Aside from the overwhelming anxiety that surrounds the Covid-19 pandemic, quarantining causes a disruption to regular routines, isolating people from their regular support systems. Here are some tips for taking care of your mental health while staying at home:
1) Create a routine for yourself.
Try to mimic your regular routine as much as possible. Remember, this is a marathon, not a sprint. This is not the same as a day here or there. Set an alarm, take a shower, make a cup of coffee, get dressed -- whatever it is to get yourself ready for the day. Extended quarantines mean that this is the new reality, and thus requires conscious adaptation. Doing this will get you in the right headspace.
2) Set up a workspace.
This may seem straightforward, but setting up a dedicated space for yourself to "go to work" is vital to not only productivity but also to staying sane. While tempting, doing work while laying in your bed will throw you even more out of sorts and may leave you feeling lethargic or unmotivated.
3) Take breaks.
Sitting in your home all day without a single break can lead to exhaustion, burnout, and increased stress levels. It can also lead to feeling increasingly isolated and frustrated. Walk outside for 5 minutes, do some jumping jacks, walk into a different room -- it doesn't matter what you do with the break, just that you take it.
4) Stay connected to friends and family.
Video chat, call, text. Send each other funny memes, positive news stories, uplifting messages, etc to combat the constant stream of negative and alarming stories about COVID-19. Make virtual dinner plans with a friend after a long day working from home the same way you would if you planned to go out to a restaurant. Plan to "go to the movies" with someone. Try to remember that physical social distancing does not mean that we have to completely isolate. Thanks to technology, we are able to stay connected even if we are physically apart.
5) Set aside time for guided breathing or visualization.
Anxiety comes when we are worried about something in the past that has already happened, or worried about something that may happen in the future. When collective anxiety is high, it is difficult to escape the feeling this evokes within us. We break the cycle of worry when we bring ourselves into the present moment. Grounding techniques, like breathing and visualizations, take us out of the anxiety and into the here and now. It is important to engage and practice during moments of calm, so that these techniques are more accessible to you in moments of panic. Give yourself uninterrupted time, even if it is only a few minutes daily, to engage in breathing. Apps like Headspace or Calm can be a helpful tool in getting started. Engaging in grounding techniques serves many purposes: focusing on the breath has positive physiological effects like decreasing heart rate and blood pressure which can increase when the body and mind are under stress. It will also interrupt spiraling thoughts, as your brain is forced to concentrate on the breath or the visualization.
6) Listen to music that soothes you.
Music is so powerful. Create playlists to do work to, take a walk to, or just listen to without distraction. Pick songs that lift your mood or that transport you to a time that brought you joy. Listen to full concerts with your windows open. Live stream a concert from a favorite artist (many are doing “living room concerts”). Check out the opera from your couch. Listen to a cast of a broadway show sing your favorite tunes.
Releasing endorphins is an effective way for anyone, in any situation to fight stress and anxiety and to give the mind a break from everything, leading to more serenity. Go for walks (if you can appropriately social distance) and leave your phone in your pocket. Try doing pilates/yoga and HIIT classes via streaming services offering great deals right now due to studio closures. Do a virtual stretching class. Allow yourself the time and space to get yourself in motion.
8) Virtual Therapy.
Regardless of if therapy was part of your life before COVID-19, now might be a perfect opportunity to try talking to someone as a way to take care of your mental health during unprecedented times. Many providers are taking new clients via Telehealth modalities. Check out psychologytoday.com to explore. If you are already seeing a therapist, see if he/she is willing to move to video sessions.
9) Gratitude practice.
Every day, make a list of things you are grateful for or good things that happened throughout the course of the day. Do this with your partner, your family, or your friends and see how much it lifts your mood!
10) Remind yourself that it will not always be this way.
We are in very scary times right now with limited information to predict what things will look like in even a few days from now. This can take an enormous toll on our mental health. Taking time to recognize that this is not the permanent future is necessary to fight feelings like this will never end. Many, many crises have occurred before and have been resolved over time. Be kind to yourself when you are sad, worried, angry, or frustrated. Think about things you will look forward to when times change.