantine?
I’ve heard from a variety of people on social media and it seems there are a lot on both sides of the spectrum. Many of you are happy to be working from home and cite being with family, having a more flexible schedule, lack of commute, and more as benefiting your mental health. On the other side, there are a lot of people who are struggling with the change, the lack of relational contact, and impending doom that seems to be the Coronavirus.
In a study put out by Axios/Ipsos Coronavirus Index, 35% of Americans said that their mental health had worsened over the last week, which was an increase from only 22% the week before. Another 43% said their “emotional well-being had gotten worse” which was only at 29% the week before.
For me personally, the feelings have ebbed and flowed. I’ve had good days, and I’ve had bad moments, but I have focused (as I always do) on not allowing bad moments to become bad days.
While I am used to working remotely, I’m not used to being in one place. One of the things that typically keeps me in a good, healthy headspace is working somewhere that is not my apartment. So dealing with working strictly at home, and in the same spot for the last three weeks has been a learning curve for myself as well.
I’m going to share how I change the narrative in my head as well as 10 practical ways to manage the emotional toll social distancing can take.
Changing the Narrative in Your Head
The practice of changing the narrative in my head has been a life changing ritual for me. It has helped me through some of the toughest times and gets me through days when I’m simply in a funk.
What does this mean?
For me that looks like reframing all the things that I am telling myself. Instead of saying things like “I’m stuck in quarantine” I’ll say “I’m grateful to be with family, able to spend more time outside, and be away from the city for a little bit.”
Although I am missing my apartment back in DC, I know that the best thing for me is to not dwell on that but instead dwell on what I do have, and look forward to going back eventually.
Dr. Patricia Thorton, a licensed psychologist from New York tells us that it’s normal to be nervous/anxious/or even mad at the situation, but we should be practical with our thinking as well.
“Don’t think of it as doomsday. Ask yourself, ‘How do I want to live my life right now with these constraints?’ she said.
We should try to shorten the time frame of our perspectives. Instead of overthinking if the world is going to end (spoiler alert, it’s not!), try to think of what you’re going to do tomorrow. Dwell and meditate on what you do have, what you have to look forward to, instead of worrying endlessly. While these worries are grounded in real anxieties, it’s not good to sit in them because it can hurt your mental health drastically.
Let yourself feel your emotions, but then have a positive chat with yourself, pick yourself up, and try to move forward.
10 Practices to Help Us Manage Mental Health Challenges During Quarantine
One of the biggest factors in a decline in mental health is the practice of social distancing. We know its best for society as a whole, but you might be feeling that its not best for you, nor your mental health. This is challenging for both our mental and emotional wellbeing, but it is something we all have to participate in.
So how do we cope with social distancing? Especially if we have extroverted tendencies?
The director of mental health at Partners In Health, Dr. Giuseppe (Bepi) Raviola, has outlined 10 mental health strategies that will help us cope and manage the emotional challenges of social distancing during this pandemic. I happen to agree with them, so I am going to outline them for you.
- Social distancing doesn’t mean emotional distancing.
We can find ways to keep connected with our friends and family. Phone calls, text messages, and FaceTime calls are only a few options to keep in touch. These methods allow us to stay in contact with friends and family even if they are hundreds of miles away. I’ve loved seeing pictures on social of people on family-wide Zoom calls.
- Clear routines and schedule, seven days a week, at home.
Establishing a routine is essential for most people. Get enough sleep and build a structure to be to function on a daily basis. I think one of the best things for me to have when I’m in a funk is a routine. It gets me out of bed, forces me to face my emotions, and reminds me that I have responsibilities to get through.
- Exercise and physical activity, daily if possible
In connection with the previous one, don’t use social distancing as an excuse to stop moving! Whether you like to do yoga, go for long runs, or just walk around the neighborhood, any form of movement is good for your body and will help you feel more centered. I try to go for a short walk every day mid-day to get my body moving and away from my laptop. This is something that has always helped me, and might help you too.
- Learning and intellectual engagement
Try to limit your time spent on the internet reading about COVID-19. While we should take this opportunity to read more and learn more, spending hours reading the news is only going to hurt your mental health. If you find yourself with newfound free time, start learning a new language, take online educational courses, or work on whatever passion you have.
- Positive family time
If you are struggling with negative emotions, reach out to your family members and let them know what you are feeling. Laughter is critically necessary at these times. You may think that humor is impossible by this but try to prioritize it in some way or another. For me, I know my family always makes me laugh, so giving them a call helps lighten my spirits.
- Alone time, outside if possible, but inside too
Spending time by ourselves is also important, and especially so if you are quarantined with other people. While it is usually a gift to be with other people during this time, you might find yourself getting short with them because of the amount of time you are spending with them. Me time is important, make sure you get it.
- Focused meditation and relaxation
We have a lot of time to focus on meditation and relaxation during this pandemic. We should take this challenge to improve our mental health by allotting a specific time each day to be alone and meditate. I typically try to meditate when I wake up, or before I go to bed, but these days I’m finding I need it mid-day.
- Remember the things that you really enjoy doing, that you can do in this situation, and find a way to do them
Think of activities that give you purpose and keep busy! Small activities like playing board games will help you take your mind off of things. For me I love baking and cooking so I have been trying out a lot of new recipes recently. What do you enjoy doing?
- Limit exposure to TV and internet news.
Consume news wisely. Try to find news that will empower you and not worsen your anxiety. It’s easy to fill this time with TV, movies, etc. but try not to overconsume that either.
- Bathe daily, if possible, to reinforce the feeling of cleanliness.
This one sounded kind of silly, but make sure to a shower every day. When you’re home all day, everyday you might skip doing this. It’s good to be clean, and something that will encourage you to put on clothing, or at least change out of your pajamas in the morning. Include additional rituals in your skincare or anything that will make you feel better about yourself in general is a positive move as well.
What day of quarantine are you on? We are on day 21. We started a little bit before everyone because I am “autoimmune compromised” and my boyfriend wanted to be on the safe side. After a week in my apartment we decided to escape to New Jersey and have been with his parents since. It’s been really nice to be with family and have access to a big backyard.
I hope you guys are staying physically healthy and mentally healthy during this weird timeline. If you’re staying away from cafes, make sure to follow along on Instagram if you want some yummy (and healthy) at home coffee recipes.
P.S. Want more Coronavirus content? Here are some of my latest posts:
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